When you are going for an Interview, there are always these traditional conventional set of questions that almost every interviewer asks.
It is as if they all go to google and search “Questions I should ask as a Hiring Manager” and they all come up with the same set of questions. Well, these questions are amazing goldmines when you are an employer, because it gives out so much detail about the skills and personality of the job candidate.
Well, this is an opportunity for you to prepare yourself for the most awesome replies to each of these common interview questions and understand what exactly is their motivation behind asking you each of these questions.
Every “general” type question that these hiring managers ask has a strong motive behind it. Consider it like your therapy session where your therapist wants to know the deepest darkest side of you by asking some simple vague questions and watching your response and body language very closely.
So let's dive into these questions and how you can literally nail your interview with the most awesome replies and control the whole conversation in the most charming way and beat your competition with extremely compelling answers. Give them what they are looking for.
What is the interviewer looking for
Depending on the job you are applying for, your interviewer is looking for these 10 to 14 things in you. If you check all these boxes, you should get that offer letter.
If you have the skills and experience for the applied job
How you handle pressure
If you are a Teamplayer
If you are a delusional narcissist
If you are a complainer
If you are fun and not boring. Will you fit in to the culture.
How you manage deadlines
Your interpersonal and communication skills
How you handle arguments and disagreements
Are you a liar, or are you a real deal?
Do you have a hunger to grow and learn?
Can we even afford you?
1. Tell me about yourself
This question should get some kind of a gold medal for being the most vague unstructured question ever.
Aim of the Interviewer: To know how your ability to respond to an unstructured question.
How to respond: It has to be crisp and clear. You have to show that you can stand on your feet and explain your ideas in simple plain english. Tell a story about yourself that resonates with the Job Description for which you are applying for. Relate your answer with the skills mentioned in the Job Description.
How NOT to respond: Do not share your dog’s name as a response to this question.
2. Your biggest strength
What is your biggest strength?
You know this one was coming in the list. Guess what the hiring manager is looking for here?
Aim of the Interviewer: To see a right balance between your confidence and your humility.
How to respond: Be real and true with yourself. Don’t try to fake a strength to nail this answer. Be true with yourself and match a strength that is actually relevant to the Job at hand. For Example, if you are applying for a Sales job, you could touch on your exceptional communication, interpersonal and negotiation skills and end it with a compelling example from your past experience that actually shows what you just claimed.
How NOT to respond: Stick to the job description, don’t talk about your amazing Bike riding skills.
3. Your biggest weakness
What is your biggest weakness?
Fine you knew this was next. But can you guess the “aim” of the interviewer in asking you this question? This is a tricky one...
Aim of the Interviewer: They will watch your response very closely to see if whatever you say is going to hinder the job that you are applying for. If you pass this, then they are looking at your humility and self-awareness about yourself. Also, if you have a plan to fix your weakness.
How to Respond: Do not say anything that would jeopardise your chance of getting selected. This is an important question that can make or break your interview. It’s your time to acknowledge what you are not very good at, and if you have the drive and a plan to improve. Tell them what you are doing now to improve this weakness of yours.
How NOT to Respond: The right answer to this question is not chocolate brownie fudge cake.
4. Why should we hire you?
Remember those scenes in the movies where the girl is teasing the boy with harmless banter, and a challenge of why they should care about the boy? The girl is looking for a compelling, convincing and confident reply.
Aim of the Interviewer: To know how persuasive you are. They might try to act skeptical. Do you get a bit defensive, or do you stay calm and give a factual reasoning that makes sense?
Your Response: Be prepared upfront. Pick up things from the job description and prove how you fit perfectly for the role. Be concise, 2-3 sentences only. Focus on facts when presenting your case so you don’t come out as a self-absorbed person claiming things. They are looking for compelling answer that is honest and believable.
5. When you persuaded someone
Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone.
