Job interviews can be daunting at the best of times especially when we worry about what kinds of questions will come up. That fear of something being asked that we haven’t prepared for or which throws us off in our nervous state, is enough to make anyone dread an interview.
But there are some standard questions that are always going to come up and if you prepare these answers well, you will feel much more confident in yourself and will transcend throughout the interview process.
Preparation Is the Best Way to Boost Your Confidence
Preparation creates the mindset of ability and gives us the confidence in ourselves. There’s an expectation that the typical interview questions require a high standard of answer without hesitation. Preparing your answers well doesn’t mean memorising them so you can recall it like a parrot, but giving good thought about what you want to say and how you’d like to present yourself.
The Top 20 Questions That Are Commonly Asked in Interviews
With this in mind, here are the most common interview questions and answers you can prepare for ultimate confidence.
1. Tell me about yourself.
This is the typical open-ended question that an interviewer will start with. The main purpose is to break the ice and make the atmosphere feel more comfortable. It’s also a way to let the interviewer see a bit of your personality.
The key is not to go into too much detail or bring up irrelevant information. Start by mentioning a hobby you’re passionate about that can show off a positive side of you such as being a long-distance runner or an avid reader. Mention any volunteer opportunities you’re involved with to show your value and contribution.
After which, start to bring in your professional experience with a phrase like: “That being said, my professional life is a major part of who I am and I’d like to talk a bit about what I can bring to this role.”
Keep this quite brief though, as you don’t want to talk too much and save having to repeat yourself in later questions.
2. What responsibilities did you have in your previous job?
This is where your knowledge of your CV or resume is paramount as well as the job description for this role. Always try to relate this to the current role you’re going for.
For example, if you are going for a management role, talk about any projects you’ve led or people you had to manage – anything where you had lead responsibility.
This is also an opportunity to show your personality and stop yourself from being just a name on a page. Show them that you are responsible and personable – try not to recount bog-standard, boring answers.
3. What did you find challenging about your previous job and how did you deal with these challenges?
This question is trying to see how you handle difficulties and how effective your problem-solving skills are. Talk about a challenge with a positive outcome and explain how you dealt with it and what you learned for future similar situations.
“When we came across a major glitch in our software system that would affect our workflow and ability to sustain smooth work processes, it was my job to get the software engineers together and problem-solve. I learned how to motivate and organise the team in order to get the quickest and most productive income.”
4. What did you like or dislike about your previous job?
Whatever your response, remember to keep this positive even if you disliked some of what you did in your previous role – they are trying to elicit how you typically react to a role. Remember to try and keep your answer related to the skills required for the current job vacancy and keep your answers engaging and descriptive.
For example you could say: “I helped streamline the company’s in-house workflow system and was recognised for saving significant time on daily operations.”
Any reward-oriented answers are particularly effective here.
5. What is your greatest strength?
This can be a difficult one because many of us try to be humble about our strengths but it’s important to be confident without showing off – a fine balance! It’s important to show the interviewer that you have the right qualities they are looking for.
Focus on the strengths needed for the job. For example, you can say something like: “I have great time-management skills due to working in such a deadline-driven environment. This caused me to finish projects way ahead of schedule and I was given recognition in my current role for finishing one particular project two weeks in advance.”
6. What is your greatest weakness?
This is another one that can trip us up. The best way to answer this is to be honest and show the ways in which you’ve overcome a particular weakness.
“Being organised wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organisation skills.”
7. How do you handle stress and pressure?
This is particularly relevant if the job you’re going for is high-pressured. They essentially want to know how you would react when faced with pressure and stress.
A good answer could be: “Pressure is a good tool for me as it helps me stay motivated and productive. I feel my strong organisational skills have allowed me to develop the ability to create small and manageable schedules in order to help me accomplish a project.”
8. What was your biggest accomplishment in your previous role?
What accomplishment are you most proud of and what did you learn from it? Remember it doesn’t have to be something that worked out but what’s important is what skills and knowledge you got from the experience.
“I set up a major project for which I was the main project manager. It was a challenge but I managed to organise a large team, both an internally and an externally outsourced team. It was so successful that the client agreed to further ongoing projects that made a lot of money for the company.”
9. Describe a time when you were faced with a difficult work situation and how did you deal with it?
There’s not really a right or wrong answer here but be sure to use specific examples. It’s purely for the employer to see how you would approach a difficult situation and what you would consider difficult.
