How to Answer the 25 Most Common Interview Questions

Maddie Lloyd
by Maddie Lloyd
Get The Job, Guides - 9 months ago
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Job interviews are one of the most stressful times that we’re all bound to encounter at some point in our lives, and they’re even more anxiety-inducing when you show up unprepared. If you enjoy being employed, try not to make this mistake.

We’ve made taking the steps to prepare for an interview so much easier. We compiled a list of the most common interview questions you can expect to hear all in one place. You’re welcome.

1. What Motivates You?

This is one of those gray interview questions that can throw you for a loop after going through a list of black-and-white ones. This question demands a bit of introspection, a dash of eloquence, and a whole lot of intuition about what the interviewer is looking to hear.

Without a bit of forethought, it’s tough to come up with an inspiring and coherent answer, but you may find it helpful to answer this one honestly to yourself first. This will force you to refine your search and figure out if a job truly aligns with your passions and goals, which will genuinely answer the question for you.

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2. Do You Work Well with Others?

Working on a team is essential to almost every job, and the interviewer wants to know how well you work with a team. When you respond, you need to give an answer that goes deeper than just saying that you like working with other people.

Interviewers want to know how you’d interact with your coworkers and if you’d fit into the company culture. People usually say that they “enjoy working with other people,” but don’t give any details to back up their response. Even if your job doesn’t require a lot of communication, it’s still important to be able to engage with your coworkers in a friendly and professional manner.

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3. How Do You Handle Stress and Pressure?

Interviewers ask questions like this because they want to know how pressure affects you and what you do to handle it. To give a good answer to this question, you should provide examples of how you’ve handled stress in the past and how it’s made you a more productive worker.

Employers want people who work well in stressful situations and solve problems instead of avoiding them. They want to know that you won’t crumble emotionally under the weight of your responsibilities or pass off your duties onto everyone else.

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4. Illegal Interview Questions

During a job interview, you’re bound to hear all sorts of questions that are meant to help employers pick people who have the skills and experience that are needed for the job. But beware — there are some questions that have no place lurking in an interview.

Every now and then, an illegal interview question or two will slip out. Most of the time, these questions aren’t meant to demonize you or make you feel like you’re not good enough for the job. Sometimes people just ask questions without even realizing that they’re illegal.

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5. What are Your Salary Requirements?

When you’re looking for jobs, at some point you’ll probably be asked to give an employer your salary requirements or salary history. It’s important to be careful with how you describe this information — you don’t want to be screened out or offered a low salary.

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6. What Sets You Apart from Other Candidates?

When you hear this question, interviewers aren’t asking you to talk about why everyone else sucks. They want to know what strengths and experiences you have that are valuable and how they could benefit the company. This is your opportunity to let the interviewer know why you should be hired over everyone else.

This question sounds really similar to the “greatest strengths” question, but it’s asking for a different answer. The interviewer wants to know what you can bring to the company that no one else can. Don’t sell yourself short.

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7. What’s Your Management Style?

If you’re interviewing for a position that involves overseeing others, you can expect to hear the question “What’s your management style?”

Not every management style works for every company, and the interviewer is trying to figure out if you would be a good fit for their team. To give a good answer, you have to show off your ability to handle situations and problems as a manager, while talking about real experiences.

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8. Where Else are You Interviewing?

When this question comes up, usually interviewers are curious about what other companies you have interviews with for a variety of reasons. Interviewers might want to know how focused you are on furthering your career or how seriously you’re looking for a new job. They want to get a sense of your job hunt and exactly what it is you’re looking for in an employer.

Even though this is a pretty simple question, don’t get too comfortable! This question is something to prepare for, so here’s what you need to know.

9. What are Your Greatest Professional Strengths?

This may seem like one of the easier and more straightforward interview questions you’ll run into, but it’s also one of the most important. This question is an invitation for you to talk about why you’re the best and most qualified person for the job.

It’s important to bring up traits that qualify you for the specific job and make you stand out from everyone else. Talking about your greatest strengths gives interviewers a look into your personality, what you value as an employee, and what you think gives you an advantage over other applicants.

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10. How Did You Hear About the Position?

Out of all the questions you’re going to be asked during a job interview, this one is one of the easiest to answer and hardest to screw up. This question usually comes at the beginning of an interview and is meant to be an icebreaker, not a trick question.

Even though this question seems to be a no-brainer, some people do somehow still manage to screw it up. Don’t be one of those people. Icebreakers can determine how the rest of your interview goes. You should look like you actually want this position with their company, instead of just looking like the least-bad option.

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11. What Do You Know About Our Company?

You’re almost guaranteed to hear this question during a job interview. Even if you hadn’t even heard of the company before applying for the job, you don’t want to be remembered as the person who gave the answer “jack diddly squat?”

Failing to give a thorough and thoughtful answer to this question can hurt your chances of getting a job, but with some careful research before your interview, you can gather all the information you need to seamlessly and successfully answer this question and leave a positive impression on your interviewer.

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12. What Gets You Up in the Morning?

A large part of the interview is meant for the hiring manager to learn how you would work as a member of their team, so you should prepare to answer personal questions like this one.

Don’t just list off seemingly obvious answers – your interviewer doesn’t want to hear about your love of coffee or how your cat with borderline diabetes meows at you until you get out of bed to feed it. This question is meant to help the interviewer learn more about you, what you value in life, and what motivates you.

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13. Tell Me About a Time You Failed

This is definitely one of the scarier interview questions you’ll run into. Questions like this one give interviewers a chance to learn a lot about you in many different ways at once. From the story you choose to tell to how much responsibility you take on yourself for the mistake, talking about one of your work-related failures can give a hiring manager a lot of insight into what kind of employee you might turn out to be.

