As excited as you might be for that big job interview coming up, you’re probably also nervous—and we all know it’s hard to look and sound impressive when your heart is pounding and your brain is going into fight-or-flight mode. But have no fear, because some simple preparation makes a world of difference.
When you go in feeling more confident, you might even find yourself enjoying the conversation. Here are fifteen of the most common interview questions you’ll need to be prepared for.
1. Tell me about yourself.
This is not the time to break out your life story, family anecdotes, Enneagram number, Myers-Briggs type, DISC profile, or star sign. Keep it relevant, folks.
Here’s the deal—the hiring manager is trying to get a sense not only of who you are as a person, but how genuinely passionate you are about this role. Include a few details about your past experiences in the field and connect them to why you do what you do now and where you want to go from here.
2. Why did you leave your last job?
The best practice here is to be honest, but don’t go into all the gruesome details (unless asked for more information). You should never sound like you’re complaining, whining, or bad-mouthing your former boss or peers, regardless of how miserable they made you feel. Even if you were fired, there’s a better way to approach the topic.
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The most important thing for the interviewer to know is that no matter what happened, you learned and grew from it and are actively working to improve moving forward. Try to frame the real reason for leaving within positive statements, explaining what you learned and how you plan to use that information in the future. And never lie about your experiences—for the hiring manager, the truth is just one phone call away.
3. What’s your biggest strength?
When talking about strengths, try not to give generic answers—everyone will say they’re a hard worker. Instead, find personal traits and skills earned from experience that set you apart and make you a valuable asset to the company. Keep the job description in mind for this answer and try to highlight the strengths you have that match what they’re looking for.
Rather than simply naming the strength, consider giving an example of a time when you’ve used it in action or a person has pointed out that strength in you. That way you come across as humble and confident!
4. What’s your biggest weakness?
Similar to the question about leaving your last job, it’s best to be honest and show how you’re working on overcoming the weakness (but no need to unpack any emotional baggage). Show that you’re self-aware enough to know where your problem areas are. Then explain how you deal with that weakness and how you’re working to improve.
For example: “I’m not great with details. I’m a big-picture thinker, and I’m all about action, which is why I sometimes gloss over the small (but important) stuff. I’ve been challenging myself to ask more specific questions and make sure I have all the information before charging into a project that I’m excited about.”
5. Why do you want this job?
Make sure that you do some thorough research on this position and company ahead of time, because you’ll need that info for this question. It’s important to know the specifics of why you want this particular job at this particular company—otherwise your response could come across as generic and fake.
Explain why you’re passionate about the company’s mission, values and/or products and how you’d be excited to use your skill set to help them reach their goals. Can’t find anything at the company to be passionate about? This might not be the right fit for you!
6. What’s your biggest professional achievement?
Humility’s a great quality, but don’t let it stop you from being straightforward about your accomplishments in your interview. Choose something that highlights your strengths—especially the ones that are relevant to the position you’re going for—and focus on the actions you took to solve problems and get great results. Don’t be shy about naming numbers and dollar amounts if those results can be measured in that way.
Think about your response before your interview so you can have an achievement in mind. Rambling, drawing a blank, or downplaying your success in the moment can make it sound like you didn’t really accomplish much, even if you did! Be confident in your answer, and of course, don’t criticize others in order to make yourself look more impressive.
7. How would your boss or peers describe you?
The best way to answer this is to back up your response with examples or real quotes. Think of the question as “What have your boss or peers said about you in the past?” even if it’s not phrased that way. For example, reference positive feedback your boss has given you in an annual review or things your coworkers have said that affirmed you’re in the right line of work.
Another approach is to list a few examples of situations where you’ve been able to help others with projects, take work off peoples’ plates, or solve problems. That showcases your ability to be a team player and gives you a solid case for what you believe they’d say about you.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This one can be hard because you might think saying anything other than “working for this company” sounds a little sketchy. But the key here is to think seriously (before your interview!) about your career and if this position would be a good fit long term. And if you’re interviewing at a company where you honestly can’t see yourself staying, you don’t have to say that, but you might want to think more about if you really want to interview there or not.
When in doubt, say something truthful (but not tied to one specific company) like, “I see myself continuing to pursue what I love by doing ___, ___ and ___, while growing in the area of ___. I also have a goal of ___ by the time I’m ____.” You don’t need to have your whole future mapped out—just show them that you have goals and ambition.
