Interview Rules to Follow
following list of 52 common interview questions includes some basic
recommendations on how to approach each question. Of course, all answers should
be truthful, but when you have discretion over various ways to answer these
questions, this is the time to put your best foot forward and impress the
want you to be positive, so avoid focusing on the negative. It is fine to
acknowledge weaknesses and mistakes, but always try to put a positive spin on
the situation by explaining what you are doing to improve or what you learned
from your experience.
prepare answers for these questions, write out your answers, but do not
memorize them. You can usually tell when someone is reciting a scripted speech,
or prepared answer, from memory. Rather, it is more important that you know how
you want to answer each question, rather than memorize what you would
specifically say. This will make your answers more flexible, especially if the
interviewer asks a question you did not directly prepare for.
The Most Generic Interview Question: Tell me about yourself.
Before we begin the official list of 52 common interview questions, it is important to discuss the most generic of all interview questions: Tell me about yourself.
This interview question is one of the most common questions asked at career fairs (job fairs), where large group of employers gather to speak to potential job candidates. Make no mistake, these conversations with potential employers are essentially mini job interviews. What you say here still counts.
If you are asked an extremely open-ended question like "Tell me about yourself," it is important to have a strategic answer prepared to highlight the most important parts of your experience and education. Most people begin answering this common question by talking about their current job position, quickly becoming boring as they talk about their basic job responsibilities.
When asked to speak about yourself, you need to immediately go over the most important highlights of your résumé. Is your education more important than your current job position? Then start with that. Is a job you had 5 years ago more applicable to the position you are apply for? Then start with that.
You can follow this basic formula for answering the open-ended "Tell me about yourself" question:
- State Your Name "My name is..."
- Top Highlight "I have an MBA..." "I worked as a Team Lead in..." "I have experience with..."
- Second Highlight
- List of Skills/Knowledge (Top 3 skills that apply to the position.)
- Career Goals/Plans "I intend to get a position as a... in order to gain experience with... with the plan of eventually becoming..."
Your exact answer to this open-ended question may require a slightly different approach, depending on your experiences and education, but overall you want to start with the most important highlights. You can go into more details based on questions asked after giving your initial response. The interviewer will let you know what they are interested in knowing more about.
1. Tell me
about your experience/work history.
surprised when your interviewer acts like they haven't read your résumé. Most
interviewers only spend a few seconds on each résumé, even after selecting you
for an interview. You may feel like it is redundant restating the
information on your résumé, but this is a great opportunity to discuss
what skills you learned at each job.
any direct experience relevant to the position? Then first consider the skills
desired for the job you are applying, and then spend time brainstorming what experiences
you do have where learned skills may translate to the new position.
2. Why is
there a period of unemployment?
If you have had a period of unemployment in the last few years, or especially if you are currently unemployed, then you
need to have prepared a good explanation for why.
If you were fired from your
previous job, then it is extremely important you try to spin this away from a
Was your company doing a lot of layoffs at the time? If so, then make sure
to clarify this to the interviewer, and be confident and matter-of-fact about
Did you over-commit yourself by attending school at the same time?
Then make sure to portray this as a weakness you have been working on, or a
mistake you learned from, as well as a list of things you would/will do differently.
3. Why do
you want to work for our company?
Most of your
answers to these 52 common interview questions can be used in every interview. However, this is a
question that needs a specific answer for each company.
It only takes
about 5 to 10 minutes to familiarize yourself with the basics of a company to
answer this question, which is only 15 to 30 minutes in order to prepare for 3
interviews. This is time well-spent, because this question is frequently asked.
Even if the interviewer skips a question like this, then you have a perfect
opportunity to impress your interviewer by saying: "I
want to tell you why I want to work here." And then giving your answer for this question.
4. Why are you leaving your current company?
answer for this question (most of the time) is that there are no
growth opportunities where you currently are working. You should never give an
answer related to problems with management, even if it is true, because most
interviewers will assume that you were really the problem.
In the business
world, there is a huge stereotype related to wrong-doing and hierarchy: the
higher in the hierarchy you are, the more "you can do no wrong."
