By Jesse Collier. Updated December 2017.
Preparing for an interview but have no idea where to start? These common interview questions and answers should help you to ace that interview!
Sweaty palms. Nervous fidgeting. These are classic symptoms of what I call “Nervios Interviewus”. Luckily, with our list of common interview questions and answers, you can overcome this disease and become the interviewee you’ve always wanted to be.
Learning how to prepare for an interview is an essential skill that everyone should learn. It will increase your ability to think quickly and form responses, which will be useful in future interviews and other situations in life.
I have been in multiple interviews before, for various companies. In this article, I want to share the research that I have performed and my personal experiences with taking interviews. Hopefully my efforts will allow you to ace those interview questions so that you get the job that you’re applying for.
Most Common Interview Questions and Answers
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of interview questions and answers, we believe these are the ones you are most likely to encounter when in an interview.
For each question, we provide one or two sample answers, however full detailed answers would require each question having its own article. The answers we provide will help you to get an idea of how to respond to that question.
1. “Tell us about yourself.”
Ah, the question that the interviewer is almost guaranteed to ask you.
This question is meant to make you more comfortable with the person interviewing you, and allows them to know who you are on a more personal level.
With that being said, it’s usually not the best to instantly start rattling off about how you would be good for the position.
If you’re in school, start with your major and what type of classes you’re taking (hopefully these relate to the position).
Then, work more into your hobbies or things you do on your free time. Are you an avid soccer fan? Do you like to volunteer at the animal shelter? These are perfect things to talk about, as they show you live a healthy and active lifestyle.
A good thing to remember for this question is to link the hobbies that you do to the position in which you’re applying. So if you have an interview for a web development position and you like to design and develop websites, then you should definitely add that in.
2. “What is your greatest strength?”
This and the next question are probably the most important ones the interviewer will ask you.
In this question, the interviewer mainly wants to get a sense of your personal character traits, as well as how you would fit into the position.
As opposed to the question above, this interview question is the perfect time to lay your cards on the table and tell about how you’re the perfect candidate.
This means that you want to highlight strengths that directly relate to the position. Would you be working in a team environment? Talk about your role in a team in a previous job or volunteer position. Would you be required to keep detailed and organized reports? Talk about how you keep a budget and manage your daily life with a planner.
3. “What is your greatest weakness?”
If the previous question comes up, this one is bound to follow it. As with the other interview questions and answers, you want to highlight the positive sides to this question.
How are there positive sides to weaknesses, you ask?
Well, there’s a couple ways you could go about turning your weakness into a strength.
One is to name a weakness that you have that does not relate to the required skills listed in the job posting. The last thing the employer wants to hear is that you don’t have an essential skill for the position.
For example, let’s say you’re interviewing for a software developer intern position. The job posting requires you to have excellent organizational skills. Thus, you want to highlight a weakness unrelated to that, such as not being great at giving group presentations.
Another path you could take is to establish a cause-effect-result relationship. First, this entails naming a weakness, such as your inability to speak in front of a group of people. Then, you want to say things that you have done to fix the weakness, such as joined a ToastMasters session or took up a class presentation. Third, you want to explain how your weakness is no longer a strength because of the steps you took to remedy it.
Overall, this question is about framing your weakness as a strength to show you are flexible and willing to strive to better yourself.
4. “What is a situation in which you demonstrated leadership?”
This is one of those interview questions that has multiple answers. As such, it’s probably not best to give a random example of how you walked an old lady across the street and called it “leadership in your community”.
What you want to give is a detailed example of when you took initiative and demonstrated your leadership skills. This could be from a club at school or when you volunteered to arrive early to help setup an event.
Whatever your example may be, try to emphasize how you took charge when no one else could or wanted to. For example, you could explain the time when a group project was due but the other two members of your group got sick so you finished the work and got it in on time. This would show how you took initiative to cover for the other people, but also how organized you are that you can take on extra work.
5. “What is a major challenge you have faced and how did you handle it?”
