Job interviews are nerve-wracking for any job seeker. Even if you spend hours preparing, you can never be certain you won’t be caught off-guard with a tough interview question — and it can be hard to know in advance whether you are a good fit for the company.
The best way to tackle preparation? Rehearse answering the questions on this list, since they're most likely to be the questions asked.
40 Common Questions You’ll Get in a Job Interview
1. "Would you like something to drink?"
How to Answer: Ok, this may sound like a silly job interview question and something more in line with common job interview etiquette than the substance of the interview itself, but experts say that when someone does something for you, they are actually slightly more positively inclined towards you. It’s called the Ben Franklin effect: a person who has performed a favor for someone is more likely to do another favor for that person. So even if you’re not a thirsty job candidate that day, just take the water, for goodness sake!
Example: "I would love a glass of water, thank you."
2. "Tell me about yourself." or "What makes you unique?"
How to Answer: Despite how this open-ended question sounds, it is not literally an invitation to delve into an existential examination of your life before your interviewers. Especially not because this is a job interview question!
A good answer should focus on the fact that this is an elevator pitch opportunity and needs rehearsing. Be ready to wrap up your answer in 1 minute and focus on the positive summary of your skills, professional accomplishments, and personal experience that casts you in the most appealing light for the job. Talk about your promotions, highlight your successes and quantify your achievements.
One of the worst things you can do is drone on without realizing you are boring the other person or answering with details they aren’t interested in, so pay attention to non-verbal cues as you talk and be ready to adjust mid-way through if you need to.
Example: "I'm an editor with seven years of experience working in the lifestyle space. In my current role, I was recently promoted from managing editor to senior editor, reporting directly to our editor-in-chief. I've boosted our online traffic by 50% in the last year alone because I'm committed to my work."
3. Why are you interested in the role?"
How to Answer: As a job seeker, the best way to answer this common interview question is to emphasize the merits and exciting aspects of the position itself to convey your enthusiasm, rather than a time to rehash how your background and work experience is a fit.
Think of it this way: Even if you’re the perfect fit, that’s what the rest of the interview is to demonstrate. This is the time when you get to demonstrate your enthusiasm about the work you’re about to do. Actually wanting to do a certain job counts for a lot.
Example: "I was really excited to see that you're hiring for a staff health and fitness writer. My own fitness journey as a competitive boxer has inspired me to help others improve their lives and be their best versions of themselves, too. This position gives me the opportunity to do just that, by sharing what I've learned with readers and by connecting with some of the top industry experts I've always respected."
4. "Why our company?"
How to Answer: This is one of the most common job interview questions. If you’re interviewing for a role that might be relatively ‘standard’ across many other companies, it’s actually a very good question — so it's a good idea to have a ready answer. It also is a test to see how much you understand about the larger context and employer, itself.
Think about the interviewer's perspective and about the company goals. This is a time to show that you understand the company’s mission, its values or something about its culture. Remember, you want to make the interviewer feel good about where he or she works and make them believe you really want to join them.
Example: "I am really impressed with [COMPANY NAME]'s diversity and inclusion efforts and mission to [X], so I can really see myself fitting into the culture here. Our [X,Y,Z] values seem to align, and I'm excited to be part of a group of people working to create the change I've always wanted to see."
5. "What do you know about this organization?"
How to Answer: This is a similar question to the previous one, but you still might get both in one interview. Essentially, the interviewer wants to know whether you care enough about this position and the business to take the time to do your homework.
So do your homework! While this isn't a test, you should be aware of the business's major initiatives, mission, and qualities. You should also look into all aspects of the business that are related to the position or function you'll be performing. For example, if you're interviewing for a marketing role, make sure to look at all of the company's social media accounts.
Example: "I understand that [COMPANY NAME] is one of the most world-renowned organizations of its kind. You've successfully [COMPANY SUCCESS] and have recently [RECENT NEWS], which are very exciting."
6. "How did you hear about this position?"
How to Answer: While this question may not seem all that important, it's actually a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your interest in the company. Perhaps it's been your longtime dream to work at the organization, and you peruse the company website. If that's the case, say so!
Maybe you heard about it from an acquaintance who is a current employee. In that case, mention the employee's name—this can help you establish a connection, which can help you achieve a more favorable impression.
Or you might have come across the position on a job board. Still, something caught your eye, so rather than dwelling on the fact that you're just looking for any job, explain why you chose to apply to this one in particular.
Example: "My former colleague, Angelica, who works in your design department, sent the details my way as soon as she heard. I quickly searched it and applied directly through the company website."
