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14 Common Interview Questions with Actionable Answers

common job interview questions

While you can never guarantee what questions you are going to get at an interview, there is a number that you are most likely to turn up. Preparing yourself to answer these questions will also inspire you for similar questions but be ready for the outside-the-box strange question that many businesses now use!

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The key to nailing the popular interview questions is pretty simple: understand the intention behind them. Every question the interviewer poses is aimed at yanking some key information from you regarding your personality, cultural fit, skills, and career progression. Your goal is to serve them just that, plus use your answer to tout some more curious bits of your professional life.

PRO TIP:

The interviewer will want to get to know all they can about you during the interview, so prepare a summary about yourself and why you have chosen this career and be prepared to back up your answers with solid examples.

Melony

Melony Botha
HR Consultant
London, United Kingdom

 

Now, keeping that in mind, let’s move on to the list of common interview questions, paired with sharp and on-point tips for answering them!

1. Please, Tell Me About Yourself

This is one of those interview questions you’ll get 99 out 100 times. Considering its popularity, we even wrote an entirely separate post on how to answer the “tell me about yourself” question.

Here’s a quick recap:

  • Start with a quick, professional summary — a one-liner summarizing your key ‘selling points’ and background.
  • Highlight your core technical skills and areas of expertise.
  • Wrap it up by saying why you are interested in this new position/company.

Here’s a sample answer to the “tell me about yourself” question:

“I’m an experienced Regional Sales Manager with 6 years of experience in CRM software sales to Fortune 500 companies. I have deep familiarity with lead scoring and Salesforce software and strong people’s skills that helped me close over $1.5 million in sales last year and win the Top Regional Manager award. Although I love my current position, I feel ready for another challenge and would love to apply my skills in the new market that your company’s pursuing.”

If the interviewer then asks “to tell some more about yourself”, bring up some more details that are relevant, but didn’t make it to the final cut of your resume. Because your resume only contains the basics, add in more information about a skill or some situation that may demonstrate your expertise in the area.

2. What Is Your Experience In This Field?

Talk about the jobs you have held but also elements within it – tools or software used, industry events you’ve attended, as well as some specific projects that you have worked on. Mention some of your key accomplishments, backed by data if possible, to further demonstrate your industry knowledge.

Career changers and recent graduates are the most likely to receive this question. If that’s your case, keep the focus on your education and passion for the field, rather than past work expertise. Mention the courses you’ve taken or brought up some recent commentary on the industry events, demonstrating that you are aware of how things work in the field.

3. Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Focus on the main aspects of the job and why this appeals to you. It might be a chance to learn new technology, work in a new environment, or work on a specific type of project. Or focus on that it is a natural extension of your skills or experience and the best step on your career path.

young team modern workplace

Read more about how to answer the ‘why do you want to work here’ interview question using our 5-step formula.

4. What are Your Reasons for Leaving a Job?

Be positive and be honest when talking about your reasons for leaving your last job. Focus on the positive reasons for changing jobs such as looking for a new challenge or a lack of career growth in your old job. Perhaps you were a victim of restructuring or the company has relocated, these are also legitimate reasons.

However, at all costs avoid badmouthing your former employer, boss, or colleagues! Even if you still have some hard feelings towards either of these people, don’t show them to the interviewer.

Also, try to turn the negative part of your leaving into a positive one. Reference the good parts of your former job and address any potential shortcomings at your end. For instance, if you were terminated due to the lack of some essential skills, mention that while the company didn’t provide any on-the-job training, you later mastered this skill on your own.

5. Why Were You Fired?

This question may seem scary, but don’t fret too much over it. The intention behind it is to learn where the problem was and if you contributed to it in some way.

So again, be honest and forthcoming. Shortly explain the reason for being fired, address your shortcomings (if there were any), and move on to talking about what you’ve learned from this experience.

6. Why Are You Interested in This Position?

This question is your prime opportunity to showcase your enthusiasm and showcase how your skills and experience can positively contribute to the organization.

The easiest way to answer this question is to use the following three-step framework:

  • Demonstrate your eagerness for the job
  • Indicate how your experience and skills match the role
  • Make a connection with your desired career trajectory.

Here’s a sample answer:

“Your company places a great emphasis on user experience and that can be seen in every aspect of your web app and website. I know that the company’s mission is to create more responsive and inclusive web and that is something I care about too. In your job description, you’ve mentioned that you encourage your team members to contribute wherever the interests take them and I’d be really interested in combing my branding knowledge and UX skills to create a more unified experience for users across all digital channels, and my knack for writing could be further applied towards building a more intentional UX writing process. Starting this practice in my last position has reduced our design timeline by 15%. In fact, I’d be really interested in further growing professionally in UX writing and scaling this practice in your organization something that works well in SaaS, but unfortunately isn’t a priority for most financial companies.” 

Last tip: focus on the career benefits of the job rather than financial aspects or benefits.

7. What Do You Know About This Company?

This question is similar to the previous one, but in this case, you have to place a greater focus on why this industry and employer interests you that much.

what do you know question

Do a little research into the company beforehand so you know its background, its core values, mission, current focus, or general direction. Then incorporate some of the points into your answer. Again, try to ‘connect the dots’ and show how your skills and experiences align with this particular company and role.

