Thoughtful preparation is one of the biggest keys to a successful job interview.
While there might be some abstract questions that appear during the interview, there are some common questions that most interviewers will be sure to include. Taking the time in advance to prepare for them, will help you feel more at ease during the interview.
- Can You Tell Me A Little Bit About Yourself?
This is usually one of the earliest, if not the first question you will get in an interview. They’re not really looking for something like “Once upon a time I was born in a log cabin.” There’s no need for an epic tale about who you are and what your favorite color is.
The goal here is to provide them with a snapshot of who you are right now. Perhaps a splash of work history or a basic overview of pertinent life experience. Yet you don’t want to regurgitate the resume they have already read. Be brief and to the point, keeping a positive spin to make a good first impression.
- What Do You Think Is Your Biggest Weakness?
Some people and even some interviewers treat this as a throw-away question. You certainly don’t want to pitch yourself as being devoid of weaknesses. No one wants to hire someone with so much hubris. The most common temptation here is to offer up cloy answer like “I tend to work too hard,” or “I need to delegate more.”
The best way to answer this question is to give them an actual weakness, but also include an answer to what you are actively doing to improve it. You could mention a new type of software that you’re learning. The goal is to demonstrate that you have the ability to improve your weaknesses and learn from mistakes. If possible, you want your answer to demonstrate that you are always seeking to improve.
- Why Do You Think You’re The Best Candidate For The Job?
This is another question that tempts hubris. On the one hand, it’s meant to give you an opportunity to shine. Yet you also don’t want to come off as a superhero who gets a funky feeling from our yellow sun. This is a place where you can highlight some of your qualifications. Just bear in mind that a lot of other candidates likely have similar qualifications. So, stick to the ones that are more likely to make you stand out.
- What Are Your Hobbies And Personal Interests?
This is a little bit of a chemistry question, as well as an opportunity to get to know more about you as a person. Some interviewers will throw it into the middle of an interview just to lighten the mood, and keep things flowing comfortably.
Ideally, you want to mention the team or community-oriented interests. Ideally, you want to mention a charity you participate in or a community group, that demonstrates your interests in helping others or being a part of something bigger than yourself.
If you don’t have anything like this, try to stick to honest things that have a little flavor. Working on model trains, experimenting with new recipes, camping trips with the family, or reading a thought-provoking series of books, will suffice.
- Where Do You Want To Be In Five Years?
This question is largely about ambition. Most prospective employers want to see that you are interested in growing beyond the position being offered. Ideally, you don’t want to include “Salary” goals in your answer.
Try to put them in context and relevance for your strengths, through the lens of the position you are applying for. If you are applying to be a line cook at a local restaurant, you might say that you hope to be the executive sous chef five years later. Just be honest, and realistic.
- Why Did You Leave Your Old Job?
If you are unemployed or still at your current job and looking for a change, it’s important, to be honest about your reasons, yet keep things in a positive light. The last thing you want to do is speak poorly about your past employer or former coworkers. You don’t want to give them the impression that you are difficult to work with or struggle to work well with others.
Ideally, you want to cast this answer in that you are looking for new opportunities, or you want to grow into a new position. Whatever the answer keep it positive and focus on your passion for personal development.
- What Are Your Strengths?
This is another one of those questions that tempts you to overpromise. At the same time, you don’t want to offer up a generic answer. It’s best to try to focus on three or four strengths that are pertinent in some way to the position you are applying for.
This could also be a good opportunity to provide them with a short narrative about a challenge you conquered earlier in your career. Try not to discuss your personal life, unless it relates in some way to the position.
- Why Do You Want To Work For Us?
Some interviewers will dress this question up in a way that makes it seem like they want you to heap praise onto the company. What you really want to do is demonstrate that you have thoroughly researched the company and that you have a good understanding of where they are going, and how you can help.
- What Is Your Primary Motivation?
This question is basically trying to find out what makes you tick. Are you just in it for the money? Are you ambitious about your career development? You don’t want to dance around this question with cute metaphors, yet you don’t want to come off as being in it for the paycheck.
- What Would Your Former Coworkers Say About You?
Sometimes this can be a trap question. You don’t want to paint yourself as someone who’s over the top amazing at everything they do. Yet you also don’t want to deliver a vague answer.
One easy way to be prepared for this question is to seek some of your past coworkers and ask them. If you have a letter of recommendation from a former supervisor, you may want to also reference it. Just keep your answer honest and realistic.
- How Do You Handle Stress?
There can be some spin in how this question is asked. What do you do when facing a challenge? How do you handle tight deadlines? What the interviewer is really trying to figure out is how well you work under pressure. It can also extend to things like managing multiple projects at the same time.
It is another opportunity to offer up a positive narrative. Ideally, you want to give them a past example of a time when you were faced with a difficult situation. You want to highlight how you kept your composure. If you were part of a team, try to include how you encouraged others, contributed in a positive way, or worked to bring the team together. This is especially helpful if you are applying for a management position.
- Can You Explain The Gap In Your Work History?
For some people, this is an uncomfortable question. Whether you were unemployed or working outside of your industry for a period of time, a prospective employer will want some insights. The one thing you don’t want to do is lie about the dates on your resume. This information is very easy for a prospective employer to look up.
Whatever the reason is, be honest, and make sure to note how the experience contributed to your personal growth. If there was any retraining or going back to school involved, be sure to also note it in your response.
- What Are The Traits Of A Good Manager?
There are two ways to answer this question, depending on the type of position you are applying for. If you are applying for a management position, the interviewer wants to see if you are up to the task. Especially if this is your first time interviewing for a managerial role.
It’s important to demonstrate that you have been reflecting on your own leadership style. If you have done any leadership training or attended pertinent workshops, be sure to mention what you took away from the experience.
If you aren’t applying for a management position, the interviewer is likely trying to determine if you will fit in with the current management structure. This is where your research helps. There are a variety of websites that include employee and past employee feedback about what it was like to work for various companies.