Common Interview Questions
Tell me about yourself.
This question (or a variation) comes up in just about every job interview. This question is an opportunity to start the interview strong by highlighting your most marketable qualifications.
Don’t waste the opportunity by simply diving into a lengthy recitation of your resume. Instead, try a concise, enthusiastic response that summarizes your big-picture fit for the job. This is also an excellent opportunity to share some information about your proudest achievements and goals.
“I am a marketing major at Elon university with a minor in Communications. This combination of coursework has provided me the opportunity to truly hone my skills in digital marketing. Last summer I held a social media marketing internship with Megacompany Inc., where I won the intern performance award and gained experience in social media marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. I love working in a team and solving customer problems, and am looking forward to finding a role that will challenge me in this field.”
Why are you interested in this position?
This is a variation on, “Why do you want to work for us?” Research is key to answering this question well. Before every interview, research the organization and the job description so you can speak intelligently about why the opportunity appeals to you.
“I have always admired your company’s products, and I was impressed with the recent Forbes interview with your CEO and his description of the collaborative company culture. The job description also emphasizes communication skills and leadership — two of my greatest strengths. I feel that this is a role and organization in which I could excel.”
Describe your current or most recent job role.
Your current or most recent role is almost always the most impressive to the interviewer. Be prepared to describe your top achievements and responsibilities in this job. As always, you should focus on the areas most relevant to the work that you would be doing if hired.
- Don’t just rattle off your job description. Focus on your accomplishments and how you went above the normal call of duty.
- Stress any impressive statistics, numbers, or details.
- Don’t try to describe absolutely everything that you do. Focus on the highlights that this particular interviewer will care about.
- Keep your audience in mind. Define any unfamiliar terms and skip or explain details that could be confusing.
“I have been the marketing manager for Smith, Jones, & Smith law firm for the last two summers, responsible for managing all of the company’s marketing activities. This includes brochures and RFPs, public relations, management of the company’s website and social media accounts, and advertising and sponsorships. I love the fast pace of the job and the ability to be innovative.”
What are your strengths?
Embrace this question as an opportunity to talk about your best qualities. It can help to plan and practice your answer to this question — especially if you are naturally modest or shy.
To prepare your answer, write down a list of your top strengths and decide which three are most relevant to the position at hand.
Instead of saying that you’re a hard worker, say:
“One of my strengths is my strong work ethic. When I commit to a deadline, I do whatever it takes to deliver. Last week, we had a report due and got some numbers back late from our team. I pulled an all-nighter to finish the spreadsheet because I knew that the group needed to receive the report on time.”
What are your weaknesses?
There is no perfect answer and it’s easy to falter on this question. However, with some preparation and practice, you can handle it gracefully and improve your odds of getting hired.
- Don’t try to play a strength off as a weakness. Interviewers can often see through this.
- Don’t choose a weak point that could limit your ability to do the job well.
- Don’t be defensive or dwell on the negative. You have to answer this question, but your best bet is to do it quickly and then move on to more positive topics.
- Show that you are aware of the weakness and striving to improve.
“Sometimes I can be a bit too honest when I provide feedback to coworkers. My personality is naturally very straightforward and to the point, and most of my colleagues value that, but I have learned that there are times on the job when more diplomacy is required. I took a training class on conflict management, and it opened my eyes to the need to communicate differently with different people. So now I am much better at providing feedback, even if it doesn’t always come naturally.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is about your long-term career goals. Realistically, it’s hard for any of us to predict exactly what we will be doing in five years. What the employer wants to know is that you have goals and that the position at hand is a good fit for your long-term planning.
Hiring managers want to confirm you’ll stick around if they invest in hiring and training you. They want to be sure that you envision a career path with the company.
“My goal right now is to find a position at an organization where I can continue to grow and take on new challenges over time. Ultimately, I’d like to take on more management responsibilities and get involved in product strategy. But most importantly, I want to work for an organization where I can build a career.”
Why are you the best candidate for this job?
Here’s your chance to wow them with your highlight reel.
What are the top three or four best reasons to hire you? What makes you stand out from the competition?
This is an opportunity to reiterate key strengths and describe your most memorable selling points. It’s important to come across as confident and enthusiastic. Make them believe in you — your abilities and your commitment.
“Honestly, I almost feel like the job description was written with me in mind. I have the two years of programming experience you’re looking for, a track record of successful projects, and proven expertise in agile development processes. At the same time, I have developed my communication skills from working directly with senior managers, which means I am well prepared to work on high-profile, cross-department projects. I have the experience to start contributing from day one, and I am genuinely excited about the prospect of getting started.”
Tell me something that's not on your resume.
This often serves as a get-acquainted question. It’s a way for the interviewer to get a sense of who you are as a person. Prepare to discuss an interesting hobby, talent, or experience. You want your answer to be memorable (in a good way, of course).
Avoid topics that could be controversial — steer clear of religion and politics. Choose something to share that demonstrates one of your job-relevant qualities (intelligence, dedication, creativity, leadership).
Do you have any questions for me?
You should prepare at least three questions to ask each interviewer.
During your first interview or two, the goals of asking questions are to 1) show your interest in excelling in the position and 2) learn more about the employer’s needs to help you form responses to future questions.
At this point, it’s not about you and what the employer can do for you. Refrain from asking questions about benefits, vacation time, promotion possibilities, etc. There will be plenty of time to get this information further in the interview process or when there’s an offer on the table.
- What qualities do you think are most important for someone to excel in this position?
- What do you like most about working for this company?
- What are the most important priorities for the company/department right now?
- What more can you tell me about a typical day on the job?
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Under federal law, it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant based on certain protected categories, including age, race, gender, marital status or national origin.
Review these protected categories and illegal questions to protect yourself during the interview process. If you are asked an illegal question during an interview, you may politely decline to respond and move on to the next question.