Job interviews are stressful. Most of us are nervous and might be so anxious that we can’t think clearly. Is that how you feel?
Preparation will help ease your anxiety and restore your confidence. After all, if you’ve applied for the job, then you know you’re qualified for it. One 30-minute interview shouldn’t ruin your chances at the job just because you’re nervous.
In this guide, we’ll go through the 21 most common interview questions. For each question, you’ll see why the person is asking and how you should answer, plus some sample answers and even an answer template you can use for your interview.
Table of Contents
- 1. Tell me about yourself.
- 2. How do you stay organized? How do you prioritize tasks?
- 3. What are your hobbies?
- 4. How do you deal with stress or pressure?
- 5. How would your coworkers describe you?
- 6. Can you explain your employment gap?
- 7. Why are you leaving your current job?
- 8. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
- 9. Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced and how you handled it.
- 10. Do you have any questions for me?
- 11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- 12. What type of work environment do you prefer?
- 13. What are you looking for in a new position?
- 14. What are your salary requirements?
- 15. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
- 16. Why should we hire you?
- 17. What do you know about this company?
- 18. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- 19. Why did you apply for this job?
- 20. Why do you want to work here?
- 21. Describe your dream job.
- 10 tips for a successful interview
- Interview questions do’s
- Interview questions don’ts
1. Tell me about yourself.
Why are they asking: Ana Lokotkova, a career advisor and interview coach, put it this way: “What ‘tell me about yourself’ really means is ‘sell yourself’. This interview question is the ultimate chance to convince the recruiter that you are the right person for the job. They want to know if your experience, knowledge, skills, and even personality will help them achieve their business goals.
How to answer: Ana’s advice? “If you want to hit a home run with your ‘tell me about yourself’ answer, you have to put the needs of the interviewer first and build your pitch around it. The employer’s business needs will always be the top priority on their list, which makes it your top priority, too.”
So keep your story relevant to the interviewer. Mention experience and skills that will directly help you be successful in this exact role. Do research before the interview on the company’s values and showcase your personality traits that will make you a good cultural fit.
How NOT to answer: “My name is John Jobscan. I’m 25 years old, and I live in Seattle. In my spare time, I like going camping and hiking. I also enjoy spending time with friends.”
Giving an answer like this would be a huge missed opportunity for you to sell yourself. Here, the applicant fails to make his story relevant to the company’s business needs, talk about relevant experience, and highlight skills gained. You can talk about hobbies and other interests but don’t make them the focus of your answer.
“I’ve worked in full-cycle accounting for over six years now. I believe that quality financial reporting is the key to improving the financial health of the company, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on for the past three years. I’m really proud of a project I recently led where we completed a company-wide implementation of a new interdepartmental reporting and communication system. I really enjoy and am good at breaking down a big, complex task into smaller, manageable steps. It is what has consistently helped me improve the quality of financial reports, increase accounting efficiency, and significantly reduce administrative costs.”
“Well, I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a kid, and I had a natural talent for it, too. I won a state writing award in college while I was earning my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. I’ve worked with some amazing companies that helped me grow as a writer and maintain a high standard of quality. While working as Editor for XYZ media, we published dozens of articles per month and grew our organic traffic by 30% year-over-year. I believe that quality writing is the key to success and I’ve been able to develop processes that ensure a mix of quality and quantity. I’m proud of the results I’ve gotten because of that.”
“I’ve been a [job title/career] for [# of years]. I enjoy it because it gives me a chance to use my skills in [skill] and [skill] to [business goal your job serves]. I started as a [first job] and learned how to [skills you developed over your career]. That helped me to [accomplishment you’re proud of]. I believe that [personal belief that aligns with company values]. That’s why I’ve always been successful because [expertise you have] and [personal belief].”
Read the full guide: How to Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question
2. How do you stay organized? How do you prioritize tasks?
Why are they asking: Every employee is expected to be able to stay organized. It’s an essential part of getting your work done on time. The reason a hiring manager will ask you how you stay organized is because they want proof that you actually have this ability and a process. Anyone can say that they can manage their time well or prioritize tasks, but what’s their process for doing that? If they can’t explain it, they might not be as good at it as the job demands.
How to answer: Be specific about your process for organizing and prioritizing. Mention any software or tools you use like Trello or even a notepad or sticky notes. Give examples of what you did in the past. All of these details will show that you have experience balancing priorities in a busy job.
How NOT to answer: “I stay organized by keeping track of my tasks and doing the most urgent ones first.”
This answer doesn’t mention specific strategies and tools for staying organized. Because the answer is too vague, the interviewer may get the impression that you’re not as good at meeting deadlines and keeping track of timelines.
