How to Answer Common Interview Questions
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Tips for Answering Common Interview Questions

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The biggest mistake you can make in a job interview is not being fully prepared. Dressing the part and getting yourself into the right mindset is crucial, but you won't be hired off your looks alone--you need to know what your interviewer will ask you when you sit down.

Even though a job interview can be stressful for hopeful candidates, the best way to prepare is to approach the job interview through your prospective employer's mindset. What subjects would a potential candidate need to know for the job? Although each interview is different, and the questions that are asked may change depending on the job position, below are some tips for answering the 25 most common questions you might receive during a job interview.

Job Interview Questions

Could you tell me more about yourself?

Employers use this question as a way to see how you articulate your identity. The goal here isn't to rehash every event in your life. Instead, focus on what makes you unique from a career, educational and goal-oriented standpoint. This would also be a great time to share a few of your other interests and any volunteer activities you do. Overall, develop a 30-60 second overview of what makes you a well-rounded, highly valuable candidate.

Why are you looking?

Depending on your current job status, employers will be curious to know why you want to work for them. To demonstrate, if you have a job already, why do you want to leave? Were you fired from your previous place of employment? What these examples show is you should be willing to be transparent with your answers about previous positions held or in the case of moving from one job to another, career advancement. The two things you should not mention in this question are money or any negative information about your previous employers, both of which convey bad attitudes.

Why do you want to work for us?

This is one of the questions you hope to receive during a job interview because it allows you to share the research you have done on the company, why they align with your career goals and more. This shows you take initiative, which is a desirable trait employers want.

What experience do you have for the position?

This is another question where you have the opportunity to represent who you are and show the company why you are valuable to them. Don't recite information you presented to them on your resume, instead highlight one or two specific examples of how your experience has helped you thrived in a similar role.

What qualities would your co-workers use to describe you?

In many ways, this is an offshoot on the "tell us more about yourself" question. Only, in this case, they want you to dig deeper to provide another perspective. If you can, contact a current or former co-worker and ask them that question. This provides you with a specific quote from a specific reference the company could always check out later. Most important, it also conveys you were ready for the question.

What are you doing to expand your skill set?

As noted above, employers look for those that take initiative. What makes this question so great is it can be all-encompassing. Along with pursuing more education and skills, you can add any volunteer opportunities you are doing and any self-improvement projects such as training for a marathon. The goal here is to show them that you are making strides to improve, learn and grow in all areas of your life.

Where else have you applied?

Normally, this is a good sign if a company is asking you this. They want to know if you might be applying to one of their competitors or it could be just a case of being curious as to what other opportunities you might be looking for. If you receive this question, be succinct, honest and just mention you are keeping your options open.

How do you perform under pressure?

Some professions require you to make decisions quickly even in a frenetic environment. To answer this question, recall a concrete example of when you had to perform under pressure, what that situation was and what specifically you did to handle the occasion well.

What motivates you to do your job well?

Think beyond surface level when answering this question. Instead of responding that compensation is your main motivator, share with the interviewer your desire of recognition for a job well done, how doing good work helps your company and in turn benefits you and your co-workers. This shows them how your long-term perspective could be valuable to them.

What are your biggest strengths?

This question represents the opportunity to present your strongest argument as to why you should receive the job. Instead of listing a bunch of skills, focus on the value you bring to the company. What initiatives have you undertaken in relevant positions? What have the results of those been? Have you ever been on a leadership council in one of your previous positions? The goal here to is to present your strongest case by focusing on relevant examples that will make you standout.

What are your biggest weaknesses?

This is a tricky question, because, on one hand, you don't want to rattle off a laundry list of weaknesses, on the other hand, if you say you don't have a weakness you come off as sounding inauthentic. Therefore, to answer this question masterfully, focus on one small, work-related issue you are working hard to improve on. If you need help coming up with one, ask your current supervisor what is one area where you can make strides to improve.

What are you looking for as far as salary is concerned?

Companies might use this question as a way to trick you, so be on guard if asked. You can always consult to see what the compensation range is for your profession. Of course, instead of providing a salary range you can sidestep this question by saying you are more focused on your long term career aspirations instead of compensation. Salary negotiation can come after they offer you the job.

Are you good working with others?

This is another trick question companies might try to ask you. You always answer yes when asked this question because if you don't work well with others, why would they hire you? However, if your natural tendencies are to work alone, you can mention you do work with people well but prefer to work by yourself when possible.

