How To Answer The 50 Most Common Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Maddie Lloyd and Experts - Aug. 15, 2021
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Imagine if you had a cheat sheet with perfect answers for every interview question a hiring manager could throw your way. Sadly, we can’t tell you exactly what questions will come up at your interview, but we can provide something almost as good.

Below are the 50 most common interview questions, along with advice for answering each and every one.

The interview process involves a good amount of research and preparation. With a little bit of homework, you can avoid a whole lot of stress. Keep our tips in mind, and you’ll be ready to make a great impression and deliver confident answers to the interview questions that get asked all the time.

Common Interview Questions About You

  1. 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.

    Example Answer:

    “I’m the type of person who loves connecting with and getting to know people, which has come in handy for my job.

    I’ve been in sales for 15 years now, and during that time, I’ve worked in call centers, on sales floors, and in offices working to find new clients and take care of current ones. Through it all, I’ve learned that the most important aspect of making sales is building relationships.

    Whether I’m talking to customers for two minutes during cold calls or have been working with them as their sales representative for eight years, I find that I’m much more successful when I can connect with them and show that I care.

    Even if I don’t make a sale, at the very least, I’ve been a good ambassador for the company, and I know I’ve done my best, which is of the utmost importance to me.”

    Read more: “Tell me about yourself” tips and example answers

  2. What is your greatest strength?

    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.

    Example Answer:

    “My greatest strength is my ability to be empathetic and to see both sides of a disagreement. This not only helps my professional interpersonal relationships, but it also carries into my skills as a marketer.

    I’ve been able to use this strength to think through how marketing and communications materials will be perceived, understand why clients want their projects done in a certain way, and how to communicate controversial decisions or information without burning bridges.

    Because of this, at my most recent position, I became the person who was in charge of reviewing all of our departments’ marketing materials before they were released, as well as trickier emails and other pieces of communication.”

    Read more: “What is your greatest strength?” tips and example answers

  3. What is your greatest weakness?

    This is one of the most dreaded common interview questions because it feels like a trick question. There’s no trick to it, though, because even if you are a master of your trade, no one is perfect, and your interviewers know that.

    This question is all about self-awareness, so consider where you could use some improvement and talk about what you’re doing to grow in those areas or to keep them from costing your employer.

    While the classic, “I work too hard and care too much,” sounds like an easy cop-out, hiring managers actually prefer you give a sincere answer.

    They know you aren’t perfect, so saying that you don’t have any weaknesses is actually a red flag. They want to see that you’re self-aware enough to recognize your shortcomings and that you’re actively working to become a better employee.

    So, explain in detail what you struggle with, what you’re doing to grow, and the results of those efforts.

    Example Answer:

    “My greatest weakness is that I tend to say yes to too many things and, as a result, take on too much. To combat this, over the past year or two, I’ve started to take time each Friday afternoon to plan the next week.

    I write down all my appointments and projects and note how much time each commitment will take. I then block out a few hours of unscheduled time in order to give myself room to catch up or handle unexpected tasks. Once I complete these steps, I can see how much room I have in my schedule.

    Then, throughout the rest of the week, if someone asks me to do something, I say, “Let me check my schedule,” instead of committing right then. After I check my schedule to determine if I have time for the project or not, I either say yes or explain that I don’t have the capacity to do a good job on it right now.

    If I say no, I try to either recommend someone else who could help them, offer to assist with the part of the project that I do have time for, or tell them to circle back with me in a week or two (or whenever my schedule clears up).

    Since I’ve started doing this, I have been able to complete all of my projects on time and to a high standard without wanting to pull my hair out.”

    Read more: “What is your greatest weakness?” tips and example answers

  4. What sets you apart from other candidates?

    This question isn’t an opportunity to talk about why everyone else sucks, even though it may sound like it. Interviewers aren’t looking for a comparison. They just want to know what valuable strengths and experiences you have and how they could benefit the company.

    Example Answer:

    “My experience in both kitchen and landscaping design has given me a unique skill set that I believe would play very well into this position as a patio designer.

    For example, many people want to be able to use their patios to do outdoor cooking and entertaining, and my experience with kitchen design will help me create comfortable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing spaces for those purposes.

    Similarly, my years in landscape design have given me strong skills in creating attractive, practical, and maintainable outdoor spaces. These skills will allow me to do the same for clients’ patios.

    In addition, my 18 years of design experience have given me great practice understanding what clients are actually looking for and coming up with solutions to meet both their visions and their budgets.”

    Read more: “What sets you apart from other candidates?” tips and example answers

  5. 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.

    Thinking through your answer ahead of time will not only help you come up with the right words when you’re actually in your interview, but it will also force you to consider if the job you’re applying for truly aligns with your passions and goals.

    Example Answer:

    “I get excited when I get to help my clients meet their marketing goals and make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. What’s even better is that each company is different and needs a unique plan, so every time I sit down to create a social media strategy for someone, I get fired up about the new challenge.

