13 Common Interview Questions (And How To Answer Them)

No two job interviews are the same.

The company you’re applying to is different, the room you’re interviewing in is different, and the person interviewing you is different.

While the same can be said for interview questions, in reality, many companies draw from the same stack of questions, and a handful of those questions are far more common than others.

This article will break down the most common interview questions, why they’re so frequently asked, and how to effectively answer them.

1. “Tell Me About Yourself?”

Variations of this question:

  • What can you tell us about yourself?
  • Tell me about your background?
  • What’s your story?
  • What lead you here today?

Why Do They Ask It?

This is a very commonly used opener in job interviews because it has the potential to reveal so much about who you are in one fell swoop.

It’s an entirely open-ended question, meaning candidates can take their answer in whatever direction they feel is both relevant and necessary.

In other words, you control the narrative.

Do you talk about your hobbies or professional achievements? Do you talk about your friends, or your colleagues? Do you talk about your hardships in life, or how fortunate you are?

What you choose to focus on in your life is one of the most telling things about any candidate, which makes this a staple question in many job interviews.

How Should You Answer?

Despite the open-ended nature of this question, there are few unwritten rules you need to be aware of when telling your story.

  1. Stick to the timeline. Explain events in the order they happen to make them easier to follow. Don’t jump from working your third job back to your graduation day.
  2. Stay relevant. Unless you’re applying for a job in anime, employers don’t want to know about your Pokemon collection. Everything should lead back to the job at hand, and ultimately what you brought you here today.
  3. Keep it short. Be selective about what you share, even if the information is relevant. If you end up talking for more than 2 minutes, you weren’t concise enough.

2. “How Did You Hear About This Position?”

Variations of this question:

  • How did you learn about this job vacancy?
  • Where did you learn about this job opening?
  • Who told you about this opportunity?

Why Do They Ask It?

Interviewers and recruiters like to know where their “leads” are coming from, so there’s certainly an aspect of curiosity around this one.

But more than that, they want to know the intent behind your job search.

Did you specifically seek out a role like this one because it fits your skills, qualifications, personality and/or goals, or was this just another opportunity caught in your (very wide) net?

When an interview see’s intent, they see someone who has qualified an opportunity before throwing themselves into it, and that almost always makes for a better employee in the long-term.

How Should You Answer?

The goal here is to show that you wanted to interview for this role at this company, rather than just any interview you could get.

To do that, you should focus on two things:

  1. How you learned about the opening
  2. Why you decided to go for it

(If you threw a wide net with your job search, it’s a good idea to spend more time on #2 in order to make up for the lack of specificity in #1.)

Be sure to elaborate on your answer as much as possible. For example, instead of simply saying “my friend told me”, you could mention:

  • How your friend found out about it
  • Why they came to you with the opportunity
  • How you felt when you heard the news

When talking about why you decided to apply for the opening, briefly touch on your qualifications and experience, as well as how the role aligns with your personal and professional goals.

3. “What Do You Know About Our Company?”

Variations of this question:

  • What do you know about us?
  • What can you tell me about the company?
  • Did you do any research on our company?
  • Are you familiar with what we do?
  • What problem do we solve as a company?

Why Do They Ask It?

Like the previous question, this one looks for some degree of intent in your job search.

From an employer’s perspective, someone who will take any interview they can get probably isn’t picky about where they work — and they almost certainly won’t know much about the company they’re applying at.

By showing that you have some background knowledge of the company, you show that you actually care enough to put in some research.

It also demonstrates that you take planning and preparation seriously. What employer doesn’t love that?

How Should You Answer?

You’ll need to spend time researching the company before you go to the job interview, or the rest falls to pieces.

Start with the company website. Read their main pages, and be sure to look in the main navigation as well as the footer section for links.

Also hunt down their Wikipedia page, as you can find a lot of background information that likely isn’t written on the official website.

Here are a few things you’ll want to make a mental note of:

  • Their website
  • Their country of origin
  • When they were founded
  • How many stores they have
  • Where they have most store coverage
  • Where their largest store is located
  • Where their HQ is located

Don’t go overboard in the interview. Mentioning 2 or 3 facts about the company and why they stuck out to you should do the trick.

4. “Why Do You Want To Work Here?”

Variations of this question:

  • Why this job?
  • Why are you interested in working here?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What do you hope to gain from this position?
  • What attracts you to this role?

Why Do They Ask It?

Interviewers aren’t only looking for someone who’s qualified, but also someone who will stick around for the long haul.

If you have a compelling reason for wanting to work at their company (as opposed to any company), you’re far more likely to stay on, integrate with coworkers, work your way up the career ladder, and so on.

Aside from that, setting standards for your job search shows that you care about your career choice, and that’s a respectable thing.

How Should You Answer?

The only thing you need to do here is give them a reason that is somewhat unique to the company or role.

Reasons like having “a steady income” or “building your resume” aren’t suitable reasons because they can apply to any job.

Instead, look for desirable qualities in the position you’re applying for, whether it’s gaining experience in their field, working alongside their team, using their technology, or anything else that few other companies can replicate.