9. What would your first 30 days look like for this job?
At first, this might seem like something you should be asking the interviewer, not the other way around. How are you supposed to know that if you haven’t started the job yet, right? But the point is not to be able to answer with a complete, accurate list of everything your job will entail, but to show that you’ve thought ahead about your goals for this role and what you hope to bring to the table.
Interviewers want to know that you’re ready and excited to hit the ground running in your new job. So take some time to think about the people you’d want to talk to, things you’d want to learn, and work you’d want to be involved with if and when you’re hired.
10. What kind of work environment do you perform best in?
Hopefully, your truthful answer to this question will line up with the type of environment at the company you’re applying to. The interviewer is trying to see whether or not you’d be able to stay at the company for a long time—they don’t want to have to find a replacement for you in one month because you can’t stand hearing background noise.
But don’t change your answer based on the environment of the company just because it’s what you think they want to hear. Instead, explain how you’ll be able to adapt to the environment if it’s different from what you’re used to.
For example, if you work best in a quiet environment with very few distractions but you’re applying to a fast-paced company with lots of chatty employees, describe the steps you’d take to make sure you get your work done (like wearing noise-canceling headphones or deactivating social media). Hint: Read Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’ll give you some great techniques for managing distractions!
11. How do you think we can improve as a company?
This question, or any question that asks you to give constructive criticism, is going to be a bit tricky because you don’t want to insult the company. But remember, the interviewer isn’t trying to trick you or hoping you’ll say, “Oh, there’s nothing—you guys are perfect!” They want a genuine, thoughtful response.
Just like with any kind of feedback, start with something positive. Then draw from your experience solving problems at your previous jobs and see if any of those learnings could be applied to this company. If you’ve been brainstorming about a new idea or product you’d want to try out, it’s okay to share that too (just don’t give them all the details in case they steal your idea without hiring you). Then try to end on another positive note. Keep a humble attitude and you won’t come across like you think you’re better or smarter than their current management.
12. What salary do you expect to make?
Talking about salary is never really comfortable, but it’s part of almost every job interview. Some companies might require you to give an exact number, or at least a salary range expectation, so be prepared with some numbers just in case. However, if they don’t ask, you don’t have to name a number. Giving a number might limit you to the amount you quoted, when the company was actually prepared to pay more.
Do your research on job search sites like Indeed or Glassdoor to find out what the market value is for that position. Then, when asked the question, say something like, “My expectation is that I’d be paid the market value.”
13. How do you handle stress?
Again, the interviewer doesn’t want a write-off answer like “I’m not stressed often” or “I just buckle down and get stuff done.” They want to know that you have a plan in place for overwhelming situations, so list any healthy coping mechanisms you use, like listening to calming music or doing breathing exercises.
If you don’t have any coping mechanisms for stress other than pushing through it, it’s time to develop some. (They might even help you before and during your interview.)
14. Why should we hire you?
Focus on what you bring to the table and what kind of value that would create for the company. Think about all the checkpoints you would look for if you were the hiring manager: Is this person a good fit with the company culture? Do they have a competitive level of experience? Do they care about our mission? Do they go above and beyond in their work?
Then find a way to briefly touch on all those points. Your answer should sum up your passion for the company, how your unique combination of skills and strengths would bring value, how your past jobs have equipped you for this one, and any major accomplishments you’ve had in your field that would set you apart from other candidates. Include any other meaningful details that show you’re personally invested in this role. This is your time to be bold!
15. Do you have any questions?
The interviewer won’t be the only one asking questions in your interview! Any good hiring manager will ask if you have any questions, and you should be prepared to ask some.
Here are some examples of appropriate questions to ask:
- What types of people succeed here?
- How will my performance be measured, and how often can I expect to receive feedback on my work?
- What is the company culture like, and can you give me some examples of how that plays out in a typical workweek?
- Does this company offer employees any chances to do additional training or professional development?
Questions like these show you’re eager to learn and excited about the opportunity.
And there you have it, folks! Of course, this article can’t cover all the questions you might be asked in an interview, but here’s a general rule of thumb: Don’t get too hung up on answering the “right” or “wrong” way according to what you think the company’s looking for. The right answer to any interview question is your honest answer! Focus on responding with truth, confidence, enthusiasm and gratitude and you’ll do great.
If you need more tips on standing out in the hiring process, check out my Get Hired Digital Course. It's an online video course packed with 11 lessons to give you the tools and strategy you need to get noticed and get closer to your dream job. And for more in-depth advice on nailing the interview, check out my free Interview Guide!