7. "Why are you leaving your current job?"
How to Answer: Not sure of how to answer this question? Remember that this isn’t a time for a job-seeker to bad-mouth your boss or previous employer. Doing so will be a red flag and create a problem that could hurt you as early on as during the phone interview.
What this question is really getting at is why you are looking for a new job at the place you’re interviewing. So even though it’s not phrased that way, respond by talking about how appealing this specific opportunity is to you. As tempting as it may be to vent, don’t spend any time dwelling on the things that make you sound unhappy or unsatisfied at your current company.
Example: "I am leaving my current role because I am inspired by [COMPANY NAME]'s mission to [MISSION] and I'm seeking new, exciting challenges. My experience in my current role really lends itself to pushing the envelope here, and I am looking forward to leveraging that experience to help [COMPANY NAME] bring its goals to fruition."
8. "Why are you currently unemployed?"
How to Answer: Ok, we admit it’s unlikely the interviewer will put the point so bluntly. Typically, this question is asked in the following way: “Tell me about why you left your [insert name of last job].”
What they really want to ask is: “Were you fired and if so, why?” People are reorganized and fired all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with their individual performance. On the other hand, some people are fired for cause as well.
Whichever category you fall into, be sure to spin the best story possible without being defensive. The more casual and confident you can be in your answer, the easier it will be for your interviewer to conclude what you want them to: “Ok, no big deal.”
Example: "I took some time off to fully immerse myself in my studies. Now that I've gotten my second degree in education, I'm looking forward to putting it into practice."
9. "You seem to change jobs frequently."
How to Answer: Average job tenure is growing shorter and shorter but that doesn’t mean hiring managers don’t get worried when they see someone that can’t hold a job down without changing every year or two.
It’s a big investment of time and money to hire someone new and they want to make sure that you are not fickle or immature about your choices. If you can provide context about inevitable job changes that weren’t your fault (e.g. you had to move across the country to be with your spouse, the company closed down), that will put the interviewer at ease.
Example: "While I loved my last few jobs, I had to move around the country due to my spouse's work. Now that he opened his own business instead, we are loving being settled here."
10. "What did you do in the years that are missing from your resume?"
How to Answer: If you’re someone who has taken time out of the workforce, research from Vanderbilt University suggests that you be up-front about it. According to the study, female job applicants returning to the workforce after a long absence were more likely to get hired if they provided a reason for the employment gap on their resume, even if that reason was taking care of children.
Intuitively, honesty is the best policy and it can be awkward (or even illegal) for a prospective employer to ask you about your family situation. So being forthright about your situation will make everyone feel better.
Example: "I took some time off to raise my kids while they were at home. Now that they're in school, I'm happy to get back to work."
11. "What do you think are your strengths?"
How to Answer: This is a very common interview question and you should answer in a way that reinforces your work experience and your long-term career goals.
You may be an amazing frisbee player, a superb cook and a talented computer programmer. But this is the time to talk about your greatest strength in the workplace — so take some time to think about your professional strengths.
Ideally, you have picked 2-3 things and a sample answer you really believe make you stand out as an employee for this particular job or company This is the kind of question that is often used during a screening or phone interview. The more specific you can be about examples demonstrating these strengths, the better.
Example: "I'm usually the colleague in the room that brings everyone together when there are disagreements over strategy or business plans."
How to Answer: Always come prepared to discuss both a strength and weakness. "What is your greatest weakness?" is often one of the most dreaded questions of an interview because, quite frankly, we all believe that we cannot really be honest in answering.
To address this question, be brief and be comfortable with silence. You should certainly brainstorm examples of weaknesses (yes — there are some good weaknesses for interviews, especially when they’re fairly honest and you can describe how you’re improving).
In other words, whatever you say, don’t say more than you have to, and remember that you don't have to literally share what you believe to be your greatest weakness. Typically this means choosing a single weakness and one that isn’t very serious.
Example: “I can be a little too aggressive in setting goals."
13. "What's one of your greatest professional achievements?"
How to Answer: Hearing about what you've accomplished is a great way for a hiring manager to see how you might contribute to the company. Make sure you describe the situation thoroughly but without getting too bogged down in details that aren't relevant or won't interest the interviewer.
Example: "I took a leap of faith when I switched industries, going from a writer to a real estate agent. But, in my first year at my current firm, I was awarded the no. 1 agent with the highest number in sales after working hard at a job I'm truly passionate about. I take great pride in that achievement, and I look forward to setting new records for myself."