To organize your job search, try Jobscan’s Job Tracker. This easy-to-use tool tracks and manages your job applications and interviews all in one place. It also includes a Notes feature where you can keep track of common interview questions and write down answers you can use.
“I’ve found that working systematically is the best way to make sure I get my tasks done and on time. I have a personal Trello account with a To Do board. I keep lists for Need to Do, In Progress, and Done. I use that board to set my due dates, mark high-priority items, and make sure I don’t forget even small tasks. I like to update my manager weekly on what I’m working on so that my priorities line up with theirs.”
“In my past jobs as an office clerk, I would get requests and assignments from several different people. They didn’t know who all had made requests that day, so it was up to me to prioritize and manage my time. I would always make sure I got a due date for each request. Once I knew the size of the project and when it was due, I could order my daily tasks properly so that everything was done on time. If things were very busy, I made sure to communicate with everyone so that if they didn’t have a hard due date, I was able to move things around as needed.”
“I’ve used different methods for organizing my tasks, but I’ve found the best tool is [name of tool or name of software]. I use that by [explain how you personally use the tool]. That helps me to [organizational skill required by the job]. When things get very busy and I have several projects due at the same time, I make sure I [explain your process for prioritizing] so that important projects are taken care of.”
3. What are your hobbies?
Why are they asking: Culture is important when hiring, so the recruiter or hiring manager wants to know if you fit in with the team. What are you like as a person? Are you an easy person to chat with? What soft skills do you have? Talking about something unrelated to work gives them an opportunity to see you as a person. They might also be able to pick up on soft skills demonstrated in your hobbies.
How to answer: Feel free to speak passionately about things you enjoy. The point is not to impress them with your hobbies. The point is to be likable and approachable. If you can, show how your hobby demonstrates a skill that you also use in your job.
How NOT to answer: “I’m a voracious reader. I love spending hours with my nose stuck in a book. Most days, I even stay up until the wee hours just because I can’t stop reading.”
Reading is a great hobby! But make sure to keep your answer fun, and don’t let it create an opportunity for your interviewer to doubt your reliability or discipline. This sample answer may give the impression that you’re not able to manage your time wisely.
“I love being creative. I took a photography class about a year ago and fell in love with it. Photography is a fun blend of precision and creativity and it’s always a fun challenge to capture a moment in a way that communicates the emotion of it. I think that’s also why I love programming. You sometimes have to think outside the box and it’s really about the little details.”
“I’m really into fitness. I enjoy going to the gym and playing basketball with my friends. I usually play every weekend. I know fitness isn’t enjoyable for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I don’t want to go work out. But I’ve learned to enjoy the process. And it has taught me self-discipline.”
Be yourself! There is no best answer here. Even if you just spend a few minutes talking about your hobby, that’s good enough! Remember, they just want to get to know you as a person. So take the opportunity to relax and talk about something you’re passionate about.
4. How do you deal with stress or pressure?
Why are they asking: Similar to the ‘how do you stay organized’ question, the point is not just to say that you are good at something. They need proof. They want to know exactly what you do in stressful situations. Do you have a process? Do you have experience dealing with that kind of situation? The more detailed and specific your answer is, the more confident the interviewer is that you can handle stress and pressure.
How to answer: Describe your mindset when under stress or facing pressure. Explain your strategy for dealing with those situations. Give specific examples of when you dealt with it, how you handled it, and the results. The results are important. Does your strategy help you to be effective?
How NOT to answer: “When I’m overwhelmed at work, I often take a break from what’s stressing me out. When it’s too much, I ask someone else to take over for me. I really value my mental health, so I don’t like being in situations where I get too pressured.”
Your mental health is certainly important. When we’re well and happy inside, the more productive and engaged we can be at work. However, every job will have moments of stress and pressure. The key is to learn to manage stress, get support where needed, and handle difficult situations gracefully. Don’t forget to talk about specific instances where you did so.
“I’ve learned that every job is going to come with some stress and high-pressure situations. That’s why having a strategy and clear goals is important. That helps me to stay focused on what’s important. I just put my head down and take it one task at a time. That helped me a lot when I worked at XYZ Agency and handled multiple clients. Taking each project one task at a time helped me to not get lost in the stress of a huge project.”
“I’ve had several jobs where things were always busy, so I learned to not be overwhelmed by it. You can really only do one thing at a time, so that’s what I do. If I can, I’ll collaborate with a teammate to get extra support. I communicate with my boss regularly so they know my status and if any adjustments need to be made. I’ve found that overreacting is a waste of time. If I stay focused, I can get more done than I thought I could. And it keeps me from panicking.”
