How to Answer the 9 Most Common Interview Questions

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No one likes job interviews—neither the interviewee nor the interviewer. They’re awkward and stressful, and they have the power to determine your future. Not a great combination. However, being invited to interview for your dream job is a thrilling opportunity, one you want to prepare for thoroughly.

Just like an outstanding resume can land you an interview (especially with the help of seasoned resume-writing experts), an impressive interview can land you the job. Job interview questions differ dramatically based on the nature of the position and the culture of the company, but a handful of common interview questions pop up time and time again. Let’s explore a few of them here.

1. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

This is one of the most common interview questions of them all, and finding the fine line between confidence and arrogance as well as self-assessment and self-defeat can be challenging. Both the strengths and the weaknesses you address should be relevant to the position. Don’t give a cop-out weakness like perfectionism, but don’t name anything too dire, either. Be sure to also outline how you’re addressing your weaknesses and striving to improve.

2. What interests you about this position/company?

Even though this is a commonly asked job interview question, people often approach it the wrong way. You may have been drawn to the job because of the location, schedule, salary, or any number of other personal benefits, but steer your answer away from those. Focus on the actual work you’ll be doing in the role and emphasize how that work is meaningful for you or why you feel this position is the right next step in your career.

3. Why are you looking to leave your current position?

This common interview question is an important one. Answer wrong, and your chances may plummet. The trick is to assume a positive, forward-looking mindset. Don’t complain about your current job, boss, company, or salary. Instead, highlight what draws you to the position you’re interviewing for. Emphasize the opportunities for career advancement or personal growth that the new position offers.

4. What makes you better for this role than other candidates?

This common job interview question gets right to the core: Why do you deserve this position? Here, you have to pull out all the stops and really sell yourself. Obviously, you should have all the skills required for the position, but if you’re exceptionally skilled in any relevant domain, you can mention that. To set yourself apart, however, try to focus on personal qualities such as creativity, organization, or drive as well as skills the company may need in the future. This way, you’re showing them you can perform your work more effectively or can offer them something other candidates can’t.

5. How would your boss or colleagues describe you?

Asking how people who have worked closely with you would describe you is another highly common interview question. Think about it a bit and come up with something original that other applicants are not likely to have said, and elaborate on your answer to explain why your boss or colleague would have this impression about you. Some interviewers have even claimed to be partial to answers that describe the candidate as a person instead of a worker. Just say something that will make you stand out—in a good way.

6. Can you explain the gap in your employment history?

This common job interview question is a bit tricky. Gaps in your work history aren’t necessarily as bad as you might think, but you still have to be careful how you answer. Whatever the reason for the gap, make sure to highlight how you were being productive during that time, whether pursuing personal or professional interests, improving yourself, or helping your family.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is one of the most cliché common interview questions, but it really does get asked a lot. Obviously, your five-year objective should be in line with that of the company, so focus on a vision relevant to the position, and give an answer that demonstrates ambition and drive.

8. How do you deal with pressure and stress?

Nearly all jobs are necessarily stressful, but this common job interview question tries to investigate your approach to such pressure. Take a moment to reflect on some stressful professional experiences and how you handled those situations. What approaches did you take? Ideally, you solved the problem effectively. Even if your performance under pressure is subpar, make sure to highlight your strong points.

9. Do you have any questions for me?

The only right answer to this common interview question is yes. Having no questions suggests a lack of interest or engagement, but you have to ask the right ones. Don’t ask questions you can answer easily with a bit of research, like ones about basic company history, and avoid ones related to salary, time off, or benefits. Keep your questions relevant to the position itself, the work, the team, and the company culture. This question gives you an opportunity to show off your research and mention additional qualities you can offer. Asking questions that build off points the interviewer has mentioned also demonstrates engagement.

No matter how many job interviews you go through, they’re always difficult and nerve-wracking. The best way to combat your nerves is with thorough preparation, so think carefully about your answers to these questions before your interview. You can even enlist the help of a career coach to conduct a mock interview and lock down your answers.

Not at the interview stage yet? Try polishing your resume. It may even require an overhaul—in which case you can hire expert professionals to rewrite your resume for you.

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