The 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions and the Best and Worst Answers for Each
There are a few questions interviewers ask time and time again. Here are the most common job interview questions and how to answer each one.
You’ve got enough to worry about in a job interview — do I have spinach in my teeth? Is my voice shaking too much? Did I just say the wrong company’s name? But one thing you can control is how prepared you are for the questions.
Of course, no two interviews are the same, and questions depend on what type of role you’re applying for, but certain job interview questions come up time and time again.
To help, we’ve rounded up the 10 most common job interview questions and given you sample answers for each — both the best and the worst ways to respond.
1. Tell Me About Yourself
The most common interview question isn’t even really a question. It’s often used to kick-start an interview, get you talking, and give you a chance to let your personality and selling points as an applicant shine.
Keep it short and sweet — so don’t tell your whole life story — and aim for a one or two-minute answer to this question.
Be sure to mention the main points about yourself, which could include:
- Your current job and your responsibilities there
- Your job history (pick out the most relevant jobs)
- Any major achievements
- Your main skills
- Where you want your career to go next
- What drew you to the job you’re interviewing for in particular
“I’ve been working as a digital marketer at X for three years now, running everything from email to content campaigns for the start up. Before that, I worked solely in email marketing at Y and helped launch the newsletter and grow the team from just me to a team of five.
Now, I’m looking to make a move into a larger marketing management role and Z looks like a great place to do that…”
“I’m Sarah, I was born in Boston, but my parents moved to Portland when I was five. I like painting, hiking…”
2. Why Do You Think You’re a Good Fit for This Job?
With this question, you need to have done your homework. Find out everything you can about the role and the company you’re applying to. Then, think through your skills and experience and how they match up.
Be sure to highlight obvious points (your teaching degree if you’re applying for a teaching job, for example) but also any out-of-the-box skills or experience you’ve had that would make you a great candidate and make you more memorable.
“Of course, my Master’s in education has given me the core skills needed for this job. But what I think really makes me a great fit is my experience teaching abroad. I taught English to kids in Thailand for six months. They started with limited English and my Thai was non-existent when I arrived. I know this school teaches a large proportion of kids who speak English as a second language, and I’m confident I can help them excel even with the language barrier.”
“I really want to work in teaching and have since I was a kid.”
3. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years Time?
Interviewers ask this classic question to see if you’ve got ambition and clarity on your goals, and whether these match up with the company you’re applying for.
They also want to know that you could be around for the long haul and not about to make a big career change a few months after getting the job.
“I’d love to hone my management skills over the next few years and be leading a team in 5 years time. I believe this role as senior designer is perfect for me as I’ll have the opportunity to train junior team members.”
“I’ll probably keep working in publishing for a year or two before looking into going back to school to retrain as a lawyer.”
4. What are Your Strengths?
Now’s the time to highlight things that make you stand out — don’t be shy! Have you proven your leadership skills endless times? Is your coding ability worth mentioning again? Have you exceeded every KPI ever set for you?
Outline strengths that fit with the job you’re applying to and, if possible, give a little more context about those strengths, such as how you built them or where you’d like to use them in your next role.
“I’d say my greatest strength is being able to communicate with internal researchers and external stakeholders on all projects. I can work in the trenches and understand the tech behind all our projects, but still communicate this simply to stakeholders, making sure they understand exactly what’s going on without confusing them or overselling what our tech solution can achieve.”
“I’m punctual, I’m a great listener, and I’m creative. Next question.”
5. What are Your Weaknesses?
This may seem counterintuitive, but you’re much better off answering this question honestly. Interviewers will see through any fake answer you give in an attempt to look good.
On the other hand, you perhaps don’t want to mention that time you missed a huge deadline or CC’d an external customer on a private email.
The best weakness to give is one that wouldn’t stop you from doing the job you’re applying to entirely, but one you’ve worked on improving over time.
“I feel like I have a lot of great ideas to contribute, but I struggle with the confidence to bring them up in large meetings. It’s something I’ve been working on recently by booking more one-to-one meetings with my manager to make sure my ideas get heard and attending weekly public speaking classes to start working on my confidence speaking in front of large groups.”
“I don’t really have any weaknesses.”
6. Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake?
This is a common question formula that could go in a hundred directions. Look out for:
- Tell me about a time you showed leadership?