“I’ve learned to deal with stress by [describe mindset/strategy]. This helps me to stay calm and productive because [describe mindset or action it helps you avoid]. This helped me a lot in my previous role as [previous stressful job]where I [describe stressful situation]. I was able to [describe the way you handled stress] which helped me to [good result].”
5. How would your coworkers describe you?
Why are they asking: There are two reasons they’ll ask this. According to Kyle Law, Lead Recruiter here at Jobscan, they’re probably asking because the job will require teamwork and collaboration. “They’re going to try to evaluate how you perform with that and how you enjoy working with a team.” If you have a lot to say about your relationships with your co-workers, then you likely spend a lot of time working with them and collaborating.
How to answer: The first step to having a good answer is to be a collaborative teammate. Even if you’re an introvert, try to think of times your teammates relied on you for a task or project and how you came through for them. Perhaps discuss the good relationships you have with your team and how much you’ve enjoyed working with them.
How NOT to answer: “I believe that I’m a great leader. I’ve been a branch supervisor for five years, and I’ve been able to effectively oversee operations and manage our team well.”
A good answer to this interview question would be one that mentions your relationship with your coworkers. You may have held a leadership position at work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you were effective in the role or that your team enjoyed working with you.
“I work hard to carry my load and help out on the team when I can. I also try to maintain a positive attitude and contribute to group projects. So I think my coworkers would say they appreciate my willingness to collaborate and how I’m easy to work with.”
“I really enjoy working as a team. I try to come to brainstorming sessions prepared with ideas and keep things lively during downtime. I’ve heard my coworkers say I have a good sense of humor. I hope they appreciate the effort I show to be a part of the team and do my part on projects.”
“I try to be a good teammate by being [quality like collaborative, supportive, positive, etc.]. I think my teammates would say that I always [describe positive habits like contributing to team projects, stepping up when someone needs help, making people laugh, etc.] because [positive impact on culture or business].”
6. Can you explain your employment gap?
Why are they asking: First things first, there’s no reason to panic if you’re asked this question in a job interview. According to Kyle, “People assume that they’re being admonished because they do have a gap, but normally people just want a reason. It could literally be anything.”
The point here is not to give a great reason or try to spin it into something amazing. You really just have to explain that you had a logical reason for not working and not that you suddenly quit your job and didn’t work at all or do anything else for a significant period of time. That would be a red flag.
How to answer: Give your honest reason! Did you take off work to go back to school, take care of your kids, care for aging parents, or even travel the world? All of those are fine. Kyle Law says many employers don’t even ask this question anymore because there are so many reasons that are completely valid.
How NOT to answer: “I would rather not talk about it.”
Employment gaps don’t have to hurt your chances of getting selected. The best way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to give a valid explanation. You don’t have to go into detail if you don’t want to or if it’s too personal.
“I decided to take a year off work to pursue starting my own business. Even though it eventually didn’t work out, I’m glad I got the experience and took the opportunity to try something new.”
“I wanted to make a career change, so I took some time off to figure out what new direction I wanted to go in. That’s what led me to this job opportunity.”
“I took [length of time off work] to pursue [activity/goal/or responsibility]. The time off proved to be helpful because [1 or 2 benefits]. Now I’m ready to start a new job, which is how I ended up here!”
7. Why are you leaving your current job?
Why are they asking: “A big thing is going to be ‘What is going to motivate that person to leave their job for yours?’”, says Kyle Law. “If there’s a really good compelling reason that they want to leave their role, then it obviously makes more sense to continue the process and target the candidate. You can also verify that what you’re planning to offer in the role is what they’re looking for.” The recruiter might even use that information when making an offer.
How to answer: It’s best to be honest. If you want another role, a higher salary, or a different work environment, don’t be shy about expressing that. Remember, you can’t be all things to all people, nor can the company that’s interviewing you. This question is a good chance to see if they have what you want.
How NOT to answer: “I’m leaving my current job because of the unfair treatment that I’m getting from my boss. No matter how hard I work, all she sees are the mistakes I make, and she never acknowledges the effort that I put in.”
Refrain from bad-mouthing previous employers, bosses, or colleagues. Be honest about why you’re leaving without talking badly about colleagues.
“I’ve been a Specialist at my current company for a couple of years and I would like to grow into a leadership role. There aren’t any roles like that available at that company, so I’m looking for another opportunity.”
“I’ve done research on my market value based on my skills and experience and didn’t feel that I was earning what I was worth. While I enjoy the work and have a great relationship with the team, I would like to have a job where my pay matches my market value.”