Whenever there is an issue between a manager and a subordinate, most people who
are not directly involved in the situation will assume the subordinate is in
For an interviewer, the underlying assumption will be that if you
had problems at your previous employer then you are likely to have problems at
their company too. This is actually a fair assumption most of the time, simply
because past behavior/performance is statistically a reliable indicator of
5. What are
This is your
chance to really sell your personal brand.
Rather than just
provide a list of things you are good at, you want to specifically tailor your
response to the needs of the position.
Explain why you are a perfect fit for
this position. Normally job positions have a list of skills desired, so explain
how you meet each requirement. If you lack a certain skill or experience
desired for the job, then this can be a great time to impress them with
the skills you do have that could make up for the lack of experience.
6. What are
question is difficult to answer for most people, but it can be a great way to
emphasize a strength in the process: self-improvement initiative.
interviewers are using this question to see if you can identify weaknesses and
are actively trying to improve them. Sometimes you can get by with talking
about a past weakness that you have overcome.
However, the kind of answer that is
acceptable for this question partially depends on how engaged your interviewer
is and what kind of information they are seeking. Some interviewers are just
reading off a list of questions they are expected to ask, and they don't
personally care what your answers are. Other interviewers are more invested in
the interview process, possibly because you will be working directly under
them, and they are seeking specific information with this question.
issues, such as tardiness or work-ethic, should never be weaknesses. Better
answers could be regarding public speaking (a common weakness), coupled with
what you are doing to overcome it, such as taking the initiative to lead
presentations at school or work. If you have a weakness that you have not tried
to overcome, then it is generally not a good idea to mention it for this
question unless you have clear plans for improvement.
7. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
the question about strengths, this question gives you the opportunity to
provide an example relevant to the job position you are applying for.
have only one accomplishment that stands out above all others, and if they do it
may not be relevant to the position. If you haven't thought about this question
prior to the interview, then you will end up talking about whatever comes to
However, if you really want to shine on this question, then you need to
spend time brainstorming what accomplishments you may want to highlight for the
this question that will show the interviewer that you are perfect for the job.
8. Give a
time when you went above and beyond the requirements of a project.
willingness to go above and beyond the requirements of your position is a
desirable trait in the workforce. Thus, if you can provide a great example of
going beyond what was necessary to get something done, even if it is a part of
your normal routine, then the interviewer should be pleased.
9. Where do
you see yourself in five years?
interviewers ask this question because they want to know if you plan on staying at the company
for at least 5 years.
Especially if you are applying for an administrative assistant position,
the administrator often wants someone to fill the position who intends to stay
in that role for more than 10 years. However, other interviewers want to see
that you plan on progressing into more advanced positions.
The best answer for this question just depends on
the situation, the job you are applying for, and the goal of the interviewer.
The next question is another variation of this question that seeks
10. What is
your ultimate goal in this career?
if you are applying for a management position, they may be asking whether you
want to ultimately be a manager of people, processes, or systems, etc.
are applying for an administrative assistant position, where they want to hire someone who will
stay for more than 10 years, then they ironically may be looking for someone
who does not aspire beyond the position they are applying for. Granted, you
still want to communicate that you have thought about the next 5 years, even if
it is to say that you think it's important to spend 5 to 10 years at each job. Although, making this point does not work as well if you have never been at a job for
at least 5 years (unless this is your first job).
11. What is
your dream job?
to this interview question will reveal how much you have thought about the
future, and whether or not you plan on staying in your current position for
long. This can also be used as a more relaxed fun question like “What would you
do with a million dollars?”
12. What are
your career goals?
The interviewer wants to
know that you have thought about your future, and that you have a plan of where you
are headed. They may ask you specifically about your plans for the next 3 to
5 years, in order to see if you intend to still be working in your current
position or not. As mentioned, some employers want to keep you for a long time in the job you are applying for, whereas others may
want to see that you intend to grow at the company.
13. What do
you like the most and least about working in this industry?
important to have a well thought out answer for this type of question. They
want to see that you have thought about the bigger picture.
should we hire you?
candidates being interviewed have similar qualifications, so you should spend
some time considering why you are a better pick than your competitors. Since
you may be equally qualified on external factors, you can often distinguish yourself by highlighting internal
For example, you may highlight
your work ethic, positive attitude, attention to detail, success in a
face-paced environment, or some other internal factor that defines you.