5. “What Makes You Qualified For This Position?”

Note: We have a dedicated article on this specific interview question, including example answers. You can read it here.

Variations of this question:

  • Why do you feel you are qualified for this position?
  • What makes you suited for this position?
  • What relevant qualifications do you possess for this job?
  • What skills do you have that are ideal for this job?
  • What past experiences qualify you for this position?

Why Do They Ask It?

At first glance, this might seem like another variation of the previous question.

In reality, this is no longer about why you want the role but everything to do with why you deserve the role.

The interviewer wants to know what skills, qualifications, and experience you bring to the table, and, more importantly, which of those will help you excel in your role at the company.

After all, if you can’t answer that question for yourself, how can you expect an employer to justify hiring you?

How Should You Answer?

While you might be tempted to list off your resume, remember that the question specifically asks about your qualifications “for this position”.

Not everything in your professional arsenal is going to be relevant to the job in question, so you’ll need to be selective.

In particular, it’s important to read the job description several times over before your interview, and make a mental note of any listed requirements that align well with your resume.

Finally, remember that being “qualified” isn’t limited to educational achievements, but also your skills, experience, and even your personality traits.

6. “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”

Note: We have a dedicated article on this specific interview question, including example answers. You can read it here.

Variations of this question:

  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What are your 3 biggest weaknesses?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • Do you have any self-development goals?
  • What would your previous employer say is an area you need to improve?

Why Do They Ask It?

Interviewers love this question because it forces you into a vulnerable position where, on the surface, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

How you handle that dilemma says a lot about who you are.

On one hand, it highlights your own self-awareness or lack thereof. On the other, it reveals whether you have any mission-critical weaknesses or weaknesses that will hinder your ability to perform on the job.

Both of these are key pieces of information for an interviewer or recruiter.

How Should You Answer?

It’s tempting to try and sidestep this question by saying you don’t have any weaknesses, but that’s actually the worst answer you could give.

Nobody is perfect, and being able to identify flaws in oneself is something employers value in employees.

So you’ll need to identify one of your weaknesses, and one that doesn’t disqualify you from the role you’re applying for. (For example, having little patience isn’t ideal if you’re interviewing for a customer-facing role.)

It’s also wise to add context with an example. This can be a story that highlights a time this weakness hindered you, and more importantly, how you identified the weakness as the cause.

Finally, explaining how you plan to improve yourself to eliminate that weakness will be the cherry-on-top, even if you haven’t already taken steps to do so.

7. “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

Note: We have a dedicated article on this specific interview question, including example answers. You can read it here.

Variations of this question:

  • What is your biggest strength?
  • What are your top 3 strengths?
  • What areas do you excel in?
  • What would a former employer say is your best attribute?
  • What do you consider to be your best professional attributes?

Why Do They Ask It?

While this question appears to be related to the last, it’s actually more closely aligned to another question on this list (“Why should we hire you?”).

There’s no real underlying meaning here, only a question of what you feel your strengths are, and ultimately what you bring to the table as an employee.

Interviewers and recruiters will have some idea of what these are based on your resume, but they always love to hear your perspective, and whether you have the confidence to back up what you wrote down.

How Should You Answer?

Well, you’ll want to start your answer by highlighting a relevant strength.

By relevant, I mean a strength that will be beneficial in your prospective role at the company, even if it’s not immediately obvious (you’ll have a chance to explain it).

You can choose to highlight hard skills like bookkeeping or speaking a foreign language, or they can be soft skills like an aptitude for problem-solving or a high level of empathy — or even one of each.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to add context with an example. Specifically, this should be a story or experience that demonstrates how this strength benefited you or the people around you.

8. “Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?”

Variations of this question:

  • What do the next 5 years look like for you?
  • Where would you like to be 5 years from now?
  • What are your goals for the next 5 years?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Why Is It Asked?

This question helps interviewers figure out if you’re a good fit for the company long-term, and if your goals align with the position.

For example, there’s little point in hiring someone who hopes to progress into a managerial position when that pathway isn’t likely to open up.

In many ways, this question helps you as much as it helps them because it corrects any misaligned expectations. Of course, this may even change how you view the opportunity.

How Should You Answer?

The obvious answer is actually the right one. They want to know if you’ll still be around in 5 years, so tell them you’re fully committed.

But more than that, you need to show that you intend to grow as an employee, whether it be progressing higher up in the company, building on your qualifications, or developing essential skills.

In other words, not only should you communicate your willingness to be a part of the company long-term, but also how you plan to increase your value as an employee over the course of that period.

9. “Tell Me About A Challenge You Faced And How You Overcame It?”

Note: We have a dedicated article on this specific interview question, including example answers. You can read it here.

Variations of this question:

  • What’s the most difficult situation you’ve overcome?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced at work?
  • What situations do you find challenging?
  • How do you overcome difficulties at work?

Why Is It Asked?

Interviewers like to throw some tough questions at candidates to see how they handle pressure, and this is certainly a popular one to fill that quota.

