How To Answer Common Interview Questions
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Going in for an interview can be extremely stressful, especially if one is ill-prepared. Interviewers use a slew of common questions to help determine if candidates would be a good fit within the company, and oftentimes, even though they’re common, job seekers have difficulty answering them. Not having a thoughtful, detailed response will cause you to come across as unprepared. This guide will help you formulate more nuanced answers to make a stronger impression during your next interview. Keep in mind that there is no catch-all answer that is best for each person nor each position, but the best thing you can do is prepare ahead of time.
Tell Me About Yourself
Many people don’t get ready for this question because they think it’s so simple, but it can take many off-guard. It is important to think about it in context of the company and the role itself. Don’t just focus on the job, but talk about your educational history and what you're passionate about. Your hobbies can relate to the job and how that has developed your expertise. Talking about yourself can display why you’re the most suitable person for the position.
My passion is (insert hobby related to the job). Learning all I can about it simply excites me. It’s why I went into the field.
Why Do You Want To Work For The Company?
You want to be as specific as possible here. Avoid stating things that could apply to a number of other companies. Express the uniqueness of the organization and what they do that excites you. Establish how you could contribute to their cause, with examples of elements you would like to be a part of. You want to make it clear that you will be committed to their success. It is also important to make it apparent that you are knowledgeable about the company.
The company lines up with what I want to achieve... (discuss goals). I can learn a lot, but I can also provide a lot as well. The fact that your organization fosters growth and teamwork really excites me. (Explain why you like the product or service) and I want to get it in front of more eyes.
Why Should We Hire You?
When answering this question it is key that you exude confidence. This will make a stronger impression that you are able to help the company achieve their goals. It is important to display a deep knowledge about the company in your answer. It’s helpful to express what you uniquely offer over other strong candidates. Express how your skills and experience apply to the role, but also the organization itself. You want to establish that you would make an excellent team member and be a strong fit personality wise. Try to identify issues they are currently dealing with before the interview and then use that knowledge to express what problems you can help solve and how.
I love the company culture and I can see why people are excited to work here. (Explain elements of the company that you enjoy and what you can personally achieve to make it better). (Elaborate on how your skills align with the goals for the position).
What Are Your Strengths As An Employee?
You don’t want to overload the employer with examples. Instead it is better to focus on specific instances that present a strong example of the quality you’re trying to highlight. You want to avoid making these traits too general. Choose a few examples that are related to the job itself. Provide concrete stories that demonstrate you are suitable to be a problem solver on the team. Try to identify areas that they need to focus on to improve their output or product that you are particularly able to fulfill.
I do deep research into each project. Learning every detail I can helps me to generate my best possible output. The more I know, the better my results tend to be. I hate missing something that could help me create the best possible project. (Explain the projects you’ve researched and improved upon).
What Are Your Weaknesses As An Employee?
Believability is a necessity in this answer, which can be tricky. But you want to avoid a response that would turn them away. Explaining that you don’t have any weaknesses can be problematic, as it demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and a willingness to avoid improvement. Identify struggles you have as an employee, but not issues that relate to the role itself. With these gaps, it’s beneficial to mention that you are taking steps to work on them and provide actual examples of those steps. Express that you have an open dialogue with your team on what they wish to see altered about your performance and how you have addressed it. Avoid the cliché answers about being a “workaholic” or a “perfectionist,” as these are so general the interviewer will not believe them.
I sometimes get overwhelmed by having a big project. In order for me to avoid falling behind, I break it down into small simpler tasks to focus on. (Explain the weakness and then immediately follow it up with examples of what you’re doing to improve in this area).
Tell Me About A Problem In The Workplace That You’ve Had And How You Dealt With It?
Stating that you’ve never had one, nor can think of one, will not be believable to any employer. Remember to keep your answer as professional as possible, rather than throwing blame at a fellow employee that you’ve disagreed with. Focusing on the problem too much makes you appear less level-headed. Instead, emphasize the resolution you came up with. Establish that you approached the scenario in a respectful and understanding manner. Make mention of how you would now deal with the situation in order to solve the problem to assist both parties.
An employee and I had difficulty agreeing on methods to use for a project. Rather than have it escalate, I sat them down in a private setting and I laid out my position as to how I think the project should be completed. I let them express their thoughts on how they think we should proceed, and what compromises needed to be made to help us work more efficiently together. We now continue to have a more open dialogue when working together.
Tell Me About A Time You Disagreed With Your Superior(s) and How You Handled It?
You won’t always agree with your superiors and interviewers are well aware of this. The key is to ensure that you display that you kept it professional. Demonstrate that you heard their point of view rather than just flat out disagreeing with their position. Explain that regardless of the outcome you made your position clear in a respectful manner. You want to make it clear that it was a positive outcome rather than it becoming a larger issue. It’s not about presenting that you came across as victorious, but that working towards a compromise was your intended goal. If you establish you were right and they were wrong, this will present you as being stubborn and unable to take criticism.
My boss and I disagreed on how to proceed with (insert project). I discussed with them that I believed this was the best method: (insert position). While they said they believed it should be achieved in a different manner. We came to a compromise to (explain the compromise of the project).
How Have You Demonstrated Leadership Skills?
Regardless of where you fall in the chain of command, you want to make it apparent that you are working towards the good of the team. Hiring managers want to work with someone who is motivated and takes steps to get everyone else into their best workflow. Talking about your general attitude and how motivational you are isn’t concrete enough to present yourself as a strong candidate. Provide a few examples of issues that your team was having regarding achieving their goals and how you used your expertise to resolve that. If you can, relate that experience to the specific field or position you are interviewing for - that will come across even better.
