Top 9 Most Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Do you have a job interview soon? Are you prepared for it? If you want to ace your next job interview and land the job you’ve been seeking, you must prepare. And the best way to get ready for an interview is to review the most common interview questions, along with examples of the best answers. When you know exactly what you’re going to say before the person even asks the question, your stress goes away and you radiate confidence.

If you want to make a good impression, study these 9 commonly asked interview questions. Practice your answers out loud to effectively highlight your skills and talents.

What Questions Should I Be Ready to Answer in an Interview?

1. Tell Me About Yourself.

This is often the first question your interviewer will ask in an interview. It is also your big chance to make a first impression. A brief and confident answer will quickly gain the interviewer’s attention. On the other hand, a long and incohesive answer will tell the interviewer you didn’t really prepare for this interview. He will likely write you off for the entire interview, and send you home shortly afterward.

In order to give a strong answer that separates you from the other candidates, focus on your key qualifications, skills, and strengths. Prepare a brief, concise description of who you are, and don’t ramble on about unimportant facts.

“Tailor your answer to the specific role and provide examples of how you can create an immediate impact for the employer,” says Ivy Chen of Alba Vancouver. “By doing this, the interviewer will desperately want to learn more about you.”

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2. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?

Other variations of this question include “Why would you like to work here?” and “Why this company?” This is a very important question for hiring managers. Your answer will help the interviewer gauge your interest in the specific role as well as your knowledge about the company. Give examples of all the things that intrigued you about the company. This is your chance to show off how much research you did on the company as well.

Do you know their history, industry and main competitors? Tell them something interesting that even they don’t know about their company and you’re well on your way to success. Ensure that you elaborate on how your strengths, achievements, and skills match perfectly with the role and make you a desirable employee.

3. What Are Your Greatest Strengths?

This is a very commonly asked question. Interviewers ask this question to verify that your strengths align with the specific role, and with the needs of the company or department. Try to talk about strengths that fit perfectly for this role. For example, if you’re applying for an accounting job, highlight your summer internship at a bank rather than the time you organized a school event. You can talk about transferrable skills as well like writing. For example, if you’re applying for an administrative position, you can talk about your ability to write and edit press releases effectively.

By talking about transferable skills, you may be referred to a different role within the position that requires those skills as prerequisites. Strengths could also include soft skills like the ability to learn quickly, work under pressure, work in teams, multi-task, as well as your ability to work alone.

4. What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?

When you’re asked about your weaknesses, the employer still wants to know that you are qualified to do the job. Therefore, don’t talk about your poor writing skills when you’re applying for a marketing position, or your struggle with math for an accounting position. The best way to approach this question is to talk about weaknesses that are not “essential” for the position. For example, if you’re applying for a computer programming position, you can talk about your poor group presentation skills.

“End the question by sharing with the interviewer how you improved in this area,” says Nan Mu, expert career and job search consultant in Vancouver. “You should never simply state a weakness without talking about how you worked to overcome it.”

Demonstrating a willingness to improve yourself and face challenges turns a negative into a positive. The interviewer will see you as self-aware and hardworking at the same time.

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5. Tell Me About Your Most Proud Achievements.

For some people, this can be a challenging question since many of us don’t like to talk about ourselves or overtly brag about our achievements. Luckily, the purpose of this question is not to brag about yourself, but rather, to demonstrate that you will thrive in this position. The interviewer wants to know if you are a high achiever and if your skills and personality traits will fit with the position.

In order to successfully answer this question, select one or two recent achievements that are related to the job position. Identify the situations, your course of action, skills used and the positive outcomes. Pro tip: try to quantify the benefits wherever possible. For example, as a result of [XYZ], the company closed off the year with record-breaking revenues, leading to a 35% increase in year-over-year sales. Make sure to provide as much detail as possible to establish believability and help the interviewer comprehend the significance of your achievement.

6. What is the Most Difficult Situation You’ve Ever Faced at Work?

Although this is a common question, interviewees often neglect this question and are surprised when asked this. Candidates typically have a tough time with this question because it doesn’t have a clear, yes-or-no answer. It also requires a bit of storytelling proficiency.

With this question, the interviewer is assessing your definition of ‘difficult’ as well as your problem-solving skills. In order to answer this question effectively, select and describe a tough work situation with detail. Ideally one that was not caused by you. Explain how you approached the problem; outline each specific step you took and why you took these steps. End by describing the outcome of the situation, and what might have happened had you not stepped in to resolve the problem.

7. What Did You Like or Dislike About Your Last Job?

The interviewer is trying to determine your interests and whether the job position in question will be suitable for you. If the interviewer wants to know what you liked about your previous role, focus on the particular day-to-day tasks you enjoyed in your last role and what you learned from it. Highlight what the transferable skills are, and how you plan to develop it throughout your career. Don’t just say “I liked the nice office views”.

“When speaking about what you disliked about your previous job, be conscious not to criticize your last employer,” says career advisor Mia Xin. “Focus on the tasks you were performing at the previous employer rather than office politics or people.” For example, if you are applying for a sales or business development role, talk about how you were doing a lot of administrative tasks due to the small company size. Further explain how your time could have been better utilized with client-facing activities as this is your strength.

8. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Employer?

This question can also come in the form of “why did you leave your previous employer” if your resume states you recently left a job position. When answering either of these questions, it’s easy to think about all the things you dislike about your employer. However, in an interview, you should always avoid talking badly about employers, managers, or co-workers.

Instead, start your answer by reflecting positively on your current employer, and how great of an experience you had. Then transition into some reason for leaving that has nothing to do with the job or company itself, but rather due to your desire to grow or a change in life circumstances. Some good examples include desiring to learn more, looking for a new challenge, seeking more responsibility, desiring a change of environment, or wanting a shorter commute. Explain how you no longer achieve these things in your current role, and your desire to grow in a new opportunity that makes use of your skills and potential.

9. What Are Your Career Goals?

Interviewers asking this question have two purposes: the first is to find potential superstars with clear career goals and the second is to weed out applicants who aren’t likely to stick around. Recruiting and retaining talent is time-consuming and expensive, so hiring managers want to ensure candidates stay for as long as possible. In today’s job environment, 5 years or longer is considered “long”. By answering this question well, you can emphasize your loyalty and enthusiasm for the current position, and demonstrate an interest in growing within the company.

To answer this question, first, specify your professional and personal goals. Then tie in how this position will help you grow your skillset or professional knowledge. Lastly, explain how your growth will reflect as an added value to the company as a whole. For example, “my future plan is to become an expert social media strategist. I know company XYZ is interested in reaching a younger clientele, and I have the skills to help with the social media part of the new ad campaign. I hope to learn from the leaders at company XYZ to further develop my social media design and growth hacking skills, and bring the company to an international audience.”

Final Tips

Remember that every organization and individual is different so be prepared for unexpected questions. Aside from the top 9 interview questions mentioned above, here are other commonly asked interview questions to keep in mind.

  • Tell me about a successful project you were involved in.
  • Give an example of when you didn’t get along with co-workers or bosses. What did you do?
  • Do you work well under pressure?
  • Do you work better alone or in a group?
  • How do you measure your own performance?
  • Are you a self-starter? Give me examples.
  • What are you looking for in a company?
  • What can you bring to this organization?

To answer these unexpected interview questions, you must be organized and prepared. Many of these questions rely on the same principles when preparing the final answer. Use your cover letter and resume as an outline for the significant points you want to mention during your interview. Preparing answers with your own material will make you a strong interviewee and desired employee.

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