Getting ready for an upcoming interview?
Practicing answers to interview questions is among the best ways to ensure you are both prepared and confident on interview day.
Let’s take a look at the most common interview questions and tips to help you out!
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How to Prepare for an Interview
Actually, before we dive in, I wanted to mention that practicing common interview questions is not the ONLY thing you should do before preparing for an interview.
There are a few other important steps along the way, such as researching the company, preparing your mental portfolio, salary research, and more.
Each of the required steps is described in the Ultimate Guide to Interview Prep. Be sure to check it out before getting started.
Free Career Search Spreadsheet
In this Ultimate Career Search Freebie, you’ll find 10 useful spreadsheets that will ensure you stay organized during your job search.
It even includes an interview preparation checklist and a fillable question and answer worksheet to help you prepare to the best of your ability. Download your free copy today to get started!
One last tip… Whenever you are asked a question that requires the use of an example, be sure to utilize the STAR method.
The STAR method means that, while explaining your example, you do each of the following (in order):
- Situation: Briefly describe the situation or event that took place.
- Task: Explain the task you had to do, making sure to highlight the given challenges, constraints, and other issues.
- Action: Describe what action you took to complete this task (or overcome the challenge), making sure to highlight the skills you utilized.
- Result: End the example with the resulting outcome, making sure to highlight improvements, achievements, and awards.
Most Common Interview Questions
Let’s take a look at each of the most common interview questions you might be asked during your next interview.
Be sure to use your free career preparation spreadsheet or a piece of paper to take notes on while you’re reading through them.
Tell me a little about yourself…
Out of this entire list, this question is probably the most common.
So, you better have your answer ready.
The key to this question is to not talk about your personal life.
Don’t talk about where you grew up, what you do in your free time, or your family situation.
Instead, focus on composing a brief sales pitch that includes your relevant experiences and top achievements. End your answer with one sentence as to why you believe you’re a good fit for this role.
Tip: Your answer to this question can be used as an Elevator Pitch during any networking situation!
What do you know about our company?
If you went through the entire interview prep checklist, you’ll know that it is a MUST to research the company before the interview day.
Using your research, you can easily craft the perfect answer for this question. A few items you might want to consider in your answer include:
- Company mission statement and values
- Recent news articles related to the company
- Company achievements
- Projects that were recently completed or being worked on
Tip: Try to answer this in a way that demonstrates how, based on the information you know about the company, you can add value.
Why do you want to work here?
Pull information from both the job description and the company research you conducted to compose your answer. Think about skills, qualities, interests, and other aspects of this specific job or company that you believe make you a good fit.
Try to focus on things that are exciting to you. When doing this, your energy will show through and the interviewers are bound to notice.
How did you hear about this position?
Start by answering this question honestly (job board, through a friend, etc.).
Then, take your answer one step further to prove your interest in the company or position.
For example, you could mention how long you’ve been keeping an eye on the company job board, mention someone you’ve been speaking with within the company or anything else that gives your answer something extra.
Why should we hire you?
The interviewer just set you up to hit a home run with this question.
Again, the best way to prepare is to study the job description and research the company (this is becoming a common theme).
Consider some of the ideas below to create an answer (choose any that are applicable, but don’t let your answer be longer than ~2 minutes):
- Prove you have the skills, experience, and/or knowledge that are required (directly related to the job description) – this one is probably the most important part
- Demonstrate how you will enjoy the position, therefore allowing you to perform well (such as specific interests, shared company values, etc.)
- Highlight professional achievements or awards that set you apart and make you a particularly good candidate for this exact position
- Utilize a STAR example that proves your excellent performance in a key area of the job description, especially if there is only one (or one main) job duty
- Give an example of the value you can bring to the company or team (something that will make them better, such as a unique skill set or knowledge no one else there might have)
What are your strengths?
Really focus on one main strength that will prove you are a great candidate (again, use the job description to help you choose which of your strengths to use). However, depending on the job, you might want to choose multiple strengths (for example, using a soft skill and a technical skill for a job in the technology industry).
Be sure to back up this strength using a STAR example, it will really bring clarity and depth to your answer.
What are your weaknesses?
You want to focus on composing a two-part answer.
This answer is to include 1. a description of your weakness and 2. how you are working on improving this weakness.
For example, perhaps your weakness is public speaking. There are various groups you can consider joining (such as Toastmasters International) that can help you grow this skill.
Tip: Try to choose a weakness that is honest but realistic. Strike a balance between “I don’t have a weakness” and something that would not get you the job.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
When you look for advice on this question on the web, you will find two main answers.
The first is to establish loyalty to the company, by stating that if you were to be offered this job, you hope to stay in this position and with the company for a long time.
The second is by discussing your long-term career goals and how this position will help you reach them. By doing this, you are showing your interviewers that you are ambitious and a great fit for the job. If you need help setting your long-term career goals, check out this Ultimate Guide to Long-Term Goals.
Of course, you could always combine the two answer options above, by stating your long-term goals and the steps you plan on taking to reach them, which includes working for the company for a long time.
What are your greatest professional accomplishments?
What are you most proud of? Really think about this and choose your favorite accomplishment.
Then, use the STAR example method to compile a stunning answer.
Tell us a time when you made a mistake.
This is what experts consider a “behavioral question.” The interviewer is attempting to learn more about your behavior, instead of your achievements or performance.
For this question, think back to a time you honestly made a mistake in a work environment (don’t just make one up).
