Interviewing can be a nerve wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be if you take the time to prepare yourself first. No matter what industry you’re trying to get a position in, there are a lot of common interview questions you need to master which come up all the time. Even if you think you have the finesse to put together polished answers on the fly, why risk it?
Of course there will always be at least some questions you can’t anticipate. So just in case you choke on those, make sure you can impress them with the rest! Since it would take weeks for me to guide you on how to answer each question, what I’ve done first is listed some quick tips to help you get started. Below them you will find a bunch of common interview questions you need to master which I’ve divided into helpful sections. Now it’s up to you to do your homework and formulate your best answers!
Quick tips on answering interview questions
- Be as specific as possible in your answers.
- Avoid repeating examples and saying the same thing over and over.
- Don’t bring in or discuss any confidential data from your previous employers.
- Keep your answers to no more than a few minutes in length. Rambling on will bore your audience.
- Don’t lie or BS because it will come back to bite you.
- Be genuine and don’t be afraid to show your personality.
- Smile when you speak and take breaths in between sentences.
- Go beyond canned responses to differentiate yourself from the competition.
- Focus on relevant work related details in your answers and stay on topic.
- Don’t panic if you get asked a logic or brainteaser question. Talk your way through the steps you’d take to get to your answer. They want to hear your reasoning and see how you handle pressure.
- Have a few questions of your own to ask during or at the end of the interview. 3-5 is ok, not 20!
- Be respectful that your interviewers are on a tight schedule.
- Read more of my Job Interview Tips: Don’t Be A Slob Or A Stinkbomb
- Practice, practice, practice!
Common interview questions you need to master:
Take a few minutes and tell us about yourself.
What attracted you to this position and our company?
How did you hear about this job?
What you know about our company?
Why do you want to work in this industry?
What are you known for amongst your friends/peers? How would they describe you?
Recent College Grads
Why did you choose your major?
What lead you to attend ABC school?
Which college courses did you like the most/least?
In which classes did you get the worst grades?
What extracurricular activities were you involved in?
What was your overall GPA and your major GPA?
Why did you choose your internships? or Why didn’t you have any internships?
What did you learn from your internships?
Did you have experience in group/team environments? What did you learn?
Current Job/Recent work experience
How did you get your present job and why did you choose it?
What are your responsibilities?
Describe a typical day.
What do you find the most satisfying/frustrating about your current job? Why?
What is the most challenging/rewarding aspect of your job? Why?
Tell us about a recent challenge you faced? What was the outcome?
Describe a new initiative/procedure you worked on that had a positive impact.
General Work Experience
Tell me what you did at your last few jobs.
What type of people did you work with?
What has been your favorite job in all of your experience, why?
What specifically were your most/least favorite aspects about that job, why?
What do you like most/least about working with others?
Have you ever been fired or laid off? Tell us about that experience.
Performance And Achievements
When was the last time your job performance fell short of expectations? Why?
Describe a recent time you took the initiative to improve something. What was the outcome?
How has your experience prepared you for this job?
What’s the most creative achievement you’ve accomplished?
What about yourself has contributed to your success?
What is your greatest achievement?
Behavior and Interactions
How do you stay organized?
Tell us about the worst decision you ever made.
Do you manage your time well? Give an example.
Explain how you handle change.
Give an example of something you failed at and how you handled the situation.
Tell us about the types of people you have trouble getting along with.
How do you handle stress? Tell us about a stressful event you experienced.
How do you behave when you have a problem with a coworker or client?
What qualities about your manager and coworkers do you like the most/least?
Have you recently established any new objectives or goals?
What’s the biggest problem you’ve failed to overcome so far?
What have you learned from your past jobs and what do you want to accomplish here?
Is there anything you’re trying to change about yourself?
What do you do when things are slow/hectic?
What motivates you?
How important has communication been in your career?
Talk about an experience you’ve had with a dissatisfied client.
Describe some of your strategies for dealing with difficult people.
How do you rate your communication skills?
When you’re assigned to work with new people, how do you go about getting to know them?
Tell me about your worst customer service situation and how you overcame it.
Work Ethics And Moral
How well do you work with others? Give some examples.
Describe a situation in which you sacrificed your immediate needs for the larger good of a team.
What do you do when you lose interest in an assignment?
Tell me about the last time you made a poor decision, or a mistake.
Describe a time when you had a problem with authority. What happened?
Tell me about an experience when emotions limited your ability to perform a task.
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, why?
