You landed the interview – congratulations! Over the next few days, you’ll want to prepare for your interview. Pick out the right outfit, plan for the drive to ensure you arrive 15 minutes early, and practice your answers to the questions that will most likely be asked. While it isn’t guaranteed what they will ask, you can prepare for the 10 most common questions you’ll hear during an interview. So how do you answer these 10 most common interview questions? Consider this your interview cheat sheet. We have tailored answers to the specific question, but the most important thing each of these answers have in common: all your answers should keep the focus on the job you’re interviewing for and your potential contribution to the company.
Tell Me about Yourself
This is a tough question for interviewees. They often start telling their life story, complete with their current hobbies they enjoy in their free time. When an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, that’s not what they want to know. They want an overview of your professional life, with some soft skills thrown in to understand how you’ll operate on the job if hired. For example, you could say, “I attended [university name] and was the first woman in my family to graduate college, which has given me an ambitious drive to set and exceed goals.” This answer begins the story of your professional life that you’ll go over from your résumé and tells them you’re an unstoppable goal-setter and leader, two things employers look for in a candidate.
Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
They’re not asking about your family plans, so leave out “I hope to settle down with my [partner] and own my own home.” They want to know how committed you are to your next employer and what your career goals are so they can help you reach them. A great example of this is, “In five years, I hope to have gained enough knowledge in my position to educate and mentor [industry title of team members] and the community in [chosen field].” Feel free to sprinkle in further details related to the position you’re applying to. Show them you’re looking for long-term commitment in your next position.
What is Your Greatest Strength/Achievement or Greatest Weakness?
Surprisingly, both questions are difficult to answer. Some people have trouble seeing their strengths and voicing their achievements. Others don’t know how to describe their weaknesses while still explaining that they’re the best choice for the job.
When asked about your greatest strength, balance bragging with humility with a statement like, “I’m a great problem-solver. I enjoy discovering clients’ most frustrating pain points and giving them recommendations for solutions.” Then follow up that statement with a story about a time you’ve done just that, tying it into how you could fulfill that need for the company you’re interviewing with.
When describing your greatest achievement, choose something recent. The most recent, the better. Don’t tell the interviewer about the time you were chosen for the lead in your third-grade school play. We all change overtime and they want to hire the person you are now. Tell them about any industry articles you’ve published, awards or recognitions you’ve received, or even a time that a client wanted to terminate a contract with your current company and you saved the relationship. Share your victories, big or small.
The greatest weakness question is the most dreaded for interviewees. Take a breath. And don’t say that you’re a perfectionist. Be honest about a weakness in the workplace you’ve recognized and the steps you’re taking to improve. An answer like that shows you’re self-aware, you take responsibility, and that you don’t mind putting in the work to improve where needed. A great way to phrase this is, “I’m so eager and love to stay busy that I’ve been known to overload myself with too many projects at once. I’m learning to look realistically at my bandwidth, and even consult with a supervisor and my team, to better understand what I can take on and when to say no.” Wrap up your statement with how you can bring this learning experience to your new employer. Personal growth matters as much as professional growth when looking for a new position.
Why Should We Hire You?
Believe it or not, this question is a set-up to allow you to brag about yourself more. If you missed anything on your résumé and cover letter or had to cut certain information for space, this is the time to let it out. Tell them why they want to hire you, referring to the qualities and skills they said they were looking for in the job advertisement. Try, also, to work in their values that align with your own. You could say something similar to, “I’m passionate about developing consumer interest in [product] and I believe in the value of ensuring only eco-friendly products in the home to protect longevity of life and our community’s health [value the employer represents].”
Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?
We all know the give-in: don’t bad-mouth your current employer, but still be honest. This is another great place to turn the interview back to the job for which you’re applying. Your answer could be, “We had a change in management recently that isn’t properly aligned with my career goals. I feel this position could me achieve [career goal].” Keep the focus on the opportunity this position gives you and show enthusiasm for the open position.
How Did You Hear About Us/Why Do You Want to Work with Us?
This one should be easy to answer, as the answer became clear the moment you read the job advertisement. Don’t give them the personal benefits, like it’s a better commute from home. Show off your research of the company and flatter them a little. Be honest about how you heard about them, that’s easy. They genuinely want to know where they’re getting their application leads. When they ask why you want to work with them, consider their mission statement, values, and culture. Answer this question with, “[Company]’s mission is to improve the health of an individual’s financial portfolio for a happier and stress-free retirement [mission] and that value has become so important to me since my parents went into retirement a few years ago. I’d love the opportunity to help others build toward the life my parents have.”
What Are Your Salary Requirements?
Don’t answer just yet unless you’ve already done a salary estimation for the industry and the company in particular. Consider the industry, the city, and your experience level when deciding on a number or range. Never answer during a phone interview and answer strategically during an in-person. If it’s a phone interview, give a vague answer like, “I’d like to discuss the job responsibilities further before giving a salary requirement.” During the in-person interview, however, is your opportunity to already begin negotiation by planting the seed. When asked for a salary requirement, coolly respond with a firm number.
Tell Me About A Time You Handled A Difficult Situation
This is an example of a behavioral interview question. For these types of questions, it’s recommended to answer using the STAR method. STAR = Situation, Task, Action, Result. A great example of the STAR method is, “In my position as Team Lead, it’s my responsibility to delegate tasks to my team and alleviate stress by setting realistic deadlines, but I noticed the team struggled to complete tasks within the set timeline. I met with the team weekly to touch-base on their progress and together we set more realistic deadlines. By my overseeing the projects more and doing our weekly check-ins, we were able to prioritize and complete all items on our team to-do list. The next quarter, we didn’t have any backlog on projects and received a higher rate of client testimonials than previous quarters.” When answering, consider a difficult situation you may run into in the position you’re interviewing for. This directs the conversation back to what you can do for them if hired.
What is Your Management Style/What Management Style Do You Prefer?
This question is so beneficial to you, but don’t use this opportunity to bad-mouth anyone by listing off the management styles you don’t like or don’t ascribe to. Keep it positive. This is your chance to tell the interviewer your preferred communication style and flaunt your leadership skills. Explain your management style, or the one you prefer, by saying, “When managing people, I like the team to feel independent and take ownership of their tasks.” Follow that up with a story describing a time you’ve done that, or a time your manager did so for you. After, bring it back to the job you’re interviewing for, “If hired, I won’t micromanage the team, and I’ll encourage them through the process to come to the right answer on their own.”
Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
The answer is always “YES.” This is your interview, so you should walk away from it knowing exactly what your day-to-day will look like and looking forward to working with the team. Put together a list of questions, both HR-related and related specifically to the job so you have the best understanding of what you’ll be doing daily and with whom.