Going into an interview can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. But even if you’re unsure of the exact questions a hiring manager may ask you, you can definitely prepare, and we’re here to help you do just that!
While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question, we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right person for the job.
Consider this list of the 10 most common interview questions as your interview study guide!
- Tell me about yourself: This is where your elevator pitch will come in handy! This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here’s the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead, give a pitch – one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Talk a little bit about your current role (including the scope and perhaps one big accomplishment), then give some background as to how you got there and the experience you have that’s relevant. Finally, segue into why you want and would be perfect for this role.
- Why do you want to work at this company?: Here is where you want to make yourself stand out. Beware of generic answers! If what you say can apply to a whole slew of other companies, or if your response makes you sound like every other candidate, you’re missing an opportunity to stand out. Do your research and point to something that makes the company unique that really appeals to you; talk about how you’ve watched the company grow and change since you first heard of it; focus on the organization’s opportunities for future growth and how you can contribute to it, or share what’s gotten you excited from your interactions with employees so far. Whichever route you choose, make sure to be specific. And if you can’t figure out why you’d want to work at the company you’re interviewing with by the time you’re well into the hiring process? It might be a red flag telling you that this position is not the right fit.
- Why should we hire you?: This interview question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work but also deliver great results; that you’ll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates.
- What do you consider to be your weaknesses?: What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question – beyond identifying any major red flags – is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I’m not good with deadlines” is not an option but neither is “I’m perfect!” You have to strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you get more comfortable when addressing a crowd.
- Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it: You’re probably not eager to talk about conflicts you’ve had at work during a job interview. But if you’re asked directly, don’t pretend you’ve never had one. Be honest about a difficult situation you’ve faced (but without going into the kind of detail you would share venting to a friend). Stay calm and professional as you tell the story (and answer any follow-up questions), spend more time talking about the resolution than the conflict, and mention what you’d do differently next time to show that you are open to learning from tough experiences.
- What’s a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work?: The ideal anecdote here is one where you handled a disagreement professionally and learned something from the experience. To open, make a short statement to frame the rest of your answer, one that nods at the ultimate takeaway or the reason you’re telling this story. For example: “I learned early on in my professional career that it’s fine to disagree if you can back up your hunches with data.” And to close strong, you can either give a one-sentence summary of your answer (“In short…”) or talk briefly about how what you learned or gained from this experience would help you in the role you’re interviewing for.
- How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?: Here’s another question you may feel the urge to sidestep in an effort to prove you’re the perfect candidate who can handle anything. But it’s important not to dismiss this one (i.e. don’t say, “I just put my head down and push through it,” or, “I don’t get stressed out”). Instead, talk about your go-to strategies for dealing with stress (whether it’s meditating for 10 minutes every day or making sure you go for a run, or keeping a super-detailed to-do list) and how you communicate and otherwise proactively try to mitigate pressure. If you can give a real example of a stressful situation you navigated successfully, all the better.
- Why are you leaving your current job?: This is a tough one, but one you can be sure you’ll be asked. Definitely keep things positive – you have nothing to gain by being negative about your current employer. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you’re eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go from your most recent job? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally acceptable answer.
- What motivates you?: Before you panic about answering what feels like a probing existential question, consider that the interviewer wants to make sure you’re excited about this role at this company and that you’ll be motivated to succeed if they pick you. So think back to what has energized you in previous roles and pinpoint what made your eyes light up when you read this job description. Pick one thing, make sure it’s relevant to the role and company you’re interviewing for, and try to weave in a story to help illustrate your point. If you’re honest, which you should be, your enthusiasm will be palpable.
- What do you think we could do better or differently?: This question can really do a number on you. How do you give a meaty answer without insulting the company or, worse, the person you’re speaking with? Start your response with something positive about the company or specific product you’ve been asked to discuss. When you’re ready to give your constructive feedback, give some background on the perspective you’re bringing to the table and explain why you’d make the change you’re suggesting (ideally based on some past experience or other evidence). And if you end with a question, you can show them you’re curious about the company or product and open to other points of view. Try: “Did you consider that approach here? I’d love to know more about your process.”
There are a ton more questions that may be asked during an interview and if you’d like more practice, you can check out The Muse’s 50+ Top Interview Questions and Answers in 2022.
Additionally, we also recommend preparing questions for the hiring manager! You probably already know that an interview isn’t just a chance for a hiring manager to grill you but also an opportunity to sniff out whether the job is a right fit for you
We wish you all the best with your interview!