There are questions that employers commonly ask at job interviews and it’s important to be prepared to respond to those interview questions. You don’t need to memorize an answer, but do think about what you’re going to say, so you’re not put on the spot during the job interview.
Review the interview questions below, plus the best answers.
TIP: Try recording yourself while practicing these questions. This will help you work on other non-verbal signals such as your body language and hand movements while you are speaking. Don’t be too hard on yourself, this will be first time you actually see yourself answering questions on screen. You may be shocked on how you appear or sound, maybe saying too many “Ummms” or “Like” or even nervous coughs or twitches. This is your chance to prepare yourself and practice.
What were your responsibilities? • top
The best way to respond is to describe your responsibilities in detail and to connect them to the job you are interviewing for. Try to tie your responsibilities in with those listed in the job description for the new position.
That way, the employer will see that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. Focus most on your responsibilities that are directly related to the new job’s requirements— It’s also important to be honest. Don’t embellish your job, because you don’t know who the hiring manager will be checking with when they check your references.
When you’re asked what don’t like about your previous job, don’t be too negative. The reason is that you don’t want the interviewer to think that you’ll speak negatively about the new job or the company when you’re ready to move on, if you get this job. Rather, it makes sense to talk about yourself and what you’re looking for in a new role.
- I enjoyed the people I worked with. It was a friendly and fun atmosphere and I actually enjoyed going into work each morning. I felt the leadership team was great as well. They knew all of their employees on a first name basis and tried to make those personal connections. I also enjoyed that fact that the office tired to do community outreach with local organizations.
- One of the reasons I am leaving is that I felt I was not challenged enough at the job. As a fresh face in the working world, the company offers a great opportunity for a good entry level position, however, after being there for so many years, I felt I was not able to reach my full potential because of the lack of challenge and there was no room for advancement in the company.
- While I did enjoy working there and appreciate the skills I developed while with the company, I feel my skill set can be better utilized elsewhere, where my capabilities are more recognized and there is the opportunity for growth.
What were your starting and final levels of compensation? • top
Interviewers expect a candidate for employment to be able to provide the details of their compensation history. Be prepared to tell the interviewer how much you earned at each of your prior positions.
Make sure that what you tell the interviewer matches what you listed on your job application. Refresh your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your compensation history, so, you can speak in detail and accurately. Don’t exaggerate or inflate your earnings. Many employers will check references and confirm your salary history prior to making a job offer. A discrepancy between what you reported and what the employer says could knock you out of contention for the job.
The best way to prepare is to download a sample job application ahead of time. Complete the sample application and review it prior to the interview
What major challenges/problems did you face? How did you handle them? • top
When asked the job interview question “How did you handle a challenge?” be sure to include specific examples of how you handled a particular difficult situation. Discuss how you researched the issue and contributed to finding a solution.
- During a difficult financial period, I was able to satisfactorily negotiate repayment schedules with multiple vendors.
- When the software development of our new product stalled, I coordinated the team which managed to get the schedule back on track. We were able to successfully troubleshoot the issues and solve the problems, within a very short period of time.
- A long-term client was about to take their business to a competitor. I met with the customer and was able to change how we handled the account on a day-to-day basis, in order to keep the business.
What is your greatest strength? • top
When you are asked questions about your strengths, it’s important to discuss attributes that will qualify you for the job. The best way to respond is to describe the skills and experience that directly correlate with the job you are applying for.
- When I’m working on a project, I don’t want just to meet deadlines. Rather, I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule.
- I have exceeded my sales goals every quarter and I’ve earned a bonus each year since I started with my current employer.
- My time management skills are excellent and I’m organized, efficient, and take pride in excelling at my work.
- I pride myself on my customer service skills and my ability to resolve what could be difficult situations.
What is your greatest weakness? • top
When you’re asked what your greatest weakness is, try to turn a negative into a positive. For example, a sense of urgency to get projects completed or wanting to triple-check every item in a spreadsheet can be turned into a strength i.e. you are a candidate who will make sure that the project is done on time and your work will be close to perfect.
Note that the term “weakness” isn’t used in the sample answers – you always want to focus on the positive when interviewing.
- When I’m working on a project, I don’t want just to meet deadlines. Rather, I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule.
- Being organized wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organization skills.
