Both job hunters and managers can use this list of the eight most common interview questions and answers to prepare for successful job interviews:
- Tell us about yourself
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Tell us about a time you…
- Why are you interested in working for us?
- Why do you want to leave your current company?
- Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years
- Why should I hire you?
1. Tell us about yourself
Similar to the classic “walk me through your resume” question, interviewers often ask you to tell them more about you to break the ice and get more information on your work history. But answer carefully because some interviewers use this as a trick question to make you give information about yourself that you shouldn’t.
For example, if you’re an older candidate, you may answer this question by talking about your spouse and children, which can give away your age or make recruiters believe you wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to the company as a younger candidate could.
So how should you answer? Here are some tips:
- Stick to talking about the job, and why you’re interested in it
- Talk about yourself in terms of your interpersonal and communication skills
- Let them know that you’re a serious person who is driven by goals and achievements (have an example ready)
You can also answer the question using the present, past, and future format showed below.
@resumegenius This is one of the MOST asked interview questions! #interviewquestions #interviewskills #interviewprep ♬ Somewhere Only We Know – Lily Allen
2. What are your greatest strengths?
Pick a strength from the list of common responses below. Then think of examples from your relevant work experience and academic achievements that you can use to back up your answer:
3. What are your weaknesses?
While this is a common interview question, the typical responses are clichés and strengths disguised as weaknesses. Hiring managers don’t want to hear these.
“I work too hard.” Interviewers will roll their eyes (figuratively, at least) when they hear this cliché.
“I used to struggle with [area of weakness] but have since fixed that problem by [actions you took].”
Here are two examples of how to answer questions about your weaknesses:
Example 1: If you used to be disorganized, tell the hiring manager what steps you took to create new habits and processes to keep yourself organized.
Example 2: If you used to work inefficiently, tell the hiring manager how you increased your work output by learning new skills or asking for help from more experienced team members.
If the hiring manager presses you for areas where you’re currently weak, talk about an area where you lack knowledge. Then outline the steps you’re currently taking to get yourself up to speed.
4. Tell us about a time you…
Chances are your interviewer will ask you behavioral interview questions to assess your problem solving skills and see how you handle stress.
These questions are also known as STAR method interview questions, because employers want you to answer by describing a:
Here’s a quick mock interview for you. Think about how you’d answer each question using the STAR method (if you wrote a STAR method resume, expand on the examples you wrote about). Then click on the questions to reveal example answers, and see how your response matches up:
Answer: “When I was first hired in my current role, I was the only designer on my team. The company was rapidly expanding, and there was soon a bottleneck as my coworkers waited for me to create images for their projects (situation). So, I took it on myself to solve the issue (task). I proposed finding local college students who needed design internship experience, and, when I got approval, found three interns (action). I was able to triple the design output, which directly contributed to a 25% increase in revenue that year (result).”
Answer: “While I was in grad school, I worked as a shift manager at a fast-food restaurant (situation). One night, one of my cashiers got into a shouting match with a customer over the fact that our ice cream machine was down for cleaning, and as manager, it was my responsibility to step in (task). Remaining calm, I told my employee to take a 15-minute break to cool off, and then I informed the customer that if they didn’t stop yelling, I’d be forced to call the police. When he calmed down, I gave him two coupons for free ice cream, and he left (action). He returned the next day, apologized to the cashier, and got his free ice cream to go with a large food order (result).”
Answer: “I was a double-major in college, so I was constantly on the edge of being overwhelmed by intermingling project deadlines (situation). To keep myself from getting stressed out (task), I made a Trello board at the beginning of each semester, and listed all my projects from every class syllabus, noted overlapping deadlines, and made a work schedule to avoid procrastination (action). Consequently, when mid-terms and finals rolled around, my classmates would be pulling all-nighters and stressing out, while I was able to go to class fully rested — and maybe even a little extra tanned from a few leisurely trips to the beach (result).”
If you’re a recent graduate with little or no experience on your resume, the employer may give you a scenario-based question to get an idea of how you’d handle situations you haven’t been in yet. So study tactics for handling stress, solving problems, and resolving conflicts so you’re ready with a great hypothetical answer.
Here’s a great in-person example of using the STAR method in a job interview:
@resumegenius “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager.” situation interview question using STAR method #starmethod #workexperience #dreamjob #recruiter #jobtiktok #interviewanswer #interviewtips #interviewquestions #behavioralinterview ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
5. Why are you interested in working for us?
You need to research the company you’re interviewing with to respond to this question. You may be interested in working for a specific company because you:
- believe in their mission
- are interested in the industry
- like their brand
- have skills that can help the company succeed
These are all good answers because they show your buy-in to the company’s goals, but be prepared to expain what aspect of their mission you believe in, or what you like about their brand. Research is key to answering these sorts of questions.
On the other hand, avoid answering this question with reasons the company can help you.
“I’m interested in working for you because you pay more than my current company does.”
“I’m a huge fan of the commercials your marketing department puts out, and I’d be proud to be part of that production process.”
6. Why do you want to leave your current company?
Another variant of this question is “what do you like least about your job?”
The golden rule with your response here: Don’t be negative. If you talk negatively about your company or your boss, the hiring manager will think you have a negative outlook and may lower morale at their company by complaining about it to your new colleagues.
So frame everything positively.
If you got fired:
Resist the desire to blame your bosses and trash the company. Explain the situation as best you can, and tell the hiring manager how you’ve taken the decision to heart and will improve yourself as an employee as a result.
If you got laid off:
Say that you understand management’s reasoning behind the decision to lay off employees. Although you’re upset the company couldn’t continue to employ you and other colleagues, you’re excited to take on new challenges, explore different aspects of the industry, and earn new achievements.
If you’re searching for a new job:
Tell the hiring manager that you feel like the time has come to take on more difficult challenges and learn new skills that aren’t available at your current company. Explain that you aren’t being used to your full potential and that you’d like to test yourself in a new role.
7. Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years?
This question may seem tricky, but it’s actually fairly simple to answer. The hiring manager asks this question to figure out if you’re going to use the company as a stepping-stone, or if you might stay long-term.
So say that you:
- hope to increase your skills and learn more about the industry
- plan to have become a manager or taken on a more specialized role
But don’t say that you don’t know where you’ll be in 5–10 years. That answer can make you seem irresponsible and aimless — qualities that employers are definitely not looking for in potential employees.
Here’s an example of how to answer when an interviewer asks “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?“:
8. Why should I hire you?
Technically, you’re answering this question the entire time you’re being interviewed. But, if your interviewer asks why they should hire you:
- tell them how your history and work experience make you an ideal candidate
- reference the skills, abilities, and knowledge you have that are either directly applicable to the job, or transferable in some way
- tell the interviewer that you hope to make their job easier by taking on as much responsibility as possible
Before the interview, research what role you’d be filling in the company. Then prepare answers that directly respond to this question. If you have multiple interviews coming up, practice different sample answers for how you’d be suitable for this job.
More interview practice resources
Here are additional useful resources to help you ace your interview:
- Six key interview tips
- Should you bring a cover letter to an interview?
- Should I bring a copy of my resume to an interview?
- Do you print a resume double-sided?
- What should you carry your resume in?
- How do you present a hard-copy resume?
- 24 best questions to ask in an interview
- How to follow up after an interview