67 Common Interview Questions, What’s Behind Them, How to Answer Them Honestly, and Put Your Best Self Forward
As North America begins to recover from the Global Pandemic and its associate craziness, the one thing I know with absolute certainty is that companies are going to hire more cautiously.
In the face of a global shortage of talent and the increased pressure to make every penny spent count post recovery, hiring is coming under extreme scrutiny: in the face of the Great Resignation. Why? Simply put, Hiring Managers can’t afford a mishire because it might cost them their job.
So, it’s critical you learn how to ‘Find Your Fit’ by answering these common interview questions thoughtfully.
To Find Your Fit you need to discover how employers really operate so that when you start your new job there aren’t any unpleasant surprises waiting to trip you up. To do that you have to get to the first interview, get through it, and ask thoughtful questions.
You can short cut this process by Networking With the Newly Departed but unless you’ve heard David or Anita talk about this concept, or are using the MyNewJobHunt.com platform you won’t have the needed insider knowledge. So learn how to think about and effectively answer common interview questions.
Reading this will move you to the hiring line faster
As a consequence of the ups and downs of the labor market the last 40 years, there are several books and software programs available for purchase which tell job hunters the ‘best’ answers to typical interview questions.
Be careful. Most interviewers recognize when they hear a canned answer, or heaven forbid the same answer, from previous interviewees. Also, please recognize that there is no ‘perfect answer’. If there where, the books would all agree – AND they don’t.
So, instead of giving you my pat answers to memorize for typical interview questions, I’ve opted to explain the “why’s” behind the question instead. Why? So you understand what information the hiring manager or recruiter is seeking from you by asking that specific question.
Many hiring managers have more training on how to use the photocopier than how to interview. Most will just talk and hope your answers guide them to make the right decision. NOW, that’s where this short document comes in handy. I’m going to tell you what the interviewer is really asking when they open the interview with, “….so, tell me about yourself…”?
Take a few minutes now to understand the rational behind the question. This will make it easier to have an actual discussion at your interview instead of an interrogation while giving your interviewer the information they need to help them choose you for all the right reasons.
Common Interview Questions to Discover: General Attributes
What are the 4 hardest interview questions for most people to address right away?
Tell me about yourself.
Focus on relevant skills and experience. Be on guard against the interviewer who gives you free rein. Don’t spend too much time answering (1- 2 minutes). Avoid details. Don’t ramble. Touch on four areas: Born and Raised, Education/Military Background, Work Experience, Current Situation, Why you think you’d be a great fit for the job you’re discussing.
What do you know about our company?
Do your investigative homework before the interview! Take a look at the Internet for information or at the library researching the company. Research as much information as possible – including products, history, size, financial status, reputation, image, management talent, people, and philosophy. You will want to be excited about the company and project that to the interviewer.
In addition, let the interviewer tell you about the company from their perspective. “I would love to know more particularly from your point of view. Do we have time to cover that now?” DO NOT bring up the info you gleaned from Glassdoor in the first interview. It doesn’t make you look smart or informed – more like a ‘smartass’ confrontationist. Save that kind of due diligence until you get the offer.
Why do you want to work for our company?
Start by addressing their needs and how your abilities can benefit them. How you can contribute to the company or department goals. How your prior experience is in line with their current projects. If you ‘Networked with the Newly Departed’ you already know the issues the manager has and what skills and accomplishments to mention in your answer.
Why should we hire you over another candidate?
Don’t get defensive and don’t say you don’t know anything about the people they’ve already interviewed – if they weren’t interested in your background, you wouldn’t be there talking to them now. Relate past experiences that show you’ve had success in solving problem(s) that may be similar to the ones they are currently facing. Succinctly tell them what you bring to the table. A good place to start is buy explain what your previous supervisors have said separates you from your colleagues (hint review your past performance appraisals and/or LinkedIn reviews).
Common Interview Questions to Discover: Is this person mature and self-aware?
How do you define success? With reference to the definition of success, how successful have you been so far?
Relate your answers to your career accomplishments. Be prepared to define success and where you believe you are in relation to your career plan. It’s a good idea to write this question and map out your career plan on paper before you start interviewing because then you don’t need to make it up on the fly.
Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you?
The interviewer probably intends to find out if you are introverted or extraverted with this kind of question – best to answer – “It depends on the circumstances. Because that’s the only answer.” Then have examples ready.
Are you a leader?
Absolutely – use specific examples and relate them back to your current position. Do you lead from the front or from the back? Better know the difference, have examples and be able to substantiate it.
Where do you see yourself five years from today?
Give long-range goals and state the goals that are job related. DO NOT say , “doing your job”. The answer is so wrong on so many levels I don’t have enough time to explain it all. Trust me it’s an interview killer.