I frequently touch base with all members of the team to ensure that they are succeeding on their individual projects. (Provide a specific example of when this was achieved).
Why Were You Let Go From Your Last Position?
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, layoffs are not that uncommon right now and losing a job isn’t that out of the ordinary. If you’ve been let go due to a reorganization or a change within the company, you can simply state that. If you were fired for issues with your performance, that is something you will have to mention. The hiring manager will most likely be contacting your previous employer for a reference, so the truth will be discovered. Ensure that you don’t say anything negative about your past job as this will present you as being problematic and unwilling to admit fault. This is when you should explain what you learned from that experience and the steps you’ve taken to improve as a professional.
Example 1: The company was restructuring and I lost my position due to a change in their organization.
Example 2: I was let go because I had an issue with (insert a specific task). I have since taken the time to work on this gap by (insert steps taken) in order to become more proficient at that and similar duties.
Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?
You want to put a positive spin on this answer with something that shows you are motivated towards success. Simply stating that you are looking to see better compensation will appear that you are not passionate about the role you are looking to fill. If your motivation is because you are incompatible with your current employer, you can mention that you have different visions of where you see goals being achieved and say something positive about the company. If you are looking for a promotion, you can simply state that you are looking to explore your capabilities and that this position meets your requirements to do just that. Feel free to mention that the job you are interviewing for meets your criteria for success.
Example 1: I accomplished all that I wanted to in that role, and now I’m looking for a position that I can offer more in. I’m working towards furthering my professional development, and I feel this position with your company will meet my expectations to reach those goals.
Example 2: My previous employer and I were looking at achieving different objectives. I learned so much at that company, but I wanted to move on to separate goals.
What Is Your Expected Salary?
To answer this question you are going to have to research what the salary range typically is for this type of position. You want your answer to be at the highest level of that range, but it must obviously be reasonable. Express your expertise in your field; that you have a demonstrated history of success and that you’d be an asset to the organization. Answering this question correctly can potentially result in more income. However don’t be afraid to be flexible here. If the job is what you are truly after, you don’t want to lose it because you were being too aggressive when it comes to salary.
Based on the typical salary expectations for this position and taking into account my experience and qualifications, my expected salary is $55,000. (Explain how you match all criteria for this position).
Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?
You don’t have to state that the position you are interviewing would be the end result. The interviewer is trying to determine if you are ambitious or are likely to remain in the same position. If you truly want to remain with the company, you can state that and express what you like so much about it. You can elaborate on what the position could do for your professional development.
Example 1: I’m not really sure where I’ll be in the next 5 years, but this position will help me with my professional development and achieve my goals within my industry. (Talk about what your specific goals are).
Example 2: I would like to remain within the company. My professional goals line up with what your team is accomplishing. (Talk about which goals line up with this company). I feel that I have demonstrated the skills and experience to flourish within this organization.
How Would Your Boss Describe You?
This is another area where you can sell yourself. Talk about your positive aspects and the strengths you’ve demonstrated for your superiors and the rest of the team. You don’t want to be too broad in your explanation. If it’s too generic then they will have likely heard it before. Provide examples of projects you’ve successfully completed and the feedback you’ve received.
Example 1: My past boss described me as innovative, due to alterations I made on a project we were collectively working on. (Describe what changes were made and how it was beneficial).
Example 2: At my last job they described me as a team leader. I would make myself present at other departments and provide help to struggling employees when I could see they needed some assistance. In the company we’re all part of the same team, and I would provide time where I could to ensure that projects were accomplished seamlessly.
How Do You Manage In Stressful Situations?
Mentioning that you “buckle down” and “always get the job done no matter what” are phrases that interviewers have definitely heard before. Detail your strategy that is specific to you: whether it be to discuss the situation with a colleague, do a quick breathing exercise to get your head back in the game or to detail a work plan to get the task done in the most efficient manner. Provide a specific example of a situation in which you’ve felt overwhelmed at work and how your methods enabled you to complete the project to the best of your abilities within the time limit. If you mention that you inform your superiors of stressful scenarios, the interviewer will see that you are open and honest when it comes to communication.
Example 1: I create a step-by-step process, which details all the goals by priority. Minimizing them into smaller tasks helps me focus on what needs to be achieved so I don’t get overwhelmed by the bigger picture. (Provide a specific example of when you did this).
Example 2: If I’m having difficulty with a stressful project, I discuss what the best method to achieve the goal is with my superior. (Provide a specific example of when you did this).
Do You Have Any Questions For Us?
Answering this question correctly can demonstrate that you have a clear interest in working at the company. It’s wise to avoid asking anything that they’ve already covered, as it will seem like you weren’t paying attention during the course of the interview. You can follow up their answers with how you would be the most qualified to help them pursue these goals.
Examples 1: If I were successful in securing this position, what types of projects would I be working on?
Example 2: Are there opportunities for development within the company?
Example 3: What are the company’s plans for growth?
Dos and Don’ts for Answering Interview Questions
Dos: DO be honest. DO be confident. DO be as specific as possible. DO back up your point with examples. DO discuss your passions. DO elaborate on what makes you unique as an employee. Don’ts: DON’T mention that you are missing elements required for the position. DON’T make excuses for your missteps. DON’T get defensive. DON’T be cocky. DON’T avoid answering questions. DON’T talk negatively about former colleagues or superiors.
In order to comfortably answer these questions, it’s going to take a good amount of research and a fair amount of soul searching. Practice goes a long when it comes to preparing your responses. Understanding how to go about these inquiries will give you an advantage in any interview. Prepare for these questions using the advice above and you will have the ability to stand out from the other qualified candidates.