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How to Answer Common Interview Questions

Updated on Sep 15, 2020 5376 views
How to Answer Common Interview Questions

Congratulations, you finally got called back for an interview, that means you have crossed the first hurdle of getting a job. Now you just need to  jump the second hurdle which is acing the interview, by knowing How to Answer these common interview questions.

Normally, most job seekers what most job seekers would do is to go to the interview, listen to the questions and then give the interviewer an answer off the top of their head, whether it is suitable for the question or not.

Note that this is a bad tactic to use because the interviewer could be asking you a question to either gauge your character and know who you are beyond your work personality or even to trap you in a lie.

So, before you botch that interview based on a hunch, use our step by step guide on answering these 30 common interview questions:


Top 30 Common Interview Questions:

30 Common Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself?

  2. How did you hear about the position?

  3. What are your strengths?

  4. Tell us some of your weaknesses?

  5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

  6. What do you know about the company?

  7. What other companies are you applying with?

  8. Why do you want this job?

  9. What can you bring to the company?

  10. Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.

  11. Why should we hire you?

  12. Tell us about a challenge you have faced at work, and how you dealt with it.

  13. What is your dream job?

  14. Why are you leaving your current job?

  15. What did you like most about your last position?

  16. What did you like least about your last position?

  17. What motivates you?

  18. What are you passionate about?

  19. What interests you about this role?

  20. Have you handled any leadership role? Tell us about it.

  21. How would your former boss and colleagues describe you?

  22. How do you handle pressure and stress?

  23. How do you handle dealing with difficult clients?

  24. Tell me about a difficult work situation and how you resolved it?

  25. What are your salary requirements?

  26. What are your hobbies?

  27. What are your pet peeves?

  28. Would you describe yourself as a team player?

  29. What was the last book you read? Tell us about it.

  30. Do you have any question for us?

Interested in learning how to answer these popular job interview questions? Let's dive in.


1. Tell Me About Yourself?

This question is tricky because it seems simple. Many applicants fall into the trap of thinking it is simple and so, they answer it literally when it is actually an invitation to not exactly tell them about yourself but to sell yourself.

You can start with your name but that should be where you end saying anything personal. It is basically a summary of your professional history and how it relates to the position you are applying for.

What this means is that you can leave out any detail that has no bearing on the position you are applying for and emphasis your skills, experiences, educational background and even accomplishments that shows you are the best candidate for the job.

Learn how to answer the interview questions "tell me about yourself"


2. How Did You Hear About The Position?

This question is quite straightforward and you don’t have to go into a long essay on how you heard about it. Sometimes, you might want to keep the fact that you heard about the position from someone in the company because you don’t want to come off as promoting nepotism but it is important to still be truthful.

You don’t have to go into details; just make it clear how excited you are to have heard about the job opening from (whoever it is) because you have always wanted to work there.

If you found the vacancy online or neutral party, it is easier but make sure that you don’t communicate it was a random application but that you were actually enthusiastic to apply.


3. What Are Your Strengths?

The worst way to answer this question is to start listing your perceived strengths and going on and on about it.

The interviewer is really not interested in a list of your strength; what the interviewer wants to know is whether you possess qualities that would help you succeed in the position applied for.

You are more likely to create a good impression if you talk about three qualities as it relates to the position than if you simply list ten qualities.

The implication of this is that you should talk about particular strengths and go on to explain how it will make you perform excellently in the position. You can even give a past story of how that strength has helped you in your current or past position.


4. Tell Us Some Of Your Weaknesses?

Please, don’t follow the clichéd route of talking about weaknesses that are supposedly strengths, like, “I am a perfectionist.” While this might be smart, interviewers have heard enough of it and therefore, you will sound phoney.

Interviewers are likely asking you this to know that you are self-aware and you recognise you are flawed. However, you also don’t want to list weaknesses that could hurt your chances.

The best way to answer this question is to mention a flaw that won’t hurt your chances and talk about how you are working to improve yourself; it is important to mention that you are improving. Check out this article for the best way to answer the interview question what is your greatest weakness.


5. Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

There are certain things the interviewer wants to know with this question; do you have ambition? Do your goals align with the position? Are you realistic?

For instance, you cannot answer that you don’t know or haven’t thought about it neither can you come up with lofty dreams that just seems unrealistic.

To answer this question, you don’t even have to go into details, especially, as it relates to the position you hope to have reached. You can talk about the skills you hope to have developed by then.

However, if you are totally not sure, you can answer that you are certain the experience will make the future clear to you even though you are not sure what the future holds.

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?


6. What Do You Know About The Company?

This is usually the question that many candidates answer by reciting the company’s mission and vision statement that they have read. You don’t necessarily have to shy away from the fact that you read the mission statement because they actually expect you to have read it.