Ironically, if you can rattle off a list of decent reasons why they should hire
you, then your obvious preparation and confidence will go a long ways to giving
them an additional reason that you don't have to actually mention.
Simply showing your interviewer that you are prepared for this question can make you stand out from the competition.
15. What can
you offer us that others cannot?
another variation of the previous question. What makes you different from your
competitors? If you do feel like you have superior experience or education,
then you can highlight these aspects, but it is also a good idea to highlight
internal characteristics that might separate you from the crowd of equally
16. How would you describe yourself?
may also ask how friends or family might describe you. A thoughtful answer that
highlights your intrinsic skills or attitudes is the most appropriate for this type
of question. Really this is just another opportunity for you to make a case for
why you are the best fit for the position.
would your direct reports say about you?
Again, the interviewer may also ask how friends and family describe you. The
interviewer is simply trying to get an idea of who you are as a person to see if you
are good fit for the job. This type of question highlights how you think others perceive you.
18. What do
you want to accomplish in the first 90 days on the job?
interviewers who ask this question simply want to see that you intend to be
proactive. However, this is an excellent opportunity to paint them a picture of
what it will look like if they hire you. The answer to this question does not
necessarily need to be elaborate - it can be practical. However, an elaborate detailed plan will really impress them, especially if you are applying for a management position.
Maybe you intend to familiarize
yourself with a new computer program, and begin working on examining how you
might improve a process or workflow. If you can get them to visualize
hiring you for the position, and make them feel confident about that choice by
what you plan to do in the first 90 days, then it
should significantly increases the chances of them selecting you.
If you do not have a
good answer for this question, then you leave it open for someone else to get
the interviewer to visualize employing them.
19. Tell me
about how you handled a difficult situation.
interviewers might be alright with you discussing a difficult situation brought
on by a coworker, it is generally not a good idea to bring up such a situation because it may actually unintentionally
communicate that having problems with coworkers is common for you.
It is better
to bring up a situation involving an upset customer or a difficult situation
that arose from a flawed process/system. Some interviewers may ask about these
types of situations directly (ex: the next few common interview questions), but
the open-ended nature of this version of the question allows you to take the
interviewer wherever you want.
Certainly you want to have an example ready that
is unlikely to accidentally communicate a weakness instead of a strength. You
want to communicate that you handle difficult situations well, and that your
definition of a "difficult situation" is appropriate. If you think
that something is a "difficult situation" that others might not, then
this places you in a poor light.
20. Tell me
how you would handle an upset customer?
If your answer for how you handle a difficult situation is an example of dealing with
a difficult customer, then you will be adequately prepared for either of these
two questions. It is also important to break the situation down into its basic
parts, both for easy memory recall, but also so you can summarize what actions
you took to remedy the situation.
For example, while explaining how you dealt
with a difficult customer, rather than recount exactly what the each person
said or did, instead summarize how you handled the situation: you sympathized
with the customer's complaints, you assured the customer you wanted to find a
solution, you asked the customer how you might remedy the situation, or if the
solution is obvious then you suggested how you intended the fix the situation,
leading to the customer being satisfied with the outcome, etc.
21. Tell me
how you would handle a non-compliant employee.
If you are
applying for a management position then you might be asked a similar question
as how you would handle an upset customer. Again, the best approach is to break
down the situation into the steps you would take. For example, you might say
you would redirect the incorrect behavior, coach them on the correct behavior,
and follow up to ensure that no further action is needed.
If further action was needed, then you would follow the established policies for escalating the situation (verbal warnings, written warnings, etc.).
22. Tell me
about a time when you made a mistake.
the situation where you might unintentionally communicate a weakness when
discussing how you handled a difficult situation, likewise you want to
carefully consider what example you will use for explaining how you handled
making a mistake.
The important thing to communicate is that you are willing to
remedy your mistakes and learn from them.
23. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
all employers want their employees to ultimately follow orders, even
if you disagree with the boss. They also want to see if you can disagree
If you disagree, how do you approach your boss about the issue?
If the boss is unwilling to agree with you, then how do you act in response,
and ultimately what do you do? Do you follow orders even though you disagree?