14. “Do you have a work ‘style’?”
How to Answer: First, consider what your work style really is. And then consider whether that style is suited for the job and company culture you’re interested in. If you’re an extreme extrovert but the job requires hours of independent, fairly isolated work, you will have a much harder time answering this question than someone whose work style does, in fact, match the job.
This question is really getting at whether your personality is a fit for the role and the company so try to answer accordingly.
Example: "While I typically work best independently, I'm absolutely a team player and appreciate collaboration with my colleagues."
15. "How would your colleagues describe you?"
How to Answer: This question is a combination of a personality-fit and work-style question wrapped up in one. It’s also an opportunity to showcase your interpersonal strengths if you have them and reflect on the way you add to the team in your current job. If you have a brief anecdote to paint this picture, now is the time to tell it.
Example: "My colleagues would probably describe me as the leader in a time of crisis. After working on a stressful project to [STRESSFUL DETAILS], I was able to get it together well before our deadline."
16. "Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a coworker. How did you handle it?"
How to Answer: Be ready to have anecdotes about your experiences for these kinds of situational interview questions. They don’t have to be about the most interesting days you’ve had at work; instead, think of situations that have highlighted the fact that you’re mature and capable of working with a variety of people, even if you don’t always see eye-to-eye.
Example: "A previous colleague and I disagreed over how to handle a client's social media campaign. So instead of choosing their idea or mine, we agreed to A/B test both ideas to see which would resonate more with the client's demographic. Ultimately, both campaigns worked out well."
17. "If I called your previous boss/manager, why would they tell me I should hire you?"
How to Answer: If you think about this in advance, it’s probably easy to come up with an honest answer. What would your boss say about you? And why? Think of an anecdote that will indicate why you’re a pleasure to work with, are a team player and have the right skills for this position.
Example: "They would tell you that I am dedicated to my work, a team player and have the right skills for this position because [ANECDOTE]."
18. "Do you prefer working independently or on a team?"
How to Answer: This is a common question when a hiring manager wants to assess whether you will be a good fit, culturally. Be as honest as possible when you respond to this, but make sure it’s clear you’re comfortable working collaboratively and on your own.
Companies want to hire people who are fun and easy to work with — but also those who can manage whatever they need to on their own.
Example: "While I love working on a team, I'm also used to working independently in my current role. I appreciate the benefits of both atmospheres."
19. "How do you deal with pressure or stress?"
How to Answer: The short answer you want to give is: “Well.” While you probably don't want to literally say that, the idea is to convey competence to deal with difficulty and hopefully pressure is not a problem for you. Frankly, this question tends to come with high-pressure, stressful jobs or companies and they want to know whether you’ll be able to handle tough situations.
Hopefully, you have self-selected into this kind of job and applied to the company and role with your eyes open about those realities and believe you can thrive in an environment that demands a lot of you.
Example: "I tend to work well under pressure. Deadlines are put in place for a reason, and I appreciate an organized flow of work."
20. "Tell me about a challenge you faced and how you dealt with it."
How to Answer: We have all faced challenges and overcome them, so which one do you choose to highlight for the interview? Well, ideally it is something you are proud of (which by definition means it was a significant challenge). Moreover, it should be within the professional context if possible.
While it’s fine to say that you were able to climb Mt. Everest or won a medal at the Olympics, most of us will provide a great answer if we can talk about a workplace or business challenge we helped a team or company overcome.
Example: "I once had to source and onboard a new-hire in just one week; we were pressed on time and really needed the extra hand. I networked aggressively and was able to bring on someone new in less time than that, and they were promoted to a senior role within six months of working with us because of how well they performed.
21. "When you're working on multiple projects, how do you keep yourself organized and on track?"
How to Answer: Employers want to know that you stay on top of things. Be ready to explain how you manage your current responsibilities -- whether in a detailed calendar or to-do list or through some kind of organizational service or app.
Example: "I am big on prioritizing tasks. I use a to-do list app to manage my time wisely."
22. "Are you comfortable traveling for work?"
How to Answer: Here, you should be honest. If the job requires you to be on a plane once a week (or even a month) and that’s just not going to work for you, it’s better to figure that out sooner rather than later. There’s no point in pretending you’re cool with spending half your nights in a hotel room if that’s just not going to fly with your family situation (or if you’re just plain not interested).
Example: "Yes, I am comfortable with and enjoy traveling for work. I'm already used to traveling a lot for work with my current role."
23. "What are you expecting in terms of salary?"
