How to Answer the Most Common Job Interview Questions

I know I said that I’d post fewer guest posts, but this week is an exception because I’m partnering with my friend and career confidant, Jamie Petkanics, the founder of the job search consultancy, The Prepary. I scheduled a few sessions with Jamie when I was searching for a job and she was so helpful. Finding a job can be a stressful process, but working with Jaime gave me the confidence to navigate it. And she can help you too! Jamie just launched her first online course and has graciously offered Elana Lyn readers a 15% discount with the code ELANALYN. The course walks through how to navigate the job search, shares templates for every job search scenario (including resume and cover letter templates), and comes with weekly online office hours included for all participants.  Speaking of questions…we’ve decided to share Jamie’s advice for how to answer the most common job interview questions.

She will also be answering your job search questions on Elana Lyn this week. Leave your questions in the comments or shoot me a note!

How to Answer the 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions

How to Answer the Most Common Job Interview Questions

This post is going to cover how to answer the 10 most common interview questions. As a former recruiter, I’ve asked these thousands of times because they do give a lot of insight to who a candidate is and if they might be a good fit for an open role.

For each of the 10 most common interview questions below, I’ll give a few quick tips as well as links to other posts with more detailed information on how to answer them:

Tell me about yourself. Walk me through your resume.

How to answer: Tell a short (under 1-3 minutes) but interesting story that highlights the most relevant parts of your work experience, education, and other skills/hobbies.

The best answers are chronological and each part of the story builds on the part before. An example from my own career path would be:

“I’ve always been interested in the way people work and therefore decided to study Psychology at NYU. Upon graduation I started my first job at JPMorgan where I [key responsibilities]. From there, I [explain reason for transition] and landed at Tory Burch where I spent the next 4 years in a number of roles. I was responsible for [key responsibilities/results]. [continue on]”

I recommend ending this answer in the present moment by explaining how you came across the job you’re interviewing for and why it’s the right move for you at this stage in your career.

Additional resources: more on how to answer this question here

Why are you suitable for this job?

How to answer: This is the interviewer asking you how what you’ve done in the past will enable you to do the tasks of the job you are interviewing for.

Study the job description and for each responsibility listed, think of an example from your past when you have done a similar task.  You can also speak to what skills you’ve developed that would help you do a great job. You can frame the answer like this:

“I noticed on the job description that X is one of the main responsibilities in this job. In my last role as a Y, Z was one of my main responsibilities and definitely have prepared me to do X.”

If there’s anything you haven’t done, don’t worry.  Most interviewers don’t expect you to make a career move to do that exact same thing you were doing. Finding relevant and transferable experience is key.

Additional resources: More on how to answer this question here.

Why do you want to work at this company? What do you know about this company?

How to answer: You are being asked this because employees who are passionate about a company are more likely to be more passionate about their work.  

Additionally if your interviewer really loves the company they work for, that’s something they’ll want to connect with you on.  

There are many good reasons why you may want to work at a certain company like the leadership, the mission, the business, the culture, the product, etc.

Do your research beforehand, pick the reasons that are genuinely most important to you, and be ready to speak to them.

Additional resources: More on how to answer this question here.

Why are you looking to leave your current job? Why did you leave your last job?

How to answer: You probably have totally legitimate reasons for leaving your last job or wanting to leave your current one. As long as you’re diplomatic, feel free to give a truthful answer.  Here your interview wants to make sure that the themes behind leaving won’t reoccur in the current role.  For example, if you are leaving because there are no growth opportunities but the interviewer knows this company also won’t have growth opportunities, it may be something they think about before offering you the job.

Additional resources: More on how to answer this question here.

What are your biggest strengths? What are your biggest weaknesses?

How to answer: These questions are sometimes asked together and other times separately.

When you talk about your strength, list one that is relevant to the job (you’ll learn what they’re looking for in the job description). Also, always be able to back up your claim with multiple examples of times when you used that strength.  

For your weakness, give a true, honest weakness (not a bs one) but make sure your weakness isn’t a skill that is critical to the job.

Additional resources: Read more on how to answer “what is your biggest strength” and “what is your biggest weakness”

Where do you see yourself in X years?

How to answer: This question is being asked because the company wants to see if your own career goals align with those of the company. In other words, can you achieve your goals there, or will you have to leave in the near future?

You want to come across as ambitious and make it clear that you’ve thought about your longer term career goals without making the company feel that you’re going to leave quickly to other opportunities.

