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20 Most Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

An invitation for an interview shows that your CV has impressed the recruiter. This means that you already qualify for the job. Your role now is to ensure that you ace your upcoming job interview. This is the step where you show up—in person or virtually through teleconferencing—to prove to your potential employer that you can do what your CV says you can. This is also an opportunity to prove that you’re the best fit for the position among the other candidates. The hiring managers will not be interviewing many candidates who also qualify for the post, and you cannot afford to give responses that are anything short of smooth and straight.

It is always important to be prepared to respond effectively and without hesitation. This doesn’t mean you have to memorize your answer, but you have to think about what to say and how to say it so that you are not caught off-guard.

Being fully prepared will boost your confidence, help you manage the interview anxiety, and feel at ease in front of the recruiters.

Below is a comprehensive list of 20 most common interview questions and answers;

1. Tell me a little about yourself

This is usually the number one question a recruiter will ask you. Here the recruiter is trying to find out who you are as a person and as a professional. While answering this question, focus on the relevant areas and make your points short and to the point. When giving an overview of your experience, for example, try to look sharp, but be very careful not to recite the experiences and work history on your CV.

2. How did you hear about this position?

Even though this question looks innocent, it speaks a lot about you. You are being given a chance to demonstrate your passion for the job and the connections that led you to know about the job and the company.

3. What inspired you to apply to this company?

This is your chance to shine. The recruiter wants to know whether there is something unique about the company that appeals to you. Don’t be generic; try to be specific and give a relatable explanation. For example, you can talk about how you have watched the company expand with a lot of admiration from the first time you heard about it.

4. Why should we hire you?

The recruiter wants to know whether you believe you are the best candidate. She/he wants to know how well your educational background, work experience, and skill sets match the job requirements.

5. What is your greatest weakness?

Here, the recruiter wants to know whether you are self-aware of what you can and can’t do and how honest you are. The biggest mistake you can do is to say you have no weaknesses. You need to explain what you are struggling with and the steps you have taken to overcome it.

6. What is your greatest strength?

This is not an opportunity to brag but to talk about personal traits that make you achieve your goals both personally and professionally. When answering this question, pick a few points that illustrate how you are an excellent fit for the job.

7. Why are you leaving your current job?

This isn’t a trick question.  They literally want to know if you left for personal reasons, lack of fulfillment, or whatever reason.  Bottom line: Be truthful, but focus your answer on how you think a new position will grow your career. If your departure was not under the best circumstances, you need to stick to the facts.

8. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

While answering this question, show your incredible ambition and career goals, both short and long term. Let the interviewer know you are eager to work with the company to steer it to the next level as you grow professionally.

9. What are your salary expectations?

The hiring manager honestly wants to know what you are looking forward to earning. Although it seems like a simple and straightforward question, you may kick yourself out of the competition if you overprice yourself. On the other hand, you may shortchange yourself if you quote a very low offer. The best thing is to try and find the company’s salary range before attending the interview.

10. Can you work under pressure?

More often than not, things will not go as planned. The interviewer wants to know what you will do when things do not go smoothly. Are you capable of handling stress and pressure? If yes, how do you usually go about it? Do not make a mistake of saying you have never been under any pressure. That’s being unrealistic and dishonest.  If the answer is no, be specific in the what and why, and how you are addressing it.

11. Tell me about a time you demonstrated a leadership skill

Do not look for a fancy experience, think about that moment when things were not working out, and you stepped up, took the initiative, and headed up a project. Let your interviewer have a clear picture of how you demonstrated leadership skills and spell out the result(s).

12. Describe your dream job

Don’t make up an answer to impress your recruiter. The catch here is to be relevant to the position you are eyeing. You can tell them how you see yourself working in a fast-paced environment with a team of talented experts. Let them know what you are looking forward to achieving in the years to come, and especially how the job you are interviewing for plays a role in getting there.

13. What is the hardest decision you have recently made?

The hiring manager wants to evaluate your reasoning ability, willingness to take calculated risks, and your problem-solving skills. Having no straight answer to this question will immediately raise red flags. A right answer will show that you are capable of making a difficult, reason-based decision.

14. Have you ever disagreed with your superior?

Disagreeing with your boss is perfectly fine. What matters are the steps you take afterward. The interviewer is looking for an honest and forthright team member who will not shy about raising concerns. They are also looking for someone who will support a decision whether they agree with it or not.

15. What can we expect from you in the first 100 days?

Your answer should be focused on doing your absolute best to achieve the goals of the company and help the entire team achieve its mission and vision.  This is where knowing the specifics of the job and the company’s vision play a huge part in your answer.  Do your homework and tailor your answer accordingly.

16. What do you like to do when you are not working?

They may not be interested in your hobbies and leisure activities but rather with how committed you are with your personal and professional growth. They also want to know how well you fit into society—as a pointer to how well you fit into a team.  They may also just be looking for a new 1st baseman on their softball team.

17. What was your salary in your last job?

This is a hard question. The hiring manager wants to see how open and honest you are and use it to negotiate your salary. Be sure not to violate any non-disclosure agreements from your previous/current job!  If pressed, try to answer this question by saying something like. “I am currently focusing on a job in the $80,000 salary range.”

18. What motivates you?

Each person will have a unique answer to this question but don’t say that just money motivates you.  The recruiter knows that is part of the equation. What they really want to know is what you value.  What gets you going each morning? Changing the world? Or raising your kids the best you can?  Your answer needs to reflect that.

19. Do you like working as a team or by yourself?

This question allows you to show that you have what it takes to be a team player and work independently as well. It’s important not to give a generic answer, and it’s okay if you have a preference, but the most important thing is to demonstrate that you are great at either.

20. What do you know about this company?

Never go to an interview without researching the company. Learn about how the company started, the milestones it has accomplished, the services or products it’s offering, and what makes it stand out from the rest. If you have no ideas about the company that is about to hire you, it doesn’t matter how competent you are for the job.

In the end, it’s important to be honest about who you are, in all aspects.  “Cultural fit” is a big topic in hiring today.  Don’t fake who you are in order to get a job, to then quit or get fired 6 months later because you and the job are not a good fit.  You will do better, and so will your employer, if you are honest with them and yourself from the very beginning.

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