The 10 most common job interview questions & how to answer them

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Job interview
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Whether you’re just starting your career, thinking about a job change or looking to re-enter the workforce after some time away, at some point you are likely to be asked to participate in a job interview.

Interviews can be intimidating, to say the least, but the bottom line is that the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to land the job. Thankfully, there are some interview questions that tend to come up more frequently than others, so having solid answers to those that you’ve thought about in advance can give you a leg up in the process.

Jobs site Glassdoor has published on it’s blog a list of the 50 most commonly asked interview questions. Let’s take a look at the top 10, and some thoughts about how to answer them.

Think about how you would answer these 10 questions before you go in for your next job interview

Q: What are your strengths?

A: The key to answering this question is being honest, while recognizing what the employer is looking for in a potential hire. The interviewer is trying to figure out if you are a good fit for the job, so you’ll want to make sure the strengths you highlight are ones that make you a good fit.

Here are some examples of strengths you might talk about, from Monster.com:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Trustworthiness
  • Creativity
  • Discipline
  • Patience
  • Respectfulness
  • Determination
  • Dedication
  • Honesty
  • Versatility

Q: What are your weaknesses?

As with the question about strengths, you’ll want to be honest about this one — but not to the point that you’re overly critical of yourself.

“[B]y establishing the appropriate context, you can give hiring managers an honest, thoughtful answer that highlights both your self-awareness and professionalism,” says career site Indeed. They go on to list some possible answers that shouldn’t keep you from getting the job:

  • Disorganized
  • Self-Critical/Sensitive
  • Perfectionism (Note: this can be a strength in many roles, so be sure you have an example of how perfectionism can be a problem to demonstrate that you’ve thought deeply about this trait)
  • Shy/Not adept at public speaking
  • Competitive (Note: Similarly to perfectionism, this can be a strength)
  • Limited experience in a non-essential skill (especially if obvious on your resume)
  • Not skilled at delegating tasks

Most importantly, they say, “Select an answer that a hiring manager would not consider to be essential qualities or skills for the position as well as qualities that you are actively improving.

Q: Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?

The most important thing here is to do your research. If you’ve applied for the job, it should be a position that you actually want, but why would you prefer to do it with this company over another one? You should know the employer’s history, as well have an idea about the corporate culture. If you can, find someone who already works for the company and ask them what they like about their job.

The site Job-Hunt suggests you even go a step further and get to know the person or people who will be interviewing you as much as possible:

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“Hopefully you know the name(s) and job title(s) of the person or people who will be interviewing you. If you do know their names, you can Google them and also check out their LinkedIn Profiles to learn more about them.

Perhaps you share something with one or all of them, from a previous employer to a school, certification, professional association, hobby, or home town. Any information you learn can help you build rapport with the person by mentioning it. Or, the information can help you be prepared for the person’s approach or reputation, without disclosing the commonality you share.”

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?

This one is not so straighforward. As career site The Muse puts it:

“This can feel like a bit of a trick question, because sometimes the answer is, “not in this job,” or, “in your job,” or something like, “at a bigger better opportunity elsewhere.” But none of those are things you actually want to say to a hiring manager.”

You’ll want to make sure to point out how your personal and professional goals align with what’s being sought in the position so that your personal growth and the company’s growth can complement each other.

Q: Why do you want to leave your current company?

If you’re currently employed, answering this question in a job interview can be tough. You’ll want to be honest without presenting yourself as someone with a negative attitude.

“While the specifics of your answer will depend on whether you left voluntarily or were asked to leave, it’s important to answer in a way that casts you in a positive light. You should also be sure to avoid badmouthing your previous employer,” says The Balanace Careers.

Your answer should be more about embracing a new opportunity than it is leaving a bad situation behind.

Q: Why was there a gap in your employment between [insert date] and [insert date]?

This is a question that might require a little more effort when it comes to providing an appealing answer. As Career Sidekick says, “Explaining gaps in employment is really just about knowing what reasons are okay to share, and which ones you should tell a white lie about or not share. And then being upfront and comfortable with your answer.”

As much as you can within the limits of honesty, explain that the gap was on your terms. Perhaps you needed a break, or were being particularly selective about your next position.

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Q: What can you offer us that someone else can not?

There is only one you, so this is another opportunity to highlight your particular strengths. Jobs site WayUp says:

“It’s a question designed to gauge your confidence level and knowledge of the company, so even if the interviewer doesn’t ask it directly, be prepared to show that you’re a qualified candidate who can bring something unique to the table. Read through the job description to identify the main things the hiring manager is looking for and show how you meet those needs.”

Talk about particular experiences your had in your life and particularly your career that might set you apart from the other candidates interviewing for the job.

Q: What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?

Oh, great: another question about weaknesses. Chances are at some point your former manager did ask you to improve some things. Be honest about that and then demonstrate how you responded with improvements. The key here, according to Live Career, is what you don’t talk about:

  • Don’t say negative things about your former boss.
  • Beware of saying you need to improve an essential skill for the position you are interviewing for.
  • Try not to make something up. Think back to reviews you had to give yourself ideas of what your boss might want you to improve on.
  • Do not be embarrassed about needing improvement. That just shows that you’re trying to get better.

Q: Are you willing to relocate?

This is something you’re either willing to do or you’re not. The catch might be how motivated you are to do it. If you have nothing tying you to your current location, showing enthusiasm for wherever the job may take you is a great way to demonstrate a can-do attitude in the interview. Again, what not to say, per Undercover Recruiter:

  • “Are you going to pay me more?”
  • “If I get to choose where you move me.”
  • “I never want to move from this area.”
  • “Depends on what you are willing to offer.”

Q: Are you willing to travel?

Here’s another question where doing your homework in advance of the interview could really pay off. Try to get a sense of what the scope of the travel would be.

“If the job description states that the position requires travel, apply only if you’re willing and able to do so. Do some research about how much travel is typically required for the position you’re applying for so when the interviewer follows up by asking how often you are able to travel, you can give an appropriate answer,” says WayUp.

Click here for Glassdoor’s complete list of the 50 most commonly asked interview questions.

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