Stepping into your interview, you never quite know what you’ll be asked. The last thing you want to do is stare blankly while trying to think of an answer, or blurting out an ill-prepared response.
Fortunately, most interviewers stick to a few common interview questions— granting you the power to come prepared.
Here are eight frequently asked job interview questions and their answers, or rather, tips on how to best respond:
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
This is usually the first question an interviewer hits you with— and it’s so darn vague! Think of this common interview question as the lip of a new book, just a few short paragraphs to summarize what they’d get if they chose you out of all the other “books” on the shelf. It’s a preview of your unique career journey, setting the stage for your story from your past experience to now.
However, this question is not intended to be a monologue about every job you’ve ever had, nor a regurgitation of your resume. Stick instead to a three-part narrative: your now, a quick glimpse what got you here and where you see yourself in the future.
Here’s an example answer, “Well, for the past three years I’ve been a pharmacist for Rite Aid. At the time, it was the perfect stepping stone for me, away from the small mom and pop shop life to a larger pharmaceutical corporation. There, I was juggling five hats and I needed to focus on my scripts and patients instead of ringing out customers. I’m here today because I want ________.” (Some of our other questions below can help you fill in this last blank! Hang tight).
2. Why do you want to work here?
Prior to your interview, it’s important you do research on the company itself— not just the role. Spend some time looking into their Core Values or digging into their big “Why?” What is their overall purpose, the fire behind their brand? If they make a software, how does that service help people— and why does that cause matter to you, specifically? If they sell a product, why do you believe their specific item is the best or that others should care about it?
Highlight how you share a passion for or the purpose behind what the company does. Never make your interest in the company about the money or the status, but instead about finding the right fit.
3. What’s your greatest weakness?
This inquiry is an opportunity for you to take a “negative” situation and strategically flip it into a positive one— and a wise interviewer knows this well. Check out our article devoted entirely to answering this tricky interview questions.
4. Why do you want to leave/did you leave your current/last job?
This is not the time to say “because my boss sucks!” (although, bad bosses can be a real pain). Bad-mouthing someone / someplace is one of the quickest ways to make yourself look bad! Instead, give the interviewer tangible reasons about why you’re on the job hunt, devoid of emotion.
It’s understandable to feel bitter or irritated at your current situation, but your new employer doesn’t need to know you’re seething with rage or scared the company is about to shut its doors.
Instead, appeal to logic, “I have concerns about the company’s long-term stability. Finances are problematic and I need something secure,” or “I’m not growing in my career. There’s no opportunities for promotion / my boss doesn’t put an emphasis on self-growth and it’s making me complacent— something I never want to be.”
In the end, leave the feelings out. One acception: if your current/last company did something against your values. If so, this is a great time for you to show why culture and ethics matter to you.
5. Tell me about a challenge or conflict you've faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
For this common interview question, always paint the picture of the challenge and how you problem-solved. That’s what the interviewer really wants to know!
Maybe your conflict was with a coworker with whom you never got along with, and this is the time to show your ability to compromise and handle a rough situation maturely. Discuss how you resolved tension with a little empathy and a genuine conversation, instead of gossiping, like so many people in your office do.
Or, try taking a cliched challenge like “perfectionism,” and spinning it. Perhaps you learned the grace of finishing a project and can talk about the satisfaction of meeting your deadlines instead of delaying over the small details.
6. What’s your salary requirement?
No one wants to answer this interview question. What if you say a number too high, or too low? Here’s our greatest suggestion: make the interviewer say a salary they had in mind first. How do you do that? Check out our blog post on winning a salary negotiation.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
The interviewer is looking to see if you have long-term goals in place, and if their company factors into those plans. Employers invest a lot of money in training and hiring new recruits, and they want a return on their investment. They also want to see if you’re motivated to advance in your career, to hone or develop more skills.
Give them a few things to look forward to, as well as incentives for you! For instance, if you hope to acquire a special certification, cast a line and see if they bite. The employer might smile and offer to pay for your additional training if it means extra profit for them.
7. What else do you want to know about us?
This is the chance for you to let your interviewer know that you’re actually interviewing them too! Show confidence in exactly what you’re looking for in a company and a position, and ask if they can offer it.
You might ask, “What are some ways you incentivize or reward employees for a job well done?” or “What type of person hasn’t been a good fit for your company in the past?” Here are six of our favorite questions for finding the right culture fit.
Show interest in getting to know your would-be coworkers too. After two interviews, don’t be afraid to ask for other employees’ contact information to get their opinion on the position and culture too. Outside of the office, they might reveal some unexpected faults about the company, or happily affirm your optimism, without the pressure of sweet-talking in front of the boss.
Your interview is actually a terrific time to do some on-the-spot investigating as well, to see if the company is all they’re chalked up to be! Read How to Spot Signs of Bad Company Culture During the Interview.
Find the Right Fit
Preparing for your interview questions can help you approach your meet-up with greater confidence. But remember, rehearsed-sounding answers lose believability, so don’t stress too much over the details or memorizing responses.
Continue your quest by exploring seven more nontraditional tips for job seekers to nail the interview— beyond these common interview questions.
One way to relieve some pressure is by finding a company who shares your values, from the beginning. That’s what our team here at GoGig is here for.
We can help you set up a free profile and help you be found by companies that are looking for not only your skillset, but think you’ll be a perfect culture fit. A profile is easy to set up, only takes a few minutes— and is completely free.