Job Interview Questions: The Top 8 Questions Candidates Should Expect
The key to having a successful interview is anticipating what questions will be asked and building a conversation around those questions. Today we’ll discuss the top 8 questions asked in job interviews that you should be prepared to answer.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Although these words were written in the fifth century BC, they still hold water when it comes to nailing an interview. True, you’re not literally preparing for battle, but you are suiting up to make a name for yourself in unfamiliar territory. Knowing yourself and knowing the company you’re applying to is vital to building a plausible case for yourself as a candidate.
How do you know what questions the interviewer will ask?
Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes: What would you want to know about a potential employee?
Along with anything you come up with, pull from our list below to conduct a mock interview and practice your responses. We don’t just want to help you win the battle; we want to help you win the war.
#1: “Tell me about yourself.”
Anyone who’s ever been in an interview has heard this open-ended question that could go a hundred different ways. We’ve all probably wondered the same thing: “What does this person really want to know about me?”
Instead of telling your life story in excruciating detail, focus on what really matters.
Think of this as the perfect time for your elevator pitch.
Filter out what’s unnecessary to get to the root of what makes you a qualified candidate for the job. Start by highlighting two to three achievements and experiences you most want the interviewer to know, and then connect the dots as they relate to the essential duties of the job you’re applying for. Keeping it short, sweet, and to the point shows your ability to communicate effectively.
#2: “How did you hear about us?”
If there was ever a time to name drop, it’s now.
Naming a current or past employee who referred you or telling the story of how you found the position – article, social media, or job board – will help you better connect with the interviewer.
Share what excited you most about the role and what made this opportunity and company stand out among the rest. Shared enthusiasm for the position and how it
#3: “What do you know about our company?”
Any person can read an “About Us” page. If an interviewer asks this question, he or she is looking for how much you know and believe in the company’s mission.
Show that you’ve dug deeper than just memorizing facts and dates from a timeline; the interviewer wants to see that you think critically and understand what your individual contribution would be in achieving the company’s long-term goals.
Give the interviewer one or two lines about what struck a chord with you using a few keywords and examples from your own life.
#4: What are your strengths/weaknesses?
This is a favorite of interviewers because it forces candidates to show their cards.
Here’s how to handle both sides of the argument:
You want to be confident, not boastful. Talk about the qualities you have that are relevant to performing the job well and back them up with stories demonstrating how you’ve applied them before.
Be specific – naming “strong communication” as one of your strengths, although it may be true, is very broad. “Interpersonal relations,” on the other hand, is more direct and opens a gateway for you to provide a real example of this quality. Pro tip: Have a bulleted list of your top three or four favorite qualities cemented in your head so you’re not leaving the interviewer hanging and adding an awkward silence.
When it comes to your professional weaknesses, honesty is the best policy. However, statements like “I’m always late to meetings” or “I can’t meet deadlines” probably won’t get you very far.
Masquerading strengths as weaknesses – “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I care too much” – can also come off as arrogant and unauthentic.
No one is perfect; everyone has weaknesses. Being vulnerable about your weaknesses shows your humility and honesty, characteristics crucial to being able to receive feedback.
#5: Where do you see yourself in five years?
What the interviewer is really gauging with this question is your ability to set realistic goals.
Follow the SMART goal-setting theorem of setting:
- Relevant, and
- Time-Bound goals.
Think about where this position could take you and form an honest answer that shows how the role complements your ambition to achieve these goals.
#6: “Think about a time you encountered a challenge or conflict at work. How did you overcome it?”
How you deal with conflict says volumes about what it’s like to work with you. Challenges are a part of life; they’re simply inevitable. The interviewer wants to know you can handle stress in a healthy manner and overcome these obstacles through collaboration and personal accountability.
Share how you handled a particularly challenging situation expertly, spending the majority of the time talking about the part you played in reaching a resolution or compromise. Example: “Because of the new CRM I implemented, our sales team closed ten more accounts in Q4 than in Q3.”
Being able to problem-solve with a productive and positive attitude exhibits strong leadership and management skills.
#7: “Why did you leave your last job?”
If you’ve been laid off or fired, this question can feel uncomfortable and maybe even a little embarrassing, especially if there’s a large gap in your work history.
It’s okay – at one point, everyone has been caught in an awkward transition.
Be honest about why you were let go and display your eagerness to leverage it as a learning opportunity for your next position.
If you’re still working at your latest job, this is not a time to slam or vent about your current company. Represent yourself positively and focus on the reasons why this company is a better fit for you.
#8: “Why should we hire you?”
Here it is. The big kahuna of interview questions. The floodgates have opened for you to promote your skill set to the fullest.
Use this time to indicate why you’re capable of doing the job, but also that you’d be a better fit for the team and company culture than other hires.
Typically an ending question, close with anything you feel the hiring manager should know about you before he or she makes a decision about your application.
Above all, interviews shouldn’t feel like interrogations or pulling teeth; they should feel like conversations.