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 can turn your brain into a supercomputer when you’re sitting in the hot seat.
When you go into your interview feeling confident and prepared, you might even find yourself enjoying the conversation. Here are 30 of the most common interview questions you’ll need to be prepared for. Usually, interview questions can be broken down into a few different themes, making it easier to organize your thoughts ahead of time.
Interview Questions to Introduce Yourself
1. Tell me about yourself.
It’s go time! But this is not the moment to break out your life story, family anecdotes, Enneagram number, Myers-Briggs type, DISC profile or star sign. Keep your description of yourself brief and relevant, folks.
Here’s the deal—the hiring manager is trying to get an overview of what you’d be like as a team member and 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. What’s your biggest strength?
When talking about your 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, give 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.
3. What’s your biggest weakness?
There’s no avoiding interview questions about your weaknesses (unfortunately), so it’s best to be honest and show how you’re working on overcoming the weakness—without unpacking any emotional baggage. Show you’re self-aware enough to know where your problem areas are. Then explain how you deal with that weakness and are 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 I’m excited about.”
4. 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 people’s 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.
5. Why do you want this job?
Make sure you do some thorough research on this position and company ahead of time, because you’ll need that info for interview questions about why you’re applying for the role. 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.
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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.
Interview Questions About Your Workplace Behavior
6. How do you handle stress?
Again, your 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 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.)
7. What kind of work environment do you perform best in?
Hopefully, your truthful answer to this question will line up with the environment of the company you’re applying to. The interviewer is trying to see whether you’d be able to stay at the company for a long time—they don’t want to look for your replacement after 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.
8. Tell me about a risk you’ve taken. What were the results?
This interview question is designed to go a level deeper than what shows up on your resumé. What your interviewer really wants to know is how you make decisions. Are you a calculated risk-taker—someone who spends time thinking through all possibilities and outcomes? Or do you make snap decisions and leap before you look?
Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong answer. When it comes to answering interview questions about taking risks, your best response is a story with emotion and a lesson you learned. (Just don’t respond with anything that involved putting yourself or someone else in danger—that’s never a good look.)
9. How do you handle criticism?
Ouch. Sometimes constructive criticism feels like a punch to the gut. And it takes a healthy dose of humility to admit you’re not perfect. (The good news? No one is.) When your interviewer asks questions like, “How do you respond to negative feedback?” what they want to know is if you can admit mistakes and learn from them. Are you coachable? What do you do in those awkward moments when you know you need to grow?
To answer interview questions about handling criticism, use this simple four-part formula for your response:
- First, describe the event. “I wrote a budget report and sent it to my leader for review. I didn’t know I should’ve styled the report with bullet points instead of paragraphs.”
- Next, share the feedback you received. “My leader was a little frustrated because the most important numbers got lost on the page. My wordy report took extra time for her to review.”
- Then, share how you put that feedback into action and the result. “I realized I gave her the right information, but the document style was wrong. So, I researched report templates and used a design especially for budgets. This made it easier and faster for my leader to review my next report.”
Employers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they want to see you’re willing to learn, improve, and be honest about your blind spots. (Most importantly, don’t fib and say you’ve never been criticized or corrected!)
10. Tell me about a time you experienced conflict at work.
Let’s face it: There are no easy answers to interview questions about conflict. But with a little preparation, you can respond to an uncomfortable question with grace and confidence. Remember, the point here is resolution. How did you find middle ground during a disagreement or solve a problem without all the information you needed? If you’re tempted to dish all the dirty details about your workplace nemesis or a frustrating management mishap . . . don’t. Your interviewer wants to hear how you focused on finding solutions, moving forward, and keeping relationships intact.
11. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond what was expected.
Think about a time you took initiative to solve a problem or make a difference. There’s a good chance that if you’ve gone above and beyond in one area of life, you’ll shoot for the moon at work too.
Maybe you’ve organized a book or toy drive for your church after seeing a need in your community. Maybe you have a soft spot for animals and created an Instagram account to help your local shelter find those critters a forever home. You want to communicate to your interviewer that you’re ready and willing to step up and take action when you see a need. And, hey—if you have a track record of raising your hand for overtime at the office or assisting other departments on big projects, speak up!