24. What was
your biggest failure?
all the other mistake-based question, you want to make sure you have an
answer that you can give a positive spin. One way to answer this question
is to give a non-answer, where you explain that you do not focus on failures,
but instead view failure as a step towards success.
This kind of non-answer may work for some interviewers, but you may have an interviewer
who presses for a direct answer to this question. However, many interviewers just
want to see how you react to certain questions, rather than probing for a specific answer, which is why you may get asked
an odd question:
25. The random odd irrelevant interview question
interviewers ask questions that are odd, for which preparation is generally not
possible. Typically, this is either one of the first or last questions they
If you have answered all of the other common interview questions
adequately, then it is unlikely your response to the spontaneous odd question
will have a huge impact on the perception you have created. However, if they
ask you a weird question in the beginning, then they may be trying to reduce
your confidence to help distinguish between job applicants.
irrelevant interview questions might include tricky math problems, or “What is
one way you can use a newspaper?” An interviewer asking a tricky math question
may be wanting to see how you react to getting the answer wrong. They may actually expect you to get the answer wrong, but they just want to see how you deal with the failure.
However, if the job you
are applying for involves math, then the tricky math question may be a real
test of your knowledge, but otherwise it is a question to put you under
26. How do
you handle pressure?
the interviewer wants to know how you handle your workload under pressure.
Are you productive under pressure, or do you procrastinate? Can you handle a high pressure environment?
makes you uncomfortable?
interview question is generally directed towards ethics.
Does unethical issues,
such as using company property for personal use, make you uncomfortable?
28. What are
three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
interview question can be fairly straightforward if you have had to do yearly
performance reviews with your manager. However, if you do not know of three
things your manager would like you to improve on then do not make up something. Just clarify that you are listing off things you "think" your manager would have liked for you to improve on.
29. If I
called your boss right now and asked him/her what is an area that you could
improve on, what would he/she say?
simply another way of asking what your former manager would have liked for you to improve
Due to confidentiality reasons, the interviewer cannot actually call you boss up and ask them this question. When an interviewer calls a former place of employment, the only information allowed to be given is confirmation on employment dates and whether or not termination of employment was voluntary.
were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
perception of superiors is very important to most employers. Generally,
employers do not want to hire people who have negative perceptions of superiors.
Showing that you have taken an analytical approach to your bosses’ strengths
and weaknesses looks good on you.
31. Why are you looking for a new job?
growth opportunities is one of the best answers for this type of question. This is especially true if you have been
at your previous job for a few years and feel you have mastered the position. You may also answer by saying
you are wanting to take on more responsibility in your job role.
you have recently completed formal education that makes you over-qualified for
your former position, then you have another great answer. Definitely do not tell the
interviewer that you were bored with your old job, or that you are pursuing a
higher income. These reasons do not look good to potential employers.
32. What are
your coworker pet peeves?
What do your coworkers do that bothers you?
to build rapport with others is important for team success. Thus, the interviewer wants to get an idea of how your coworkers might irritate you in order to determine how well you get along with others. When deciding on a pet peeve to mention, it should be truthful, but it ideally should also be something that would bother the company too (such as coworkers using company property for personal use).
33. What motivates you?
obviously money is a motivator for many people, most interviewers want to know
that you have intrinsic motivators that are less superficial than money.
gets you up in the morning?
question is specifically looking for potential intrinsic motivators for what makes
you tick as a person.
If you do
not have a personal relationship with a mentor, then it is possible to answer
this question with an author. If you say your mentor is someone who you do not have
a personal relationship with (such as an author), then it is important to explain how they are your
Give examples of how they have helped you grow.
36. Are you a leader or follower?
whether or not you are a leader or follower should depend on the situation.
Generally, being a leader is a good thing, but it is important to know when to
37. What are
some of your leadership experiences?
This is your
opportunity to give examples of when you were a leader and how you led others.
They want to know if you were successful at leading.
would you fire someone?
employees is just a part of the job for many management positions, so knowing how you
would handle the situation is important to employers. Saying that you would follow the company's policies for firing someone may be an excellent start to answering this type of question.