For example, going to grad school or starting your own company are great professional goals, but not a great answer to this question.

Additional resources: More on how to answer this question here.

What are your salary expectations?

How to answer: This may not always be asked in the first interview but it will likely be asked at some point in the process. It’s a tricky one and many people will tell you to lie.

I personally do NOT believe in lying (it can come back to haunt you and lose you the job) but I do suggest you do your research and have a firm and educated expectation.

Additional resources: More on how to answer this question here.

Tell me about a time when you’ve worked with a difficult person or manager.

How to answer: This question may not always be asked in this exact form but you will be asked about what you’ve done when you’ve encountered difficult situations.  

You’ll want to make sure you stay diplomatic whenever you answer a question like this and also show that you acknowledge your responsibility in the situation and resist the temptation to blame others.  

You also want to show that you handled it in a way that was unemotional and professional.

Additional resources: More on how to answer this question here.

Tell me more about…

How to answer: When you submit a resume, you basically give the interviewer the right to ask you to elaborate on any part of it. That’s why you should never lie about something you’ve done and why you should be prepared to speak to all the different aspects of your resume.  

Careers can be long, so before going into an interview, definitely make sure you refresh yourself on your own resume and think of big wins and accomplishments from each role.

I hope this post has been helpful! The Conquer Your Job Search course contains a full module fully dedicated to interview prep and will walk you through exactly how to save your resume from that black hole so you can land them. Check out the full curriculum at courses.prepary.com.

This post originally appeared on The Prepary.

Don’t miss your chance to have your questions answered by Jamie! Let us know in the comments or by email.

images via Lemon Stripes and Lauren Nelson.

26 Responses to How to Answer the Most Common Job Interview Questions

  1. This post came at the perfect time, as I am preparing to go on an interview tomorrow. Thanks for sharing these helpful answers to a few common interview questions.

    http://www.livinginsteil.com

  2. Tori says:

    I definitely always struggle with the classic “tell me about yourself” question! Thanks for a great post.

    Tori
    mooretori.blogspot.com

  3. These are some great tips! I’ve never done a big interview before and this definitely helped me know how to prepare and what to expect. Great post!

    http://www.kennedyswonderland.wordpress.com

  4. Kayleigh says:

    Ah this helps me so much because I have an interview today! Love these responses!
    http://www.kayleighskloset.com

  5. Bella B says:

    What a great post and its so helpful too. I am always so nervous for interviews, This will totally help me!! Thank you for the great share

    http://xoxobella.com

  6. Ashley says:

    This post is so helpful! These are all really fabulous tips! Bookmarking!

    xo Ashley

  7. Amy says:

    I’m currently taking a Business Communications class today and we just went over the topic of interview questions, perfect timing!! This is also super helpful, def referencing this in the future!
    xoxo
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  8. Mckenna Bleu says:

    Your post are always so helpful! I love that you shared this

  9. Corbin says:

    Such a useful post and I love that you listed additional resources as well. Thanks so much!

    XO Corbin Tate

  10. Summer says:

    Love your take and answers on these! 🙂

  11. Such great tips! I’ll definitely keep these in mind for my next job interview.

  12. Kristin says:

    I loved reading these tips! I just pinned them so I have them for my next interview!

    Kristin
    The Blush Blonde

  13. Jordyn says:

    I recently was going through the interview process and it was definitely anxiety inducing. Thinking about questions ahead of time and rehearsing how to answer is a really calming tactic.

  14. AHHH I had two interviews this week and this would have been SO helpful! These are amazing tips. Luckily, my interviews went really well, but it would have been perfect if I had seen this before.

    LiveLifeWell,
    Allison

  15. I always enjoy reading job interview advice, even when I’m not looking for a job, and these are amazing tips! Thanks for sharing! xx Merisa | Monogrammed Magnolias

  16. Tracy Schwartz says:

    Great tips and advice!

  17. Good Post! One of the most common questions asked in an interview is “Tell me something about yourself.” If feel, it is not even a question it’s an clear invitation. It is an opportunity given to you to share whatever you think is important in their hiring decision.

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  19. Lauren ray says:

    These common interview questions are designed to trick the interviewee, the only way to get success is continuous practice. By asking these simple questions they want you o reveal information you may have been trying to conceal.

  20. Sabrina says:

    Love this article, very specific indeed! I will definitely use these tips when preparing for my next interview. I’ve also featured this article in my blog post How To Best Prepare For An Interview! Thanks for sharing such a great article! x

    Sabrina | Students Toolbox

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