Then, formulate your answer to include the following points (whichever are applicable):
- A description of the mistake
- Explain how it was your fault (don’t blame anyone else)
- Describe how you fixed the mistake
- Discuss any positive results that have come from it in the long run (such as lessons learned)
Tell us a time when you had to deal with a conflict in the workplace.
This is another behavioral question. Be sure to have a good example at the ready (don’t say you can’t think of one).
Discuss the conflict, what you did to resolve the issue, and what you learned from the situation.
How would your coworkers or supervisor describe you?
Think about traits and skills you have been praised for in the past. Try to avoid your greatest strengths or anything else you’ve already discussed.
Then, using the STAR method, use an example, award, performance review, or story to back this up.
How do you stay productive and/or organized at work?
Truly think about your current productivity and organization skills.
Do you use a planner? Planning routines? An online calendar? Time management techniques (like time blocking or pomodoros)?
Be sure to organize an answer that includes each of your productivity techniques, as well as a STAR example that highlights a time that these skills proved to be beneficial.
Tip: Being organized and productive in the workplace is an essential skill. Here are a few great resources to help you better this skillset and ace this interview question:
- 13 Time Management Techniques to Help You Get More Done in Less Time
- 54 Ground-Breaking Productivity Tips that Change the Game
- How to Plan Your Day: A Step-by-Step Guide
- An Ultimate Guide to Weekly Reviews
- The Complete List of Planning Routines (and how to use them)
What would your first 90-days look like in this role?
There is an AMAZING book called The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. I highly encourage you to read it (or at least skim it).
Using the strategies in this book, you will not only know exactly how to answer this question (and kill it! I might add…) but will also be able to outline your exact 90-day plan for the job for success.
It is worth the time and energy to create your own, curated 90-day plan. And, if you do so before the interview, you’ll have a huge lead above the competition.
Be sure to tie your 90-day plan back to the job description and, if you can, your company research highlights.
What is your current salary? OR What salary do you expect?
There are various ways to answer this question (and a lot of conflicting answers out there). The most important part is to come to the interview prepared.
First, know your worth. Use online salary calculators and other research to determine how much is a fair and competitive salary for the area and your background.
Knowing this number, put together two (or more) different salary answers you could use in the interview (depending on what you’re feeling):
- A vague answer that suggests you are looking for a competitive offer (or something similar, without saying an exact salary number)
- Give a range of salary values that would be appropriate for both the job and what you are worth
What else would you like me to know that wasn’t already discussed?
In my How to Prepare for an Interview Guide, I discuss the idea of having a mental portfolio.
This is basically a memorized list of your top career accomplishments, experiences, and stories.
Using this list, you will be able to have an arsenal of answers prepared for unexpected or unprepared questions.
I also suggest choosing your top 3-5 accomplishments within your mental portfolio you are sure to discuss during the interview.
There is a pretty good chance you won’t be able to able to discuss each of these topics. So, when you are asked Is there anything you would like us to know?, you can fill in the blanks.
Industry Related Questions
There is a good chance you will be asked industry-specific questions.
Do some internet digging and ask around to see what kind of specific questions you can expect.
Prepare at least 5 answers (the more, the better!) for these kind of questions.
Example: A common civil engineering question is to ask If you discovered a flaw in the design of your project, what would you do?
Do you have any questions for us?
Yes, the answer is yes!
If you’ve gone through your interview preparation checklist, you should already have these ready. If not, pull questions from your company research notes and job description.
Aim for at least three (so you have options and flexibility when the time comes).
Ask yourself: If I’m offered the job, what would I want to know before I make my decision?
Make sure your questions are meaningful and important.
Top Career Development Books
Here are a few great career-related reads that will help you on your path to career success!
- What Now? The Young Person’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career by Nicholas Lore: I can genuinely say that this book drastically changed my life. I read this book from cover to cover and took the career journey Nicholas Lore outlines. It landed me where I am at today. Without this book, I probably would still be wandering around trying to figure out my life’s purpose. If you’re in that same boat, this book is 110% for you.
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell: This fabulous career book changes the way we think about overcoming obstacles and advancing in our careers, even as an underdog. Gladwell also has another bestseller called The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
- Secrets of Six-Figure Women: Surprising Strategies to Up Your Earnings and Change Your Life by Barbara Stanny: This book is more than just about the wage gap and career struggles women have been facing for years. It is an inspirational and motivational book that discusses the commonalities between the millions of women currently in the workforce that make six-figures, and how you can too.
- Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel, PhD: This book outlines common mistakes the average woman makes in the workplace, and how to become more successful.
- The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins: You will learn how to create an absolute game-changing plan for your first 90 days in your new job (no matter what level you work at). It is seriously a must-read for anyone moving into a new position!
Further Reading: Career Development
Here are a few career-related blog posts to help you in your career:
- How to Prepare for an Interview: A Complete Checklist
- 10 Foolproof Steps to Finding Your Dream Career
- The Ultimate Goal Planner to Help You Chase Your Dreams
- Discover How to Create an Effective Personal Mission Statement
Further Reading: Interview Questions
I truly want you to be as successful as possible! So, here are some other great interview question blog posts you might want to consider reading:
- 125 Common Interview Questions – Indeed
- Your Guide to the Most Common Interview Questions and Answers – The Muse
- Top 20 Interview Questions and Answers – The Balanced Careers
Now, it’s time to get to work. Jot down the questions and your answers onto flashcards and practice, practice, practice. I would say ‘good luck,’ but you don’t need it. You are a total rockstar, you’ve got this!