Aim of the Interviewer: To gauge your emotional intelligence. Do you persuade to be “right” with a “better idea”, or do you persuade humbly for a greater benefit of the company.
Your Response: Share a story about the problem where your approach to problem solving was for the greater good of the company. Exhibit your great listening skills and how you used them to offer a solution to the arguments and debate. Share the results of how your persuasion led to the other person following your suggestions and how the solution was beneficial for all.
6. Why do you want to work here?
Aim of the Interviewer: They want to know what made you interested in applying for this job at their company. Or do you really have any target when it comes to the job or company?
How to Respond: Make it about themselves first. Give them very specific reasons why you want to work for their company. This is the time to show off all the research you’ve done about the company. Be honest and truthful.
How to NOT Respond: Resist the urge to talk about the amazing health insurance and travel benefits of the company as the first reason. Make it about themselves first.
7. Past experience Questions
There are several questions that relate to your past experience which generally start with “Tell me about a time when you …”.
Aim of the Interviewer: They want to hear a story from your past work experience.
How to Respond: Its story time! They want to hear a really compelling story. Just like any good script, you have to first develop a situation - a problem that occurred. Share the plot in 3-4 sentences. Then you want to get into the actions you did. Now you shared your problem, you shared what you did, so don’t let the story go incomplete - share with them the results of your actions that you performed. Good award winning story!
How to NOT Respond: Keep the story short. Don’t get into a lot of details and focus on problem - your action - results.
8.When you showed Leadership
Tell me about a time when you showed Leadership.
Aim of the Interviewer: Can they trust you with handling tough situations that arise in a workplace?
How to Respond: Share a story about the time when you had to step up and lead a team to success and share your results that credit to your leadership story.
How to NOT Respond: Include your team in the story. A good leader is not full of himself.
9. Successful in a team
Tell me about a time you were successful in a team?
Aim of the Interviewer: To know how good of a team player you are. They are looking for a story that shows your interpersonal and communication skills, kind of like the “leadership story”.
How to Respond: Start your story with a problem within the team, the actions you took to fix the problem, and of course, what were the results. Show your teamwork skills using the past experience.
10. What coworkers say about you
What would the coworkers say about you?
This is a trick question.
Aim of the Interviewer: They actually want to know if you will fit in with their current team of employees.
How to Respond: Share a specific incident where a team member actually said something about you to someone, maybe someone who reported to you left the company and left you a nice long whatsapp message? Share something that is believable and do not exhibit what “you think” your coworkers think about you. Go through your recommendations given on LinkedIn for an inspiration to answer this question. Be confident with your facts.
How to NOT Respond: Stick to facts and stick to the job description. Don’t share details like “My female coworkers think I am cute.”.
11. Reason for leaving your job
Why do you want to leave your current job?
This one is a bummer. Not anymore. Read on.
Aim of the Interviewer: What they really want to know if whether you are excited to run into new job and you are not running away from your job. They are looking for honesty in the answer.
How to Respond: Be honest. Interest to work in a big corporation, or working with a different Industry (switching from Healthcare to Travel) are all valid reasons for changing the job. Your answer should portray your hunger to learn and grow and your eagerness to face new challenges.
How to NOT Respond: If you have had problems with your current employer, make sure you don’t bad mouth about it during the interview. It will just affect your interview. No company or human being wants to be with a complainer.
12. Your most challenging project
What was your most challenging project?
Aim of the Interviewer: To know what is the most “challenging” thing according to you with the experience you have so far.
How to Respond: This is a story with a bad start and a good ending. Clearly explain the problems of the project but be concise. Share what you did, and share that happy ending.
How to NOT Respond: Do not share any trivial challenges.
13. Share something that you are proud of
Aim of the Interviewer: They want to know what is “success” according to you and the professional work that you do. How impactful was your defined “success” to the team or the entire company.
How to Respond: Start the story with a problem that was there, how did you find ways to solve this problem and what were the results and effects from the actions that you performed to solve the problem. Explain why you think you are proud of the outcome.