What suggestions have you made that worked?

Companies want to know you can create and execute ideas. With this in mind, come up with one or at least two concrete examples from previous positions where you developed ideas and what actionable steps you took to get them done. You also should provide metrics supporting how your ideas benefited the company.

Have other people you worked with annoyed you?

This is another one of those "trigger" questions, where an interviewer might try to provoke a negative response from you if you are not careful. Anyone who has had a job knows there are difficult co-workers, but mentioning them up during an interview might make the company interpret you as a negative person. If you receive this question, mention that you work well with a wide variety of people, as this a masterful sidestep while maintaining positivity.

How have you dealt with a difficult boss?

Similar to co-workers, we have all had bosses that make life miserable for no good reason but reflecting that in an interview is not a smart move. You also don't want to lie, though, because everyone has had bad bosses. A smarter move is to think of a time when you and your boss disagreed, but came to a consensus--if possible. This shows that you're honest by admitting you have worked with difficult bosses, and you are able to handle working with people you don't mesh well with.

Do you communicate effectively with your co-workers and/or boss?

Communication is one of the main pillars of successful businesses. Having everyone on the same page ensures everyone knows what they are working towards. Therefore, employers want employees who possess exceptional communication skills. If you have the luck of receiving this question, knock it out of the park by giving an example of how your communication skills benefit your previous employer. Whether it's running point on a successful project or requesting a chance to make the production run smoother, giving a point of reference to your communication skills only makes you more attractive.

What's your biggest motivating factors for your job?

This question gives you an opportunity to communicate with your prospective employer on what's important to you. Of course compensation, great benefits and flexible work/life balance is at the top of the list, but everyone knows this already. So, dig deeper, talk about the importance of having your work realized or the opportunities to learn more skills. This shows you are in this for more than a paycheck.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Vision is another critical component employers look for, especially if you are looking to fill a leadership position. Instead of thinking in terms of job titles, approach this question more from a personal development standpoint. Do you plan to complete higher education or develop more skills in the next five years? This is your opportunity to show them that you are working towards something bigger.

Do you prefer to have people fear or like you?

List this under the "tricky" category, as employers are testing you with this question. If you are going to be a leader, you don't want people to fear you nor do you want to be everyone's best friend either. You want to be somewhere in the middle, so the best answer should you receive this question is you prefer for people to respect you.

Will you place your interests ahead of the company?

Depending on your priorities, this question could be a red flag to you. After all, if you are constantly placing the company's needs ahead of yours, how will you have a personal life outside of work? At the same time, if you say no, you're not a team player. If someone asks you this, you should request clarification of what they are implying by the question. This will give you insight into the real demands of the position and whether it's right for you.

Are you willing to go the extra mile for the company/customers/team?

This question is meant to test your attitude as it pertains to how you view your position. Employers want someone who is willing to work hard, stay committed and find solutions to difficult problems. With this in mind, you should always say yes. If you don't, it implies you don't have the commitment or right attitude for the job.

Which benefits are important to you?

Benefits don't just pertain to compensation. Use this as an opportunity to present what is the most fulfilling benefits you can have in your job. This can include telecommuting options--if available--time off options, employer rewards for a job well done, on-site cafeteria or health station and more. If a company wants to attract the top talent they will want to know what employees want, so use this as a chance to share what your priorities are.

Why should I hire you?

Here's your opportunity to land the job. List concrete examples of why your skills and education will provide value to the company you are interested in working for. During this time refrain from saying you are better than other applicants. Instead, focus on what you will offer that company.

Do you have any questions for me?

This might be the most important question you receive. This gives you the chance to ask them whatever you want. Therefore, before the interview, you should research the company and come up with a few questions about the position, the company's culture and more. You should also take notes during the interview that way if any questions arise when you are talking you can scribble them down and ask them at the end. Having prepared questions shows you listen and take this opportunity seriously; this could make a huge impression on the hiring committee.

Tips for Answering Common Interview Questions


Being confident and having an answer for every question you may be asked at a job interview are just two essential steps to getting the job. However, there are more ways to prepare for a job interview. Be sure to practice with a friend, family member, or career counselor. Preparing a list of questions to ask the interviewer is also a great way to learn more about the company and is sure to impress your employer. Finally, send a follow up thank you note after the interview closes.

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