8. What Challenges Are You Looking For From This Job?

Remember the job description and the key duties/requirements of the candidates. Then pick one specific point and explain what exactly you’d like to achieve.

For example, the job description says that “you’ll need strong organizational skills to manage multi-million dollar budgets for marketing projects”. 

You can take that part and mention that for a long time you’ve been seeking extra leadership opportunities and would love to work more as a team to realize your past successes at a larger scale.

In essence, this question prompts you to discuss your career goals so that the employer could understand your expectations, ambitions, and desired career trajectory.

9. What Kind Of Goals And Objectives Do You Have For Your Career?

This interview question is similar to number 6 on this list and you should approach it in a similar fashion. Your answer should be orientated towards the employer, what benefits them, and how you can be instrumental in achieving those goals.

10. Would You Relocate Or Be Willing To Travel?

The point of asking this interview question is to gauge your flexibility, but also practicality. Some jobs may require extended periods of on-site work at customers’ locations – something that may interfere with your work-life balance or family relationships.

Relocation is a major move that not every person is ready to take. After all, your spouse may be happy with their current position and refuse the move. Anyhow, be honest and mention your availability for travel and feelings toward full relocation.

11. What Salary Are You Seeking?

Ah, the money talks. Money-related interview questions are always tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to lowball your offer. On the other, you don’t want to appear as someone with unrealistic expectations.

When asking this question during the interview (not the job offer part), most HRs just want to make sure that you understand the potential compensation range.  Negotiating the salary package happens after the job is offered so simply state a salary range within what is mentioned in the job advert.

If there was none, do some research for similar roles on Glassdoor and PayScale to get a good median range estimate.

12. What’s The Most Difficult Situation You Have Faced And How Did You Handle It?

This is one of the most common behavioral interview questions you can get. The interviewer’s goal here is to assess your personality traits and interpersonal skills. The best way to answer this is to provide a quick example from your job.

Tell a quick story showing how you were in a stressful situation but managed to recover quickly, identify the problem, take the right course of action, and succeed. For example:

“Once, our baggage was delayed when we were traveling to the trade show. Our booth decor, posters, and corporate swag were scheduled to arrive a day after the show began. Since it was a crucial event for our company, I contacted the organizers immediately and negotiated that they provided us with another flat screen. Also, I asked the junior manager to purchase a projector, while the rest of the team, including myself, worked overnight to create a new digital presentation of our products and a set of downloadable promo materials that could be downloaded via a QR code scan.  Despite the setback, we still managed to attract good traffic to our booth and sign up 20% more leads than usual”.  

13. What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

This tricky question goes as number thirteen deliberately as it’s the one place where a lot of candidates chock. Some downplay their strengths. Others get too hung up on appearing all flawless.

When posting this question the recruiter wants to accomplish several things:

  • Assess your levels of self-awareness
  • Check your honesty
  • Verify for any major red flags

Use this question as an opportunity to highlight what you’ve learned and addressed some of the challenges (your weaknesses) that you had to overcome in the past or things that you are proactively working on right now.

P.S. Read more tips for answering “What Are Your Weaknesses And Strengths?” interview question.

14. Why Should We Hire You?

The inevitable pinnacle to all the interview questions is why should we hire you. Don’t get intimidated by it. Instead, use it as a welcome opportunity to deliver a winning sales pitch to the hiring manager.

To deliver the best answer, focus on the next three things:

  • Your ability to get the work done thanks to your skills
  • The great successes you’ve had in the past and can replicate at the new company
  • Your cultural fit and enthusiasm

Here’s how all of the above can be framed in a quick answer:

“In my last position as a restaurant manager, I managed to reduce the budget waste by 25% while also raising the customer’s rating of the venue thanks to proactive mentorship work with the staff. Thanks to the exceptional levels of service, the venue received a 5-star rating from Culinary Escapades magazine and I still keep close contact with the restaurant critic, so I’d be happy to invite them over to your venue, too. Lastly, I know that organic, fair-trade ingredients are a major selling point of your restaurant, as a vegan myself, I’m always on the lookout for new  suppliers and would be happy to share my contacts.”

PRO TIP:

Prepare answers to the Interview questions listed on the site to help you feel prepared and will help the interview conversation flow at a nice pace. If the interviewer asks a question you aren’t prepared for, ask for a couple minutes to gather your thoughts by stating “That’s a great question. Let me give it some thought for a moment.

Brenda

Brenda S. Meyer
Certified Senior HR Consultant
Arizona, United States

 

Every job interview can go one way or another. But no matter which questions you get asked, remember this: be honest, polite and keep your answer on-point. Talk more about what you can do for the employer and how you can be of help, rather than merely reciting all the things you know how to do.

Lastly, remember: you’ve got it!

This article has been originally published on Nov 9, 2016 and has been extensively revised and updated on July 30, 2020.

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t like questions like 19 and 20. And to be honest, I don’t think they’re appropriate for a job interview. But the recruiters keep asking these questions. If their goal is to determine how confident a person is, it’s better to ask other questions.
    Thank you! It’s good to know everyone who’s looking for a job.

    1. Yeah, some of these pesky interview questions are meant to make the candidate feel uncomfortable or at least to make him/her step outside the comfort zone to see how you react to this situation.

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