12. Do you work better in a group or independently?
While we’re each born with a personality that thrives in groups or prefers quiet time alone, your interviewer wants to know you can adapt to meet the team’s needs when the time is right. The key is to show you can jump in the mix or keep your nose to the grindstone to get the job done—regardless of your personality type.
Will this job require you to mix with multiple teams and give presentations to large audiences? That might be an extrovert’s dream come true, but not so much for someone who prefers quietly studying spreadsheets and data. To answer interview questions about working independently or in a group, be honest about your natural tendencies—while being aware of the job requirements. (Bonus points if you can back up how you’ve stretched your comfort zone with specific examples.)
Interview Questions About Your Work Experience
13. Can you explain this gap on your resumé?
The times, they are a-changin’. While it’s nothing new for job seekers to have small resumé gaps here and there, in the middle of The Great Resignation, hiring managers are paying even closer attention to gaping holes in your work experience.
The best way to answer interview questions about gaps in your work history is to be transparent and positive—and don’t dive too deep into tragic details, if there are any. If you took time off to care for a loved one, pursue a degree, or enrich your life through travel or volunteer work, it’s okay to be up-front about that. But make sure you communicate your availability and commitment to this new job opportunity.
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. 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 you’ve thought ahead about your goals for this role and what you hope to bring to the table.
Interviewers want to know 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.
16. 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 to make yourself look more impressive.
17. What type of leader do you work best with?
It’s cheesy but true: Teamwork makes the dream work. And how you communicate with—and work alongside—different personality types are important parts of your job success. So, when it comes to interview questions about working with managers or management styles, it’s best to share how you’ve learned to adapt to different kinds of leadership.
It’s common for job hunters to report leaving bosses, not jobs. There are some really bad bosses out there, but we’re also responsible for one half of this two-person relationship. What steps have you taken to understand what makes your boss tick? How does he take his coffee? And better yet, how does he prefer to get information? Every leader has their own quirks and ways of doing things. Your interviewer wants to know you’ve put in the effort to make this relationship the best it can be.
18. 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.
19. 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.”
20. Why did you leave your last job?
The best practice here is to be honest, but don’t go into all the 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.
The most important thing for the interviewer to know is that no matter what happened at your last job, you learned and grew from past experiences and are actively working to improve moving forward. Try to frame the real reason for leaving within positive statements. And never lie about your experiences—the truth is just one phone call away for the hiring manager.
21. What do you not enjoy about your job? Why?
Nope, this isn’t a trick question . . . but it does reveal how you handle job duties that just aren’t your thing. Maybe it’s not your strongest skill or it feels like watching paint dry when you do it—but instead of pouting about it during your interview, give this task a positive spin. Here’s a great example of how to flip it:
- First, share some context around your current role. “I support a small team, so I wear a lot of hats. Thankfully, this has helped me learn my strengths.” (Ever heard of the compliment sandwich? You can follow that same format here: Share a positive and a critique, then finish with a positive.)
- Next, explain what you’ve learned about your likes and dislikes and why they’re relevant to your new job search. “I’ve realized I’m not much of a math whiz, and tracking website data can be a little overwhelming. But I’m great at interacting with people, and I light up when I’m helping others. That’s why I’m excited to switch from marketing into customer service.”
You can be honest about the tasks that aren’t your favorite—just keep it light, focus on the positive, and aim toward your new goal.
22. Our policy is “X.” How do you feel about that?
Nope, this isn’t a trick question. If your interviewer directly asks you how you feel about their policy, it’s okay to take a beat and gather your thoughts. This is a chance for you to turn the tables, get more information, and come back with a cool and collected response. If you’ve done your research on the company, interview questions about policies and core values shouldn’t come as any surprise.
Break it down, be a detective, and get the information your interviewer isn’t sharing. Ask a few questions about why that policy is in place. “What’s the purpose of this policy?” is a great way to get more background info. You’ll learn the details you need and look insightful in the process. Then, you can respond with your honest thoughts. Hopefully you’re interviewing with companies whose values are in alignment with yours, so you’ll have no trouble adapting to their culture (and answering this question with complete truth).
23. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Interview questions about your long-term goals like, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" can be hard because you might think any answer other than “working for this company” sounds a little sketchy. But the key here is to think seriously (before your interview!) about your career goals and whether this position would be a good fit long term. 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 carefully 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 you have goals and ambition.