“When the company was going through a redundancy process, I had to make some tough decisions about who was to be let go. I took the time to think carefully about all those involved, with the best interests and intentions for the workers and the company. I found the process hard but I didn’t shy away from making difficult decisions for the good of the company and all those involved.”
10. What was your starting and ending salary?
This question is asked in order to see how competitive you are in terms of salary. Remember to be honest about pay because your prospective employer can easily find out. Be ready to explain any inconsistencies such as a salary reduction.
“My initial salary was XX and over time I took on more responsibilities including line-management and project management. As a result my final salary was XX.”
11. Why are you leaving your current job?
There can be many answers to this such as relocation, redundancy or wanting more opportunity for growth. If it was for difficult reasons, try to keep positive and emphasise your goals for the future and what you want for your career development.
“There isn’t room for growth with my current employer and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge.”
12. How do you evaluate success?
This question is giving an insight into your work ethic and general career and personal goals. In essence, it will reveal a lot about how you operate. It’s a great opportunity to show your values such as motivation, determination, drive and enthusiasm.
“I evaluate success based on not only my work, but the work of my team. In order for me to be considered successful, the team needs to achieve both our individual and our team goals.”
13. Why do you want this job?
Everyone must have been asked this in an interview so your answer is expected to be confident and to the point as they want to know if the position is in line with your career goals. Make sure you demonstrate your knowledge of the company, emphasise what you can contribute and why you’d be a good fit.
“I’ve found that your company is up and coming through reading several articles and press releases and I would love to be a part of your business as it grows and develops. I feel my extensive experience in project management will contribute greatly to your expansion during this exciting time.”
14. Why should we hire you for this position?
This is a chance to expand on what you can bring to the company. What kind of achievements can you see yourself making in this role? It’s time to sell yourself!
Make sure you know the skills and expectations required for the job and how your experience and qualifications can fit well into this. Try to keep it concise.
“I have high-quality management skills that I would love to apply to the role and I believe I’d be an asset to your company. From the job description, I feel my skill set is a perfect match for the person you’re looking for. I would relish the opportunity to be a crucial part of your team.”
15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
With this answer, it would be good to think about how the company can be involved in your future career plans and make sure you indicate that you’re intending to stay fairly long-term with them.
“I’m really looking to evolve within a company where I can see myself growing, developing new skills and taking on different responsibilities. I love that you invest in career development and I think these would be great opportunities for me to develop further my skill set and contribute fully to the future of your company.”
16. What are your salary expectations?
This can sometimes be an awkward question to answer especially if you’re unaware of the salary. Make sure you take time to research similar salaries online so that you have a ballpark amount but also take into account your worth. It’s important to not try your luck and go for a figure that’s way too high either.
“Taking into account the role and responsibilities, I would be expecting around XX (include a range) but I’m open and flexible to negotiating.”
17. Talk to me about what you’re passionate about.
This is to find out what kind of person you are. Your answer doesn’t have to revolve around work and career so feel free to talk about what you get up to out of work hours. Whatever is important to you is relevant here and be genuine as this will allow your answer to come across as enthusiastic.
“I’m passionate about making a difference to people’s lives and my community as a whole. I spend much of my time volunteering with children and young adults who are seeking extra support which allows me to bring a sense of value to them as well as myself.”
18. Who was your best and worst boss and why?
This is a way to find out what management style you lean to and away from. It’s really important to not come across as too negative about your worst boss, instead spin anything negative around to show what you learned from it. Negativity can leave a potential employer wondering how you would speak about them given the opportunity.
“I’ve appreciated every boss I’ve had. The best ones have shown me what to do while the more challenging ones have taught me what not to do.”
19. General questions about your previous co-workers.
Another way to evaluate how you would fit in with the culture of the company along with your communication and interpersonal skills, is asking how your relationships were with your previous co-workers. It could range from “tell me about a time you worked with a challenging co-worker” to “tell me about a time you helped out a co-worker.”
These can come in many forms so it’s good to have a few answers prepared beforehand.
“I’ve had the experience of working with someone challenging as they were very unpredictable. However, I chose to focus on their positive aspects such as their skills and ability to problem-solve. This allowed me work well with them even though we were never considered friends.”
20. Do you have any questions?
This is always an inevitable question at the end of the interview. Never say no – always come prepared with a few in your mind otherwise it will show disinterest. It can even give you further opportunity to highlight any skills you didn’t manage to show during the interview.
“How would you describe the responsibilities of the position?”
“What are the prospects for growth and progression within the role?”
“What are the biggest challenges of this job?”
“In your opinion, what would you say is the best part of working for this company?”
“What sort of management style does the company adopt?”