Answer the 30 Most Common Job Interview Questions with 3 Stories

When it comes to job interviewing, few topics are stressed in advice columns, how-to’s and tips and tricks articles as much as the concept of preparation.  Do your research on your prospective employer. Practice your smile, handshake, speech cadence and more. This practical wisdom that practice makes perfect is perhaps at its most apt when it comes to preparing for the all-important interview.

The job interview is an employer’s opportunity to evaluate candidates on their practical skills.  Sure, you say you’re a people person on your resume, but can you keep up a polite conversation or perform under pressure when faced with a difficult customer service scenario?  The in person interview is perhaps the greatest opportunity a candidate has to either impress or disappoint a hiring manager. Preparing for the event is essential for candidates serious about getting ahead in the career game.  With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the 20 most common job interview questions along with advice on just what it takes to show up prepared with clear, concise and confident answers.

For ease of digestion, we’ve broken the questions up among the three most common topic areas.  

  1. Your Work History

Typical questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about your work history.
  3. What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
  4. What’s the biggest mistake you have made in your career and what did you learn from it?
  5. Why do you have an employment gap?
  6. Why did you leave your previous job?
  7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
  8. What other companies are you interviewing with?
  9. What are your salary requirements?
  10. What is your dream job?
  11. What motivates you?
  12. How do you define success?

Questions regarding your work experience and prior job history will often be among the first things asked out of the gate by your prospective employer.  Think of your job history as a career narrative that paints a picture for hiring managers and interviewers. If you’ve developed a habit of staying in jobs for only a short period of time, most interviewers are going to ask how they can expect reliability or commitment from you in the new gig.  If you have abrupt absences or unexplained work gaps, these may raise red flags absent some explanation for why you chose to remain unemployed.

While our common questions provide a great starting point for interview prep, those applying for jobs should carefully review their resume for anything that may stand out when it comes to work experience.  If you see any red flags, have an answer for who, what, where and why ready to go.

When it comes to forward looking questions, savvy candidates should be prepared to answer a range of questions.  From salary requirements to short and long term career goals, companies are generally looking for candidates to provide stability and value.  Provide honest and forthright answers to these questions, but also take some time pre-interview to carefully assess your personal feelings regarding the position you’re applying for.  Doing so ahead of time will not only help you come interview day, it will also help set your sight on long term career moves.

  1. Your Skills

Typical questions:

  1. What experience do have doing X (a specific skill mentioned in job post)?
  2. What is your biggest weakness?
  3. What is your biggest strength?
  4. Tell me about a problem you had in a previous job and how you solved it.
  5. What issues do you see facing this position?
  6. When can you work? Can you work 40+hours a week?
  7. What hobbies, interests do you have?
  8. What was the last book you read?
  9. What is your favorite website?

The next set of questions a prospective employer will inevitably ask revolves around skills that may make you qualified, or better yet, a perfect match for an open position.  When asked about qualifications, it’s important to note that you should focus less on general statements about your prior jobs and more on personal or professional skills that made you especially suited for the role.

For example: if the position you’re applying for asks for candidates with strong leadership capabilities, be sure to think about what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses in the arena.  Come up with one or two real world examples of how you’ve demonstrated strong leadership abilities in your prior experiences. This general approach will help build a solid foundation to answer a number of varied questions about your experience while still allowing you to come off as forthcoming and natural in your responses.

If you have specific certifications that are pertinent to the position you’re applying for, be sure to bring these up in the interview.  Hiring managers will have reviewed numerous resumes prior to seeing you in person and its important to help set yourself out from the crowd.  On a similar note, it can be extremely helpful to identify the common challenges you see in your field, as well as any solutions you may have identified to help overcome these hurdles.  Throwing these out as topics of conversation will help hiring managers recognize that you have a nuanced understanding of the requirements of the position as well as experience and expertise to help their company in these areas.

  1. Our Company and Your Possible Fit Here

Typical questions:

  1. Why are you interested in a job at our company?
  2. How did you find out about our company?
  3. What can you tell me about our company?
  4. Why should we hire you?
  5. How will you contribute to our company and staff?
  6. If you started today, what would be the first thing that you did?
  7. What do you look for in a boss?
  8. What kind of work environment do you function best in?
  9. What is the biggest challenge facing our company, do you think?

The last category of questions you’ll likely be asked on your interview has to deal with the specific company and role you’re applying for.  This group of queries often falls into the typical “do your research” space when it comes to interview prep. Interviewers will be curious about your interest in the given position, your motivation for applying this this specific role and how you heard about the opening in the first place.  

Before your interview, spend a great deal of time reviewing the job listing and thinking about the individual requirements and any “between the lines” goals for the job.  Next, check out the company’s website for recent news, insights into company culture or other useful tidbits that could provide information on what a day in the position may look like.  Even if you don’t memorize the specific questions that will come up on this topic, having this basic information in your arsenal will help you provide on the fly responses as well as demonstrate that you’re interested in this individual position rather than just applying for any old open spot.

If you want to earn big bonus points with the interviewer, think about how you might fit into the company’s long term picture as well as any goals you might have for the position or the field in general.  Talking about building a future with a company not only reassures your interviewer that you’ve got skin in the game, it can also help them picture you in the role which can help your job offer chances.

While understanding the individual questions you might be asked is important, it’s important to know that each interview is unique and individual hiring managers will have their own approaches to selecting just the right candidate.  Preparing for specific questions will be important, but thinking about them categorically will also help candidates prepare for the inevitable one off. Preparing for the unexpected may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s a key to career success and essential when it comes to getting ready for your next job job interview.

Article Updated for the Original on March 15, 2018