How to Ace the 7 Most Common Questions in Your Next Big Interview

common interview questions and answers

There’s nothing worse than going blank in the middle of a job interview.

The interviewer stares at you, waiting for an answer. Meanwhile, you’re racing through memories, trying to find the right one to share.

By preparing for common interview questions and answers beforehand, you can make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Read on to learn how to answer job interview questions like a pro and get the job you deserve.

7 common interview questions and answers

1. Tell me about yourself.

This prompt, or some version of it, is one of the most common ways for interviewers to begin. It’s very open-ended, so you can go in many directions. However, you don’t want to ramble or share your entire life story. So how should you answer?

First, reframe the prompt as, “Tell me about yourself as I evaluate you for this position.” Think about the interviewer’s goal here: She’s trying to gauge whether you’d succeed in the role and be a good cultural fit.

Therefore, tell the interviewer about yourself as you relate to the new job. If you’ve had relevant experience, share it. Even if you’re entry level, you can talk about skills you have that would transfer into the new role. Share your personality, but also make sure to customize your answer to the new position and company.

2. What are your strengths?

Here, the interviewer wants to make sure you possess the “core competencies” to succeed in the new role. Before answering interview questions about your strengths, learn as much about the position as you can.

What skills and strengths are listed in the job description? Look them over and pick two or three that you have. If you can share specific examples from past jobs, all the better.

Let’s say you’re applying to be an English teacher. You could vaguely say that you’re skilled at devising creative projects that get students engaged. Or, you could talk about the time you had your students write and perform original plays set in a dystopian future.

By giving an example, you won’t sound like you’re just telling the interviewer what you think she wants to hear. Instead, you’ll prove that you possess certain strengths with a memorable anecdote.

3. What are your weaknesses?

This interview question is always a tricky one. You spend time preparing to sell yourself, and then the interviewer wants you to talk about your weak points. How can you discuss your failings without undermining yourself for the job?

You should be honest about your weaknesses, but also strategic. Don’t choose a weakness that’s a core competency of the new job. If you’re interviewing for a position in human resources, for example, you probably shouldn’t say you have poor communication skills or are wildly disorganized.

Instead, pick a weakness that wouldn’t affect your job performance very much, then talk about the steps you’ve taken to overcome that weakness. That way, you can turn a conversation about weak points into one about growth opportunities.

4. Describe a time that you failed.

Like the weakness question, talking about your failures probably isn’t at the top of your mind when answering interview questions. Again, interviewers are trying to feel out how you respond to failure.

Do you just throw in the towel and give up? Or do you own up to your mistakes and take proactive steps to fix them? Here’s a chance to show how you react to setbacks.

This is an example of a behavioral question; you’re being asked to provide a specific example or anecdote. These can be hard to answer on the spot, so it’s useful to come up with examples before the interview.

5. Describe a time you contributed something to your team.

This is another behavioral question that asks for a specific story, but it’s also a question about cultural fit. The interviewer wants to see how you’d mesh with your new team.

This question is especially important if the new company values teamwork and collaboration. Consider this prompt an opportunity to show you’re a team player.

6. Why are you leaving your current job?

Interviewers often want to hear about what compelled you to leave your job. Did something drive you away? What are you looking for now? Can the new company meet your needs?

They don’t want to hire someone who will jump ship in a few months. Hiring a new person is a significant investment and they want someone who will last.

In answering interview questions like this one, don’t disparage your last company. Instead, focus on what the new company can provide, like new challenges, opportunities for leadership, or an inspiring mission.

Overall, you want to communicate enthusiasm to your interviewer. Bad-mouthing your last company or employer will just introduce negative energy.

7. Why do you want to join our organization?

Interviewers want to see that you’ve done your homework. What do you know about the company? What about its vision or culture appeals to you? How do you see yourself fitting in?

To prepare, do some serious research. Check out the company’s website, learn its founding story, follow their social media accounts, and educate yourself on the company’s industry and competitors.

Companies want to hire people who will propel progress. In answering interview questions like this one, you should show the interviewer that you’re the one for the job.

How to answer job interview questions: final words of advice

As you prepare, keep the following three principles of answering interview questions in mind.

  • Be strategic in your answers. Show that you possess the core skills to get the job done.
  • Prepare specific examples. Interviewers will likely ask you to describe instances of achievement, collaboration, or even failure. They want to hear about how you’ve behaved in the past to get a sense of how you’ll act in the future.
  • Be open, honest, and enthusiastic. Show that you’ve done your research and are excited to join the new team. You don’t want to produce canned responses, but you should be prepared with your very best answers to interview questions.

By reading common interview questions and answers, you can ace your interview and get the job.

Are you on the hunt for a new position? If so, check out this article to learn how to market your skills to new employers.

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