How to Answer the Most Common Job Interview Questions
Table of Contents
- 1 Tips for Job Interview Questions and Answers
- 2 Can you list your strengths?
- 3 Can you list your greatest weaknesses?
- 4 Where do you see yourself in five/ten years from now?
- 5 What can you tell me about yourself?
- 6 What are your main motivations?
- 7 Why do you want to work here?
- 8 Why should I hire you?
- 9 What questions do you have for me about the business?
Tips for Job Interview Questions and Answers
Recruitment is difficult for companies of any size. No matter how often they have to do it, most people aren’t great at conducting hiring interviews. Interviews are important for figuring out who has the most experience, skills, and training — and who might have fudged their resume to seem more impressive. It’s a chance to measure applicants not just for competence, but for cultural fit. An interview can reveal if someone is genuinely passionate about working in a position or at a company, simply desperate for a paycheck, or looking to build their resume to chase their true dream job after 6 months.
All of this complexity means that most of the time, there are a few routine questions nearly every job interview will involve. If you understand what to expect, why these questions (or some similar version) are so common, and how to answer, you are prepared to go into just about any potential job interview. Of course, there is more to acing an interview than memorizing answers or anticipating questions, and we have tips to help you there as well.
But for now, study up on these common job interview questions so you know what employers are hoping to hear, and how you can tailor your own resume and personality to answer these questions effectively.
Can you list your strengths?
Although this might seem like an opportune time to drop some buzzwords about your knowledge of the industry, this question is actually more aimed at identifying and illustrating your talents. You’ll need to think of what qualities make you a good worker, and why.
Instead of saying you’re a “hard worker” maybe say something more like “I am easily engaged in tasks, and can focus for long stretches of time.” To prepare, identify the work habits that you believe are your strongest talents. Are you organized, outgoing, a quick learner, a great listener, or a great team leader? Think of examples of how you can explain those talents in action to a hiring manager.
Some Ways to Answer:
- “I’m a very organized individual. At my last job, I was always the go-to person for organizing events, since I was always very thorough with details and could quickly organize a get together for the business.”
- “I’m very outgoing, but I’m also a great listener. This can come in handy when a customer has an issue with a broken or damaged product. In the past I’ve been able to both listen to concerns, empathize, and turn that negative experience around into another sale. With me, customers always felt heard and welcome.”
- “I’m very focused on tasks that are given to me, and work well under pressure, which has been really helpful in the past. Previously, I’ve been able to drop everything to work on last minute assignments, even going into overtime when allowed and necessary. Once I’m done, the product has always impressed both my manager and the client.”
Can you list your greatest weaknesses?
This question is an easy one to get tripped-up on, but is extremely important to master. For one, you don’t want to say you have zero weaknesses; this can either come across as narcissistic or like you’re not prepared for the interview. Secondly, you don’t want to give yourself back-handed compliments by saying something like “I care too much about the business” or “I work too hard.”
Instead, you want to be able to identify your weaknesses, and turn them around into learning experiences. Being able to name your weaknesses also comes off as a strength, as it can show self-awareness and eagerness to learn and grow. Hiring managers want to know that you can seek out self-improvement, and that you’re an honest worker.
So focus on identifying what you’re still planning on practicing. Maybe you’re not good at accepting feedback, but you’re working on it. Or perhaps you’re not very good at maintaining a work/life balance, which can lead to stressing yourself out, but you hope to improve that with better pay or benefits. Being self-aware is never a weakness, so be sure to prepare for this question.
Where do you see yourself in five/ten years from now?
This question is used to better determine your motivation and ambitions. Hiring managers want to know they’re hiring someone that is eager to provide a valuable contribution to the company, and not just someone who wants to work there for a while and leave when they’re bored.
However, it’s ok to acknowledge that you want to move on from the company after a certain amount of time. The hiring manager is looking for someone who is eager to grow, and they can be understanding about employees potentially outgrowing the business. The fact remains, however, that the best course of action is to contextualise how your ambitions or desire to grow could contribute to the company while you’re employed with them.
What can you tell me about yourself?
When asked this question, it’s important to remember that all your relevant work history is on your resume. This question isn’t aimed at you reciting information that is already easily available, but this question is useful for highlighting what you think is the more important aspects of yourself as a worker.
The hiring manager wants to get a better idea of your personality, and how you are in a work environment. Make sure to avoid rambling, but feel free to open up a bit about who you are as an employee.
What are your main motivations?
Again, the hiring manager wants to get a better look at what drives you to get up in the morning and get to work on time. Because motivations are all personal endeavors, there’s certainly no wrong answer to this question. You could even be blunt enough to acknowledge that a healthy paycheck keeps you comfortable, or that your family is your main motivation. Depending on the field you’re applying for, it might also be worthwhile to mention other motivations, such as social work or community-minded motivations.
Why do you want to work here?
This is where all that research about the company prior to the interview will come in handy. Essentially, the hiring manager is testing you to see if you’ve really studied up on the company and the position.
Be sure to highlight the positive aspects of the company that most excite you. Do they have great company perks and a strong starting wage? Then you could mention that you’re excited to work for a company that respects their workers.
However, it’s also important to avoid saying anything negative about your past employer. This can have negative consequences on how you’re perceived by the interviewer.
Why should I hire you?
There’s a few ways in which you can answer this, depending on your experience and the job itself.
If you’re highly qualified for the job, you can mention that you have a lot of experience in the industry. Additionally, you should mention some of your strongest qualities for the job (you’re organized, detail oriented, calm under pressure, etc). Most likely other people in the hiring pool will have a similar amount of experience, so you want to be able to stand out and above all the rest.
If you’re not very qualified for the job, but you’re still eager to get it, then you could point out all the characteristics that make you a great employee. Maybe you’re a fast learner, or are eager to prove yourself when faced with challenges. Highlight the qualities that make you a valuable addition, even if you need a little extra work to get up to speed.
What questions do you have for me about the business?
Always have at least one question ready for the hiring manager. They will ask this question, so be prepared to answer it. If anything, you could ask for feedback on how the interviewer thought you did, or you could ask for the interviewer to explain something in more detail that they might have mentioned while discussing the position.
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Katie McBeth is a researcher and writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. Her favorite subject of study is millennials, and she has been featured on Fortune Magazine and the Quiet Revolution. She researches SEO strategies during the day, and freelances at night. You can follow her writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth
This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published March 24, 2018.