- Tell me about a time you worked as a team on a problem?
- Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict?
Before the interview, have a few key projects in mind that could fit situations like these.
When you answer, use the STAR technique: situation, task, action, results. Briefly describe the situation, explain what had to be done or what your responsibilities were, outline what you did in the situation, and then finish with how this turned out, ideally on a positive note.
Best answer: “Tell me about a time you made a mistake?
“(Situation) When I first started working as a journalist, I was trying to build up a network of trusted sources. In order to build more trust with one, I agreed to let the source read my article before it went to print.
(Task) Unfortunately, she objected to the quotes I’d used from our interview, so I had to find another source at the last minute.
(Action) I let my editor know about this straight away so a substitute article could be lined up in case I missed my deadline and I reached out to my team to see if anyone had connections to make the quote-finding process quicker.
(Result) I was able to find a new source, do the interview, and get quotes on time. And now, I always check the newspaper’s policy on sharing articles with sources before publication.”
“I showed a source an article before publication and they pulled out, meaning I almost missed the deadline.”
7. Why Do You Want to Work Here?
Don’t just blurt out that you need the money or the company name would look great on your resume. Find out as much as you can about the company and role before your interview and pull out some key points that align with your values, career aspirations, and personality.
“I’ve been following what X company is doing with TikTok marketing for the last few months now and love the alternative approach you take. I’d love to be a part of this creative team and help take your social media strategy even further. Plus, I’ve been working for fashion brands for the last five years and want to start transitioning into wider lifestyle content.”
“I heard the staff parties are legendary.”
8. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?
This is another question where you have to find the balance between being honest and being too honest. Don’t moan about your boss, admit to a big mistake, or say you just want more money.
Instead, talk about how you want to develop your career, take on bigger projects, or change into a new industry.
If you were made redundant, be honest and say so. Frame it in a way that shows this unfortunate situation has given you the opportunity to pursue new projects.
“I’ve been working as a web developer at X for five years now, and while I’ve had promotions and been given more responsibilities, I feel like it’s time for a new challenge. I want to manage bigger accounts with larger budgets and feel like I can do that at Y.”
“I’m bored and not doing my best work anymore.”
9. What Are Your Salary Expectations?
This question may come in a final interview or over email from HR. Either way, you need to be prepared for it. If possible, research what similar roles are paying in your industry and what people with your level of experience are paid.
Give a range to show you’re flexible and willing to negotiate. Don’t forget to think about whether other benefits — like a yearly bonus or employee stock options — are a part of your compensation package.
“Based on my experience and skill set, I’m looking for $65 to $70k, with a 10% sign-on bonus.”
“I don’t know.”
10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
Now’s the time of the interview where you get to ask the questions. Is there something about the role, team, or remote working arrangement you want to know? Do you want to know what a typical day will look like or ask what will be expected of you in the first three month of your role?
“I saw in the job description you’ve got plans to expand the team further next year. What kinds of roles would you be looking at creating and how would the role I’m interviewing for fit into that?”
“When do I start?.”
Job Interview Question Tips
1. Do Your Research
It may sound like an obvious one, but with all the other things you need to think about before an interview, it’s easy to forget to do your research.
Find out as much as you can about the company, the role you’re applying for, and how both of these things fit in with your skills and experience.
2. Have Some Answers Prepared
You never know what an interviewer will ask, but some questions come up time and time again — or you may get similar versions of the same questions. This means you can prepare.
Before the interview, think about your skills, weaknesses, and key achievements in your career that could be useful to highlight. Have an elevator pitch ready for if you need to answer the “tell me about yourself” question.
Preparing your answers is especially helpful if you often stumble over your words when nervous or find yourself forgetting to mention key points while under pressure.
3. Don’t Script Your Answers Too Much
You should prepare, but not too much. If you have a memorized script for every question, you’ll sound like a robot and won’t be able to flow off of how your interviewer reacts or asks certain questions.
Plus, it’ll only make you more nervous when a question you didn’t see coming gets asked.
Rather than writing out full scripts for yourself, have some bullet points in mind and key skills and scenarios you want to make sure you mention.
One of the scariest things about interviews is that you don’t know which questions you’ll be asked. While we can’t help you see into the future, we can help you prepare for the most common interview questions. Follow these tips and templates, and you’ll be one step closer to landing that job.