When it comes to giving a winning job interview, there are three basic steps to follow:
- know which interview questions to expect,
- understand the intention behind each, and then
- strategically craft a great answer.
Good news – this guide will cover them all.
There’s only a limited number of questions that an interviewer can ask, but every single one serves a purpose and requires a specific way of answering. So let’s explore the most common interview questions and answers to use to knock your next interview out of the park.
Job Interview Questions to Expect in Almost Any Interview
Although you can occasionally come across some quirky interview questions like “If you were an animal, which animal would you be and why?”, “Are you a hunter or a gatherer?” or “Which three things would you take to a desert island?”, most job interview questions are pretty standard. As a matter of fact, there are questions you can expect every single time, in all interview types, regardless of your role or seniority.
Most common interview questions
These are by far the most common questions you can get in any job interview. To give some strategic and attention-grabbing answers, you’ll need to speak about your past experiences and future career goals. You’ll also need to show that you’re motivated and able to conduct objective self-evaluation.
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to work here?
- How did you find out about [Company]?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What do you know about [Company]?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- Why should we hire you?
- Describe your current (or most recent) position.
- What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Why are you leaving/did you leave your current job?
- What are your expectations of this position?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What are your goals for the future?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Do you have any questions for us?
- When are you available to start?
Behavioral interview questions
Every job interview will contain at least one or two behavioral questions. They are used to check how candidates behave in certain situations, how they conduct themselves in a professional environment, and to evaluate soft skills.
- How do you handle stress and deadlines?
- Are you able to preserve productivity when under pressure?
- Give an example of a time when you had to deal with conflict or a difficult situation.
- Give an example of a time when you performed effectively under pressure.
- Give an example of a time when you displayed leadership qualities.
- How do you handle criticism?
- What would be your ideal approach to a disagreement at work?
- Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond?
- Tell me about a time when you failed. How did that impact you?
- Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple projects?
Situational interview questions
Interviewers ask these questions to learn how you handle different situations at work. They might ask you to think back to a time in the past when you had a similar situation and to describe how you reacted to it. These questions sometimes require you to tell a story and are used to test your teamwork, inclusiveness, communication, agreeability and problem-solving.
- How do you feel about working late hours and/or weekends?
- If you saw a problem at work that does not impact you directly, would you try to fix it and why?
- Your team is going to miss the deadline for an important client. What do you do?
- How would you approach a problem if your manager asked you to do something unethical?
- You’ve gotten some negative feedback regarding your productivity in a 360 report. How would you address it?
Phone interview questions
Phone screening is done to test the waters and determine if a candidate is suitable for the position. It’s conducted after the hiring team completes the resume evaluation and before the first round of face-to-face or video interviews. You’ll normally get some basic questions that will screen you and let the hiring manager know if you’ll be advancing to the next round.
- Can you walk me through your resume?
- How did you hear about this position?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What do you know about [Company]?
- Describe what you do in your current role.
- Why should we hire you?
- What are your salary expectations?
Background and personal interview questions
Background interview questions require the candidate to go back and show self-awareness when it comes to their education, previous employment, and work habits. What makes these questions difficult to answer is that the candidate often needs to address potential weaknesses.
- Why haven’t you completed your Bachelor/Master/PhD studies?
- Why have you changed jobs so many times?
- Why is there a gap in your employment?
- Describe a time when you were unhappy with your job.
- Tell me about a time when you reached a big goal at work.
- Tell me about a time you had to collaborate with a colleague who was difficult to work with?
- How would your (former) manager describe you?
- What are your pet peeves at work?
- Do you take work home with you?
- How many hours do you normally work?
The questions in your next interview will probably be a blend of questions from all five categories above. Now, let’s get you up and running with the basics for acing your next interview by going deeper into the answers to the 10 most common interview questions.
What Are the 10 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers
1. “Tell Me About Yourself”
Often asked at the very start of an interview, this is your opportunity to deliver an elevator pitch that gives the interviewer a quick idea of who you are. Used wisely, your introduction could make the interviewer very interested in your next answer. You should aim at presenting yourself as the best possible candidate for the job. Used incorrectly, the interviewer could lose interest before you even have a chance to answer a second question.
How to answer “Tell me about yourself”?
“I’m a goal-oriented and innovative Marketing Manager with 11 years of experience with SaaS and cloud-based products used by both SMBs and Fortune 2000 companies. I’m an expert in inbound, outbound, growth and agile marketing and have helped 3 companies scale from 1 million to 5+ million ARR, each in under 2 years. My strongest asset is my organizational and planning skills. Although I’m content in my current role, I’m now looking for an exciting new opportunity in blockchain.”