What is your favorite movie? Last book read? Sporting event you attended?
Discuss these items and show that you have a balanced life. Think this through ahead of time. Select one of the books you’ve read that matches the company culture. Unless you’re an actor “The Vampire Diaries” is never a good example.
If I were to ask a co-worker about your strengths, what would he/she say about you?
Give three strengths and relate them back to the company and job to which you are applying. Please don’t forget that they will likely ask that question to your references…
Same question however related to weaknesses?
Always turn a negative into a positive. Cite an example of a minor weakness and how you have overcome it or are currently working on. DO NOT chose something trivial – everyone does that and it’s disingenuous and insulting to the interviewer. Pick something a supervisor brought up in a previous performance review which you have ACTUALLY worked to improve.
Common Interview Questions to Discover: Is the person motivated? What are their values, attitudes? Is there a fit with our culture?
In your current or last position, what features or functions of the job did you like most? least?
Refer to your “satisfies” for likes. Be careful with dislikes. Give only one and make it brief. (This is a common interview questions designed to destroy you based on your answer identifying major features of the job you’re interviewing for.)
What do you look for in a position?
Use information developed in satisfiers/dissatisfies and ideal job and relate it to the job opening.
How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?
Not long, because of my related experience, transferable skills, and ability to learn and adapt.”
How long would you stay with us?
“As long as the situation is mutually satisfactory, and the job is interesting and challenging. As long as I feel that I’m contributing and that my contribution is recognized.
Common Interview Questions to Discover: Does the person match the job criteria?
What would you do for us?
Relate past experience which represents success in solving problems which may be similar to those of the prospective employer.
How have you helped to increase sales or profits? Reduce costs?
Refer to accomplishments. Remember there are only three reasons and employer will ever hire you: make money, save money, or increase efficiency.
How much money did you ever account for? Largest budget responsibility?
Refer to accomplishments. If you haven’t had budget responsibility, say so, but refer to an accomplishment that demonstrates the same skill.
Describe some situations in which you’ve worked under pressure or met deadlines.
Be prepared. Refer to accomplishments. Everyone has had a few pressure situations in a career.
In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?
Here again, be prepared. Most positions have responsibilities that may have been unfulfilled by its predecessor. Refer to accomplishments.
Give an example of how you have been creative.
Refer to accomplishments. Cover problem solving in a non-traditional way. Cite examples that relate to your current position.
Give examples of times when you were a leader.
Draw examples from your accomplishments. If relevant, use the accomplishments from your resume because you’ll be reinforcing them BUT have OTHER EXAMPLES AT THE READY.
What are your goals in your career?
Talk first about doing the job for which you are applying, then talk about longer range plans.
What position do you expect to have in two years?
“A position similar to the one we’re discussing or possibly by that time, the next step up.”
What are your objectives?
Long range: Keep long-range answers fairly general. Short range: Be more specific; talk about a position like this with growth opportunities, maybe having more responsibilities or moving into management.
What do you like best and least about your current boss?
Never badmouth your current or previous boss, employer, or associates. Be as positive as you can.
Common Interview Questions to Discover: What is this person's market value?
How much do you expect if we offer this position to you?
NOTE: Actively probe the interviewer about the job and specific responsibilities and problems. In time you should acquire ideas of how important the job is to the company and its willingness to pay. Sum up and evaluate. Then when the interviewer opens the discussion of salary, you will be in a much better position to determine what the job is probably worth to both the employer and you.
Strive to delay all mention of money until the end of the interview. If your minimum requirement is sought early, try to counter with the “need to learn more about the scope of the job” since the service you can provide is the principal question, not income. If they insist, provide a range or broad area.
Be careful. Answer this question with caution. If you don’t know the market value, return the question by saying that you would expect a fair salary based on the job responsibilities, your experience and skills, and the market value of the job. Put the ball back in their court. Tell the interviewer you would entertain any offer they care to make.
What other types of job or companies are you considering?
If you are looking at other companies … be honest. Say, “I’m looking at similar positions in several companies.” You don’t have to be specific.
Common Interview Questions to Discover: Management Questions
What is your management style?
It is best to let them know you prefer a “open door management style”. Let them know that you get the job done on time or you let your manager know.
Do you feel you are a good manager? Give me an example of your management style.
Talk about your contributions, how you grew your team, your style, your accomplishments.
Why do you feel you are qualified for a top managerial position?
Focus your answer on achievement, task oriented, emphasize management skills (planning, organization, interpersonal, etc…)
What qualities do you look for when you hire people?
Skills, initiative, adaptability, etc…
Have you had to fire anyone? If so, what were the reasons and how did you handle it?
Briefly describe the event and stress that it worked out well.
What is the hardest part about being a manager?
Getting things planned and done on time within the budget.
