These Are the 8 Most Common Interview Questions You Need to Be Prepared For
Though you can't be prepared for everything—curve balls are inevitable, after all—career experts shed light on the most common inquiries employers usually ask in interviews—and how to answer them.
Why should we hire you?
Because you’re awesome, right? Of course you are, but a few sentences isn’t going to cut it on this all-important question that hints to the root of the reason you’re sitting in a conference room, chatting with a stranger. Monster.com career expert Vicki Salemi says this is your opportunity to really prove your case, much like you might do if you were a lawyer defending a client. Facts, figures, growth, percentages, and other keywords that demonstrate your effectiveness will warm the thermometer in your direction. As an example for a sales professional, Salemi recommends a response along the lines of, “I’m the next best asset on your team because I’m a team leader. Last year my group boosted sales by 30 percent once I took the reins. I motivate, inspire, and lead by example. When I make a mistake, I’m transparent and admit it and also schedule office hours with my team, so they know they can easily get on my calendar.” If you struggle with singing your own praises, check out these tips for boosting self-confidence.
Why are you the best fit for this job?
Here’s where you can talk more about your unique, impressive resumé as it relates to the job description you’ve got your eye on. As industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert, Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D, explains, you want the interviewer to walk out of the meeting with you ready to make an offer because of the synergy and affinity they felt with you and your fit for the opportunity. “To prepare, study the job description for the position. Then, note how you specifically meet the requirements with regard to your knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics,” she explains. “If you are lacking in a particular area, emphasize how you are willing to learn and show how your skills and abilities will best help you to succeed on the job. It’s a good idea to share how you are not only a good fit for the job, but also for the team or organization.” Need some inspiration? Check out these tips from smart CEOs.
Why do you want to work here?
Because you’re desperately seeking a raise and your current company won’t budge on the budget? You want a title, location, or salary change? Or you’re making the next logical step on the path toward your ultimate career goals? There are plenty of answers here that likely come to the forefront of your mind, but Salemi says instead of being crystal-clear transparent, make this question less about you, and more about the company itself. This is where reading up on the latest press releases, product updates, and company announcements will set you apart from others vying for the same role. “If you’ve read they’re going to expand in Asia, mention it. If they recently acquired a competitor or smaller company in the space, let them know you are aware of this,” Salemi says. “This is your time to shine. Do your research ahead of time about the company.” You have to dress for the job you want. Here’s how.
When have you been a leader in the past?
Hoping for a gig that would give you the opportunity to be a boss? You can anticipate your interviewer to dive into your ability to inspire, motivate, mold, and manage others. More than anything else, Hakim says it’s your goal to illustrate how you can take initiative, without having to be nudged along. Even if you haven’t had an official manager-level job description quite yet, you can still give fruitful examples that show your ability to take this next step in your career. “If you haven’t led people in a task, consider a time when you took initiative to get a project off the ground. Or, consider a time when you stepped up to save the day at work or in your personal life,” she explains. “It is ideal to share how you were able to gain consensus for a project or how you inspired others to be greater than they thought they could be on their own. Find out the ten secrets to being a good boss.
What is your greatest weakness?
If you can think back to those initial meetings in college with your career prep counselor who shared their best coaching advice on entry-level interviews, they likely encouraged you to brush up on the answer to this classic question. Salemi says it’s a tried-and-true inquiry for a reason. Bottom line? Salemi recommends to be honest here, and to consider the question from a different angle: “What’s one item your current boss pointed out on your last performance review that you need to work on during the upcoming year?” Perhaps your employer encouraged you to voice your opinion more often in brainstorms, pushed you to overcome your fear of the phone instead of relying on e-mail for communication, or inspired you to take the lead on a project. Whatever these weaknesses were, you can reiterate how you struggled, how you overcame and how you plan to further strengthen this downfall in this new role. Here’s how to handle criticism the right way.
How would your coworkers describe you?
Chances are slim the interviewer is interested in office bonding stories from the company you’re leaving when they pose this question. Instead, Salemi says they’re delving into your social interaction and interpersonal skills, giving you the opportunity to present the role you’d play in the office environment. It’s not only important to highlight what makes you irreplaceable in an office (you’re a people person, you bring groups together, you take the lead, you’re dependable), but your energy is key here, too. Salemi says, “What would your boss say to describe you? Your direct reports, if you have some? And your peers? They should be pretty consistent across the board—and you can use this in your answer.” Here’s how to build trust with your coworkers.
When were you in a conflicting situation and how did you handle it?
Even if you’re vying for your dream gig, smart managers know that disagreements, contradicting opinions and heated discussions are all part of the workplace. When employers pose this question, they’re attempting to get a sense of how well you manage your cool. Instead of working on carefully-crafted descriptions here, Hakim says to show off your intelligence and maturity with specifics. “In addition to demonstrating how you effectively handle destructive conflict, employers may also want to see how you embrace constructive conflict, which is healthy and beneficial to a company,” she explains. “To prepare for this answer, consider a negative conflicting situation and share how you used logic, reasoning, and persuasion to reduce or minimize the conflict. Choose an example that shows your initiative and your knowledge of company protocol.”
What questions do you have for me?
You can count on this to come at the end of any interview but that doesn’t make it any less significant, Hakim says. Here is where they are seeing if you actually did your research to ensure you know all there is to know about the company you’re hoping to list on your LinkedIn profile. “Scour the company website to learn about interesting programs and resources. It’s a great idea to ask about a company program or about the company culture,” Hakim suggests. The worst tactic is to not have any questions or to merely ask about salary or the job description itself. “Employers want an employee who is engaging and interested in the organization,” she adds.