However, you don’t just want to recite because the interviewer wants to know that you relate to the company. So, when you make reference to the mission and vision of the company, mention how you personally relate to it or how you feel you can contribute to achieving the vision of the company.


7. What Other Companies Are You Applying With?

It will be wrong to answer this question by listing the names of companies you are applying to. The interviewer wants to be sure that you are interested in the position and not just applying randomly to different companies.

As much as they know bills have to be paid, companies want to know that you actually have a professional plan and care about the industry and position you work for.

So, the best way to answer the question is to simply say you are applying to a number of companies in this particular industry where you can apply ABC skills and develop XYZ skills.


8. Why Do You Want This Job?

Companies want to hire employees who are passionate about the company and the job because employees really are the life of the company. So, you should have a good reason why you want to work with that company before your interview. You can state why the position itself is good for you and also what you love about the company and why you will like to be a part of them.


9. What Can You Bring To The Company?

This is a great opportunity to sell yourself but it could also be the question that could ruin your chances of getting employed. What the interviewer wants is to find out if you have anything new you would be bringing to the company beyond the usual.

Sure, there are certain qualities they are looking out for but what extra quality do you have that will add value to the company. This is a question that you can only answer through proper research of that company and the position, so you can find a gap that you can personally fill. This interview question is similar to the job interview questions "what sets you apart from other candidates?"


10. Tell Us About An Accomplishment You Are Most Proud Of?

This question is simply to figure out your precedents because it is a good determinant of what you have to offer in your new role. This is a question you should have prepared for before the interview.

Think about a professional accomplishment as it relates to the position you are applying for that will convince the interviewer that you are qualified and ready to work. Basically, relate a problem or situation and how the action you took provided a solution or result.

Tell Us About An Accomplishment You Are Most Proud Of?


11. Why Should We Hire You?

This seems like a trick question but it is an opportunity to let the interviewer know that they will be making a good decision by hiring you.

Remember that you are not the only one who applied and you are likely not the only one that is being interviewed, so this is your chance to convince them you are the best candidate.

How do you do this? You do this simply by emphasising on your skills that will help you do an excellent job and how your values align with the culture of the company.

Read here to find the best answer to the interview questions what sets you apart from other candidates


12. Tell Us About A Challenge You Faced And How You Handled It?

Every industry and position has its own pressure and it is not surprising that interviewers want to be sure that employees can handle the pressure. This question is basically another way of finding out how you handle pressure and also solve problems.

To answer this question, you have to have a story at hand that would indicate how dedicated you are to solving a problem or get result.


13. What Is Your Dream Job?

The interviewer basically wants to be sure that the position is fit for you and not a random job you want to get to while away the time while searching for your dream job.

Recruiters don’t want to have to go through hiring every time; it is really not a walk in the park. However, you don’t necessarily have to mention a particular position as your dream job.

Instead, you should talk about how your dream job is where you can apply your skills (strengths and experiences), your interests and your values.


14. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?

One thing you don’t want to do when answering this question is to be negative. Most people leave their jobs for better offer but you don’t want to tell that to an interviewer because it immediately feels like you will soon leave them for another better offer.

So, make sure your answer is focused on your career goals; telling them you are moving forward in your career goals is a great way to answer this question. You can, however, give other reasons if they fit, like relocation, for instance.

Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?


15. What Did You Like The Most About Your Last Position?

This question might seem easy but that is if you answer it correctly. This is not the time to talk about the cafeteria or your salary or the fact the company has an end of the year party for the staff.

Now, you can include that at the end – with humour, after talking about aspect of the job that actually had to do with the work and achieving result. But make sure your main answer has to do with the position; it could be the teamwork or you were able to push yourself to deliver.


16. What Did You Like The Least About Your Last Position?

Although this question seems like the opportunity to be negative, you don’t want to fall into that trap. So, don’t go into a long diatribe about what you hate about your last position.

Start by talking about what you did like and then mention something that was challenging; you are likely to get away with it if you make it seem like a challenge as against something you hated outright.

And then finish by talking about how excited you are about the position you are applying for as it relates to the challenge. Avoid mentioning any issue that is common with that position or industry; try to mention only something that is not an issue with the present job.


17. What Motivates You?

Interviewers want to know that you are motivated by the right things and your motivation aligns with the values of the company. To answer this question, it will be great to focus on motivations that will show you are self-aware and ready to work.

What this implies is that you want to communicate to the interviewer that your motivation pushes you to perform excellently.


18. What Are You Most Passionate About?

This question is very similar to the one above and you are likely not to be asked both in an interview because the answers can be used interchangeably. However, if you are, you can start by saying, “as I mentioned earlier ...”

The interviewer, basically, wants to know that your passions align with what they are looking for, so tailor your answer to help your chances in landing the job.


19. What Interests You About This Role?

The interviewer wants to know that you actually want the job and you are interested in doing the job. For this question, you should talk about how your skills, interests, passions and values align with that of the position, company and industry. It is important to mention some of the job requirement and some aspect of the company’s mission statement that interests you or just something you know about the company that interests you.