“My current role isn’t working for me because [1 or 2 valid reasons]. I’m looking for a job that [1 or 2 features you want that your current job doesn’t have]. Based on the job description and what I know about this company, it sounds like this opportunity is a good fit for what I’m looking for.”
8. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
Why are they asking: Don’t worry, they’re not trying to trap you into revealing a major defect or missing skill. The fact is, we all make mistakes. The person who is interviewing you has made mistakes. What they want to know is how you handled that mistake and what you might have learned from it. That shows your character as a person.
How to answer: Don’t think you have to explain why the mistake happened, whether or not it was your fault, or what problems it caused. Rather, explain how you responded and what you did to repair any damage. Focus on what you learned from it.
How NOT to answer: “When I worked as an executive assistant, I booked the wrong flight for my boss, which resulted in him missing an important appointment. It made him look bad to the investors he was supposed to meet. Thankfully, my boss was able to iron it out.”
When answering this question, make sure to mention how you fixed the mistake and what you learned from it. In this answer, the applicant fails to show either.
“I was managing a client project and made a few assumptions on some major decisions. I really should have spoken to my boss first, but I chose not to. Once I had a final presentation, my boss ended up rejecting many of the ideas that had already been implemented. Even though I was disappointed, I spoke directly to the client, apologized, and gave a clear explanation of the new direction. I learned that regular communication is important, even if I think I know what my boss will say.”
“I scheduled two employees for the same shift, which meant we were over our hour budget for that time period. I had to send one employee home, which meant they were short a shift for the week. I worked with them to get them a shift on another day and improved my scheduling process.”
The basic format here to briefly describe the mistake, how you responded, and what you learned.
9. Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced and how you handled it.
Why are they asking: The specific challenge you faced isn’t the priority here. The interviewer is interested in how you handle adversity or stress and how sharp your problem-solving skills are. This is a behavioral interview question.
How to answer: Now that you know why they’re asking, make sure you think of an example that allows you to demonstrate the skills they’re looking for. There might have been a challenge that you “handled”, but not very well. Give an example of a challenging situation and the soft skills you demonstrated in working through it – problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, resiliency, and others.
How NOT to answer: “I was tasked to head a project that I had no prior experience in, and my manager provided very little guidance, which made things very difficult for me. In the end, the project was a disaster. But I’m glad it happened because it made me realize that the job wasn’t for me.”
This answer fails to illustrate a challenge that the applicant successfully overcame, and what he did to do so. Moreover, it even shows him as unable to find ways to communicate well, ask for help where needed, and collaborate with others.
“In a previous job, I had a co-worker who was particularly difficult to collaborate with. While it was frustrating, it helped me to develop stronger communication skills. I learned to communicate very clearly and tactfully, but firmly. We never had a good relationship, but we were able to complete projects together and get positive performance results.”
“A project I was leading was nearing its due date and a team member suddenly had to take several days off work. It was very stressful and the due date was non-negotiable. However, I worked with team leaders to recruit a couple of other co-workers to complete the work and I got approval to outsource a few tasks. We ended up completing the project on time!”
Your response should contain three main parts: the situation with an explanation of why it was a challenge, how you handled it, your process for creating and implementing a solution.
10. Do you have any questions for me?
Why are they asking: The point is not necessarily which questions you ask, but rather that you have questions at all. Kyle Law, our recruiter here at Jobscan, said, “I absolutely want them to have questions. I want them to be thinking about what they would be doing at a company. The more questions you have, it shows you’re thinking about how you’re going to contribute.” A person who is engaged during the interview will also be an engaged employee, and that’s what a hiring manager wants.
How to answer: “People who are good at their jobs know how to ask interesting questions and know how to flex their knowledge with their questions,” said Kyle. Come to the interview with a list of several questions, including back-ups in case some are answered in the interview. Ask about your team, your role, the culture, and the business. Ultimately, that will help you in deciding if you want to accept a potential job offer.
How NOT to answer: “No, I don’t have any questions.”
Come to the interview prepared with questions to ask your interviewer. Saying you don’t have any questions shows a lack of interest in the job or the company.
Questions to ask in a job interview
- Can you tell me about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
- Are there opportunities for training and career growth within the role?
- What is the culture like here?
- How is the team structured and where do I fit in?
- What will be the biggest challenges of this job?
- Who does this position report to?
- What type of person do you feel would be best suited for this position in terms of skills, experience, and personality?
- How will you measure the success of the person in this position?