Check out 7 more outstanding answers (+ video answers and analysis).
2. “Why do you want to work here?”
Repeat after me: Don’t say “for the money” — Don’t say “for the money” — Don’t say “for the money”. Got it? You’re already off to a better start than some candidates. Jokes aside, this is a motivation question – the interviewer wants to know what makes you tick and whether you’re excited about the opportunity.
Your reasons should send the signal that you’ve actually done the research and that you align with both the job requirements and the company culture. Be it your admiration for the company and their product/services or a specific initiative such as their newsletter or ads – this will tell the interviewer that you’re not approaching the job opportunity halfheartedly.
How to answer “Why do you want to work here?”
“I’ve been a fan of Too Good to Go since day one… I loved how you were different from other similar food waste initiatives in that you collaborated with restaurants. To me as a BDR, it would be a dream-come-true to be part of the solution to the global food problem, especially now that your company is teaming up with businesses and schools to cut food waste. I’m positive that I have the right assets for the job, and sharing the same mission is definitely one of them.”
Get more winning example answers to “Why do you want to work here?”.
3. “Why should we hire you?”
This is where you need to spend a ton of time thinking about the role, the competencies, and how you’re the perfect fit. It’s not about qualifications – everyone who’s made it to the interview is definitely qualified. But what sets you apart?
Don’t you dare answer this question the vanilla way. Instead, do it the chocolate truffle Sachertarte with orange liqueur and ground almonds way. In other words, be super specific. Here’s an example:
How to answer “Why should we hire you?
“I live and breathe data and Excel is my playground. For the last 3 years, I’ve been sourcing B2B leads for cold emailing from various sources like GovSpend, Zoominfo, Exchange Leads and company websites. I’m also proficient with tools like Hunter, Bouncer, Seamless AI and Boolean search, as well as with all major CRMs like Hubspot, Zoho and Salesforce. The lists I create have been used for cold emailing and advertising, resulting in up to 87% open rate and 54% click rate, respectively. I also met my KPIs 3 years in a row.”
Your next destination – this guide on how to answer “Why should we hire you?” (brought to you by our superstar VP of Marketing).
4. “Describe your current (or most recent) position.”
One of the easier interview questions to answer – but you’ll still need to use the opportunity to highlight your job-relevant greatness. Interviewers ask this question (usually right after the difficult opener) to help the candidate feel at ease and check if the info from your resume is valid. Your answer should be concise and to the point. Stick to the general duties and add a few numbers, stats, and achievements – the # of projects you managed, % of sales you’ve closed or won, promotions and awards etc.
How to answer “Describe your current position?”
“For the last 3 years, I’ve worked as a Tech Support Lead in a RegTech start-up. In that position, I’m responsible for a cross-functional team of 20 people and I collaborate closely with all departments, including IT, Product, Marketing, and Customer Success. I still occasionally handle some high-priority tickets and work on escalations with SysDev. All the while, I’ve guided the team to accomplish the 4.9 out of 5 rating from customers.”
Read a full guide on the “Describe your current position” question (with example answers).
5. “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
If you get this question, consider yourself lucky – it’s an opportunity to showcase your biggest achievements without the risk of sounding pretentious or smug. Still, the answer requires a bit of strategizing. It’s best to list all the things you’re proud of and then choose your three of four “greatest hits” – the stories highlighting your problem-solving, technical or leadership qualities that you can use in multiple interview scenarios. Here’s one way of handling this common interview question.
How to answer “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
“When I joined [Company] as a New Client Coordinator, it was impossible to get the customers to provide product feedback, let alone work with our Marketing and CSM teams on case studies. We could only dream of customers leaving a review on G2 or Gartner. We had a great product. The problem was that our niche was very specific and the clients’ company policies on case studies were simply too strict. Apparently, there was nothing I could do.
Two years later, there are 23 case studies in our resources hub. Our product has received over two hundred reviews thanks to the incentive programs that I designed. The best part? This initiative resulted in Gartner approaching us and including our product in their annual industry report. We also received Customers’ Choice awards two years in a row.”
Need more examples? Learn how to craft a concise summary for all of your “selling points” with this article.
6. “What are your greatest strengths?”