How to Answer: We believe that anchoring your salary expectations to your prior salary is the surest way to get very incremental pay raises. Ideally, you’ve done your compensation research and understand the salary possibilities for the role. If not, and you must anchor your salary expectations to what you have previously earned, don’t frame the expectations that way.
Simply state the number you believe you should receive for the role (and make sure it’s more than what you would settle for, just in case it sets an anchor figure for future pay negotiation).
Example: "Understanding the market and given my experience, I believe that [$X] is fair."
24. "What other positions are you looking at?"
How to Answer: We believe it’s best not to name names. Nobody really wants to hear that you’re interested in or applying to their competitors and saying that may turn some hiring managers off.
On the other hand, if you say you are not looking at any other position, it might seem far-fetched or make you look like you’re not aware of your market worth and ability to get a job elsewhere.
Example: "Similar roles at companies in this industry where I think I can make a real difference.”
How to Answer: There’s no one-size “best” answer to something that’s so personal but we think sticking with a brief vision statement about where you want to grow your career is great. It demonstrates ambition to say that you want to be managing a division (or a larger division, or even a CEO), and intrinsic self-motivation that every employer wants to see in a prospective employee.
Example: "In five years, I'd really like to see myself at [X LARGER DIVISION."
26. "What do you like to do outside of work?"
How to Answer: If you’re worried about standing out from the crowd and have an unusual hobby or pastime (singing in a punk rock band, for example) talking about this briefly can make you memorable or round out an otherwise very professional conversation.
However, if you’re not very active outside of work, it’s also ok to talk about your friends and family and the things that make you seem like a whole, well-rounded human being.
Example: "Outside of work, I love spending time with my partner and two children. We often go on weekend hiking and camping trips as a family."
27. "What is your ideal work environment?"
How to Answer: Your interviewer doesn't want to hire someone who's not comfortable in the environment of the business's office. If you aren't, it will reflect on your own work, and others will take note as well.
For example, if the organization has an open office layout, you should probably temper your expectation of having a personal office. Do your best to align your ideal work environment with that of the company's.
Example: "I do my best work at the office, where I can meet face-to-face with my colleagues."
28. "What was your biggest accomplishment at your last job?"
How to Answer: You know why you’re good at your job, but make sure you have a specific accomplishment you can point to. Interviewers like details, so have an anecdote ready that shows how you oversaw a successful project from start to finish.
Example: "My biggest accomplishment in my last job was tripling our sales numbers in the last year."
29. "Why do you think you can help this company grow?"
How to Answer: Beyond perusing your prospective employer’s website, think about how you, specifically, can contribute to their mission.
Example: "Because of my experience being on the journalism side, I can help this company grow its public relations efforts because I know how to communicate with reporters."
30. "What are you reading?"
How to Answer: This might seem random, but trust us, you’ll probably be asked this question at least once or twice during an interview. Employers want to know that you’re intellectually curious, and this question will give them a window into your particular interests.
If you’re binge-watching 3 shows on Netflix and haven’t opened a book in a month, you’re not alone -- but make sure you think about the last book you’ve read or one of your favorites.
Example: "I'm currently reading [X], which fascinates me because [Y]."
31. "Is there anything else we should know about you/why you're the right person for this job?"
How to Answer: This is actually one of the more common questions interviewers ask, even though it’s somewhat casual and may seem unnecessary — especially if you’ve already spent a good amount of time with multiple interviewers.
But just in case this is thrown in at the end...have an answer in mind. It can be simple; after all, you’ve likely already discussed a lot. But prepare a brief, conclusive pitch about how you’re motivated and capable because your past experiences have prepared you well for the tasks at hand.
Example: "Given my experience in [X], I am confident that I'm the right person for this job."
32. "Tell me about someone you admire and why."
How to Answer: There are many types of interviewers, and those who really want to get a good sense of who you are might ask this question. This is often a question people ask to get a sense of what your values and aspirations are.
There’s certainly no wrong answer — you can name someone personal or a celebrity — but being authentic here matters because there’s no point in trying to guess what someone thinks the right answer is. Your reasoning is also probably more important than the name of any individual.
Example: "I really admire [X] because our values really align. [X] has succeeded in [Y], which inspires me to do the same."
33. "What would your first 30, 60, or 90 days look like in this job?"
How to Answer: This may seem like an unreasonable question, but if you think about it from the employer’s perspective, they are trying to hire someone to fill a gap or hole in their team. They have real, usually time-pressing needs and they want to see at least improvements in the issues they’re facing when they hire you.
