Job interviews are dreadful things. Most job seekers refer to it as the worst part of the job search, but unfortunately, it is the most important part. Awesome resume and cover letter might get you an interview, but once you have to look the recruiters in the eye and convince them to hire you, it’s easy to lose your nerve.
There are two types of questions you might get. There’s the usual, “cliché” kind of questions that are common interview questions asked by most recruiters and much anticipated by job seekers. Some companies take a different approach instead. When probing their potential employees, they rather ask questions the job candidate wouldn’t expect in order to get honest, unrehearsed answers.
You can never know what kind of interview questions you will be asked on your job interview, you can only guess based on your research. However, even if you get one of these common interview questions, you can surprise them and answer in a way they wouldn’t expect. Imagine that the recruiter poses the same question all over again hundred times and 99% of the times they get the same or a very similar answer. No wonder such candidate wouldn’t stick in their mind as much as the one who gives them a creative, unique answer. And you want to shine, don’t you?
Although we’re not saying you shouldn’t rehearse or prepare – that would be unwise.
We’ve collected for you 20 most common interview questions asked by recruiters, who gave us smart answers to them. Get inspired and land a job of your dreams!
20 Most Common Interview Questions & Smart Answers
1. What makes you the best person for this position?
To show the hiring manager that you’re the best, you have to tell them in what way you are better than the rest of the candidates. Of course, you don’t know who they are and what their skills are but generally, people stick to the job description and say they can do all that was required. Go beyond that and say in what way you can expand on the job by naming your knowledge or skill that can help you perform the job better and go beyond the duties. You can even propose a couple of improvements for the job.
2. Why should we hire you?
You should take an extra care in preparing for this question. You have to carefully research the company or the department you’re applying for, anticipate their goals for the future and try to convey how your skills can help them achieve these goals. The real meaning behind this question is: If we hire you, what benefit would you bring to the company? In your answer, you should deliver a clear message to the recruiter: that you’d fit well into the team and the work environment, that you’re better than the rest of the candidates and that you deliver outstanding results.
3. Can you tell me a little more about yourself?
In your answer, it’s important to not just repeat what’s on your resume. Also, don’t make it sound as if you carefully rehearsed for this question. Imagine yourself as a product that you’re trying to sell. In about three or four sentences you have to give the recruiter enough reasons to “buy” you. Point out some of your greatest accomplishments and strengths. Mention some of your good personal traits and how these would help you in the job. Let them know you’re sociable and that your personality is likely to fit well in the team.
4. How did you hear about the position?
This is quite an easy one. The HR person simply wants to know what made you send your resume to apply for this company. They’re interested in hearing what in particular caught your attention. In answering the “how” part, just be specific and honestly say where you heard about the job offer: either through a friend, social media or just a random job site. In fact, the “how” part is not even that important as much as what was it that made you interested in the position and the company itself.
5. What do you know about the company?
It’s always best to know as much as possible. When asked this question, don’t just recite the whole about section on the company’s website you learned by heart. It’s not only about understanding what the company does. The recruiter wants to know whether you care about the company and identify with its mission and goals. Personalize your answer and say why you want to work for this particular company and what personal reasons you have to identify with it. Go the extra mile and learn more about the company from various different sources. Be up to date – be familiar with the company’s recent work and say a couple of complimentary words on their latest ventures or successes.
6. What are your professional strengths?
The key to answering this question is not mentioning as many of your strengths as possible. Pick two or three of your most eminent ones and elaborate on them. Don’t just strictly keep to the ones listed in the job description, but you should definitely mention strengths that are relevant to the position. Be specific – don’t use cliché and vague phrases such as “I have excellent communication skills” or “I’m customer oriented”. If you want to point out you’re great at communication, give concrete examples and demonstrate it in a particular situation. Pick two or three strengths that are easily connectable, so as to create an appealing bundle of skills.
7. What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?
Mention an achievement that relates to the job offer. You might have an impression that to give a great answer to this question you’ve had to have years of experience and achieved many professional triumphs. It’s not really so. You can tell them about your minor accomplishments in your part-time job or a summer job. It’s a good idea to mention even a minor achievement if it includes a skill or a trait crucial for the job in question. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a sales manager but haven’t had any notable experience, think of a time when you made somebody buy something from you and tell them what sales methods you used.
8. What are your weaknesses?
This is a tricky and common interview question. It’s always difficult to talk about your weaknesses in front of somebody whom you want to impress by your awesomeness. The key to answering this question is to show your weakness is something that can be improved. You have to let the recruiter know that your weakness has a potentially positive outcome. For example, you can say you’re often too absorbed in your work that you tend to forget about other things around you or that you’re prone to burst with impatience when your colleagues don’t meet deadlines which affects your work as well.
9. Why are you leaving your current job? / Why were you fired?
Stay positive. If you’re leaving your current job by your own choice, there’s nothing wrong with saying in all honesty why you’re leaving. What you should avoid, though, is to talk badly about your past employers. Emphasize that you’ve learned a lot in your previous job and that you’ve grown both professionally and personally and now it’s time to move on to the next chapter.
If you were fired, don’t get into too much detail about it. You can always say you were made redundant because of some inter-departmental issues etc, which would suggest it wasn’t really your fault. However, this might get tricky if the HR person calls your previous employer. The best answer is to simply smile and say: “They had to let me go, that’s life. Now, I’m ready to take on a new opportunity.”