    Whenever I get bogged down in the day-to-day grind, I just think about the moment I get to give my clients the data reports that show how the strategy I created caused their engagement, sales, or followers to go up.

    To me, there is nothing like getting to partner with someone to help their business thrive, so visualizing that moment of success keeps me going.”

    Read more: “What motivates you?” tips and example answers

  6. Do you work well with others?

    Working on a team is essential to almost every job, and the interviewer wants to know you can get along with others. 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 collaboration, it’s still important to be able to engage with your coworkers in a friendly and professional manner.

    Example Answer:

    “I enjoy working as a part of a team because I’ve found that it’s much easier to come up with creative ideas and avoid pitfalls when there’s more than one perspective involved in a project.

    I’ve also learned that the people are what makes a place great to work in, and I’ve loved getting to know all of the coworkers I’ve worked with over the years.

    Because we’re human, though, we have had our disagreements and conflicts, so when this happens, I’ve learned that being kind and direct to try to clear up the situation is generally the most effective way to restore peace. Even if it doesn’t work perfectly, it’s definitely much better than gossiping about it or just carrying a grudge.”

    Read more: “Do you work well with others?” tips and example answers

  7. 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 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.

    Example Answer:

    “My friends would describe me as loyal, detail-oriented, and kind. While I’m not one to walk into a room and get a party started, I do enjoy being around people. It can take me a little while to get close to people because I can come across as aloof at first, but my friends are friends for life, and they know I’d do anything for them.

    They also know if they ask me to do something, I’m going to do it as thoroughly and accurately as possible. It will likely be done more slowly than others’ may do it, but it will be done right. They’d also say that while I do have a defined set of principles and ethical standards, I give people grace and am a trustworthy person for them to come to.”

    Read more: “How would your friends describe you?” tips and example answers

  8. 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 answer this question, avoid negative talk about your current job. Focus on why you want to work for this company in particular and why you’re applying for this position. Always bring it back to the skills and value you can add to the company.

    Example Answer:

    “In my current role, I teach sixth-grade math, science, and P.E. classes. While I’ve enjoyed doing this, I want to be able to teach one or maybe two subjects instead of three so that I can fully concentrate on making that class the best it can be.

    The school I currently work for supports me in this, but it’s a small private school that relies on instructors teaching multiple classes because it can’t afford to hire additional teachers. Because of this, I decided it was time to try something new and find a position that only needs me to teach one or two subjects instead of three.”

    Read more: “Why are you looking for a new job?” tips and example answers

  9. How do you define success?

    Your interviewer is looking for an answer that has to do with meeting goals, the quality of your work, overcoming difficult challenges, and impressive accomplishments. Even if you measure success by material wealth or power, leave those out of your answer.

    For the best answers, research the company to see what they value and align your answer accordingly. For instance, if they’re all about innovation, talk about how you feel most successful when you develop a new way of doing something.

    By giving a specific example of when you’ve felt proud of your success in the past, you’ll show off the skills that will make you a great employee for this job.

    Example Answer:

    “As a web developer, I believe I am successful when I deliver an excellent product that meets my client’s needs.

    Both of those qualifiers are important because I can develop an excellent website that doesn’t meet my client’s specific needs, and I can create a website that meets all of their criteria that isn’t excellent. Both options would be letting down the client in some way, so you need both in order to be successful.

    One of the most poignant examples of success by this definition in my career was a few years ago when I was working with a nonprofit that had programs for senior citizens. They needed a website that was well designed and looked professional, but it also needed to be easy for elderly people to use.

    This meant I had to figure out a way to make fonts bigger, buttons more obvious, and layouts more intuitive than I normally would while still following good design principles.

    It was a fun challenge, and I was able to deliver a website that I was proud of and the client was pleased with. It consistently got high praise from the users as easy to understand and use and even won an award for excellent design and user experience.”

    Read more: “How do you define success?” tips and example answers

  10. What is your work style?

    You can answer this question a couple of ways, but it helps to think about how you want to frame your answer. Things to consider include your preference for working independently or collaboratively, the pace of the work environment, and whether you like a strict routine or prefer to adapt on the fly.

    You can also incorporate what contributes to you getting your best work done, whether that has to do with how you’re managed or your capacity for multitasking. Don’t be too rigid in your response, or you may send up a red flag that your work style won’t gel with the company.

    Also, it’s best to never say you prefer to work alone since most jobs require some level of collaboration. But you can state that certain responsibilities of your job are best performed independently, before bringing it to the rest of your team.

    Example Answer:

    “I’ve worked in a variety of settings and roles and have adapted my work style to fit each of them, but I’ve found that I’m most effective when I have a goal and some parameters and then given the freedom to figure out how to reach that goal.

    As I do this, there are a few tasks that I find are best done alone in a quiet space, but most of the time, I love collaborating on projects with others. Even when I complete a task alone, I like to present it to the rest of my team to get their input.

    Because of this, I thrived in a position where I worked in a room full of my colleagues but also had access to quiet workspaces when I needed them. I also love working on more than one project at a time, within reason, as the variety keeps me motivated.”