Therefore, be prepared to talk about what you think you will accomplish in a 1–3-month horizon. Ideally, this is based on a clear understanding of what the job entails and what the company’s challenges are.
Example: "In the first month, I'd like to [X]. By two months in, I plan to already tackle [Y]. And at the three-month mark, I look forward to having done [Y]."
34. "How would you improve this company/specific operation?"
How to Answer: Your vision for improving the company is the reason why you—or someone else—will get hired. Come prepared with ideas for how you'd make one aspect of the company—something that is, of course, related to the job function of the position in question—better.
You don't need to disparage the way the company is currently doing things to make your point; instead, just demonstrate that you've thought about this question and have innovative ideas.
Example: "I've considered the way this department operates and would work to streamline that process by [X]."
35. "Describe a time you had to make a difficult decision at work."
How to Answer: No matter what your position is, chances are, there has been a time when you've had to make a tough call. Perhaps you had to fire someone. Maybe you decided to confront your manager about something with which you disagreed.
Demonstrating your rationale for making this decision gives the interviewer insight into your judgment and thought process. Walk her through the pros and cons and the different aspects you considered before coming to closure to show that you're thoughtful and understand the ramifications and impact of your ideas.
Example: "I was once tasked with firing someone for not fulfilling their responsibilities. While it is never easy to fire someone, I had to take the emotion out of it, understanding that I had to do my own job, too. Fortunately, I was able to quickly replace that person with someone else who has exceeded my expectations."
36. "Why should we hire you over another candidate?"
How to Answer: You don't know what another candidate will bring to the table, but you do know what you have to offer. Describe your most important qualities as a worker and what sets you apart in terms of how you work and what you produce. Back up these qualities with examples to demonstrate why you're the best person for the role.
Example: "My unique experience in [X] will prove beneficial. I can bring a fresh perspective to the table."
37. "Do you have any other questions for me?"
How to Answer: Having questions for interviewers is a must; this question and answer exchange is pretty typical at the end of the interview. No matter how tough or breezy the interview may have been, it’s common advice that you should always ask a question at the end of the interview. And generally, we think you should take the chance to show that you're thoughtful, and ask a question that illustrates your insight and curiosity.
However, don't force a square peg into a round hole and ask a question only because you feel like you have to.
If you’ve been sitting with the interviewer for over an hour and been having a very in-depth conversation about the business, it’s ok to skip the question and simply reiterate that you’re even more interested in the job after the interview and believe you’re a great fit for the role.
However, if you do have one or two questions that you haven’t been able to squeeze in, now is a good time to ask if those questions. An open-ended question about company culture that is thought-provoking is always a good idea if you have one.
Example: "Yes, I'd love to learn more about what you most enjoy about the company culture here."
38. "Do you tend to take your work home with you?"
Hiring managers may ask you this because they want to know that you're not someone who is going to easily burn out. People who tend to leave work at work are better off because they set boundaries. Your hiring manager wants to know that you're dedicated and available, but that you're not going to get quickly overwhelmed.
How to Answer: Keep this short and explain that you're available when you need to be but respect your own work-life balance.
Example: "While I can be available off-hours when necessary, I do understand the necessity of a healthy work-life balance. So I do my best to not take work home with me."
39. "What is your ideal company size?"
The hiring manager wants to make sure that you can fit into this company culture. They may have plans to expand in the future or may already be a massive company. Either way, they want to know that their size works for you.
How to Answer: If the company is smaller and plans to stay that way, tailor your response around that. If the company is smaller and plans to expand, or is already a bigger company, tailor your response around that. You'll have to do your homework beforehand to know either way.
Example: "I love working in small, intimate teams because I think we can really get to know each other's strengths more and leverage them. That said, growth is exciting because it's evidence that our efforts are working, and it also means getting to work with new, knowledgeable people who can bring even more to the table."
40. "Describe your top three soft skills."
Studies show that soft skills are just as important as hard skills — especially in today's world. Soft skills include everything like communication skills, being a team player, being a self-motivator, etc.
How to Answer: Share three top soft skills that hiring managers would want to see. If you have the time, you may even want to share examples of how you've demonstrated those soft skills.
Example: "I pride myself on my ability to communicate well, adapt to novel situations, and problem-solve when faced with unique challenges."
Remember, job interviews aren’t a time to try to wing answers to questions that you know there’s a high probability of being asked. Committing several of these questions to memory and rehearsing for these job interview questions and answers will go a long way to making you feel — and sound — more confident!
Finally, don’t forget to send a job interview thank you letter — even if it’s just a quick thank you email after an interview. Following up is key!