Your chance to toot your own horn – but make sure to do it artfully. Being able to do 20 pull-ups does not count as a strength. Make sure your answer is specific, personalized, relevant, and truly impressive.
How to answer “What are your greatest strengths?”
“I think my greatest strength is my ability to stay laser focused when in high-pressure situations, which is pretty much every day when you’re an ICU nurse. So I’d definitely say that my biggest strength is my stress management skills, alongside precision and vigilance. Sometimes a patient’s condition changes in a split second, and everything suddenly goes full gear. I can think clearly, and maintain my composure and efficiency.”
Need to brainstorm more for your stellar answer? Get more outstanding example answers in this article.
7. “What is your greatest weakness?”
By far one of the most commonly searched-for interview questions, the “weakness” question is difficult to properly tackle. This one could sink you unless you’re careful. Obviously, “I work too hard” is not the answer. Here’s what you could say instead:
How to answer “What is your greatest weakness?
“I’m shy and can get really nervous when I need to provide input in meetings. I have a lot to contribute, but I have trouble speaking up. I’ve already done a couple of things to address this – I’m currently reading “Talk like TED” and have just signed up for a Udemy course on presentation and public speaking.”
Here’s our favorite resource with real-life interview examples of weaknesses and how to approach this question.
8. Why are you leaving your current job?
Like with all other questions, the answer to this one requires a balance between honesty and strategy. There are many good reasons to leave a job, but not all of them are okay to discuss in an interview. Here’s a good example of what you could say.
How to answer “Why are you leaving your current job?”
“I’ve been with [Company A] for 4 years now and those have been the best years of my career, both because of the team and my professional achievements. However, I feel it’s time for a change of scenery. I think I’ve reached my full potential in [Company A] and for my professional growth to continue, I need a shift to something more challenging. I think [Company B] is perfect for me because it would allow me to work in a much bigger team and with new technologies that I find exciting.”
Here’s the best way to answer this question, with 5+ examples and explanations of why they work.
9. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
And the award for the most irritating interview question goes to… well, this one. You might find it silly or annoying, but this question too requires an artful and diplomatic answer. Another common variation of this interview question is “What are your career goals?”. Here’s a kickass answer by a recent candidate:
How to answer “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“After years in Account Based Marketing, Sales and Customer Relations, my five year goal would be to become Chief Revenue Officer and improve all the existing revenue-generating processes. I’m already great with data-driven decisions, analytics, and strategy, so I think I would be successful in a role that requires go-to market strategy planning, revenue management, and scaling operations.”
Learn why interviewers ask this question and get 10 more answers that work like a charm.
10. “Do you have any questions for me?”
A good interviewer will always ask this question and your questions can either leave a strong, lasting impression or make you come across as clueless. When you get the opportunity to ask the hiring team a question or two, use it. It will show the interviewers that you’re truly into the company and that you’re not in a rush to get out of the door. Wondering what to ask?
How to answer “Do you have any questions for me?”
“Yes, thanks. I’d like to know about the immediate projects and duties that the person who joins you in this role will need to take. And also, where do you think the company is headed in the next five years?”
Find 20 winning questions to ask at the end of the interview (with explanations how each can help you gather key information about the job and company).
How to Crush the Most Common Interview Questions
Knowing which questions to expect in an interview is like knowing how to swim. And getting the job is basically you turning your swimming theory into your personal 100 meter breaststroke record. The secret ingredient in between – practice.
My two cents – don’t just read through articles and think about what to answer. Take a more active approach instead. After all, you’ll encounter 80-90% of these questions in your next interview. Make an effort to stand out.
There are interview training systems that combine full lesson curriculums with interactive practice tools that cover all industries and seniority levels. Here’s what I used the last time I practiced for the 10 most common interview questions and answers:
BigInterview’s platform is great if you want to focus on practicing only the top 10 questions (I loved that I could choose different difficulty levels). Plus, it looked and felt like a REAL interview. Finally, I got the chance to record and review my answers (cringe alert!) and have them analyzed for precision, body language, and eye contact. Insanely interactive and useful.
Key Takeaways Before Your Next Interview
Before we wrap up, here are some essential tips to remember:
- Regardless of your role, seniority level, or industry, you’ll get most (if not all) of these questions (in one form or the other) in your next job interview.
- Interviews usually include behavioral and situational questions, where your answers need to go beyond credentials, performance, and technical knowledge.
- Learning how to answer each question strategically is crucial, and online tools that help you simulate a real interview can be super helpful.