Tell me about something you’re the most/least proud of.
What are the things you do best?
What are your current goals?
What’s the biggest problem you’ve failed to overcome? Why?
What qualities do you have that other applicants may not?
How would your manager describe you?
How much direction and feedback do you need to be successful?
What do you know about our competitors?
Tell us your thoughts on XYZ current event.
What is the biggest challenge you think this industry is facing?
How would you explain industry term in plain English?
Have you attended any training classes or conferences this year?
Do you consider yourself a self-starter? Why?
What aspects of your education, experience have prepared you for this job?
What are your educational goals?
Describe your proficiency in ABC skills/program.
How long would it take you to perform XYZ task and how would you get faster?
Describe how you use analytical skills on a day to day basis.
Give us an example of detailed oriented assignments you’re responsible for.
What kinds of people do you like to work with?
What type of people do you find difficult to work with? Why?
What frustrates you the most at work? How do you cope?
Do you prefer working in groups or alone?
What type of management style do you prefer?
In what types of environments do you feel most effective?
What kinds of rewards are most satisfying to you?
Under what circumstances do you perform best? Pressure, deadlines, structure, supervision?
Are you a risk taker or do you prefer to play it safe?
How important is recognition to you?
Managerial And Leadership Skills
Describe a time when you had to evaluate a situation in order to resolve a problem. How did you know you were successful?
Give an example of your ability to supervise others.
How have you positively influenced others?
Describe a decision you made when you didn’t have all the pertinent information.
Tell us about a time when you made a decision quickly.
How have you supported a new policy or procedure with which you disagreed?
In what ways do you motivate your direct reports? Your peers?
Describe a situation when you had to seek out information, analyze it, and make a decision.
Tell us about your leadership and management style.
Describe a recent high-risk decision that you made. How did you make this decision?
How would you rate your managerial skills?
What was the most difficult management decision you’ve ever had to make?
Why are you leaving your present job?
How does this position fit into your career plans?
What do you want out of this job?
What are your long/short term career goals?
How have your career aspirations changed over the years? Why?
What would you like to accomplish the most if you got this job?
What types of jobs are you applying for?
Are you considering any other offers right now?
Interest And Expectations
How long do you plan to stay if we offer you this job?
You’ve changed jobs frequently. How do we know you won’t quit in 6 months-1 year?
What is better/worse about this job than others you’ve applied for?
What reservations do you have about this role?
Why do you want to work here? Why should we hire you?
What differentiates you from other candidates?
What does our company offer that your present employer does not?
Tell us what your understanding is of this role and its responsibilities.
How will you handle the least interesting parts of this job?
Logic And Brainteasers
How many ping-pong balls would fit in a 747?
How many basketballs would fit in this room?
Tell me a joke.
You have a five-gallon jug and a three-gallon jug. You must obtain exactly four gallons of water. How will you do it?
You have three buckets. One is filled with apples, one with oranges, and one with both apples and oranges. Each bucket is mislabeled. You can take out as many fruit from each bucket as you want and look at them. What is the least number of fruits you need to remove to correctly label the buckets?
Untemplaters, what was the hardest interview question you had to answer when you were job searching? For you interviewers out there, do you have a favorite question you like to ask candidates?
Levy W says
I don’t think it’s really that important to necessarily rehearse all of these questions or have an answer prepared for them. You should worry more about learning to not be nervous during the interview (easier said than done I know) so you don’t freeze up, and can just answer their questions honestly. It’s not that big of a deal really, they’re not expecting perfection, and they know some of these questions are difficult.
I work with male inmates that are getting ready to transition back into society. I try to hep them by prparing them with interviews, resumes and filling out job applacations. One question that we are battling with is the one when the prospective employer sees that the applacant has been convicted of a felony How do you answer this question with out being to vague and not go to far in the telling. I instruct my students to put on the applacation that they wish to explain at the interview, then sit down and write a letter of explanation that will be straight to the point tell enough but not to much. What do you think of this
Hi Neesa. That is a tough one. I interviewed a candidate once who had been convicted of a crime. He chose to explain his situation during the interview, which he did fairly succinctly, but he probably got into a bit too much detail. He didn’t end up getting the job b/c he didn’t have enough technical skills and I hope he was able to find something later on b/c it really seemed like he’d learned a lot from his experience, and wouldn’t be a threat to other employees.