14. What are your salary expectations
Aaah! This article won’t be enough to explain how you should handle this question. Let me attempt to point to the most crucial points though, that I have learnt from my past experiences
It's all about how great and how calm you are when it comes to your negotiation skills.
Aim of the Interviewer: If they are asking this at the start of the interview, their intention might be to know if they can really afford you.
How to Respond: Never give a fixed number. Never low-ball what you deserve. Do your research and grab a range from PayScale or other salary comparison websites based on the country and position you are applying for. Tell them this is the range in the market to give a solid reasoning of what range you are looking for. Give a range for them to play with, not a final number. It’s not always about just the salary, continue your negotiation with benefits, insurance, inquire about the parking space - these are all costs for you that you can gain.
How to NOT Respond: Don’t go overboard with your salary expectations by giving a range that is not realistic as per market standards. Having that said, don’t lowball as well. Do not hesitate to talk about “money” - that’s why you are there and that is why the company exists - to make money.
15. What do you do after work
Aim of the Interviewer: Are you a fun person to be around or are you boring? They want to know how well you will fit into the company culture and whether you are a go-getter and an interesting person or not.
How to Respond: Share something that exhibits that fun side of you and a good impression of you. Be concise and sweet - don’t be boring.
How to Note Respond: Don’t talk about politics, religion or how much you like to go party with your buddies every other day after work. Do not share something that might be considered inappropriate or very polarising. Don’t be boring.
16. Managing conflicting priorities
Have you ever faced conflicting priorities at work?
Aim of the Interviewer: They want to know your process of handling deadlines and how you work under pressure
How to Respond: Talk about one big priority and several other conflicting priorities that you faced this one time. First talk about how you completed your very big priority. Also share how these conflicts affected the company or team to show that you understand the effects on a company or the team when you miss deadlines.
17. Where do you see yourself in 5 years
I am sure you have been asked this question at different questions. Remember what was your reply back then?
Aim of the Interviewer: They want to know the amount of seriousness you have for your future career.
How to Respond: Employers want to know what you plan to accomplish 5 years from now. Divide your response into 2-3 years and focus on what you wish to “give” rather than what you wish to “get” (like a title). Share what you plan to give to the company in 2-3 years, and what you plan to give in the next 2-3 years. Keep your answer within the bounds of the company and the job that you are applying for.
How to NOT Respond: Don’t share a Title that you want to achieve. Don’t go overboard with the plan where the company itself is not there in your future.
18. What is your leadership style
Aim of the Interviewer: To see how well you explain yourself. Also to know whether your approach to leadership fits with their own approach.
How to Respond: You have to answer your style and approach of leadership in just 2-3 words only. Own your style whether you are a great teamplayer, or tough but fair. Don’t just leave the conversation hanging; share an example that explains what you mean - your style in action. Share something that shows the employer that you can adapt to situations quickly. Make sure you example portrays how you brought along the team together. This isn’t just about you - this is about being a good leader. Be Authentic.
How to NOT Respond: Don't be ambiguous - know who you are and own it.
19. When did you make a mistake
Aim of the Interviewer: Are you accountable for your own actions and mature in accepting your mistakes? Do you learn from mistakes? How do you handle a mistake that you have made?
Your Response: Be truthful with your story and make sure it is convincing. Share the mistake that you did and why it was a mistake in the first place. Share what you actions you took in order to correct that mistake and what you learnt from this mistake you did to avoid this from happening in the future.
20. How you manage difficult people
My math teacher shared some wisdom that I will never forget. “God made all types of people, we have to tolerate.” Difficult people are everywhere - in your homes, in your friend circles, in coffee shops and at your workplace.
Aim of the Interviewer: To know how you handle uninviting situations and how mature and sensible you are with your approach.
How to Respond: Share a story about the person and why he/she was difficult to deal with, and how his/her actions impacted the team/company. Next step as you guessed it right, is to talk about what you did and the positive results you saw because of your approach.