Read the full guide: 4 Important Questions to Ask in an Interview (and Why)
11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Why are they asking: According to Jobscan recruiter, Kyle Law, this actually isn’t a very common interview question and might in itself be a red flag for you. “It’s such a silly question to ask. The person you’re interviewing might not even be there in five years.” They might be looking for someone who expects to stay in a role or job for a long period of time. However, in today’s job market, that’s rare.
How to answer: It’s important to be honest. If your career plan is to take advantage of every opportunity to grow – whether that’s at one company or several – then make that clear. If the company wants someone to stay with them for several years, there’s no point in wasting your time or their time if that’s not your goal.
How NOT to answer: “I don’t know where I’ll be five years from now. I’m still trying to figure out which career I really want to pursue, but I would be happy to start here.”
It’s okay to say that you’re not sure where you’ll be five years from now, but try not to appear indecisive or unclear about your career goals.
“My career priorities are to continue to develop my skillset and expertise. It’s impossible to say where I’ll be in five years, but my goal is to eventually have a leadership position and a job that allows me to take care of my family.”
“I see myself being successful in my field. I’m a fast learner and I believe I have a natural talent for what I do. In five years, I’d like to say that I’ve been able to gain new skills and experience, visit some places that I’ve never been before, and build a solid reputation in my industry.”
“I’ve bounced from job to job for several years now, and because of that I feel like I’m always starting over. This company sounds solidly founded and the culture fits my personality. I hope I can build a career here.”
“My goal is to [career goal]. In order to achieve that goal, I need to [steps to achieving the goal]. I think this position is the perfect opportunity for me to work towards that.”
12. What type of work environment do you prefer?
Why are they asking: This question might be asked more often now since more companies are offering remote work. The hiring manager will want to know if you’ve worked remotely before and how you performed in that environment. The opposite could also be true. If the position requires you to come into the office, they’ll want to know if you really prefer working remotely.
How to answer: This is another question where it’s crucial that you’re honest. This is best for you in the long run. If you prefer a certain environment but force yourself into the opposite environment, you might not be happy and do your best work. So be honest with your preferences and let the hiring manager decide if they can offer you what you want. If you’re flexible and have no preference, that’s even better.
How NOT to answer: Any answer that’s not true will be to your disadvantage. So don’t say that you prefer a specific work environment just to fit what the company offers.
“I’ve done both remote and in-office work in my career. Remote work was an adjustment at first, but I set up my office and developed a good routine. I was able to maintain good results on my performance reviews. I’ve found that both environments require their own adjustments and I’ve learned to work well in both.”
“I’ve worked remotely before, but I prefer to be in the office. I’ve found it helps me to collaborate with my teammates and have a better working relationship with everyone.”
“Before 2020, every job I had was in the office. I adjusted very quickly to remote work, and now I prefer it. I would rather not go back into the office, but I might consider it for the right opportunity.”
“I [have or have not] worked remotely. My preference is [remote or in-person] because [benefits you get from the environment].”
“I’ve worked remotely for [X number of years]. But I’ve also had in-office jobs. They’re both very different, but I’ve been able to perform well in both because [describe your approach to work that is conducive to both environments].”
13. What are you looking for in a new position?
Why are they asking: “This goes along with ‘Why are you leaving your current position?’”, says Kyle Law. “Is what we’re about to give you going to interest you, going to keep you engaged, going to keep you in the role long-term?”
How to answer: Be specific, honest, and realistic. Describe the kind of role you want, what you would like your day-to-day duties to include, what sort of career growth opportunities you would like, the sort of culture you want to be a part of, and even your desired salary (if you feel comfortable sharing that at this point). All of these will help the hiring manager make an attractive offer.
How NOT to answer: “I’m willing to take on any openings that you have at the moment.”
This answer communicates that you’re not sure about the value that you can add to the company or where you will excel. It shows a lack of self-awareness and confidence in your skills.
“I’m looking for a leadership position that will allow me to have a hands-on role in shaping the strategy. I enjoy collaborating, so I want to be part of a team. My work-life balance is important to me, so my ideal job would have a culture that promotes hard work and supports the idea of stepping away when I need to.”
“Honestly, I’m just looking for a job that will help me support my family. My current role doesn’t pay well enough and I feel like my work is good enough to earn more. I’m flexible with what I do. I find satisfaction in doing hard work.”
“I would like a role that includes [duty #1, duty #2, duty #3]. I know I can excel in that kind of role because [skills that support responsibilities]. I want to be part of a team that [describe desired culture]. I fit in with that kind of culture because [soft skills you possess]. I prefer working [remote or in-person].”
