Interview questions are often stock, template, and predictable. Be prepared!
Far too often, candidates are caught off guard by common, template interview questions. A little research and preparation can make the difference between embarrassing stumbles and confident delivery. Here’s the top interview questions and the best way to respond to each:
1. “Tell me about yourself”
There are many variations on this common opener, but all of them should be treated the same way: an opportunity to set the tone. Don’t just start running through the achievements on your resume. Instead, tell the interviewer what isn’t on the paper. Talk big picture. “I’m a communicator” or “I’m a fanatically detailed quality analyst” etc. is one technique to come out of the gate strong. Remember to focus on the needs of the interviewer. “I’m someone who thrives when my team and company need me most. For example… (give your killer example). At this point, I’m looking to bring that skill to a company that will recognize my abilities and give me the opportunity to grow even more.”
2. “What is your greatest weakness?”
This incredibly cliché question is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate creativity and a positive mindset. Handle it by minimizing your weakness and emphasizing your strengths. Avoid personal qualities (which may be impossible to change) and focus on professional traits. An alternative approach is to give an example of a former weakness that has been improved through hard work and effort: “I used to struggle with presentations and public speaking, but after volunteering to take the lead at daily meetings I now enjoy the challenge of keeping a group’s attention.”
3. “Tell us a time you disagreed with your boss”
Never say bad things about a former employer! Word gets around, and it’s never a good idea to burn bridges. Also, nobody wants to hire someone who will speak badly of them down the road. That said, there are plenty of ways to answer this question without putting a former boss in a bad light. “There was a time we had different perspectives on which vendor to go with, so we worked out an evaluation process that helped us make the best choice.”
4. “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”
Every adult should be able to answer this question intelligently. Even those who are unsure of their career path should at least envision a set of professional and personal goals. If you don’t have personal or professional goals…why don’t you? Avoid the generic “I want to be in a management position” or “I want to be at a company that can support my long term growth” blather. Make the answer your own with real goals. “I want to be regarded as the subject-matter expert while leading implementations and pushing my employer to adapt cutting edge technologies” is real, focused, and attainable.
5. “Why would you want this job?”
Replying “I’m very passionate about not starving to death” is not appropriate. Someone who can’t answer this question intelligently really shouldn’t be at the interview. “This role fits perfectly with my skillset and is offering the sort of challenge I want to look forward to in the morning” demonstrates passion with the benefit of thought-out purpose.
6. “Why are you leaving your current company? / Why did you leave?”
Be honest here, and don’t try to disguise a termination or other unpleasant business as something other than what it is. Employers check references, and will find out the truth. Instead, give the full picture. Fit the decision or result into the “where I want to be in 5 years” narrative. “I decided the company wasn’t providing the daily challenge or opportunity to grow that I wanted in my career.”
7. “What do you like most about your current / former job?”
This is a probing question that is meant to determine whether the role will be a fit, but is also the time to talk about previous experience and particular strong areas of expertise. As always, find ways to relate to the prospective role: “I received satisfaction from my job when I was able to help other succeed. That’s what drives me in everything I do…”
8. “What are you looking to earn?” (the comp question)
Salary may or may not come up in the interview. If it does, having done a little research beforehand can make a big difference! Use sites Glassdoor and Indeed to find out compensation ranges for similar roles in the area and possibly even at the company. Determine a baseline based on that research. A good way to open up the conversation: “I’m sure we can agree on a reasonable compensation when the time comes. What would you be looking to offer someone with my qualifications?”
9. Why should we hire you?
This question is effectively translated as “What can you do for us?” Show them! Bring together real examples from previous experiences, keep it tailored to the role, and sell that personal brand. “Let me tell you about the time I collaborated across departments to restructure spending processes and came out under budget by 30%. I want to apply that experience to your company.”
10. “What is your favorite color?”
Be prepared for the psychological curveball! These types of questions are meant to test quick thinking and evaluate personality more than anything else. This is a chance to make an impression with quick wit and a bit of humor. Have fun with it! (P.S. Don’t say “Blue”).