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Most Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

by Patty Ramsen 6 years ago in advice / career / list
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Finally landed that perfect job interview? Review the most common interview questions and how to answer them so you have the best chance of landing it.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

Searching for a new job can be exhausting. Just getting to the interview can be difficult enough, but once you’ve landed one, you want to be sure to do all you can to prepare and make the best possible impression. Get started by reviewing the job posting, information about the company, and anything you can find online about what is happening that is big and exciting for that company. Then, review your skills and your resume so you are prepared to be positive about why you’re the perfect employee.

Unfortunately, there is no way to predict everything that will be asked for in an interview, and the person interviewing you may be completely unpredictable. But there is a lot you can do to make sure that you present your best self and make landing the job more likely. Make sure to review this list of the most common interview questions and how to answer them, add your personal touch, and you’ll have an advantage when trying to impress your potential new employer.

What do you know about our company?

The biggest mistake you can make if you’re asked this question is to simply quote the mission statement or “About Us” page of their website. When interviewers ask this question, they are hoping to see whether you care about what they do, understand it in a larger context, and if you’ll actually enjoy being part of it.

You should make sure you have your background research done, and it is even ok to tell the employer you’ve been looking into the company. When answering, give the basic facts, and expand to talk about some of the work they are doing that makes you most excited, and that you’d be most proud to be part of. If, at the end of your interview, you’re given time to ask questions, it is also a good idea to follow up with a question about what the company is working on or excited about in the coming years. This will show that you’re informed, that you understand, and that you actually care to do well and cheer on your company and co-workers.

What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

Though it might seem like the perfect answer to this question is “I don’t have any weaknesses,” you should be very prepared to honestly discuss your weaknesses in an interview (while putting them in the best light). Your employer is looking to see if you know yourself, know where you need to improve, and whether you are actively working on yourself. Everyone has weaknesses. Employees who thrive are aware of these weaknesses and learn to work with them, and prospective employers want to know that you’re able to grow in this way.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

This is a great question to get in an interview, because it allows you to brag in an absolutely appropriate way. It is also a good opportunity to bring in relevant experience from any field or situation you’ve worked in.

Be sure to select some professional accomplishments you’re proud of, and be prepared to explain to the employer why it was such an accomplishment, why it was a case of going above and beyond, what you learned from the experience, and what similar projects you’d like to do in future.

Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.

Most people have faced a conflict of some kind at work. You’ve been under-supported, had a dreadful boss or coworker, or have been handed a huge problem to deal with at the last moment. You may want to have a personal and project-based challenge prepared for the interview. Be sure to explain the whole story, explain which elements were particularly hard for you to deal with or particularly challenging, and always conclude with how you made it work. Stories like these give you the chance to show that you can rise to a challenge, no matter how great—so be sure to select a story that highlights your ability to overcome obstacles.

What is your dream job?

This is a question that an interviewer will use to get to know you better, and to see if the role you are interviewing for really matches who you are as a person. It is ok to have a humorous answer for this, but it is also important to have answer prepared that will explain to the interviewer that what you’re looking for is not just about money. For example, if you’re interviewing for a non-profit that serves children in need, your dream job might be something on a global scale at the UN. It is a chance to show them that you aren’t just looking for a pay check.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you get this question in an interview, it is best to be totally honest about what you’re looking for and your future goals. Employers are often looking to gauge whether your view of your own skills, the company environment, and industry are all in line. They want to be sure you are ambitious, but realistic, and not ready to head out the door without putting some time in with them. If you’re entering a new industry or hoping to make upward progress in the next few years, do some research on your industry and potential employer to see what is realistic and where hard work can get you

Why are you leaving your current job?

This can be a tough question, and your answer may depend on what is happening in your industry and in your current job. It is best to be as honest as possible without being negative or derogatory. If you’re just looking for a change and promotion, tell them that. If you’re looking to escape a tyrannical boss, you might want to say that you’ve gone as far as you feel you can in your current position and are hoping for new opportunity elsewhere. Be positive about your outlook and make sure to never speak ill of your current employer

Have you ever been fired before?

This is a very tricky question, and one that you might be worried about if you’ve been fired in the past. The job seeking world is small, and there are records of employment to consider. It is really best to be honest in this question, and explain to your employer what happened, why it happened, and what you’ve learned that ensures it will never happen again. Then again, if you were fired years ago, in another industry, it might not be relevant to discuss.

What is your management style?

Being a good manager is tough, and it can be hard to determine your own management style. The best managers are ones that care for their employees, make the best use of their skills, and respond to the current environment. Show that you are a strong leader who is willing to be flexible when problem-solving is needed, and make sure to say that you like to be engaged with employees and your team, without micromanaging or acting like a tyrant. If this is your first management job, you can reference the type of leader you respect and hope to be like to help illustrate your point.

What’s a time that you disagreed with a decision being made at work?

It is important that you have an answer ready for this question. Everyone has disagreed with their direct boss or larger company decisions at some point. Answering this question gives you the opportunity to show that you were engaged in a decision, cared about the outcome, and had some real insight into the possible decisions. It is best to choose a story where you disagreed about the decision being made, and ultimately were right. You can use it as a way to highlight why you thought it was the better decision, and how you were able to see the right answer when your superiors may have seen the wrong one.

Remember, you’re not the only person who is nervous about interviewing for jobs. It is a common anxiety, and many people get so nervous and caught up that they have a hard time presenting who they are, and all the skills they offer their potential new employer.

Doing some preparation for the most basic interview questions can give you an advantage for part of the interview, even if there is no way to know every topic that might be raised. Reviewing the most common interview questions and how to answer them, and keeping in mind your best skills and attributes will give you an advantage when you’re trying to land that perfect job.


About the author

Patty Ramsen

Just another 20 something trying to break the glass ceiling one blazer at a time. Get your own coffee...

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