Other points not listed in this template but that could be included:
- Career goals
14. What are your salary requirements?
Why are they asking: Susan P. Joyce, a job search coach, said that there are actually a few reasons why an interviewer will ask what your salary requirements are: 1) to make sure your that your expectations are within a range they can actually meet; 2) to identify whether you’re the type of candidate who does their research and can share specifically the value that they would bring to the role; and 3) to signal to the hiring manager whether you are overqualified or underqualified for the position. Salaries tend to align with years of experience, so it can help them gauge whether you’re in their target experience range.
How to answer: Susan gives a few options for answering the salary requirements question. You can deflect the question and say you’d rather know more about the job before deciding what your requirements for pay. If you want to give a number without restricting yourself, you could give a salary range, two numbers within $5-10k of each other. If the current job you have already is the same as the job you’re applying for, you can simply tell them what your current salary is and that since the responsibilities sound the same, you’d like to make at least that amount. Remember negotiating your salary is always an option.
How NOT to answer: However you answer, whether you give a salary range or deflect the question, NEVER give a figure without doing research on your market value. Giving an amount that’s way above industry rates communicates a lack of industry knowledge. On the other hand, selling yourself short may convey that you’re not a very good asset to have on board.
“I would prefer to know more about the job and your expectations of the employee first to give you a realistic number.”
“I’m looking for a position which pays between $45,000 and $52,000 for a 35-hour work week.”
“I currently make $60,000 for a similar role, so I’d like that to be the baseline. Once I know more about the responsibilities and expectations, I can give you my desired salary range.”
“My current role as a [job title] is similar, so I’d like to at least maintain my salary of [your current salary]. I also know that the average salary for this role is [salary based on market research].”
15. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Why are they asking: This is a behavioral interview question. Companies want employees who are driven to succeed, those who take pride in accomplishment. When they ask this question, they want to see signs that you are driven in your role and have worked to achieve goals.
How to answer: It’s best if your achievement is somehow related to your job, but any answer is better than none at all. Describe a project you worked on, a sales target you met, a degree you worked to receive, or a life goal you achieved. All of these things show your ability to set goals and work to achieve them.
How NOT to answer: Avoid being overly modest. Refrain from taking sole credit for team accomplishments, mentioning negative outcomes, or discussing unrelated achievements. Most importantly, never exaggerate or lie about your accomplishments.
“In my current role, I led a project that had a major impact on our revenue goal. There were many moving parts involved and we had a difficult target KPI. I’m proud of the collaboration I was able to lead and that I was able to have the project completed on time.”
“I started at my current company as an entry-level customer service representative. I was promoted to a supervisor role within 6 months and eventually earned a manager role and a project manager role. I’m now the Director. I’m proud of the persistence and growth I showed and what I was able to achieve from where I started.”
Here’s a general outline for a good answer: [overview of accomplishment] + [the results or why you’re proud] + [the skills required to achieve the accomplishment]
16. Why should we hire you?
Why are they asking: What they really want to know is how interested you are in the job. If you can make an argument for why they should hire you, that’s a good sign that you are very interested in the job, which will translate into high engagement, productivity, and, hopefully, retention.
How to answer: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and think that you have to sell yourself. The recruiter will make that decision based on a lot of information, not one question in the job interview. It’s good to list three compelling reasons – enough to show that you’ve thought about the role and are taking the opportunity seriously.
How NOT to answer: “You should hire me because I’m flexible, a fast learner, and a team player.”
It’s best to avoid using cliches or buzzwords during your interview. Instead, mention skills, experience, and knowledge that make you a great candidate.
“I believe my skills and experience make me a good fit for this role. Based on what I know about the vision of the company and the goals it wants to achieve, I know that I can achieve those specific goals because I’ve already done it in the past. I also appreciate the culture you’ve described to me and want to be a part of it.”
“I can think of three good reasons: 1) I have [X number of years] years of experience in this role and have gotten tangible results, as you can see on my resume; 2) my skills are a perfect fit for what you’re looking for in this role; and 3) I share the same values as the company, specifically [company value you demonstrate in your work].”
“I’m a better fit than other candidates because of my experience with [area of valuable or unique experience] and the results I’ve gotten like [demonstrated results]. I see myself achieving [specific goals the hiree is expected to achieve] by [overview of process] and that’s exactly what you’re looking for in this role.”
17. What do you know about this company?
Why are they asking: A common thread in many of these job interview questions is the recruiter’s goal of seeing how interested you are in the job. They need to know if it is worth their time to continue the process and make an offer and if you’ll be an engaged employee. This question tests how much you care about this opportunity and how much time you’ve put into preparing for the interview.