Having to tell a person who you’re actively trying to impress about a time when you made a huge mistake can be daunting, but fortunately, we’ve got some tips to help make your interviewing experience a little easier.

14. What’s Your Dream Job?

The interviewer wants to make sure that the job you’re interviewing for matches up with the one you really want — so you need to be sure that you don’t imply that this job would be a temporary pitstop, but rather a checkpoint on the journey to your fulfilling life.

Your real goal in answering this question is to describe a position that the job you’re applying for could feasibly help you reach — and our goal is to show you how.

15. Tell Me About a Challenge You’ve Faced at Work

Every interview has a unique focus, but some questions are asked more frequently than others, so it makes sense to do all you can to prepare for them. In order to be successful, you need a strategy—not scripted answers. Your goal should be to emphasize your past experiences that best fit what each interviewer is looking for.

Interviewers ask this question to gain insight into your behavior, interpersonal skills, and your overall ability to manage conflict — not to learn about how much of a jerk your former coworker or customer was. How you answer this question is almost as important as the answer you give, so here are some things to remember.

16. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

The goal of every interview answer is to show how you are the solution to the company’s problem. You need to ask yourself — what kind of response are interviewers looking for with this question? They’re generally trying to get a sense of how your career aspirations align with the company and position.

Interviewers want to see how motivated, hardworking, and ambitious you are, and they want to know all about your career goals and if you plan to stick around. Follow along as we take a dive into why you’re getting asked this question and more of the theory behind the response.

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17. How to Give an Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is the 30-second speech that summarizes who you are, what you do and why you’d be an ideal candidate. The idea behind an elevator pitch is that you should be able to tell someone all of that in the time it takes to ride the elevator.

How do you get the attention of someone important who has a dozen other things on their mind? How can you turn a quick hello into a promising job lead?

The answer may or may not surprise you — it’s the use of a practiced elevator speech.

18. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?

Of all the questions you can expect to be asked during an interview, this one might be the easiest to answer — as long as you can keep your eyes on the prize.

Unlike some of the other questions you’ll hear during an interview, total honesty could work pretty well for this question. After all, this can’t be some cookie cutter answer — it needs to apply specifically to the company you’re interviewing with.

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19. Tell Me About Yourself

This is a really common interview question that’s typically used as an icebreaker. But don’t make the mistake of downplaying the importance of your answer. How you respond to this question will set the tone for the rest of the interview, and —if you give a bad answer — it also has the potential to ruin your chances of getting the job.

Interviewers are looking to get to know you as a person and what interests you, and they might want to see how you react to being asked an unstructured question. Interviewers ask this question because they want to get a feel for your skills, your personality, and what you can do to help their business.

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20. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

Perhaps the most common final question in any job interview, “What questions do you have for me?” Unfortunately, this question is inherently a trap. Despite having plenty of correct answers, the question has a definite wrong answer that’s easy to accidentally give, and that’s “no.”

Having no questions to ask a hiring manager at the end of an interview is a major faux pas when it comes to job hunting. And there’s no trick you can use as defense for this question — you can’t BS your way through it. Either you’ve done your research into the company and you’re prepared to ask a few substantive questions about it, or you’re not.

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21. What are Your Weaknesses?

This question has the ability to instantly freeze you in your seat, preventing you from conjuring any coherent words during a job interview. You might consider yourself a master of your trade, but at some point in your career, whether it was in college, or post-graduation in the working world, you’ve made a mistake.

This is a pretty common interview question, so if you find yourself in a job interview, and you really want the job, be prepared to answer this dreaded question.

22. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

This common interview question isn’t a trap, per se, but it can feel like one. That’s most likely because the question is a little disingenuous. It’s not really asking why you left in terms of total honesty; it’s just trying to gauge why it is that you’re back on the job market, and whether you’re diplomatic enough to talk about your previous employers in a positive way despite the fact that you’re no longer working with them.

The trick is to be honest without being a huge downer about your last boss; after all, what the person interviewing is looking for is just a good reason why you’re no longer working for your previous employer, not a Russian novel detailing your every grievance.

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23. How Would Your Friends Describe You?

This question is a test of two things: your self-awareness and what non-career characteristics you find valuable in yourself and others. Interviewers already know that you’re going to paint yourself in a good light, but by getting you to remove yourself from the interviewee position for a moment and subconsciously empathize with another person’s perspective, they encourage you to be just a bit more realistic.

This question is a test of your self-awareness and an honest appraisal of how the world sees you, not just how you see yourself.

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24. Why Are You Interested in this Position?

“Why are you interested in this position?” can be a deceptively tough question to answer if you haven’t given it the proper level of thought and preparation.

It’s easy to get so caught up in worrying about making a good first impression that you start talking about the one thing you know the most about — yourself. But while your personality and your interests are part of the answer, they’re not all of it, and focusing too much on the ways that the job might benefit you can leave your hiring manager with a sour taste in their mouth.

This question takes some significant forethought about who you are and what kind of company you’re applying to, especially when it comes to the projects the company is actively working on or the corporate culture you’d be entering.

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25. Why Are You Looking for a New Job?

Being on the job hunt while you still have a job is, in general, a pretty great position to be in. It’s certainly better than the alternative, as it gives your prospective new boss no reason at all to doubt your ability to play well with others and hold down a job.

To the layperson, this question might look like a trap. In life, it’s important to remember that looks can be deceiving. But that’s not important here, because these looks are actually spot on.

The question looks like a trap because it is totally a trap. A big one. It’s a big boulder rolling through a cave, and you’re Indiana Jones only significantly less coordinated. So how do you jump out of the way?

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