    Read more: “What is your work style?” tips and example answers

  11. Describe your work ethic.

    Don’t exaggerate or just list a bunch of impressive-sounding adjectives when describing your work ethic. Instead, focus on your motivations for working hard, whether that be tackling a new challenge or being super reliable.

    Keep the position in mind and consider using some similar language from the job description to describe your work ethic. For example, if the job posting says something about “efficient” and “responsible,” you should bring up examples of when you actively tried to make your work faster and more mistake-free.

    Example Answer:

    “My goal with every task I do or every project I take on is to be as excellent as possible. To me, excellence means completing it on time, accurately, and in a way that serves my ‘client,’ whether that’s my boss, my coworker, or a customer.

    I want to be the person that makes everyone else’s jobs easier by being a reliable person who will not only get things done when I say I will but will also give them a product that meets their needs.

    In my role as a coder, this may mean doing some extra research to make sure I’m creating the most efficient code possible, going a step beyond checking my task off a list to make sure it’s actually running well, and asking for feedback.

    I also have to balance this with time management, as completing projects late is not only rude to the person I’m delivering it to, it’s also a bad steward of the company’s time and money.”

    Read more: “Describe your work ethic” tips and example answers

  12. Walk me through your resume.

    Like “tell me about yourself,” but a little more focused. The best advice for this prompt is to know a coherent, natural story of your career. The end of your story should be your explanation of how this position fits in perfectly with your career goals.

    This question allows you the freedom to speak about elements of your resume that you wish you could’ve put in 32-pt font with flashing neon signs. Emphasize your relevant skills and experience to show why you’re the ideal candidate for the job.

    Example Answer:

    “After I graduated with a degree in journalism in 2014, I went to work for a local news station in Wichita, Kansas. I started out as mainly a fact-checker, but I worked my way up to getting to report a few lower-level stories each month, and since it was a small station, I got to be a part of a wide variety of tasks and projects.

    I worked there for two years, and when I left, I walked away with a strong understanding of how news stations operate. From there, I moved to a position as a full-time reporter at a slightly larger station in Kansas City, Missouri, where I covered business and educational stories.

    Working on such diverse stories allowed me to build relationships with a number of people within those industries, and my boss even applauded me on how much deeper I was going with my stories than others before I had.

    In my third year working there, I wrote a story about a new apartment complex that was going into an abandoned, turn-of-the-century hotel. I covered the apartment complex’s new plans, but I also wrote about the history of the hotel and stories about the people who had stayed there. That story was the most visited page on our website for a year.

    My time at that station helped me realize that I’m passionate about doing feature stories about communities’ histories. Now, I believe I can put that passion to work for your magazine in this position as a writer for the history section.”

    Read more: “Walk me through your resume” tips and example answers

  13. Why should we hire you?

    This interview question may seem infuriatingly open-ended, but really it’s your chance to hammer home why you believe you’d be great in this role. That information can sometimes get lost in the rest of the interview, so take advantage of this opportunity.

    As usual, whenever you can, end with what you and your skills would do for the company.

    Example Answer:

    “I’m a methodical person, so you’re going to get consistent, accurate work from me every time. I’m also a problem-solver, and the 20 years I’ve been working for both corporate and private clients have given me expertise on how to solve some of the most difficult accounting problems you could face in those environments.

    Because of that experience, at my current position, I’ve become the person you go to if you have a dilemma, whether it’s technical or ethical. Even our CFO has asked my opinion on a number of occasions.

    I’ve respected your nonprofit for a long time, so when I first saw this job opening, I knew I had to apply. I’m passionate about what this organization does, and I’d love to put that and my expertise to work to further it.”

    Read more: “Why should we hire you?” tips and example answers

  14. What do you do for fun?

    The key here is to bring up wholesome and/or productive hobbies. Even seemingly unproductive hobbies can be framed in a positive way.

    For example, instead of saying you play video games for 8 hours straight every night, mention how you enjoy solving puzzles and playing collaborative strategy games. Or instead of binging shows like The Crown, talk about your interest in 20th-century history.

    Another tip: don’t go too deep into a niche hobby. Start small, gauge your interviewer’s interest, and adjust accordingly.

    Example Answer:

    “Whenever I can, I enjoy doing outdoor activities. I have a group of friends who also enjoy this, so for the past few years, we’ve made it a goal to go on a long hike once a month. Recently, we’ve started rock climbing and bouldering as well.

    I’ve enjoyed learning the strategies of this activity and the challenge of honing my mental and physical strength. I still have a lot of training to do, but our goal is to go on a weekend backpacking and climbing trip to Yosemite sometime next year.

    I knew rock climbing would strengthen my body, but I’ve also noticed that my problem-solving skills are getting stronger, that I’m adapting more calmly to stress and unexpected obstacles, and that my stress levels are lower.”

