How to Answer the 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions

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You’ve been asked to interview for a position—a big step forward in your job search. You’re a little nervous, and that’s natural and good, because it means you really want this job. You’ve got the skills and experience, and you work well with your colleagues and bosses, which makes you the perfect candidate, right? You know that, but now you need to convince an interviewer.

The time you spend preparing for your interview is critical. In fact, you’ll want to spend much more time preparing than actually interviewing. Practicing beforehand can really give you an edge, especially with the help of a professional job coach in a mock interview.

But knowing what sorts of questions to expect is also invaluable. To help, we discuss the ten most common job interview questions below, along with tips on answering them.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

You know this question is going to come up, but answering it is not as easy as it appears. The interviewer already knows your job history from your resume, cover letter, and other application materials. Using your experience as a starting point, talk about the successes you’ve had in your previous positions and how those apply to the job you’re trying to land. It’s probably okay to introduce something personal, such as how you love gardening or camping. Use your instincts before getting too in depth.

2. Why are you seeking this particular position?

Your response to this question should convey your underlying passion for the type of job you are looking for. For a public-facing position, for example, saying you like working with people is just not good enough. Saying you have always been passionate about serving others and making a difference in the lives of people in need is much better. You can talk about wanting to advance in your career path, as well, but leave compensation out of the conversation until after you are offered the job.

3. What are your strengths?

There are no perfect answers to this job interview question, and you’ll want to do a little homework before your interview. Identify three to five of your strengths that match up well with items in the job description. Demonstrate how those strengths can benefit the company. Talk about how you’ve used one of your strengths to solve a work-related problem. If you’re uncomfortable talking about yourself in this manner, take some time to practice answering questions like this, either with another person or using a recording device. Above all, you need to answer these questions with confidence and assurance.

4. What are your weaknesses?

You might think you’re walking a tightrope while answering this question, but it’s not that dangerous if you’re prepared for it. Don’t try to twist the question by saying your weakness is that you care too much, for example. Interviewers can spot a phony answer from across the room. Frame your answer honestly and sincerely, but follow up with how you’re making improvements. For example, you might say, “I don’t have much experience with Excel, but I’ve just started an online class.”

5. Why do you want to leave your current job?

Employees come and go much more often these days, so don’t fret over this job interview question too much. Talk about the fact that you like your current job and the company you work for, but maybe there’s limited opportunity for advancement. Human resources personnel do not seek people who are desperate to get out of a bad situation or jump from job to job. Make sure you convey excitement about the possibility of a new challenge that is part of a carefully planned career path.

6. Can you tell me about what you currently do?

Turn your response to this interview question into an opportunity. The interviewer wants to know how your experience relates to the job you’re seeking. Make sure you have a strong grasp of the job description. Again, take some time before the interview to prepare responses that relate to the position.

7. Have you ever solved a difficult problem at work?

The answer to this interview question doesn’t have to be earthshattering. You have skills that solve issues and problems every day. If you can cite data, by all means do so. For example, saying something like “I helped increase traffic to our website by 20 percent in one quarter by adding an online chat section” demonstrates that you’re a creative thinker and problem-solver. Your examples should match the required skills and abilities listed in the job posting.

8. Do you prefer to work alone or with others?

You might be asked this question to see how you fit with the company’s culture, which should be part of your research before going to your interview. Show that you’re comfortable in both situations. Say, for example, “I’m used to working with a team, so I like regular interaction to ensure we’re all on the same page and on schedule before I begin a particular task on my own.”

9. What are your career goals?

Ideally, being hired by this new company is one of your career goals. Your reply should assure a prospective employer that you have long-term potential. Talk about making incremental steps with your career and include goals for continuing education and training to help you make those upward steps. Demonstrating that you’ve already made improvements to your skills and knowledge is even better.

10. What is your desired salary?

Companies want to know that their investments in human resources will have a high return. Most are willing to be fair when it comes to wages and benefits. Do your research on the industry and suggest a number based on those standards, but add that you’re willing to negotiate.

This list of job interview questions and strategies for answering them effectively should provide you with a great start when it comes to preparing for your upcoming interview. To increase your chances of success even further, consider practicing your answers with a professional job coach using our mock interview services, which will help you stand out from other applicants.

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