39. Who are
the company and industry is important for being well prepared for an interview.
Even if your potential job does not require you know the competitors, the
interviewer wants to see that you are familiar with the bigger picture of the
40. What is
the name of our CEO?
be familiar with all the key people of a company where you are interviewing.
Again, the interviewer wants to know you are familiar with the overall
business. Have you taken the time to know who the key people are?
41. What are
your salary requirements?
interview for a position, you should have an idea of the salary range for the
job you are applying for.
This is not the time to negotiate salary. Salary negotiation should happen once you have been offered the job. Most jobs
have an established range for each job, and so the interviewer wants to know if your salary requirements
(think minimum requirements) are within their range. They are not going to hire
someone who wants to be paid $60,000 when they only plan on offering $40,000 to
$45,000 for the position.
When researching salary ranges, know that if you lack
experience then you will be unlikely to get much more than the lower end of the
range. People with applicable experience can command higher salaries.
questions do you have for me?
will ask this question at the end in order to give you the cue that it is your
chance to find out any information about the position you want to know. Even
though this is often the last question they ask, it is one of the most
Always have some questions prepared for the interviewer.
Questions about salary will have generally already been answered at this point,
so it is a good idea to have prepared questions about the job itself. This is
your opportunity to find out what their expectations are for the position.
example, what do they expect the new-hire to accomplish in the first 90 days of
You should also ask the interviewer if there is anything that might
hinder you from getting the position. If they do have concerns about something,
then you now have the opportunity to address those concerns.
you work more than 40 hours per week?
Even if the
position does not require you to work more than 40 hours per week, your
willingness to do so is important for many positions.
44. Are you
willing to relocate?
about your answer, since relocation may actually be necessary for certain jobs.
45. Are you
willing to travel?
Travel is a
big part of certain positions, although generally you will not travel further
than a 25 to 50 mile radius. Normally, taking extended company trips is not a
requirement, although it is possible for certain employers to want to send you
to a training session in another state.
Your willingness to obtain the extra
training can influence your promotion potential.
46. How did
you hear about this position?
This is a
very straightforward question, and it is normally one of the first questions asked.
you work holidays/weekends?
position does not require you to work holidays or weekends, then answering this
question with a "no" generally will not hurt your chances of obtaining the job.
However, the willingness to go above and beyond the requirements of your
position can be partially revealed in this type of question.
If you are willing to work holidays and weekends, then say "yes" even if the job does not require it. Alternatively, some jobs do require it, which is why they are asking the question.
You should already have an idea of what type of hours are expected for this position. If the job requires that your hours will be different every week, then the interviewer is wanting to know what kind of scheduling restrictions you might have.
49. What was
the last book you’ve read for fun?
If an interviewer is asking this question, then they are probably looking for ways to distinguish between equally qualified candidates. Do you read for fun? Was it fiction or non-fiction?
What someone reads can say a lot about a person, especially if they read non-fiction.
50. What are
What do you do with your spare time? Is your hobby something productive, or is it a mindless activity that wastes time?
51. What is
your favorite website?
Similar to the question about the last book you read for fun, your favorite website can say a lot about a person.
questions haven’t I asked you?
If you are well prepared to answer these 52 common interview questions, then you may actually be able to provide a good answer to this type of question. This is also your opportunity to tell them why they should hire you. What information have they failed to pull out of you from their questions? What do you have to offer that you haven't already told them via their questions?
Alternative Answers to Common Interview Questions
every question asked by an interviewer needs a suitable and well thought-out
answer. However, it is possible to have a question asked where a suitable
answer is that you have none, although this is very rare. Try to always give an
adequate answer to every question.
the interviewer may ask you to elaborate on a question, insisting you have not
answered the question adequately. If the interviewer does not think you
answered a question fully, then ask them to elaborate on their question.
they may simply restate the question, just with more emphasis on certain words.
If they do, then ask them to give an example of how someone might answer the
question. While it is not ideal to need clarification on a question, it may
become necessary if the interviewer does not feel you have fully answered the
it is your answer they will remember, as long as you are well prepared and can
give great answers.
By preparing answers to these 52 common interview questions, you will likely be more confident with the interview process and perform better than your competition in your future interviews.
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