    Read more: “What do you do for fun?” tips and example answers

  15. Who is your mentor?

    Talking about people you admire professionally says a lot about you as a job candidate. You’ll naturally bring up qualities that you highly value when answering because part of this question is also “why is this person your mentor?”

    Choose someone that you can honestly and enthusiastically speak about. You can give a quick story to summarize how you’ve developed certain strengths from this mentor.

    Don’t feel limited to just one mentor, either. It can only make you sound good if you’ve had a lot of positive mentor-mentee relationships in your life.

    Example Answer:

    “One of the most influential people in my professional life is actually one of my professors from college, Dr. Gray. I spent a lot of time learning from her not only in the classroom but also as we worked through my projects and business plans.

    She is the one who taught me the importance of communication in business and worked with me to hone my speaking, writing and negotiating skills. I still keep in contact with her, and she still sends me resources with advice on how to continue strengthening my communication style and techniques.

    My other most prominent mentor actually happened to be my first boss. He took me under his wing and gave me projects that would allow me to use my strengths and improve my weak areas. It was because of him and his willingness to train me as a leader that I got my first management role.

    I still keep in contact with him, too, as he’s always willing to give me his input or challenge me to improve.”

    Read more: Who is your mentor tips and example answers

  16. 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.

    Example Answer:

    “As a manager, it’s tricky to ensure a quality and timely product without micromanaging. To balance this, I like to provide clear directions, complete with goals, parameters, and timelines, and then release my team or employee to figure out how to meet those.

    To ensure that everything is on track, I’ll schedule checkpoints along the way so that I can step in and redirect, provide more resources, or correct things before it gets too far. This also provides accountability for reaching deadlines.

    My approach may change slightly depending on the employee and the project, but my overarching goal is to serve my employees by providing them with the training, resources, and help they need to be successful without me holding their hand.”

    Read more: “Whats your management style?” tips and example answers

  17. 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.

    Example Answer:

    “I’m passionate about fostering mutually beneficial connections between different people and organizations. Being able to help others find someone or something that will meet a need they have or simply bring them joy drives me, whether I’m at work or at home.

    I’m that person who throws parties to introduce all of my friends to each other, and I’m the person who sends those friends names of people, places, and products that could help them solve their problems.

    It’s because of this passion that I got into marketing and advertising. I love that I can help improve people’s lives and businesses by connecting the right customer to the right organization. Just thinking about that gets me fired up and motivated to work hard every day.”

    Read more: “What gets you up in the morning?” tips and example answers

  18. What makes you unique?

    Skip the party tricks and deeply personal answers. Tie your answer back to the job in some way, even if it’s seemingly irrelevant.

    For instance, if you’re a world-traveler, talk about your love of learning new things and meeting new people (especially if the job you’re applying for involves a lot of that).

    Don’t feel compelled to be exciting or special with your answer. Boring can be perfectly fine if framed the right way. Even the most ordinary hobbies can involve important professional skills.

    Example Answer:

    “I love to learn. I was that kid who was excited about getting to go to the library or a random museum because I just found everything about the world around me fascinating.

    That has carried into my professional life as well, and now I’m the nurse who signs up for as many classes and conferences as I can in my free time. I also work to stay up-to-date on the latest research and techniques by reading industry journals, and I love learning from doctors and other nurses with different levels of experience or areas of expertise.

    This passion for learning has helped me to stay on top of the latest best practices and not let myself get lax or apathetic as I get into a groove in my job. It has also allowed me to develop and use skills that I normally wouldn’t get a chance to otherwise.

    For example, even though I’m an ICU nurse, last month, I was able to help with emergency surgery when we were short on OR nurses because I actually knew this through watching and talking with the surgeons and OR nurses.”

    Read more: “What makes you unique?” tips and example answers

  19. What are you passionate about?

    When answering this question, be sure to choose a passion that you’re actively involved with and knowledgeable about. There’s no right or wrong answers here, but you should select a passion you’re actually enthusiastic about, or your interviewer may see right through you.

    You don’t have to force your answer to tie back to work-related skills (although it’s not bad if it does.) Honesty reigns supreme for this question.

    Example Answer:

    “I’m passionate about creating and sharing beauty with the world. I’m a firm believer that there is beauty all around us as long as we’re willing to look for it, which sometimes takes practice.

    That passion and belief are what drove me to art school in the first place because I wanted to learn how to share the beauty I saw in the world with others.

    Now, as an art teacher, I work to instill those principles into the children I teach. I don’t need them to all become artists or even enjoy doing art, but my hope is that they’ll leave my classroom being more aware of the beautiful things around them.”

    Read more: “What are you passionate about?” tips and example answers

  20. How do you prioritize your work?

    Interviewers hope to learn about your organizational skills, time management, ability to handle stress, work values, and industry knowledge with this question. There are a few ways to go about your answer.

    You can mention what you do to stay organized (charts, lists, etc.). Talking about previous experience with tight deadlines is also good, especially if this position is deadline-driven. Or you can go into how you deal with curveball situations where prioritization isn’t easy.