Personally, I think it’s best not to go into detail about the felony charges and what happened in the event. Talking about it alone is going to be difficult and a bit awkward and uncomfortable for the hiring manager, especially if they haven’t interviewed a candidate before with a criminal background. I would have the applicant focus on as many positives as possible – for ex. if the felony was a long time ago that’s a good thing. If they’ve had a strong track record of good behavior during their sentence, that’s a good thing. And they could always offer to answer any specific questions the hiring manager may have as a follow up, to show they are willing to talk about the prior conviction if the manager feels it’s necessary. Personally, I think the less that’s said about the crime is probably better.
California has a new law that prohibits employers from having felony related questions on job applications. Criminal history can still come up, but not until later in the process, which helps give those with a criminal record a better chance at finding jobs. More states could potentially follow suit in the future as well.
Best of luck, and props to you for helping those inmates try to get back on their feet and turn their lives around for the better!
JP @ Novel Investor says
I can’t remember the questions of my last interview it was so long ago. Definitely a great resource! I do like the brainteaser ones though, reminds of the Google interview questions that were released and happy I never had to answer.
Oh man I’m terrible at brainteasers especially when I’m on the spot. I like to try and figure some out from time to time but only for fun and not when someone is staring at me waiting for an answer! 🙂 They are good to practice for though because they do come up in interviews a lot of times especially for analytical jobs.
I hope your list turns up high in Google searches, because this is much needed.
I do well with Tony Robbin’s modeling approach. I calm down by pretending I’m a rock star and the interviewer is a magazine reporter. It sounds silly, but there are few jobs I haven’t gotten that I’ve applied for. I go into the interview confident, charming and just a little cocky…like they’re lucky to be interviewing me (not too much, I have to remember I’m applying for a job….). It really calms my nerves.
Thanks! Hey that’s a clever approach, I like that. Also reminds me of my recent post You Don’t Have to be Famous to be a Rockstar 🙂
Aloysa @ My Broken Coin says
Great list! Actually it put me back in time when I was interviewing for my current job. I wish I would read then something like this. Would’ve helped me tremendously! Now, it was a good refresher course for me.
Thanks Aloysa. Yeah I wish I knew then what I know now when I was interviewing myself. Now we’re in good shape should we ever try to change jobs! 🙂
Savvy Scot says
I particularly like the CAR method.
I always followed these steps when answering each question. Really helps the interviewer to record your answers as well
That’s a good way to remember and simple too. Thanks Scot!
Thanks for the questions. I’m now feeling hugely intimidated. I’m looking into changing fields so an interview is a real possibility. I’ll be keeping this list in mind as I prepare. I’m pretty sure interviewing is one of the biggest reasons why I hate to change jobs.
Well don’t give up! It’s better to be intimidated now while you have time to prepare and get yourself enough experience versus being a deer in headligts in the interview room! Everyone gets nervous about interviewing. If you are coming from a different industry expect your interviewers to question you about your career change and challenge your experience. They have to be skeptical of people coming in from different industries because they don’t have a way to know that you will even like the new type of work you’d be doing at the new job. With a big career change I recommend applying for new jobs and interviewing while you’re still working as it can be hard when you’re competing against candidates who have industry experience. It can be done though!
Nice checklist Sydney. When it comes to non technical questions, most interviewers ask the same questions! Always better to be prepared and this checklist is a great starting point!
Thanks MoneyCone! Yeah I definitely have a set of questions I ask a lot as do my colleagues. Trying to find someone who interviewed at the company you want to get a job at can be a big advantage but that isn’t always possible. Going through this list should cover a lot of bases.
John | Married (with Debt) says
As someone who has interviewed a few people in my day, the biggest weakness question seems to throw people off. Either they can’t answer it, or it’s some rehearsed answer like “i care too much” or “I work too hard.”
I’m not sure there is a right answer to this question, just wrong ones. It’s all in how you answer it, not so much what you say.
Yeah I don’t think I’ve ever heard a good answer to that question either but it comes up all the time. A canned answer is at least better than saying “I don’t have any weaknesses” which I’ve had people say before. But everyone has weaknesses so picking one that’s not jeopardizing to the role at hand and following it with examples of actions you’re taking to strengthen it is a good way to approach that question.
Great list! A friend told me that one interviewer said “If somebody walked into this room and punched you right now, how would you react?”. People are crazy, haha.
Oh wow haha. I haven’t heard that one before. Yeah there’s usually at least one question like that which makes absolutely no sense and is meant to trip people up. I guess they want to know which people would punch right back or try to calm the puncher down or maybe something else entirely!