But it’s more just putting you under pressure. Ultimately, want to see that you have the ability to solve problems through logic and reasoning.

In particular, being good at solving problems makes you an asset to the company as opposed to a drain on resources who relies on other people to step in and make the hard decisions.

How Should You Answer?

You’ll need to explain a scenario from recent experience, be it professional or personal in nature.

Something work-related is often ideal, though overcoming a significant challenge in your personal life can be just as powerful.

Once you’ve laid out the challenge you had to face, you’ll need to explain the exact steps you took to resolve it. Explain your thought process in detail, including any attempts that failed along the way.

Finally, summarize the story with the lesson (or lessons) you took away from that experience, and how you grew as a person as a result.

10. “What Is Your Greatest Achievement?”

Variations of this question:

  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • What achievement are you most proud of?
  • What do you consider to be your proudest moment?

Why Is It Common?

Some questions only graze the surface of who you are and what you’re all about.

This one is deceptively simple, but also extremely revealing for an interviewer, which is why it’s so commonly thrown into the mix.

Depending on how you choose to answer, it can provide a glimpse into your values—both from a professional and ethical standpoint—as well as your own personal definition of success.

How Should You Answer?

You’ll need to think back at something you accomplished in your life that felt significant to you, and lead with that.

Ideally, this should be something fairly recent, and, if possible, related to your professional life (but it doesn’t need to be).

From here, rewind the clock and tell a story leading up to that achievement. Detail the challenges you faced, and how you overcame them.

Finally, describe what it felt like to finally reach that goal, and explain what it meant to you on a personal level.

11. “What Is Your Ideal Work Environment?”

Variations of this question:

  • What is the perfect work environment?
  • What working environment do you excel in?
  • What is the best working environment for you?
  • What work environment increases your productivity?
  • What work environment can help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you work better alone or with others?

Why Is It Asked?

Everyone works and performs differently in different environments, so this question is used to get a handle on what makes you “tick”.

Do you prefer to work in isolation, or do you need a busy, social environment to do your best work?

If your preferences on the ideal work environment don’t align with the current position, that’s something the interviewer ought to know before making their decision.

How Should You Answer?

Start by telling them what you value in a workplace, while also keeping in mind what type of workplace it’s likely to be if given the job.

Maybe like you working in teams instead of working in solitude. Maybe you like working outdoors instead of cooped up in an office cubicle. Or maybe you thrive in a competitive environment. Whatever it is, be specific.

Then explain why it matters. Not just for you, personally, but for your colleagues and the company as well.

For example, working in teams allows you to bounce ideas off of each other, solve problems faster, and ultimately develop better connections with colleagues.

12. “How Would You Describe Your Management Style?”

Variations of this question:

  • What is your preferred management style?
  • What is your leadership style?
  • How do you go about managing a team?

Why Is It Common?

This question can show up even when the position doesn’t call for managerial responsibilities.

Leadership skills can be useful in almost any role, and having a team member who can take the reigns when it’s required of them will always be invaluable to the company.

By asking about your specific management style, they not only get a read on your ability to manage a team but also how you would approach it — considering that some styles typically produce better results than others.

How Should You Answer?

The best way to approach this question is to use words that can always be associated with good management.

This could be things like giving clear directions, always being around to offer assistance or advice, and staying on top of what’s happening without micro-managing everyone.

If possible, however, it’s a good idea to add a bit of your own flavor when talking about your own management style. This could something as small as being more vocal in offering help, as long it breaks away from the generic script.

It can also help to think back to previous jobs and managers you’ve worked with, and picking out some positive leadership traits that stood out to you.

13. “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Variations of this question:

  • Why did you leave your previous employer?
  • What’s the reason for terminating your previous employment?
  • What made you quit your last job?
  • Why did you decide to find a new job?

Why Is It Common?

Employee churn is a real concern for interviewers, because it means wasted time, resources and money for the company.

Having a clear understanding of why you left your previous job, be it willfully or forcefully, will give some insight on how likely you are to stick around this time.

While it’s okay to seek out new opportunities, the reason for doing so isn’t always going to reflect well on your as a potential employee, and this question aims to get to the heart of that.

How Should You Answer?

Admirable reasons for leaving a job will always sit well with interviewers, so you’ll want to appeal to that.

Wanting to grow and learn new things is an admirable reason, as is chasing a passion or something that better aligns with your values. The same goes for seeking new challenges to keep you engaged in your work.

Even wanting more money is a perfectly valid reason. Knowing your worth and drawing a line is a respectable quality, but it shouldn’t be the only reason you decided to abandon ship.

If you were fired from your last job, the best thing you can do is tell the truth and take responsibility for it (yes, even if you feel otherwise). Badmouthing your previous employer will never work in your favor.

You’ve Got This!

Answering interview questions can be difficult when you don’t know what to expect.

But if you learn the most common interview questions, you can brush up on your answers ahead of time, leaving very little to chance.

A bit of preparation makes a huge difference, so practice your answers from memory, work on your delivery, and remember… you’ve got this!

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