    Example Answer:

    “At my most recent position, I was an administrative assistant for two different executives. Because of this, I had to quickly and accurately prioritize my work for each week, day, and even hour.

    To manage this, I created a color-coded calendar that allowed me to quickly see each executive’s schedule as well as my own. I also added important deadlines for projects I was working on.

    Every Monday morning, I’d make a list of the priorities I had for the week and then confirm them with each executive to make sure I was on the right track.

    Then, each day for the rest of the week, I’d start with the top priority tasks on the list so that I could guarantee I’d have time to finish them by the end of the day, even with unexpected hiccups or interruptions.

    This system helped me to be a reliable and trustworthy administrative assistant, as I never received a complaint about something being late or missing.”

    Read more: “How do you prioritze your work” tips and example answers

What’s a common interview question and would you prepare to answer it?

Thea Kelley
Job Search Interview Coach

“Tell me about yourself” (or “introduce yourself,” or such) is a very common question, and it’s possibly the most important one. It’s a great opportunity to tell the interviewer about what makes you stand out, so build it around your REV (Relevant, Exceptional, Verifiable) Points. That’s why I call this answer your REV Intro.

Here’s an example from my book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview:

“(Interviewer’s name), based on your job announcement and my phone screening with (recruiter’s name), it’s clear the new person in this role needs to hit the ground running and deliver results fast. That’s what I’ve been able to do at Top Tier Technology; I transformed team morale and doubled revenues within three months. At Strong Solutions I achieved similar early wins, which my manager later mentioned in a recommendation on LinkedIn.

“As a manager, and earlier as a rep, I’ve consistently been well over goal, as you may have noticed from the awards in my resume. There are some interesting stories behind those, which I would be happy to tell if you like.

“Another need that was mentioned in the announcement – and something that’s a specialty and a passion of mine – is to anticipate and capitalize on change. At Strong I saw how the new wearable technologies were creating opportunities for us, and I worked with Marketing and Product to maximize those.

“Would you like to hear more about anything I’ve said so far?”

An intro like this gets your interview off to a very focused and confident start.

Common Interview Questions About Your Past

  1. How do you handle stress?

    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.

    Example Answer:

    “I’ve been working as an EMT for the past ten years, and in that time, I’ve learned that handling stress is a part of the job. Many people are inclined to avoid this reality of the profession and push through, but I handle stress on the job by recognizing its existence and embracing it.

    For example, in a previous role, I was working for a public hospital, and we were incredibly busy with calls every single night. After the Fourth of July weekend, we had to handle triple the number of accidents as usual, and I felt completely overwhelmed.

    Instead of ignoring my stress, I accepted it and decided to take my two days off to recharge with activities I enjoyed, like camping and fishing, as opposed to handling errands. I think the key to being good at a high-stress job is making sure to take the time to relax and recharge.”

    Read more: “How do you handle stress?” tips and example answers

  2. Tell me about a time you failed.

    The telling of your failure story shows how much responsibility you’re willing to take for the mistake. Talking about one of your work-related failures can give a hiring manager a lot of insight into how you’d react to making a mistake in the position they’re hiring for.

    Failures happen, but the hiring manager wants to know that you can overcome them with poise.

    Describing a failure to a person that you’re actively trying to impress is daunting, but there are ways to frame your answer as a learning experience.

    Example Answer:

    “In my last position, I was promoted to assistant manager. It was the first time that I’d been given a supervisory role in a job, and I was excited to take on the responsibility but also inexperienced.

    I was managing a team of eight retail associates and found myself taking on a lot more work than I was used to. I was working almost every day to ensure my team was putting forth their best work, but this ended up draining me really quickly.

    By three months in, I had grown to resent the position that I had been so thrilled to receive because I had given absolutely all of myself without ever taking a break. This led my management quality to slip, and eventually, my boss had a serious talk with me about getting my act together.

    I felt like a complete failure, but I knew I had to solve it. I analyzed the situation and realized that my exhaustion was impacting my performance as a supervisor. I ended up altering my schedule to factor in adequate time for myself, and it improved my management abilities tenfold.”

    Read more: “Tell me about a time you failed” tips and example answers

  3. Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced at work.

    To be successful with this question, you need a strategy. When choosing a challenge to discuss, be discerning about what scenarios will portray you as a professional and prepared candidate.

    Show off your accomplishments with a story you can be proud of, even though you’re discussing a situation that was challenging to deal with.

    Example Answer:

    “When I was working in my first job out of college as an administrative assistant, I didn’t have much formal experience with challenging experiences with co-workers.

    As one of the youngest members of the team, I was finding it difficult to coordinate effectively with one co-worker in particular because she didn’t take my input very seriously. Since she was one of the co-workers that I interacted with the most, I decided the best way to move forward would be to have an honest and open discussion with her.

    I explained that I wanted to build a working relationship where we could coordinate and that I wasn’t feeling like that was happening.

    She completely understood once I brought my concerns to her attention and agreed to start listening to my ideas more. While she didn’t always go with my suggestions, it definitely helped our relationship and strengthened my professional skills.”