In your current or last position, what were your most significant accomplishments?
Refer to accomplishment statements. Cover, at least, three accomplishments.
Had you thought of leaving your present position before? If yes, what do you think held you there?
No job is perfect. Yet, there are pluses to each position. Refer to positive aspect of job, the learning experience.
Would you describe a few situations in which your work was criticized?
Give only one and tell how you have corrected or plan to correct your work. Be honest and emphasize what you learned from the situation.
If I spoke with your previous boss, what would he or she say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Be consistent with what you think they would say as a reference. Always turn a negative into a positive. Cite an example of a minor weakness and how you have overcome it or are currently working on.
How would you describe your personality?
Keep your answer short, and relevant to the position and the organization’s culture.
How would your coworkers describe you?
Refer to your strengths and skills do not bring in personalities.
What are your strong points?
Present three. Relate them to that particular company and job opening.
What are your weak points?
Don’t say you have none. Give only one. Position it in a positive answer like, “I am sometimes impatient and do the work myself when we are working against tight deadlines.”
How did you do in school?
Emphasize your best and favorite subjects. If grades were average, talk about leadership activities or jobs you took to finance your education. Discuss career goals with reference to timelines, aspirations and how your current experience will get you there relative to the position for which your are interviewing.
How would you evaluate your present employer?
It is a great company that afforded me the opportunity to learn. Now it is time to move on to new challenges.
What did you like most about your current/previous job?
Again, never say anything negative about your previous employers. Find something positive to say. Refer to the valuable experience you have gained.
Why are you leaving your present job?
Never personalize. Never be negative. Keep it short. When possible, Give a “group” answer (“Our office is closing; the whole organization is being reduced in size.”) Stick to one response… don’t change answers during the interview. Explain what you are looking for in a new position, not what you wish to leave behind.
Describe what would be an ideal working environment.
Refer to your ideal job and satisfiers and relate them to that particular company.
What do you think of your boss?
If you like her or him, say so and tell why. If you don’t like her or him, find something positive to say.
Why do you want to work in a company of this size? Of this type?
Refer to ideal job and satisfiers. Explain how t is size or type of company works well for you.
If you had your choice of jobs and companies, where would you go?
Refer to ideal job. Say that this job and this company are very close to what best suits you.
What are you doing, or what have you done to reach your career objectives?
Talk about formal studies, workshops, seminars. Also talk about reading, professional memberships, mentors, advisors.
What was wrong with your last company?
Choose your words carefully. Don’t be negative. Say that no company is perfect; that it had both strengths and weaknesses.
What other companies are you interviewing with or considering?
Keep you answer related to this company’s field, and don’t give out specific company names.
Common Interview Questions to Discover: How does the person handle stress? What is their confidence level?
You may be overqualified or too experienced for the position we have to offer.
Explain that strong companies need strong, experienced people. If this is a growing company, let them know that they will be able to use all of your talents. Express that your interest is longevity with the company and that they will get a faster return on investment since you have more experience than required.
Why haven’t you found a new position before now?
Finding a job is easy but finding the career match is more difficult. Emphasize that you are being selective and are looking for “the right fit”.
If you could start again, what would you do differently?
No need to be too self revealing. Nothing. Hindsight is 20/20; everyone thinks they would make some changes, but I’ve learned and grown from all my decisions. I would not want to change my past.
How would you structure this job?
“Not easy to answer without knowing more than I do about the position. I’d move carefully before making any changes.”
Can you work well under pressure and deadlines?
Yes, it’s a way of life in business. Be sure to cite examples of your success.
Looking at your present position, what problems have you found that have been previously overlooked?
Keep it brief and don’t brag, otherwise it looks like you are conceited. Lions don’t need to roar.
How do you approach resolving conflict?
Talk about how communication is extremely important, and that you would like to discuss issues on a one-on-one basis.
Tell me about the most difficult decision you ever had to make.
Try to relate your response to the prospective employment situation. What are the top 3 functional tasks for this position? How does your experience play into those areas?
If I asked your employees about you, what would they say about you?
Be honest and positive…they can check your responses easily.
What is your weakness as a manager?
Again be honest and end on a positive note — for example, “I don’t enjoy disciplining people, so I try to begin with something positive first.”
How many people did you directly supervise at your last job?
Explain the structure of your department and your role as manager.
If you have never supervised, how do you feel about assuming those responsibilities?
Be honest. If you don’t want to supervise, emphasize that you can contribute more as an individual player. If you want to supervise, say so, and be enthusiastic.
Why do you want to become a supervisor?
“To grow and develop professionally, to help others develop, to build a team, and share what I have learned.”
What do you see as the most difficult task in being a manager?
”Getting things planned and done through others… fortunately that’s an area where I excel.”