20. Have You Ever Handled Any Leadership Role, Tell Us About It?

Leadership is an enviable trait in employees, especially if you will be expected to lead a team. So, if you are asked this question, the interviewer wants to know that you can handle being a leader.

It is important that you don’t say “no” to this question but mention a time you handled a leadership position – no matter how seemingly unimportant and talk about how you handled it like an actual leader.

One of the major things to look out for is the fact that you carried your team along and have a collaborative spirit.


21. How Would Your Former Boss And Colleagues Describe You?

You might be tempted to start boasting and listing qualities you don’t have but remember that the interviewer will probably do their own research and talk to your former boss and colleague. So while you should, indeed, use the opportunity to sell yourself, make sure to keep it honest.

This is, especially, an opportunity to talk about strengths you have not earlier mentioned or that haven’t come up; diligence, hard work, willingness to go the extra mile amongst others.


22. How Do You Handle Pressure And Stress?

Work stress is practically unavoidable, especially during peak periods and every company or industry has its peak periods. Recruiters want to know that their employees can calmly provide results even in a stressful situation.

A good way to approach this question is to talk about how you address stressful situations with calmness while providing an example when you had to calmly achieve results during pressure.


23. How Do You Handle Dealing With Difficult Clients?

Clients come in different shapes and forms and it is almost impossible to avoid meeting one or two difficult clients. The interviewer wants to know that you will approach even the most difficult client with respect, politeness and tact.

This is the chance to let your interviewer know that you have people’s skills and emotional intelligence. Let them know that you will express yourself respectfully and try to calmly explain the situation, whether you are right or wrong.


24. Tell Me About A Difficult Work Situation And How You Handled It?

The ability to achieve results and find a solution in difficult work situations is an admirable trait and so, it is not surprising that recruiters seek employees who can successfully achieve this.

The best way to achieve this is to give an example by telling them a story, instead of just trying to convince them that you can achieve result in a difficult work situation. They are likely to believe a practical example than theory.


25. What Are Your Salary Requirements?

Recruiters ask this question to be sure that your salary expectation is not beyond the amount budgeted for that position or so to decipher if you know your worth – it could be turn off if you sell yourself short, so there is no need for false modesty.

The best way to approach this question is to have researched the salary range of that position before the interview and make sure to let them know you are open for negotiation.

If you are not able to find the salary range, you can use your intuition but still make it clear that you are flexible. Also, note that it is better to give a range than to quote a single price.

Learn how to answer the interview question "what is your salary expectation"

What Are Your Salary Requirements?


26. What Are Your Hobbies?

Interviewers want to employ humans and not robots. If this question is asked, the interviewer wants to know that you have a life outside work. A well-rounded individual is likely to be more productive.

So, don’t make it seem like you don’t have a life when you do because you think it will increase your chances. And if you do not have a social life, it is important to have one.

However, you don’t want to make it seem like you are a party-pooper or a drunkard, so keep it simple.


27. What Are Your Pet Peeves?

You are human and therefore, allowed to have likes and dislikes. However, make sure that the pet peeves you mention have no bearing with what you are likely to experience at work. Also, you don’t want to come off as an intolerant or easily offended person, so try to end it on a positive note.

You can communicate that you understand people are different and so, you are trying to understand and tolerate people who do ..., especially if you have to work together or share a space.


28. Would You Describe Yourself As A Team Player?

Most companies survive on teamwork. Even if you are not in a department and largely have to work alone, you will likely not be able to avoid collaborating with other talents.

So, the question is to know if you can work with others seamlessly or you are not open to collaborations. A good way to answer this question is to point them to a time or experience you had working in a team and how you were able to work with others to achieve results.


29. What Was The Last Book You Read, Tell Us About It?

You should be a reader anyway; readers are leaders. At least, you should have read one or two books on life generally or your field. If it is not recent, you don’t have to mention the exact time you read the book. But saying you don’t read or do not have any book in mind is not the best answer to this question. Pick any book that you can remember properly, speak briefly on it and mention what you learnt from it.


30. Do You Have Any Question For Us?

Yes, you should have a question; it will not only help you be sure the position is a right fit for you but it will also show the interviewer you are excited about the job.

Some great questions include asking about the interviewer’s experience working in the company, the company’s products or growth plan.

Avoid asking questions whose answers are obvious or whose answers you can clearly find on the company’s website. The kind of question you ask is a good indication of how intelligent you are.

Remember that a job interview question isn't something you answer on a hunch. Before you answer, understand the interviewer's reason for asking you the question and be sure to give a suitable response.

Good Luck!


Further Resources:

Suggested Video:

Top CV Writing Mistakes To Avoid In 2019


Staff Writer

This article was written and edited by a staff writer.

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