    Read more: “Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced at work” tips and example answers

  4. Why did you leave your last job?

    The question seeks to gauge why 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 interviewer is looking for a good reason why you’re no longer working for your previous employer, but not a list of your every grievance.

    Example Answer:

    “I had been working in my last position as an elementary private school teacher for five years. It was an absolutely excellent experience that enabled me to become better at my job. I’d grown a close bond with the rest of the faculty and my students over the years, which is why leaving that job was so difficult.

    However, I ended up looking for a new teaching opportunity elsewhere because I wanted to try out a new kind of working environment. After spending most of my career working in private schools, I wanted the chance to put my skills to use at a public school. That’s the type of position that I’m looking for on the job market now.”

    Read more: “Why did you leave your last job?” tips and example answers

  5. What is your greatest accomplishment?

    Start answering this question by giving the interviewer some context; what was the situation that led to your accomplishment? Next, present your exact task and the actions you took to achieve your big accomplishment.

    Focus on the value that your accomplishment provided for your employer.

    Bonus points if you can quantify your results and tie your achievement in with job responsibilities for this position you’re hoping to get.

    Example Answer:

    “My greatest professional accomplishment thus far was being promoted to the head of accounting with my last employer. I worked for the company for a total of seven years at that time and had managed an estimated ten million dollars worth of accounts.

    As one of the most prestigious accounting firms in the city, I knew it would take every ounce of my efforts to reach a management position, and that’s just what I did.
    I would come into work early and stay at the office late to ensure that my supervisors knew they could count on me to get the job done.

    I figured my efforts would pay off by receiving minor supervisory responsibilities, but I didn’t imagine that I’d be offered one of the most coveted roles in the firm when the current head of accounting retired. It was an honor and huge accomplishment for my years of hard work to pay off.”

    Read more: “What is your greatest accomplishment” tips and example answers

  6. Why is there a gap in your employment history?

    If your resume shows gaps in your employment history, be prepared to talk about it at the interview. Be honest and give specifics of how you spent that time. Don’t let your interviewer assume you were completely idle between professional pursuits.

    Keep your answer short and sweet.

    Example Answer:

    “I realize that there’s a year-long span of time that I was unemployed. During that time, I was working towards making a career shift from being a remote customer service representative to a graphic designer.

    Since I only had a passion for the subject of design and not a degree, I decided that the best career move would be to enhance my skills in this area. I took a certification course in using design skills in the professional world and took a few classes about graphics at a local community college.

    I believe that this gap in employment was necessary for me to gather the skills needed for a job as a professional graphic designer. Now that I have those abilities, I’m ready to close that gap and put my new knowledge to good use.”

    Read more: “Why is there a gap in your employment history?” tips and example answers

  7. How do you handle conflict at work?

    This is a behavioral interview question. Using the STAR method is a winning strategy for answering this type of question. STAR stands for describing the situation, task, action, and result involved in a professional situation.

    The first step to using the STAR method is explaining a conflict story that clearly sets up the situation. Next, get into your task in this situation, whether it was your job to solve the conflict or get work done despite the conflict. Additionally, talk about what actions you took to resolve the conflict.

    Finally, explain a positive result where everyone involved came out better than they started. Avoid stories where you caused the conflict, or the conflict went unresolved. Don’t throw blame around. Just talk about how the situation was fixed.

    Example Answer:

    “My golden rule for handling conflict at work is always remaining cool and collected no matter how frustrating the circumstance feels.

    For example, in a previous job, I was working on a marketing team with nine other people. We had spent the past few months working diligently on a huge campaign, and we were coming up on the final weeks until it was finished.

    Understandably, the team was feeling a little exhausted, but there was one co-worker in particular who just simply wasn’t pulling his weight. After a week of feeling the pressure from his slacking off, I decided something had to be done.

    While I wasn’t a supervisor on the project or responsible for his actions, I felt that his performance was affecting everyone on the team.

    I decided to have a casual chat over lunch about it and explained my views on his recent performance calmly. He agreed with the assessment, and the conversation seemed to provide him with a necessary reality check. His performance turned around dramatically, and I felt that I handled the conflict effectively.”

  8. When have you made a split-second decision at work?

    This question will often come up in departments with a fast-paced work environment. Again, the STAR method is really handy for answering behavioral interview questions like this.

    Talk a little about your decision-making skills and show how you’ve been successful at making quick decisions in the past. Your thought process is also important to spell out when answering this question.

    Example Answer:

    “When I was working as a server for a five-star restaurant in Manhattan, I constantly had to make split-second decisions. The pace at this type of establishment never slows down, and it’s important to be sure of yourself.

    An example that comes to mind is when we had a table of recent graduates who had gotten a little too intoxicated at dinner. They were loud and disturbing other guests.

    I knew I had to make a call about what to do because they were at my table, and I decided to tell the patrons that they had to be a little quieter or wrap up the evening, knowing it could’ve sacrificed my tip.

