How to Answer the 10 Most Typical Interview Questions

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Whether you’re starting out in the job market, making a career change, or wanting to move up a step or two, you’ll probably face some typical interview questions during the job interview. When that happens—and we sincerely hope it does—you’ll want to spend time preparing some key talking points that will help the interview go smoothly and in your favor.

Along with preparation, you might feel the need for a little extra boost. Consider practicing your answers with a friend, or conducting a mock interview with a professional career service. Now, let’s look at how you might prepare for the 10 most typical interview questions.

1. Can you tell me something about yourself?

This question typically serves as an icebreaker between you and the interviewer or hiring team. It’s also your chance to make a great first impression. If you’ve done your research, you can weave in some of your experience with the mission and vision of the company. Be brief and to the point. Make sure you stay positive and enthusiastic in your reply. If you’re from the area, you could add something like, “I grew up in this community, and I’ve watched this company grow. I’ve always thought I’d be a good fit here.”

2. Why did you apply for this position?

Again, your research on the company will come in handy for your response. Match up your skills and experience with the company and the job description. You could also say something like, “I really like that your company is very community minded. As you can see from my resume, I’m involved in several service organizations in town because I believe in giving back to the community.”

3. Why are you looking to leave your present employment?

If you don’t like your job, the company, your supervisor, or all of the above, do not directly say so to an interviewer. Never criticize. You may be justified in your feelings, but you’ll likely come off as a complainer. Instead, talk about your goals and your career path. Say something like, “XYZ is a good company, and my present job was a good entry-level position, but I have more to give to an employer.” If it applies, talk about your degree being a much better match with the position you’re aspiring to.

4. Can you talk more about some of your strengths?

The fact that you’re brave, loyal, and true isn’t what they’re looking for. Pick out two or three of the attributes you possess that match up with the job description. For this interview question, be honest and sincere, and avoid empty platitudes about yourself.

5. Tell me what you feel are some of your weaknesses?

“I have no weaknesses. I’m perfect,” is the response that will get you crossed off the list of candidates. Before the interview, think about some areas where you’re weak but are making attempts to improve. A good response could be: “I’ve struggled with making eye contact with someone I’m talking to—even family members. But I started taking a human relations course and have been making good strides in overcoming that.”

6. Can you explain the gaps in your resume?

If you have gaps in your employment history, the interviewer will probably ask you this typical interview question, so be prepared. Don’t dodge the question with something like, “I was working for my uncle on his vineyard and didn’t include it on my resume.” Be honest; there are probably good reasons for why you weren’t working at a particular time. And even if you were let go, be up-front about it, and talk about the things you learned from the experience and the steps you’ve taken to improve on any performance issues.

7. Can you tell me about some of your career goals?

This is a typical interview question, and while you probably have a good idea of your hopes and aspirations, you’ll still want to prepare an answer. Tie your career path into your education and professional experience. If you have a degree in business administration, talk about the steps you’re taking to work up to a supervisory position. The interviewer wants to know you have long-term potential with the company, so demonstrate that you have the talent and skills to continue moving up in your field.

8. Can you tell me about a time when you overcame a difficult problem at work?

Your response doesn’t have to be monumental. The interviewer is looking to see how well you think on your feet. Before the interview, reflect on those times when a situation arose that required some quick thinking, or when you took the lead to solve a problem.

9. What keeps you motivated?

As long as you don’t say “Making more money,” your response to this typical interview question is a wide open field. Think about why you get up every morning and go to work. Providing for your family is a great motivator. If you’re in a human service field, definitely talk about making a difference in people’s lives. Provide an example, such as, “When I use my skills to complete a task from start to finish, and I know I gave it 100 percent, there’s no greater feeling in the world.”

10. Do you have any questions for us?

Many applicants freeze when they hear this typical interview question. That doesn’t look good for the applicant. You’ll want to end on a high note, so have something prepared. You could ask about opportunities for growth within the organization, if they offer in-house training classes, or when they expect to make a decision about the position. Just don’t ask about salary—and don’t say, “No, I think we’ve covered everything.”

Time spent preparing for your interview is a wise investment and is essential for presenting yourself well. Make the effort to practice your interview and review your responses to typical interview questions. Need some extra help? We offer additional career services as part of our job success package, so you can practice a mock interview and get constructive feedback to help you land that job.

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