23 common interview questions to prepare for

You got the call: The hiring manager shortlisted your application, and she wants to see you for an interview. Congratulations! 

So you clearly look good on paper. Now you just have to make an impression in real life. But how? In short, it’s all about preparation. To start, here are 23 common interview questions. Nail your answers to these, and your job search might soon be over.

Key takeaways

  • Be prepared to answer different types of questions covering things like your past experiences, career goals and salary expectations.
  • Responding to every question with the job’s requirements in mind will help your answers stay relevant and on track. 
  • Even when questions focus on difficult times or challenges, keep your answers positive and talk about what you learned from the experience.

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Introductory interview questions

You know what they say about first impressions. So in addition to showing up on time, dressing appropriately and being neat and organized, be ready with good answers to interview-opening questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should we hire you?” 

1. Tell me about yourself.

It’s an interview classic—and often asked to break the ice and put you at ease. But don’t get too comfortable. While your answer should be a window into who you are as a person, what employers really want to know is how your experience relates to the job. 

One way to do both is talk about what interested you in the career to begin with and describe how you’ve arrived where you are today. Keep it concise, and offer something personal that the interviewer won’t necessarily find on your resume.

2. How did you hear about this position?

If you were recommended for the role by someone connected to the company, this is a great opportunity to mention it. Otherwise, go beyond explaining how you know about the opening. Take the opportunity to describe what interests or excites you about it. 

So while you can briefly mention where you saw it posted, think about answering this question the same way you’d answer, “Why do you want this job?” or “Why are you interested in this company?” Say what you like about the company’s products, services or values. Point out how the required skills match yours. And describe how the position aligns with your career goals.

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

It can be hard to sing your own praises and even harder to spotlight your shortcomings. But your answer to this question can tell your interviewer a lot about your self-awareness and receptiveness to growth. 

Choose two or three strengths that are relevant to the job—problem solving, natural leadership or communication, for example—and talk about a time when you’ve put them to good use, how you developed them, or if you’ve previously earned praise or recognition for them.

As for weaknesses, no one wants to hear that you’re a perfectionist. Be honest and mention a true weakness—preferably one that isn’t essential to the job—that you’ve taken steps to work on. You’ll demonstrate not only authenticity but also a willingness to learn and grow.

4. Why should we hire you? 

This is an interesting one, because the implied question is, “What makes you unique or more qualified than anyone else to do this job?” Unless you know who else is in the running for the position, that’s tough to answer. 

All you can do is focus on yourself and consider what you could offer in the role. Think back to the job description and talk about how the role requirements match your qualities, skills, achievements and experience.

Behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions focus on past behaviors as an indication of job performance and aptitude in the future. They include questions like, “Describe a time you had to resolve a conflict” and “Talk about a time you made a mistake.”

It’s widely agreed that the STAR method is an effective way of answering behavioral interview questions. STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. The technique involves you building an answer from these elements:

  • Situation: The circumstances around a relevant situation or issue
  • Task: Your responsibility or task in this situation
  • Action: The actions you took to handle, improve or fix the situation
  • Result: The outcome of your actions

Think of it like telling a story. The guidelines can help you stay on track and answer behavioral interview questions in a clear and concise way. 

5. Describe a time you went above and beyond for work.

Have you ever taken it upon yourself to exceed a target at work? This is your opportunity to show a prospective employer that you’re striving for excellence instead of just doing what’s expected of you. Choose a project where you can discuss why you decided to go above and beyond, how you did it, and what the results were.

6. Describe a time you had to resolve a difficult situation or conflict on the job.

Questions about complaints and disagreements you’ve had in previous roles can reveal a lot about how you interact with others, solve problems and perform under pressure.

The key is to focus on the “resolve” part of the question. Talk about a time you experienced a conflict or other difficult situation and fixed it. Don’t forget to mention how you grew from the incident.

7. Describe a time you took a leadership role.

If you’re already in a managerial role, think of an example relevant to the new job and talk about a time your leadership made a difference in inspiring or motivating others.

If you haven’t made it to a leadership role yet, you can still answer the question. Perhaps you managed a project, mentored a new hire or organized an event. Even something you did during school could show you have the potential and skills to be a great leader.