    I thought that it was more important to maintain the positive atmosphere of the restaurant. Luckily, the table was completely understanding and lowered their volume to not disturb other diners.”

    Read more: “When have you made a split-second decision at work?” tips and example answers

  9. What did you like most/least about your last/current position?

    Whatever form this question takes, focus on the job rather than the people.

    Always consider what the recruiter thinks as you answer this question. Something seemingly harmless, like “my last job was repetitive, and I like new challenges every day,” might give an interviewer pause.

    Keep your new professional opportunity in mind when devising your response.

    Example Answer:

    “One of the qualities that I enjoyed the most about my last position was that I got to interact with customers on a daily basis. Part of the reason that I decided to become a retail salesperson is that I love getting to spend my workday helping lots of different people find the items that suit them best.

    One of the things that I liked least about my former position was schedule disorganization. While everyone excelled at their job, there was always some confusion surrounding the schedule. Since this company is known for being extremely organized, I’d be greatly looking forward to having a more consistent schedule.”

  10. Read more: “What did you like least about your last job” tips and example answers

  11. When have you demonstrated leadership skills?

    This question is more common for supervisory roles, but it may come up in an interview for any position. The key is to think about what leadership means to you and how you try to embody those qualities when the situation calls for it.

    Think of a story that shows these traits off. Like many interview questions about the past, it’s a behavioral question, so the recruiter is hoping to learn what your future actions might be based on your past behaviors.

    Think about the rest of your selling-points you’ve been building throughout the interview and try to highlight them again when talking about your leadership skills.

    For instance, if you’re a problem-solver with great communication skills, tell a story where you fixed a situation quickly by communicating each team member’s responsibility in a clear way.

    Example Answer:

    “I believe that two of the most crucial traits for a leader to display are decision-making and communication skills. An instance that comes to mind when I’ve demonstrated these leadership characteristics was in my first marketing job out of college.

    I was working on a team that specialized in the campaigns of small businesses. We had been working on a commercial theme for a local grocery store, and I thought that I had a creative and effective idea for the project.

    However, I was fairly new to the company, and it was uncommon for recent hires to pitch large ideas. I decided to put my worries to the wayside and communicate my concept with my supervisor. He loved pieces of the idea and ended up working some of my elements into the commercial.”

Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop/College Essay Expert/Professional training/ Student coaching/Top Voices in Education
Wow Writing Workshop

A lot of people have solid advice for how to prep for an interview, how to behave, dress, how to shine on a Zoom meeting, etc. For me, an interview is much like a college essay, which is essentially how to tell colleges what you want them to know about you to strengthen your case for admission; you want to add to the resume, the information they already know about you. So, to shine:

-Answer any question in a genuine way. No lies. No exaggerations.

-Focus on what you want them to know, not what you think they want to hear.

-Consider what the interviewer knows about you. Then add what you want them to know in a genuine way that shares something meaningful about you and also answers to the question. They have your resume. They know your skills, job history, where you live, where you went to college.

-But they don’t know how hard you worked at your last job, if you feel satisfied, what you aspire to, how you will fit into the company culture.

Common Interview Questions About Your Future

  1. 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.

    Read more: “What’s your dream job” tips and example answers

  2. What are your career goals?

    You can talk about short and long-term goals in your answer, but remember that the position you’re applying for should fit logically with your goals. For example, don’t say your career goals include designing aircraft if you’re applying for an accountant position.

    This is similar to “where do you see yourself in five years,” but your answer can be a bit vaguer here. The interviewer is asking what you hope to achieve with your career rather than what position you hope to land.

    If you don’t have any definite career goals, don’t feel compelled to lie. Instead, you can use this opportunity to ask where this position typically leads and then express (hopefully) genuine enthusiasm about your career progressing in that direction.

    Read more: “What are your career goals” tips and example answers

  3. 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. There’s no need to give specific company names when answering this question. Just mention the industry you’re focused on and the sorts of positions you’re applying for.

    Also, don’t say this is your only interview — they don’t need to know that and it won’t help your chances.

    Read more: “Where else are you interviewing” tips and example answers

  4. 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.

    Avoid answers like “in your seat” or “running the company” –they’re obnoxious as hell.

    Read more: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” tips and example answers

  5. What made you change career paths?

    Never focus on the negatives when you’re discussing a dramatic career change. Things to avoid include hating the company culture/management, being fired or laid off, and being bored in your former industry.

    Instead, give an inspiring reason that shows how passionate you are about your new field of choice. Additionally, you can focus on where you see your future going with this new career path and the exciting challenges you hope to take on and conquer.

    If you know this question is likely to come up, get ahead of it and address your lack of formal experience in the new field. Focus on your transferable skills and the value and energy that you’ll bring to this new job.

  6. How do you like to be managed?

    This one requires some self-reflection to answer, so take the time to consider what qualities you appreciate in a manager (and which you don’t). You can talk about negative experiences, but frame them positively by talking about what you learned about yourself as an employee through each experience.