Again, this is one of those open-ended questions that has multiple answers. What you decide to answer for this interview question is entirely up to the position you are applying for.
It’s best to tailor your answer to the specific field that your prospective job is in. Let’s say that you’re interviewing for a software developer intern position (again).
Now think about a situation in which you faced a challenge. The interviewer wants to hear a unique story, but above all, wants to see how you adapt to various obstacles in your way.
Saying a situation where a group member didn’t do their share of the work isn’t gonna cut it here. You need something monumental, such as the death of a family member (morbid, I know), and how it affected your school work. Obviously you don’t want to lie so if that didn’t happen then you want to give a situation of similar proportions.
Remember, this is a true question to shine, as a unique story will stick with them. This could be considered your “make or break” interview question.
6. “Did you ever have a difficult co-worker? If so, what happened?”
Unfortunately, a simple “no” won’t suffice for this interview question.
This one is a bit trickier to come up with a situation for. If you have no previous work experience, let the interviewer know, and then use a difficult group team member as an example.
The interviewer mainly wants to know how you can handle stress and being in a negative environment. This is the perfect opportunity for you to show that you’re resilient and willing to take action against someone.
Again, you want to make a cause-result relationship. So explain the situation with the difficult person, but then detail the steps you took to correct the situation. This could be sitting the person down and getting to the root of their issues, or talking to a manager if you feel that was needed.
Make sure that you end your answer on a positive note. The interviewer doesn’t want to hear about you leaving cliff hangers with your co-workers. It will only make them wonder how you will cooperate with other people in the position you’re applying for.
7. “What was a situation in which you disagreed with a decision and what did you do?”
I can guarantee that you have a situation in which the outcome wasn’t ideal for you. This is completely fine as not everyone will agree with every opinion. This interview question is designed to see how you handled a decision that you did not approve of.
Generally, there’s two ways you could answer this question. You could either have backed the decision (as long as it’s not unethical) or you could have provided constructive feedback that may justify your disagreement.
Either way, you want to frame the situation so that you appear productive and willing to compromise on various issues.
8. “What are your goals for the next 1/3/5 years?”
This interview question gives the employer a lot of information about you. Unless it’s a contractual position with a fixed term, keep your answer focused on the job that you’re applying for.
This means providing the classic answer of “I just want to get the most experience out of this job, as there’s clearly a lot of talent here”.
And that’s perfectly fine.
Basically this question is designed to see if you’re just going to dip at the first opportunity you get and use this position as a stepping stone. Employers want to see that you will be committed to the job and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, that you will provide true value to the company.
A perfect answer to this question is that you would like to “move up within the ranks and work on as many projects and get as much experience as possible”. Try altering your answer a bit, but your basic answer should be similar to this one.
9. “What are some things you like to do outside of your professional life?”
This interview question is designed to give the employer an insight into your personal life. A lot of companies will assess your lifestyle outside of work as a good indicator of how well you will fit into a team.
Do you play a lot of team sports and volunteer at various organizations? These qualifications will be perfect for an answer to this question. You should elaborate as much as possible for each point you have.
A good idea is to also dedicate your answer to a skill that you’re trying to improve. For example, a possible answer to this question could be: “In my free time I play [insert sports here], but I use any spare time I have to improve my programming skills”. This shows that you’re constantly trying to build yourself into a better person. It will also translate into your professional life.
10. “Do you have any questions for me?”
This is the perfect chance to clear up anything that you were unsure of from the job listing and the interview.
If you’re applying for an internship specifically, a good question to ask is, “Will I be able to participate in meetings?”. This question may even catch them off-guard, as a lot of interns go into their positions doing the bare minimum. By attending meetings, you show that you want to learn as much as possible.
Other questions you could ask include:
- “What is the management chain like? For example, who would I report to?”
- “What can be expected from me each day?”
You should come up with more questions that you feel would be appropriate for the job you’re applying for.
Are you looking for more tips besides interview questions and answers that will help you ace that interview? Read our full guide here!
Do you have other questions that you have seen in interviews that you feel should be added here? Let us know in the comments!
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