- I like to make sure that my work is perfect, so I tend to perhaps spend a little too much time checking it. However, I’ve come to a good balance by setting up a system to ensure everything is done correctly the first time.
- I used to wait until the last minute to set appointments for the coming week, but I realized that scheduling in advance makes much more sense.
- I would say that I can be too much of a perfectionist in my work. Sometimes, I spend more time than necessary on a task, or take on tasks personally that could easily be delegated to someone else. Although I’ve never missed a deadline, it is still an effort for me to know when to move on to the next task, and to be confident when assigning others work.
- I’ve learned to make my perfectionism work to my advantage at work. I am excellent at meeting deadlines, and with my attention to detail, I know my work is correct.
- I used to like to work on one project to its completion before starting on another, but I’ve learned to work on many projects at the same time, and I think it allows me to be more creative and effective in each one.
How do you handle stress and pressure? • top
A typical interview question, asked to get a sense of how you handle on-the-job stress, is “How do you handle pressure?”
- Stress is very important to me. With stress, I do the best possible job. The appropriate way to deal with stress is to make sure I have the correct balance between good stress and bad stress. I need good stress to stay motivated and productive.
- I react to situations, rather than to stress. That way, the situation is handled and doesn’t become stressful.
- I actually work better under pressure and I’ve found that I enjoy working in a challenging environment.
- From a personal perspective, I manage stress by visiting the gym every evening. It’s a great stress reducer.
- Prioritizing my responsibilities so I have a clear idea of what needs to be done when, has helped me effectively manage pressure on the job.
- If the people I am managing are contributing to my stress level, I discuss options for better handling difficult situations with them.
- I find that when I’m under the pressure of a deadline, I can do some of my most creative work.
- I’m not a person who has a difficult time with stress. When I’m under pressure, I focus, and get the job done.
- I find it exhilarating to be in a dynamic environment where the pressure is on.
- I find a past pace to be invigorating, and thrive when the pressure is on.
- I’ve done some of my best work under tight deadlines, where the atmosphere was very stressful.
- I’m the kind of person who stays calm under pressure, and handles stress fairly easily.
It’s a good idea to give examples of how you have handled stress to your interviewer. That way, they get a clear picture how well you can work in stressful situations.
Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it. • top
There is no right or wrong answer to questions like “What are the most difficult decisions to make?” or “Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.” These are behavioral interview questions designed to discover how you handled certain situations. The logic behind these type of questions is that how you behaved in the past is a predictor of what you will do in the future.
Give concrete examples of difficult situations that actually happened at work. Then discuss what you did to solve the problem. Keep your answers positive and be specific. Itemize what you did and how you did it.
- Even though it was difficult when Jane Doe quit without notice, we were able to rearrange the department workload to cover the position until a replacement was hired.
The best way to prepare for questions where you will need to recall events and actions, is to refresh your memory and consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on. You can use them to help frame responses. Prepare stories that illustrate times when you have successfully solved a difficult situation.
What was the biggest accomplishment / failure in this position? • top
Your potential employer will want to know what you accomplished, and what you didn’t, in your current or last position.
The best way to respond is to give an example of something you accomplished that is directly related to the job you are interviewing for. Review your resume and review the job posting. Find the best match and use that to show how what you accomplished will be beneficial to the company you are interviewing with.
If you wrote a targeted cover letter when applying for the job use the information you included to create your response.
For example, if you are interviewing for a job at a school where you will need to manage student registration, explain to the interviewer how you registered students for courses, designed and managed registration software, and solved customer problems.
If you didn’t fail at anything, say so. If you can think of an example, be sure that it’s a minor one and turn it into a positive. For example, if you were working on a project that was behind deadline, explain to the interviewer how you adjusted the workload and the timeline to get back on track and ahead of schedule.
How do you evaluate success? • top
- I evaluate success in different ways. At work, it is meeting the goals set by my supervisors and my fellow workers. It is my understanding, from talking to other employees, that the XYZ company is recognized for not only rewarding success, but giving employees opportunity to grow as well. After work, I enjoy playing softball, so success on the field is catching the winning pop-up.
Why a re you leaving or have left your job? • top
One of the questions that is typically asked in an interview is “Why are you leaving your job?” or “Why did you leave your job?” if you have already moved on. If you were fired from your job, use these answers to respond CLICK HERE
If you left of your own accord, review these suggestions on how best to answer and tailor your response to meet your particular situation. Be direct and focus your interview answer on the future, especially if your leaving wasn’t under the best of circumstances.