10. Why was there a gap in your employment?
This is one of the most common interview questions overall! Recruiters usually don’t like to see gaps in your employment history. The best way to excuse a gap is to describe what you were up to in the meantime. A gap is not always a bad thing. You might have traveled, volunteered, started a successful blog, or learned new things through books or online courses. Always be honest. If you have a relevant reason why you were unemployed for a while, say it. Don’t make excuses and by no means say you were trying hard to find a job and you couldn’t get one. It’s always better to say you were unemployed by choice, and not because nobody wanted to hire you. Even unemployment has its perks. You should highlight that this period was enriching and worth it.
11. Can you explain why you changed career paths?
If you were a programmer that’s currently applying for a job in marketing, it might raise some questions. If the career you decided to take is way different than your previous job, say in all honesty why you decided to take this path. You can always bridge these two paths with your transferrable skills. Say in what way your skills acquired in your previous job can bring value to the position you’re applying to now. If you’ve decided to change career paths only slightly, you can justify it by simply stating you want to learn new things and broaden your professional reach.
12. What’s a time you exercised leadership?
This question is typically asked if the position requires working in a team. The recruiter wants to know whether you can potentially become the leading person in the team. Think of a situation from your past work experience or student years that would show you have great project management or event management skills or one that shows you can motivate others on the team to a better performance. In case you can’t think of such an example or if you’re not a naturally leading type, give an example from an everyday life such as being a role model for your younger sibling or the like.
13. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is one of the most common interview questions asked by HR managers. By asking it, a hiring manager wants to know whether you’re an ambitious, yet realistic person. Don’t set your goals too high. By no means mention you see yourself as the company director. You will have to find the right balance between modesty and aspiration. Of course, you want to grow and the hiring manager wants to see whether you have the potential to evolve within the company. But then again, you don’t have to be too specific. It’s okay to say you don’t know yet. You can only hint at your future plans and say you’re more than sure this job will help you get there.
14. How would your previous boss and co-workers describe you?
Be honest and answer truthfully what you think your boss or co-workers would say about you because the hiring manager will most likely get in touch with them and ask them directly. This question is to reveal how well you work with the closest people in your team and show your ability to maintain good inter-personal relations. Give a real example of a time you got feedback from a colleague or a boss or tell of a situation that demonstrates your relationship with your peers at work. If you didn’t have the best relations with your colleagues and you’re sure they wouldn’t describe you very positively, just honestly say you didn’t see eye to eye with them and point out the possible reasons why.
15. What do you think makes you different than other candidates?
This question is similar to “why should we hire you?” only this one serves to reveal your perception of yourself in the relation to others. The recruiter wants to see whether you’re realistic about your knowledge and skills but humble enough not to boast. Pick one or two of your most unique skills and relate those to the job requirements. Tell of a trait you think sets you apart from others and how it can help you perform better in the job.
16. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a conflict at work.
This question is to reveal your problem-solving skills and your abilities to keep good relations at a workplace. Think of an example situation when you had to deal with a conflict with a client, your boss or a colleague. The key is to show you can handle conflicts professionally and without unnecessary emotions. We recommend choosing a situation in which you had to show other skills as well, relevant to the job you’re applying to. Don’t forget a happy ending – close it with coming to a compromise or solving the problem.
17. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
This question is meant to reveal whether or not you’re capable of working under stress and still perform great at your job. If the position you’re applying to involves work overloads, the recruiter wants to be sure you can handle it. Of course, 10 out of 10 job candidates would say they handle pressure without difficulty in order to get the job. To convince the HR person you’re telling the truth, you’ll have to be specific and provide an example of a stressful situation you dealt with ease.
18. What do you think we could do better or differently?
By asking this interview question, HR managers don’t expect you to criticize them, as much as they want to hear your suggestions and see whether you’ve got the ability to think critically and analytically about what they’re doing. The company doesn’t just want to hire a passive employee who does as he/she is told. You should come up with your own ideas that help improve the company. So think of a new product, feature, ad or a marketing strategy a company could implement. Your proposals don’t have to be perfectly thought up and ready to be applied, you should just give out an impression you care and think about the job.
19. What are your salary requirements?
This is a dreaded question. To put a price to your work is tricky, especially when you’re new to the field and don’t really know what to expect. If you just graduated or have less than a year or two of experience, you should definitely make some research beforehand. Useful sites such as Payscale or Glassdoor might help you get a better overview of the pay range or you can also ask people working in a similar field. In case you’re applying for a senior position, this is quite easy: just set your previous salary higher, based on the value of your experience and skills. All in all, we recommend going for a bit higher amount than what you truly expect to get. It’s definitely worth the risk because if you’re really good, the recruiter might accept your offer.
20. Do you have any questions for us?
Usually, every HR manager introduces the company and the position to you during the interview. Despite that, you should always have additional questions ready in case you’re given the chance to ask questions. By being inquiring, you show interest and care about the job. It’s good to be direct and ask the hiring manager something slightly personal, such as: “What do you love about your job the most?” or “How does your average day at this company look like?” Or you can ask them about the company itself: “What do you think is the biggest perk of the company?” or “What are the company’s plans for the next couple of months?”