Common Interview Questions

A job interview is more than a potential employer asking questions normally found on your cover letter.

It is an opportunity to prove you have the knowledge and expertise needed to do the job well, and to show you would be a perfect fit for the company, itself. Rather than simply repeating the list of attributes and accomplishments on your resume, you have the chance to put them in context, and to better showcase your abilities.

The following questions are some of the most common types to be found in job interviews. The interviewer will be aware of this, and may expect you to have prepared in advance. However, it is also important not to script your answers, as you cannot tell exactly how the question may be phrased. Instead, try to have a few possibilities in mind, ready to go. Each question may also vary slightly, depending on the nature of your profession and industry, but you might still expect some – or all – of these questions to be asked at any job interview.

“What are your greatest strengths?”

While you may already have listed your positive qualities in your resume and cover letter, this is a chance to give examples of your strengths in action. You have the time to mention how you have used them to your advantage in your career. For example, you can talk about how you took the lead on a difficult project, or how you managed a complex situation. It is also a good idea, when preparing for the interview, to look over the original job listing, and make a note of the desired attributes for potential candidates. Think about which of your strengths and abilities best fit with the list, and focus on those.

“What are your greatest weaknesses?”

This question provides an excellent opportunity to highlight how you have managed to grow in your abilities. You will need to be honest about your weaknesses, but speak about them only briefly before explaining how you have been working to improve them. Be ready to give a concrete example of how you have achieved this.

“Why do you want this job?”

Alternatively, you may be asked why you want to work at the company. Both questions serve as a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and its needs. Focus on what excites you about the company, and the position of the job within it. Perhaps the company has done some work in the past you might refer to as an example of why you want to work there. This also allows you to prove you are not simply applying to every open position, but genuinely think you would be a good fit for this particular job and potential employer .

“Why should we hire you?”

When answering this question, bear in mind there will be many other applicants with your approximate qualifications and skillset. This question gives you a chance to mention something you think makes you uniquely qualified or suitable for the job. At the same time, you can use your answer to illustrate the fact you understand the company’s needs for the position.

“What are your goals?”

Try to tailor your answer to personal goals matching the goals of the company. This might mean goals for the next year, or the next five years, rather than your ultimate career plan. These short-term goals will allow you to explain how you plan to excel at the job for which you are applying. As these questions are sometimes given with a specific timeframe, it can be worth making a note of timed goals in your preparation for the interview.

“Why did you leave your last job?”

This can be difficult to answer, as you will often be leaving one job in order to interview for another. It can be made even more difficult if you left your previous employer under difficult circumstances. If it is a career move, try to focus your answer on why you are excited to move on to better opportunities, rather than speaking of your last employer negatively. If you were let go or quit under difficult circumstances, keep your answer short and to the point.

“Can you describe an experience when you dealt with a difficult work situation?”

This may be phrased as a question about how you generally handle stressful situations or projects. However, it could also be tailored to the type of job for which you are interviewing. You may be asked about a difficult moment of customer service, perhaps, or a pressure-filled task common to your industry. While preparing for the interview, try going through a few anecdotes in your mind, and imagining how you might tell the stories effectively.

“What are your salary expectations?”

While it can be easier when the hiring manager gives you a range to work from regarding a salary estimate, you may be asked to provide one, yourself. This will have to be planned for ahead of time. Research the going rate in your area for the type of job for which you are interviewing. You should know the minimum amount for which you would be willing to work, as well as what you would most like to paid, within reason. Both over- and under-pricing yourself could give a negative impression.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

This is a common way to end an interview. Asking questions proves you are prepared and excited about the chance to land the job. Even if the interview was very comprehensive, the interviewer will be expecting you to have at least a few questions about:

  • The job, perhaps the day-to-day duties or responsibilities.
  • The company, its culture and management style.
  • The people you will be working with, perhaps a team or a department.
  • Practical considerations, such as relocation or working on nights and weekends. You may also want to know what the start date would be if you were offered the job.
  • Career paths the company might provide, and how you might be able to advance to a higher position.
  • The interviewer’s own experience of working at the company, perhaps what he or she enjoys most or least about it.

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