How to answer: This one is simple. Tell them what you know about the company – the products or services, the vision or mission, the company values, and any other information you’ve picked up from researching the company. The key is to actually have that knowledge in the first place. If you really want this job, you’ll need to put forth effort to show that you’re interested.
How NOT to answer: “I know that this is a publishing company, which is why I decided to apply here. I’ve always dreamed of building a career in publishing.”
Always do your research about the job and the company before showing up for the interview. Learn about their values, mission and vision, and work culture. The sample answer above fails to convey that the applicant has enough interest in the company. As it is, it’s just another publishing company that happened to be hiring.
“I read the company About page on the website and learned about its history. I appreciate the company’s vision and I think the product solves a real problem. I also looked up the company’s social media profiles and got an idea of who the audience is and what we offer them.”
“I read about the company from [resource] and learned [key information]. I also looked up the company on [resource] and found [key information]. Some things that stood out to me were [parts of the business, product or service, or culture that you like].”
Read the full guide: How to Research a Company for an Interview
18. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why are they asking: There are two reasons a recruiter or hiring manager will ask this. First, they want to make sure you’re able to do the job, plain and simple. Beyond that, they also want to get an idea of what kind of person you are. Are you honest? Do you have a measure of self-awareness? Do you work on your weaknesses? Your answer reveals more than what’s on your resume.
How to answer: As hard as it is, be honest. It would be terrible to accept a job that you aren’t qualified for. Talk about your strengths confidently and relate them to the role. Give real-life examples of when you demonstrated the strength. Share one weakness, but try to find one that’s not a required skill in the role. Discuss what you’re doing to work on that weakness.
How NOT to answer: “One of my best traits is my discipline. I always follow through on my commitments and deliver as promised. I’m happy to have received great feedback about it from my colleagues over the years, and I’ve maintained great relationships with past clients because of it. However, I also used to struggle with being flexible or adjusting to a client’s changing needs.”
It’s natural to want to downplay your weaknesses–don’t! Instead, talk about what you did to improve and what results you gained from overcoming that weakness.
“In my role as a Marketing Manager, I’ve displayed my time-management skills. We have a small team, so everyone wears many hats. I’m always busy, but I’ve been able to prioritize projects and achieve my goals. I’ve also developed public speaking skills, which helps with meetings, giving presentations, and client relations. When I first started, I struggled with collaboration, so I put forth a concerted effort to rely more on my teammates. I think I’ve improved in that area.”
“The strengths that I think will help me the most in this role are communication, leadership, and customer service. As a Shift Supervisor, I’ve led diverse teams and worked to maintain a positive culture. Retention has increased during my time there. My 5 years of experience in customer service are always useful and help me to empathize with and train my staff to be effective. I sometimes have a hard time with our reporting software, so I need to make sure I take the time to learn all of our tools.”
“My most important strengths are [list 1-3 relevant skills]. This helps me in my job by [benefits of listed skills]. Because of those skills, I’ve been able to [give an example of results or achievement the skills helped you gain]. I sometimes struggle with [list one weakness]. In order to overcome that weakness, I decided to [explain what you’re doing to improve in that area].
19. Why did you apply for this job?
Why are they asking: “It always goes back to engagement level,” says Kyle. “If they’re just like, ‘Oh I just saw it and I clicked Easy Apply’, and then they also didn’t do any research and they also don’t have any questions, then you’re just like, ‘This is someone who’s totally not engaged at all.’” The recruiter wants to make sure you have a compelling reason for applying and therefore a compelling reason for taking their potential offer.
How to answer: This one should be easy, as long as you’re being thoughtful in your job search. List the top three things you like about the job and what skills you have that make you a good fit for the role.
How NOT to answer: “My previous company had to cut costs, so they laid off several employees, including me. I’m the breadwinner of my family, and I badly need a job.”
While it may be true that you urgently need a job or are trying to recover from a layoff, it shouldn’t be the main focus of your answer. You can mention it, but make sure to talk about what it is about the job that attracted you. This is a good opportunity to mention how it matches your skills and expertise.
“The job description is exactly what I’m looking for in a job. It fits my skills and interests and the product sounds like something I can be passionate about.”
“I was looking for a job that would allow me to grow and open up opportunities to advance my career. From what I’ve read and learned about the company and the position, it has everything I want in a job.”
“My current schedule isn’t working for me and I’m not able to get it changed. The schedule for this job is a perfect fit for my needs. The role is similar to what I’m already doing, so I’m confident that I’ll be successful.”
“I’m looking for a position that includes [day-to-day responsibilities] and it sounds like that’s exactly what this job is. I also need a job that [cite other needs like schedule, work environment, pay, etc.]. Based on what I’ve learned about the company and the role, it’s a perfect fit for what I want in a job and my skills.”
