52+ Common Interview Questions & Answers

52 Common Interview Questions and Answers - InvestGrowRepeat.com

Most job interviews consist of only 5 to 20 questions, almost all of which are variations of these 52 common interview questions and answers. The following guide provides suggestions on how best to answer these common interview questions.

In order to adequately prepare for an interview, you should write out thoughtful answers to all of these common questions.

Preparation is the key to successfully interviewing well and impressing your future employer. You will be much more confident when asked interview questions that you have already prepared for. You can download this list of common interview questions (PDF) to write out your own answers. Either print the list off, or copy the list into a text document.

Importance of Interview Preparation

Most people have a difficult time providing well thought out answers to interview questions under pressure – this is completely normal. Due to the nature of our basic fight or flight response, the more stressed you are, the less access you have to your frontal lobe of your brain which is responsible for complex thinking.

Even for candidates who feel relaxed during the interview process, unprepared candidates waste time when they have to think about how to answer unexpected questions. Consider students taking a difficult exam where one student has studied versus another who has not studied. The student who studied will likely be able to answer questions quicker and with more confidence, even if both are able to answer the questions correctly.

If you really want to have an edge over the competition, then the best way to handle unexpected questions is to be well prepared with answers to the most common interview questions.

This is the time when a great first impression is extremely important, because candidates are often judged harshly on even minor differences.

When an interviewer has two or more candidates who are both qualified for a position, a minor lapse of confidence can make all the difference for the interviewer’s decision. Some interviewers even intentionally try to break your confidence in order to see how you deal with pressure.

Whether or not you are successful with these interview tactics will depend on your level of preparation.

Most would agree that it is wise to prepare for presentations and speeches, yet few take the time to prepare for the most common interview questions with well thought out answers. They decide to "wing it" and improvise, and they are then surprised when they don't get the job due to a sub-par performance.

General Interview Rules to Follow

The 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 interviewer.

Interviewers 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.

When you 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:

  1. State Your Name "My name is..."
  2. Top Highlight "I have an MBA..." "I worked as a Team Lead in..." "I have experience with..."
  3. Second Highlight
  4. List of Skills/Knowledge (Top 3 skills that apply to the position.)
  5. 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.

Don't be 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.

Don't have 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 negative point.

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 your answer.

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?

A great 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 the wrong.

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 future behavior/performance.

5. What are your strengths?

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 your weaknesses?

This 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.

Some 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.

Certain 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?

Similar to the question about strengths, this question gives you the opportunity to provide an example relevant to the job position you are applying for.

Few people 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 mind.

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.

The 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?

Some 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 similar information.

10. What is your ultimate goal in this career?

For example, 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.

If you 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?

Your answer 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?

It is 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.

14. Why should we hire you?

Many 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 factors.

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?

This is 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 qualified candidates.

16. How would you describe yourself?

Interviewers 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.

17. What 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?

Most 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.

While some 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.

Similar to 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.

Virtually 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 professionally.

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?

Just like 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

Occasionally, 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 ask.

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.

Some weird 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 pressure.

26. How do you handle pressure?

Generally, 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?

27. What makes you uncomfortable?

This 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?

This 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?

This is simply another way of asking what your former manager would have liked for you to improve on.

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.

30. What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?

Your 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?

Pursuing 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.

Alternatively, if 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?

Being able 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?

While obviously money is a motivator for many people, most interviewers want to know that you have intrinsic motivators that are less superficial than money.

34. What gets you up in the morning?

This question is specifically looking for potential intrinsic motivators for what makes you tick as a person.

35. Who’s your mentor?

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 mentor.

Give examples of how they have helped you grow.

36. Are you a leader or follower?

Really, 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 follow.

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.

38. How would you fire someone?

Firing 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 our competitors?

Knowledge of 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 overall business.

40. What is the name of our CEO?

You should 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?

Before you 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.

42. What questions do you have for me?

Most interviewers 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 important ones.

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.

For example, what do they expect the new-hire to accomplish in the first 90 days of employment?

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.

43. Would 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?

Be honest 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.

47. Would you work holidays/weekends?

If the 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.

48. What’s your availability?

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 your hobbies?

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.

52. What 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

Normally 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.

Alternatively, 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.

Oftentimes, 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 question.

Ultimately, 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.

Related: 5 Steps for Online Passive Income

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