Interview Questions About Personal Development
24. Who are some industry leaders you follow?
Do you know who the movers and shakers are in your career field? Staying up to date on people, trends and technology is helpful if you’re jumping from one industry to another. If you don’t have direct work experience for the job you want, showing that you follow news and best practices will score big points with your interviewer.
If you haven’t already, subscribe to podcasts, watch videos, and read books and articles by well-known experts before you show up for your interview. If you can name one to two thought leaders in your field and why their work inspires you, then you’re off to a good start. (Even better if you can make a connection to a leader or successful project at the company where you’re interviewing.)
25. Are you learning anything new right now?
When your interviewer asks if you’re learning anything new, what they want to know is that you challenge yourself to grow—without being asked. (What they’re not looking for is someone who eats Cheetos and plays video games in the basement all day long.)
Whether it’s for professional development or your own curiosity, the desire to learn new things is a positive trait and will help you stand out in your interview. Let’s look at an example. If you’re applying to become a children’s librarian, you don’t need to prove your thirst for knowledge by signing up for an advanced chemistry class. (But if you’re a science nerd in your free time, go for it.) Instead, you could tell your interviewer what you learned from the new Netflix documentary about your favorite author. This is relevant to the job and shows that you seek new information that can help you grow at work and in your personal life.
26. Which book or movie character would you be and why?
This is one of my favorite interview questions because it gives you a chance to show different sides of your personality during a pressure-filled conversation. Here’s a pro tip: The character you choose doesn’t matter as much as why you choose them. Have some fun with your answer—but remember to keep it work appropriate and relevant to the traits you’re most proud of.
For example: If you’re an explorer, love to collect knickknacks from your travels, and aren’t afraid to make sacrifices to achieve your goals, you might identify with Indiana Jones. This connects perfectly to your application as museum curator. Your interviewer is looking for self-awareness here (and a bit of fun), so don’t be afraid to give a creative answer.
27. How do you spend your free time?
You’ve aced the tricky interview questions about how you handle conflict, why you’re leaving your current job, and even the dreaded salary expectation question. Awesome! Now your interviewer wants to know a little more about your life outside the 9-to-5. This doesn’t mean you should answer interview questions about hobbies and interests like you’re catching up with your best friend, but being open, honest and enthusiastic about how you like to spend nights and weekends will show a clearer picture of the whole you.
What do you value? How do you manage your personal time? Do your passions align with the position you’re applying for, or do they clash with your career ambitions? If your favorite way to spend a Saturday is guiding your son’s Boy Scout troop on a discovery hike, this shows your passion for leadership, community and the great outdoors. (This is a great example if you’re applying for a management or teaching role.) On the other hand, if you can’t wait to bust your budget on the latest blowout sale, that could cause some raised eyebrows . . . especially if you’re applying for a job as a CPA.
28. What’s the one thing at work you enjoy doing most?
We spend one-third of our lives at work. Wow! Because work is such a huge part of our life, it’s important that we know our top talents, passions and mission. That way, we can be strategic in our job search and find opportunities that line up with our purpose.
Not quite sure about your purpose yet? That’s okay. You can answer interview questions about what you enjoy doing at work with the small things that excite you. Keep it simple. If you get a cheeky grin when your boss asks you to design a new Instagram graphic, that’s a clue. Could you spend hours writing and never notice the time pass? That’s another hint on your path to finding career clarity. Don’t overthink this one, because the first answer that comes to mind will be the most accurate.
Closing Interview Questions
29. When can you start?
Congratulations! No, you haven’t gotten the job yet . . . but if your interviewer asks when you can start, that means you’re likely in the running as a top pick for the position. Make sure you look ahead at your calendar and map out your availability before the interview.
If you’re already employed, plan when you’ll give your current boss your two-week notice. (This is common courtesy and will help you exit on good terms.) Then, decide if you’ll take any time off between your last day of work and your new start date. Also consider any upcoming events, like weddings or vacations, that might affect your first day. It’s likely the hiring manager wants to fill the position sooner than later, so it’s helpful to ask what date they’re planning for a new hire to begin.
30. 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 during your interview:
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 remember: Don’t get too hung up on answering the “right” or “wrong” way based on 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.
For more in-depth advice on nailing the interview, check out my free Job Interview Guide.