Don’t Badmouth Your Boss
- I found myself bored with the work and looking for more challenges. I am an excellent employee and I didn’t want my unhappiness to have any impact on the job I was doing for my employer.
- There isn’t room for growth with my current employer and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge.
- I’m looking for a bigger challenge and to grow my career and I couldn’t job hunt part time while working. It didn’t seem ethical to use my former employer’s time.
- I was laid-off from my last position when our department was eliminated due to corporate restructuring.
- I’m relocating to this area due to family circumstances and left my previous position in order to make the move.
- I’ve decided that is not the direction I want to go in my career and my current employer has no opportunities in the direction I’d like to head.
- After several years in my last position, I’m looking for an company where I can contribute and grow in a team-oriented environment.
- I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my technical skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.
- I recently received my degree and I want to utilize my educational background in my next position.
- I am interested in a job with more responsibility, and I am very ready for a new challenge.
- I left my last position in order to spend more time with my family. Circumstances have changed and I’m more than ready for full-time employment again.
- I am seeking a position with a stable company with room for growth and opportunity for advancement.
- I was commuting to the city and spending a significant amount of time each day on travel. I would prefer to be closer to home.
- To be honest, I wasn’t considering a move, but, I saw this job posting and was intrigued by the position and the company. It sounds like an exciting opportunity and an ideal match with my qualifications.
- This position seemed like an excellent match for my skills and experience and I am not able to fully utilize them in my present job.
- The company was cutting back and, unfortunately, my job was one of those eliminated.
Why do you want this job? • top
- This is not only a fine opportunity, but this company is a place where my qualifications can make a difference. As a finance executive well versed in the new stock options law, I see this position as made to order. It contains the challenge to keep me on my toes. That’s the kind of job I like to anticipate every morning.
- I want this job because it seems tailored to my competencies, which include sales and marketing. As I said earlier, in a previous position I created an annual growth rate of 22 percent in a flat industry. Additionally, the team I would work with looks terrific.
- I well understand that this is a company on the way up. Your Web site says the launch of several new products is imminent. I want be a part of this business as it grows.
- Having worked through a college business major building decks and porches for neighbors, this entry-level job for the area’s most respected home builder has my name on it.
- As a dedicated technician, I like doing essential research. Being part of a breakthrough team is an experience I’d love to repeat.
- This job is a good fit for what I’ve been interested in throughout my career. It offers a nice mix of short- and long-term activities. My short-term achievements keep me cranked up and the long-term accomplishments make me feel like a billion bucks.
- I want this job selling theater tickets because I’d be good at it. I’m good at speaking to people and handling cash. I would like a job with regular hours and I’m always on time.
- Although some companies are replacing Americans with imported low-wage workers, you are standing tall. This company’s successful strategies, good reputation and values make it heads and shoulders above its competition.
- I’d fit right in as a counter clerk in your fine drycleaners. I have observed that the counter clerk position requires competence at handling several activities in quick order — customer service, payments, bagging and phones. I like multitasking and, as a homemaker, I have a lot of practice in keeping all the balls in the air.
- The work I find most stimulating allows me to use both my creative and research skills. The buzz on this company is that it rewards people who deliver solutions to substantial problems.
Why should we hire you? • top
The best way to respond is to give concrete examples of why your skills and accomplishments make you the best candidate for the job. Take a few moments to compare the job description with your abilities, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other positions. Be positive and reiterate your interest in the company and the position.
What are your goals for the future? • top
Don’t discuss your goals for returning to school or having a family, they are not relevant and could knock you out of contention for the job. Rather, you want to connect your answer to the job you are applying for.
- My long-term goals involve growing with a company where I can continue to learn, take on additional responsibilities, and contribute as much of value as I can.
- I see myself as a top performing employee in a well-established organization, like this one. I plan on enhancing my skills and continuing my involvement in (related) professional associations.
- Once I gain additional experience, I would like to move on from a technical position to management.
- In the XYZ Corporation, what is a typical career path for someone with my skills and experiences?
What are your salary requirements? • top
You will need to take the time to research salaries. That way you will be prepared to get what you’re worth and to get a job offer that’s realistic and reasonable.