8. Describe a time you made a mistake. How did you handle it?

This one is similar to the question about conflicts on the job. It can reveal how you’ve handled a challenging situation and that you can learn from your mistake and take accountability for it. Choose a minor mistake and discuss how you took responsibility, fixed it and adjusted to prevent similar mistakes.

9. Describe a time you set a goal for yourself and followed through.

Initiative, ambition and tenacity are the qualities you want to show here. Pick a goal you personally set and build a story around it: why it was important to you, the timeline involved, challenges along the way and the result you had. If possible, mention skills or abilities relevant to the job description. 

10. What’s your proudest achievement?

What really matters to you? This question can reveal a lot about your work ethic and core values. Choose an accomplishment that you feel genuinely proud of, and your passion and enthusiasm should shine through. If you can work in some of the qualities and skills the interviewer is looking for, even better.

Company culture interview questions

Company culture covers things like values, norms, communication styles and organizational structures. Company culture interview questions gauge whether you could be a good addition to that culture. It’s worth researching the company pre-interview to make sure that your values and norms align with theirs. 

11. What type of work environment do you prefer?

This question is about whether your work preferences line up with what the company is offering. Your answer could cover things like: 

  • Work-life balance
  • Working from home versus in an office
  • Office location and amenities
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Organizational structure
  • Company values and culture

So take the time to do your homework before the interview. Be honest about what you’re looking for—because a mismatch on these issues benefits no one. And make sure to emphasize the points where your wants and needs overlap with what’s on offer.

12. Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?

You can probably tell from the job description whether the role you’re interviewing for involves mainly solo or teamwork. So you have to be comfortable with the work arrangement available if you’re ultimately offered and accept the job. 

And sure, tailor your answer to what the position offers. But also keep in mind that your answer doesn’t have to be black or white. Many jobs offer a mix of both opportunities. 

13. How would you describe your work style?

This is another question to show how your habits and preferences align with those of the company and your potential colleagues. But “work style” might be a little broader, so if this question comes up, be prepared to cover things like: 

  • Work pace
  • Communication preferences
  • Organizational skills
  • Time management
  • Interpersonal skills

This might also be a good opportunity to plug other attributes you haven’t had a chance to mention yet—things like dependability, efficiency, flexibility and creativity.

14. How do you cope with pressure, stress or change?

You’re probably going to want to answer, “Really well!” or, “Pressure? What pressure?” But try to keep it real. Instead of denying stressful situations ever happen, be honest and talk about how you respond to them when they do arise. Is there a time you’ve faced pressure in the past and turned it into a positive? You don’t have to pretend you’re perfect at it, but showing you can stay calm, step back and come up with a way to solve or improve the situation could help your chances. 

15. How do you keep yourself organized at work?

An organized employee might be viewed as more efficient and productive, so show that organization is important to you. Maybe you check off a to-do list, block time on your calendar for heads-down work, or clear your desk of clutter at the end of every day. You can also mention apps, tools or project management software you use to manage your time, set priorities and meet deadlines. 

It’s also worth backing up your words with actions. You might look more organized if you show up on time to the interview, bring resumes to hand out and take notes along the way.

16. Do you have interests outside of work?

While most of the interview is focused on who you are at work, this is your opportunity to talk about what you’re like off duty. But it’s still a good idea to keep the job description in mind when considering which of your hobbies you want to talk about.

If possible, pinpoint a few of your pastimes that relate in some way to the kind of skills you need for the job. For example, knitting might require patience and creativity. Travel could show you’re adventurous and adaptable. A sport could demonstrate teamwork and perseverance.

Career path interview questions

Questions about your current job, career path and professional goals might help interviewers determine whether your plans for the future align with the company’s objectives.

17. Walk me through your resume.

Similar to “Tell me about yourself,” this question is a chance to talk about your professional background in detail. But don’t read your resume straight back to the interviewer. 

Instead, try to bring it to life. Emphasize your most relevant roles, accomplishments and experiences. Explain how they’ve prepared you to take on this new role. Talk about the skills you’ve brought to your work and those you’ve developed along the way. 

Don’t forget to show off those organizational abilities and keep your answer concise and to the point. And if you think your resume could do with a refresh, check out these tips on how to write a resume.

18. Where do you see yourself in the future?

You may just be focused on getting the job at hand, but it’s worth preparing an answer to this question. It can show employers that you have plans to stay with the company, that your goals align with what’s available, that you’re ambitious and goal-oriented—and that you’re realistic. 

