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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 situational and behavioural 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:
- Behavioural: “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?”
What are the most common interview questions and answers?
So, what else might you expect hiring managers to ask? Here’s a look at 8 common interview questions, along with tips for how to tackle them:
1. Can you tell me a little 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 our tips on how to answer ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ in a job interview.
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 advice on how to talk about your weaknesses in a job interview.
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.
Get tips on how to answer "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 Guide can be a useful starting point, as it helps 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.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
With this interview question, prospective employers are hoping to get a sense of your drive and ambition. The truth is, you might envision yourself taking the interviewer’s job or moving on to a different company in five years, but you probably don’t want to say that out loud, right? A better response is to talk about how the open position fits with your goals for professional growth and career advancement. Show you’ve carefully considered this question and explain how you could succeed in the role and change it for the better.
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6. Can you give an example of a time when you overcame a professional challenge?
Not only is this one of the most common interview questions, it’s also one that interviewees like least. Prepare for this query by having an anecdote ready to go. Yes, hiring managers are looking for examples of your critical thinking and analytical skills. But they’re also focusing on your behaviour in handling the challenge you describe. Did you initially panic? Or did you calmly assess the situation and proceed with the best possible solution?
7. How would hiring you benefit our company?
Here’s where you emphasize what makes you unique over other applicants. Is it because of your skills and experience, your eagerness to learn, your motivation to succeed, your work style or how you collaborate with others?
8. How do you handle failure?
This is similar to the interview question about your biggest weakness, and it might require some thought to come up with an example of a time you made a mistake or faced a conflict on the job — and how you turned it around. Describe how you were able to maintain your composure, move forward and accomplish your goals.
Get ahead of the question: here are 5 Ways to Save Face After Making Mistakes at Work.
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.