Once you know what you should be earning, how do you go about getting it? Start by being very patient. When interviewing for a new position, do your best not to bring up compensation until the employer makes you an offer. If you’re asked what your salary requirements are, say that they are open based upon the position and the overall compensation package. Or tell the employer you’d like to know more about the responsibilities and the challenges of the job prior to discussing salary.
Another option is to give the employer a salary range based upon the salary research you’ve done up front. Once you’ve received the offer you don’t need to accept (or reject) it right away. A simple “I need to think it over” can get you an increase in the original offer.
And if you’re ambivalent about the position a “no” can bring you a better offer too. I turned down a position I knew I didn’t want, regardless of salary, and received three follow-up phone calls upping the compensation package. Be careful though, if you do definitely need that new job there’s a risk that the employer may accept your declining the position and move on to the next candidate.
Tell me about yourself. • top
Do you “wing it” and actually tell all manner of things about yourself? Will you spend the next 5 minutes rambling on about what an easy-going, loyal, dedicated, hard working employee you’ve been? If this is the case, you stand a good chance of having bored your interviewer to death thus creating a negative first impression.
Because it’s such a common interview question, it’s strange that more candidates don’t spend the time to prepare for exactly how to answer it. Perhaps because the question seems so disarming and informal, we drop our guard and shift into ramble mode. Resist all temptation to do so.
Your interviewer is not looking for a 10-minute dissertation here. Instead, offer a razor sharp sentence or two that sets the stage for further discussion and sets you apart from your competitors.
When you walk into an interview, remember to always expect the “tell me about yourself” question. Prepare ahead of time by developing your own personal branding statement that clearly tells who you are, your major strength and the clear benefit that your employer received. The advantages of this approach are that you’ll quickly gain their attention and interest them in knowing more. You’ll separate yourself from your competitors. You’ll also have a higher chance of being positively remembered and hired.
Who was your best boss and who was the worst? • top
The interviewer also wants to determine if you are match for the leadership style of the company.
- I’ve learned from each boss I’ve had. From the good ones, what to do, from the challenging ones – what not to do.
- Early in my career, I had a mentor who helped me a great deal, we still stay in touch. I’ve honestly learned something from each boss I’ve had.
What are you passionate about? • top
Your response doesn’t need to be work focused, but do be sure that what you share isn’t something that could potential cut in to your working hours.
For example, you don’t want to say that you’re a mountain climber with the goal of climbing Mountain Everest or that you’re getting ready for the Tour de France or looking to spend the winter skiing in Aspen.
- One of my greatest passions is helping others. When I was younger, I’ve enjoyed helping mom with household repairs. As I grew older, that habit grew and I desired to help others as well. I like helping people find solutions that meet their specific needs.
- I’m passionate about painting. I take an evening art class once a week and try to find time each weekend to paint. Painting is a good way for me to relax and even though I don’t have much talent, I do it enjoy it.
- I lost my father to pancreatic cancer and ever since then, I have spent time volunteering to help raise awareness and funding for cancer research. I volunteer for PanCan, the advocacy group, and I’m part of their volunteer network. One of the things I’m passionate is to assist in finding a cure, however I can.
- I’m passionate about making a difference. When I’m involved with a project at work I want to do my best to achieve success. I feel the same way about what I do in my personal life.
- I’m an avid skier and I like to spend weekends and vacations on the ski slopes.
Questions about your career goals. • top
The overall theme for each of the answers below is: have you thought about the impact of your decisions at the time you made them – or do you have a reactive response to most situations. Far too often, a person’s career appears to have happened by chance. In todays fast-paced, ever changing world of work, employer’s want to know if they can count on you to make good decisions, not knee-jerk reactions.
Start with your graduation from college and explain the rationale behind each of your career moves.
- When I graduated from college, I was immediately recruited by the ABC Company. As my resume reflects, I received two promotions and then a recruiter contacted for the position at the XYZ Company. I’ve been there for the past 4 years and have learned a great deal, while making significant contributions to my department.
Also, explain the thinking process that went into make each of those decisions.
- For my first job, I was happy to know I would be working in a job that utilized my education. It was exciting to know that within just a few weeks of graduation, I had my first paycheck. My thinking behind the XYZ position centered on the fact that they have a global presence, it was a definite promotion and positioned me to be a viable candidate for the marketing position with your company.