Job interviews are unpredictable and nerve wracking. For some of us, they’re downright terrifying. But even if you’re the kind of person who will never walk into an interview feeling super confident, you can ease your nerves — at least a bit — by preparing answers to some of the most common interview questions.
No matter what company you’re considering, you should expect that your interviewer will want to know more about why you’re applying for the role, why you feel you’re a good match for it, and how you tend to act and perform in various work situations.
We’re here to take the guesswork out of how to respond. If you study up on the best ways to answer these 11 common interview question, you’ll feel more confident the next time you’re speaking with a prospective company:
1. Tell me about yourself (or describe yourself).
This questions often catches people off guard because they’re not sure whether they should talk about their professional past or tell a more personal narrative. To start, use a description that can apply to both your professional and personal self. Highlight your strengths (both in the workplace and those that apply to your personality in general), and finish your response by highlighting what you’re passionate about and how that connects to why you’re applying for the job.
Read more on the best way to answer “Tell me about yourself.”
Read more on the best way to answer “Describe yourself.”
2. What makes you unique?
This is another question that sometimes stumps people because they’re not sure what kind of “unique” qualities the interviewer wants to hear about. Like with the “describe yourself” question, this one is trying to get at why you’d be a uniquely great asset in the workplace, so it’s a good idea to point to qualities or traits you have that are assets across both your personal and professional lives. For instance, you don’t need to share that you’re a movie buff (unless that would somehow be useful knowledge on the job!), but you might talk about how you’re a great listener who’s particularly good at making people feel comfortable and working on teams.
Then, be sure to bolster your answer with specific examples!
Read more on the best way to answer “What makes you unique?”
3. Why do you want this job?
Your answer to this question should always speak to how your experience and skills align with the company mission and values; how you can improve the service or product the company offers; and what makes the company unique in your eyes.
While your answer should be personal and reflective of your own unique perspective, make sure you’re focusing on the company/job itself.
Read more on the best way to answer “Why do you want this job?”
4. Why do you want to work here?
This is another great opportunity to show why you’re interested in this company, specifically. Make sure your interviewer knows that you’ve done your homework and have a good sense of how the company operates and what its mission is. This is not an opportunity to complain about why you hate your current job or the fact that you’re looking to make more money; rather, it’s your chance to convey to the interviewer why this particular job and company would be a great match for your interests, experience and skills — and what, specifically, the company is doing that appeals to you.
5. What are your strengths?
This can be a tough question for those of you who aren’t comfortable with self-promotion — but practicing in advance will help you feel more confident when you’re answering! Not sure of which kind of “strengths” to focus on? Think of a couple that you can connect to both your career goals and the company needs. For instance, if you’re applying for a management role, you might emphasize that you’re good at motivating a team and individual team members. Then, you should share with the interviewer a particular example of how your particular strength paid off in a previous experience.
Read more on the best way to answer “What are your strengths?”
6. What are your weaknesses?
Many interviewees get flustered by this question (even though it’s a common one!) because it can be scary to point out your flaws when you’re trying to sell yourself. But just remember why this is a common interview question: the interviewer wants to see that you’re self-aware and that you’re a well-rounded human! Don’t try to disguise a strength as a weakness; instead, talk about a real weakness that you’re currently working on improving. (Just be sure not to pinpoint a weakness you have that would severely limit your ability to do the job you’re interviewing for!)
Read more on the best way to answer “What are your weaknesses?”
7. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Your answer to this will likely vary depending on how long you’ve been in the workforce, but no matter what, you should always make sure the long-term goals you express align well with the vision of the company where you're interviewing. Then, get specific about how this prospective job would be a great step in helping you achieve your goals (though be sure not to make it seem like you’re merely using the company as a stepping stone!). No one will expect that you’re planning to stay at the company for the rest of your career, but you shouldn’t say anything to indicate that you’re only looking at the job as a short-term stepping stone.
8. What are your salary expectations?
This can be a tricky question to answer, because you don’t want to sell yourself short — but you might also worry that if you give “too high” an answer, you’ll be out of the running and the employer will choose someone cheaper. There are a few ways to go about responding (including dodging the question and saying you’d like to get a better sense of the expectations before landing on an answer). You can also respond with a range, which might feel easier than nailing down an exact number. Regardless, you should do your homework and make sure you have a sense of what other people in the role (in your city) are paid.
9. Why should we hire you?
This is your chance to really sell yourself — with specifics! Talk about what particular skills you have that will translate well to the role, and have a couple of ideas for how you can contribute to the company’s goals and success. This is also an opportunity for you to reiterate your passion and enthusiasm.
Read more on the best way to answer “Why should we hire you?”
10. How do you handle stress?
Like with the “what are your weaknesses” question, it’s OK to show that you’re human in this response! Talk about a specific period of work that was particularly stressful for you in the past, and explain how you got through it. Maybe you realized you worked better and more efficiently if you took a 10-minute walk or meditated when things were getting especially stressful. Or perhaps you take some time to rethink your to-do list when your responsibilities are feeling overwhelming. Either way, showing that you have a thoughtful approach to stress — and that you’re able to get through it – is key.
Read more on the best way to answer “How do you handle stress?”
11. Why did you leave your last job?
Whether you were fired, you resigned for personal reasons, or you’re simply looking to make a move to grow your career and broaden your experience, one thing’s for sure: don’t bash your last workplace. You want to make it clear to the interviewer that you’re a good colleague and a team player, and venting about your last job – even if you have good reason to vent – isn’t going to do you any favors in a job interview.
Instead, focus on why you’re trying to make this move now, and how you’re looking to grow. It’s OK to be honest about being fired, laid off, or let go, too; this happens often, and it certainly doesn’t mean you will not get hired again. If you can articulate why you’re ready for this next move, you’ll be in good shape.