    You can talk about the type of work environment you prefer, communication styles, and levels of oversight in your answer. Use positive and negative examples to fill out your answer with some context.

    Finally, use your research of the company to inform your answer. If you’ve learned that this employer offers flexible schedules and has a flat corporate structure, then an answer stating your preference for a traditional supervisor-supervisee relationship probably won’t go over well.

    Read more: “How do you like to be managed” tips and example answers

  7. Are you willing to travel?

    This question is only likely to pop up at a job interview for a position that requires travel. But it will come up 100% of the time you are applying for such a job.

    Don’t lie or overstate your availability, or you and the employer will both be unhappy later on. However, if you’re excited about the prospect of traveling for your job, mention positive travel experiences and past work experiences where you had to travel.

    Just don’t make it sound like travel is all fun and games; your interviewer doesn’t want to hear that you love going out to new bars when you travel, because that’s not what they’re paying you for.

    Read more: “Are you willing to travel” tips and example answers

  8. What’s your ideal work environment?

    If it’s genuine or you don’t have much of a preference, try to describe your ideal work environment as one that matches the employer. Use your research of the company to inform your answer.

    Things to consider include the office pace (slow or fast), how structured the roles are (hierarchical vs. egalitarian), whether you prefer emerging or traditional industries, how flexible you like your workspace and time to be, and if you prefer competitive or collaborative environments.

    Read more: “What’s your ideal work environment” tips and example answers

  9. What skills would you bring to the job?

    Your answer should include at least a couple of the skills listed in the job description. Try to incorporate both hard and soft skills, and really emphasize those that will have the greatest impact on your job performance.

    Keep your answer short, or the interviewer won’t remember any of it. It’s better for her to hear and remember your top 2-3 skills than hear a list of every skill under the sun and forget it all.

    As always, incorporate examples of when you’ve successfully leveraged your skills to accomplish great things.

  10. What do you want to accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days of this job?

    Try to be as specific as you can be in your answer using your research and what you learned in the interview itself. If you can have a 30/60/90 day plan ready before you even step foot into the room for the interview, that’s incredibly impressive.

    Show the interviewer that you know what needs to be done and how to do it while admitting that you don’t have all the answers. You’ll need to go through orientation to learn exactly how the company operates, after all.

    But showing that you know the job requirements and have the ability to predict your milestones will go a long way in convincing the interviewer that you’ll be adding value to the company from your very first day.

Common Interview Questions About the Company or Job

  1. 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 offer, 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.

    Read more: “What do you know about our company?” tips and example answers

  2. 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.

    Read more: “How did you hear about the position” tips and example answers

  3. 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.

    Use salary calculators to determine a fair salary for your position, region, and level of experience. Always give a range rather than a hard figure, so there’s room for negotiation. Start on the higher end, so you don’t sell yourself short.

    Read more: “What are your salary requirements?” tips and example answers

  4. 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.

    Read more: “Why do you want to work for us?” tips and example answers

  5. 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.

    Read more: “Why are you interested in this position?” tips and example answers

Other Common Interview Questions

  1. 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 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.

    Questions about your family situation, religion, or disabilities that are asked in a discriminatory way can all be illegal.

    Read more: Examples of illegal interview questions

  2. How to give an elevator pitch.

    An elevator pitch is a 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.

    Read more: How to write an elevator pitch

  3. Do you have any questions for me?

    Perhaps the most common final question in any job interview is “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 a defense for this question. 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.

    Think of questions about the role, the company, or the next steps in the hiring process if you’re drawing a blank.

    Read more: “Do you have any questions for me?” tips and example questions

  4. Is there anything else we should know about you?

    This is one of those wrap-up questions that gives you a final opportunity to share something extra special about yourself as a candidate. You can drive home your strengths and make sure that your final impression is exactly how you want it to be.

    Or you can bring up new and interesting information that doesn’t directly relate to the job in question but shows impressive attributes nonetheless. You don’t have to add anything else if you feel like the interview went well but still ask about the next steps in the hiring process at this point.

    Above all, avoid talking about your weaknesses, and don’t forget to thank the interviewer for their time as things wrap up.

    Read more: “Is there anything else we should know about” tips and example answers

  5. When can you start?

    Congratulations on making it to this part of the interview; it’s a good sign if your interviewer is asking when you can start. Obviously, your answer depends on your situation.

    If you can (and want to) start right away, then it’s pretty straightforward. You can also turn the question around and ask when they’d prefer you start working.

    If you need to give two weeks’ notice to your current employer, explain that as well. The interviewer will understand and appreciate your professionalism. Don’t give a long-winded answer here — one or two sentences should suffice to explain your availability.

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Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

Expert

Matthew Zane

Matthew Zane is the lead editor of Zippia's How To Get A Job Guides. He is a teacher, writer, and world-traveler that wants to help people at every stage of the career life cycle. He completed his masters in American Literature from Trinity College Dublin and BA in English from the University of Connecticut.

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