A good way to answer the question is to relate your goals to the knowledge and experience you’re hoping to learn from the job on offer. For example, you could say that you’re hoping to become a people leader, which is why you’re enthusiastic about this job’s opportunity to mentor colleagues. 

Make sure you’re also prepared if the interviewer puts a spin on the question and asks you where you want to be in a specific number of years, like 5 or 10.

19. Tell me about your last job.

It’s a vague question—and perhaps that’s the point. Your answer could reveal a lot about your abilities, experiences and personality. Keep it constructive, and consider discussing:

  • What your responsibilities were
  • How long you were in it
  • What you liked about it
  • What you learned from it
  • Your achievements and accomplishments
  • Why you want to leave

20. Why are you seeking a new position?

This isn’t the time or place to get into what frustrates or annoys you about your current job. But at the same time, you shouldn’t ignore the truth. Instead, be honest, but focus on the positives. For example:

  • If you’re leaving by choice: You can talk about what you want to do more of, not the parts of your job you don’t like or feel frustrated by.
  • If you were laid off: You could briefly explain the situation and then talk about how you’ve kept busy, perhaps by networking or volunteering. 
  • If you were fired: You can take responsibility for what happened and then discuss what you’ve learned and what steps you’ve taken to learn and improve.

In any instance, try not to dwell on the past. Follow up with thoughts about the new job—what you can bring to the company and what you hope to gain from the position, for example.

21. What is your dream job?

You may be interviewing for your dream job—and if that’s the case, you can explain what makes it so ideal. But if this isn’t your dream job, don’t worry. There are ways to answer honestly without saying, “It’s not this.” 

What makes a dream job for you? Break it down into elements. It might include working with a particular technology or feeling like you’re making a difference in people’s lives. Now go back to the job description. Try to find parts of it that align with those elements you identified. That way, you can connect the job on offer to your goals and the kinds of experiences you find fulfilling. 

Salary interview questions

Questions about salary may not come up in a first interview. But you may be asked what you currently make or what you’re hoping to make in a new job. 

Unlike other types of questions, you don’t have to lay it all out there if you’re not ready. You could say you’d like to postpone the discussion until you have more of a feel for the job. Or if you don’t want to be pinned down to an exact number, you could give a range.

22. What are your salary expectations?

Interviewers ask about your salary expectations to make sure they fit with the company’s budget and your level of experience.

Make sure your answer is realistic by familiarizing yourself with your industry’s hiring trends and typical salaries for the role. It’s also worth taking into consideration your education and experience, your location, and the company’s average salary for the role.

When figuring out your answer to this question, don’t forget to take into account whether there are other benefits, like annual bonuses, retirement benefits or flexible working hours. And remember, many managers expect salary negotiations to be part of the hiring process.

23. What is your current salary?

This is another way interviewers might check whether you have a realistic salary in mind for the job. You might want to divulge this information if you feel it could give you better negotiating power. But if you don’t feel comfortable sharing, you could either talk about your salary expectations or say you’d rather discuss salaries when it’s time to negotiate an offer.

Good questions to ask in an interview

You’re almost at the finish line—but don’t relax just yet. When your interviewer asks if you have any questions for them, it can serve two purposes. First, it gives you a chance to get clarity on anything that hasn’t already been addressed. And second, it shows the interviewer that you’ve been listening and are engaged. 

You could ask questions about the job, the team, the interviewer’s personal experiences, the company or the culture. For example:

  • What are some of the first projects I would take on in this role?
  • Tell me about the team I’ll be working with.
  • What’s your favorite thing about working here?
  • What are the company’s plans for growth?
  • What’s your onboarding process like?

For more ideas, check out these 10 questions to ask in an interview.

Common interview questions in a nutshell

The kinds of questions you get asked in a job interview will depend on many different factors, including the job you’re applying for, what’s in your resume—even the interviewer’s mood that day. 

So make sure you’re prepared for a wide variety of questions that cover your past experiences, hard and soft skills, and future goals, plus specific achievements and salary expectations.

And don’t forget that interview success can depend on your appearance as much as your answers. So make sure you arrive on time, dressed appropriately, with copies of your resume to give out. Good luck!

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