Common Interview Questions for a Job — and How to Tackle Them

By Robert Half on June 2, 2021 at 2:30pm

Winging it is never a good strategy for answering interview questions for a job. You may be confident before meeting with a hiring manager. But once you’re in the interview hot seat, you could end up feeling more nervous and struggle to provide solid answers to even the most standard queries. Preparation is the key to ensuring you can field common interview questions with ease.

Hiring managers want to gain more insight into your ability to do the job you’re vying for and succeed in the organization’s corporate culture. So, you can expect them to ask several questions related to your work history, skills and career goals. In response, you need to expand on details already outlined in your cover letter and resume.

You may need to field a few behavioral and situational interview questions, too. A potential employer may use these questions to find out more about how you think and what you’ve done or would do in certain circumstances. Examples include:

  • Behavioral: “Describe a situation where you found yourself outside your comfort zone.”
  • Situational: “If a manager wasn’t satisfied with an assignment that you submitted, how would you respond?”

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What are the most common interview questions for a job?

So, what else might you expect hiring managers to ask? Here’s a look at four common interview questions, along with tips for how to tackle them:

1. Can you tell me more about yourself?

Hiring managers often kick off an interview with an open-ended question like this, hoping it’ll help them develop a clearer picture of who you are as a person.

It seems like an easy question to answer, but it can be tricky. A common misstep is launching into your life story and offering too many (and irrelevant) personal details. Another pitfall is describing all the reasons you’re unhappy with your current employment situation. (You can do the latter, if asked directly by the hiring manager to share details. But you need to tread carefully when responding. For strategies on how to manage that particular question, see this post.)

Preparation for the “Tell me about yourself” question helps ensure you can use this moment in the interview to deliver a concise elevator pitch that explains why you believe you’re well-suited for the job. Also, you can briefly outline what appeals to you about potentially working for the company.

Check out this blog post for more ways to answer this question and how to craft your elevator pitch.

2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This is likely to crop up among the many interview questions for a job you’ll need to address. However, don’t be surprised if the hiring manager breaks up the question, asking you first about your weaknesses and then your strengths — or vice versa.

When highlighting your strengths, keep the job description in mind. Emphasize the skills and qualities you possess that will allow you to perform the job well.

As for weaknesses, honesty is the best policy. Some candidates aim to outline a strength by disguising it as a weakness. (Think: “I work too hard.”) But interviewers have come to expect this tactic.

So a better approach is to state an actual weakness and explain the steps you’re taking to manage it. Here’s an example: “I struggle with time management sometimes, so, I’ve started using a timer during the workday to help me stay focused on priority tasks and keep my daily schedule on track.”

Get more recommendations on how to talk about your professional weaknesses in this post.

3. Why do you want to work here?

This is another one of the common interview questions that seems easy to address — until you’re put on the spot to answer it. A hiring manager is definitely looking for substance in your response. So you won’t be able to get by with a fuzzy answer like, “I’ve heard good things about your company,” or “I thought the job sounded interesting.”

A hiring manager might present this question at the top of the interview as a way to set the tone for the conversation. Or they might deliver it near the end of the meeting to confirm your interest and enthusiasm for the employment opportunity now that you’ve learned more about it.

Your response should demonstrate that you’ve researched the organization before the interview. You should be able to state at least three solid reasons why you think the job and the company are great matches for your skills and personality. And offering insight on how you think you can add value to the business is always a plus.

See this post for more specifics on what you could say — and should avoid saying — in response to “Why do you want to work here?”

4. What’s your expected salary?

Ah yes, the money question. Any talk related to compensation can be the most nerve-wracking for a candidate.

You want to negotiate the best salary possible, of course. But if you’re not sure what that best figure is going into a job interview, you could end up giving a lowball estimate — or a number that’s way too high, putting question marks about you in the hiring manager’s mind.

Researching the latest market and salary trends in advance can help ensure you’re well-informed and confident in your discussions about salary requirements. Robert Half’s Salary Guides can be a useful starting point, as they help you identify the average national salary for the position you’re seeking. You can then use our Salary Calculator to customize the figure for your market.

Timing and tact are also essential to your success when discussing compensation with a potential employer. Find out more in this post.

Think like a hiring manager

Another strategy to prepare for common interview questions for a job is to think like a hiring manager. What questions would you ask a candidate who is trying to land the position you want?

This process can give you another perspective on how to answer common interview questions because it helps you better understand why such questions are valuable tools for evaluating candidates. The more you know about the why behind the questions for a job interview, the easier it will be to craft complete and compelling answers to deliver to hiring managers.

Also, come to the job interview ready to ask a few questions, too. For instance, inquiring about the position’s growth potential or the company’s future objectives can further underscore your interest in the role. It also hints at your desire to find an opportunity that could work out for the long term. And that, in turn, could help a hiring decision-maker feel more confident about investing in you — and bring you closer to securing the job offer you’re aiming for.

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