How to NOT Respond: Do not bad mouth about the difficult person. Just share an aspect of their personality which impacted badly on the team/company.
21. When you disagreed with someone
Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone.
Aim of the Interviewer: To know if you follow the right communication style when arguing with someone.
How to Respond: Share past experience in workplace where you disagreed with someone, listened to their point of view calmly in order to understand where they are coming from and what their expectations are. How you acknowledged and made them feel heard and understood, and then you explained your point of view. Finally conclude how you two found a compromise as a solution and the outcome of the disagreement was both parties feeling good about the discussion.
How to NOT Respond: Make sure you don’t say anything that shows your anger or bias against people you argue with. That is definitely not the right way to handle arguments. Do not share the argument you had with your wife last night. Stick to business and professional history.
22. Achieving goals
Tell me about a time you decided a goal and achieved it.
Aim of the Interviewer: They are looking for the goal you talk about. If you pick an insignificant goal when answering this question, you may be seen as a clock-watcher
How to Respond: Pick a goal that is ambitious and the problems you faced along the journey, and how you solved the problems. End the answer with some details of how the goal achieved was beneficial.
How to NOT Respond: Don’t pick an insignificant goal for your story.
23. Surpassing expectations
Tell me about a time you surpassed people’s expectations.
Aim of the Interviewer: To assess whether you are a 9-5 person who just focuses on getting the assigned job done, or do you push yourself to achieve more with creative thinking.
Your Response: Share a story of your past experience where your work was applauded because you did something above and beyond the call of duty.
24. Handling pressure
Tell me about a time you had to handle pressure.
Aim of the Interviewer: To understand if you break easily under stress or do you face them with help and support.
Your Response: Share a story where you are not the only hero, and how you got other team members onboard to face the challenges of deadlines and pressure to achieve what was meant to be achieved. Show your creative side when it comes to handling pressure.
Tell me about a time you had to learn something quickly.
Aim of the Interviewer: They are looking for several examples from your past where you did not shy away from quickly learning about things you didn’t know.
Your Response: Share a problem and explain the details of the problem at hand. Share your strategy of how you approach learning and what were your resources to gain knowledge to solve a problem. Finally, share the result crediting your learning skills.
26. Do you have any questions for me
This question is a gold-mine for you.
The most terrible response to this question is “No, all good.”.
This is your only chance to turn the tables and play the therapist. This is an opportunity you should not miss.
Aim of the Interviewer: To know your curiosity, interest in the job and your standards of expectations from the company.
Your Response: Don’t talk about salary and benefits.
I think I should provide some detailed explanation of how you can use this response to make sure you get great value out of this situation.
Here we go.
Step 1 - Bond
How did you start working here?
What do you love the most about working here?
Step 2 - Inquire
Get to know the culture of the company. What values they have as a company.
What is the most successful recent hire and why?
Who did not succeed as a recent hire and why?
Step 3 - Company challenges
What is keeping them up at night?
So you may know upfront and might help in solving those problems.
What is the company’s biggest challenge this year and how will this job that I am applying for will help in overcoming the challenges?
How should I measure my performance so I know I am having a positive impact on this challenge?
If they don’t have a measure (KPI), how will they give you a raise in the future?
Awesome questions, right?
Step 4 - Close
What additional skills or experience do you wish I had that would make me a better fit for this job?
This is a crucial one. Watch closely how they respond. You can generally figure out if you are going to be selected or not, just by their response to this question. It is also a chance for you to know anything you may have missed from your CV and Interview, and whatever they respond to might actually be a skill that you have. So you can fix a broken interview from this one question.
What are the next steps?
Figure out the next steps of the interview. Close on a light note.
I hope this article will help a lot of people land their dream jobs. Share it with your loved ones and help them nail their interview. You may be just a share away from changing someone's life and helping them find a job they always wanted.
Table of contents