20. Why do you want to work here?
Why are they asking: While this question is similar to Why did you apply for this job?, the recruiter might be trying to get a deeper insight about you as a person. The job might be a good fit, but what do you like about the company – the culture, vision, product, or team? This tells them whether or not you’re really interested in the job and if your values line up with the company’s values.
How to answer: You’ll have to do your research. Read about the company and ask insightful questions. Go beyond the job description in your answer. Discuss what you think of the product or service, what you admire about the company’s history and future, and what kind of team you want to be a part of.
How NOT to answer: “I believe that it’s a great company for me to build a career with.”
Same as with the previous question, you should strive to answer this question by showing how much you know about the company and what it is about them that you really like, instead of settling with a vague answer.
“I believe I can have a real impact here. It looks like there’s a need for the skills I have and, based on my past experience, I’m confident that my performance will help the company grow. That matters to me because it’s important that I feel a sense of accomplishment from my job.”
“I’ve interviewed with other companies for a similar role. The difference about this company is the culture. It sounds like collaboration and teamwork are important, especially cross-functionally. I’ve excelled in that aspect throughout my career, so I think this is the best place to get the most out of my skills.”
“I really want to build a solid career at a company. After reading about the company’s values, it sounds like I’ll have the opportunity to do that here.”
“It’s important to me that the company I work for does/has [value, quality, feature, or opportunity]. I’ve talked to other companies, but this one stands out because [unique feature].”
21. Describe your dream job.
Why are they asking: There are two main things that hiring managers want to know by asking this question: 1) They want to understand your career goals and determine whether the job you’re applying for matches them, and 2) they want to see how well you fit their work culture.
How to answer: They don’t necessarily want to hear a specific job title. They simply want you to describe what you believe would be the perfect job for you. Because this question has a two-fold intent, you can answer by describing a job where you can apply the values that you uphold and that align with your goals, as well as describe the things that motivate you.
How NOT to answer: “My dream job is to be a social media influencer, where I don’t have to follow a specific schedule and I have ultimate freedom with regard to what tasks I want to do for the day.”
The question may seem to call for a light or casual answer but don’t make the mistake of answering it too flippantly or failing to mention your career goals, values, or skills.
“My dream job is one where I can collaborate with a team and regularly exchange insights to get the best possible results. I’ve mostly worked as a freelance graphic artist, and I haven’t been able to collaborate with a team as much as I want to. That’s also why I’m applying as an in-house artist in your company. I believe that here I’ll be able to do what I love alongside other great artists from whom I can learn so much.”
“I’m really passionate about sustainable living and the environment, so my dream job is one that advocates for these things within a work environment that reflects a sustainable lifestyle. I believe that everyone can be more mindful of their impact on the environment, and if I can have a job where I can help people pursue sustainable living, it would be a dream come true for me. That’s also what motivated me to apply for the Sustainability Director position. I’m thrilled that as a company, you want to pursue sustainable business practices.”
My dream job is one where I could put my skills in [top skills relevant to the job] to use while [mention career values, like collaborating with others]. I’m extremely passionate about these and would love to be in a company that values them as much as I do.
Let them know what would truly excite you to get up and go to work every morning. It can be as simple as having teammates that you get along with or having the opportunity to share your knowledge. These will tell recruiters a lot about whether you’ll be able to make a positive contribution to their organization.
10 tips for a successful interview
1. Use non-verbal communication
Your interviewer will pay attention to non-verbal cues, like where you’re looking while they’re talking. According to a study, non-verbal communication is 55 percent of all communication, and only 7 percent is what you actually say.
Here are tips on how to ace that interview using non-verbal communication:
- Look your interviewer in the eye. Nothing speaks of confidence and engagement more than looking at the person talking in the eye. You may feel fidgety or anxious, tempting you to look away. Keep your focus on your interviewer.
- Dress smartly. Part of non-verbal communication is how you present yourself, even if it’s an interview via a video call. Also, how you dress will affect your frame of mind.
- Maintain a calm, confident tone when speaking. When you’re nervous, you may be breathless or talk too fast. Instead, try to speak slowly and clearly.
2. Prepare to steady your nerves
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by nervousness and anxiety on the day of the interview, here are things you can do to help put yourself in a good mental state:
- Start your day early. If your interview is set in the morning, get up early so you don’t have to rush. Give yourself enough time to get in a good mood and do what you need to do, be it meditating or working out.
- Do something you enjoy or that relaxes you. Before your interview, do something that calms your nerves. A walk in the park sounds nice? Go ahead!
- Take deep breaths. When your interview is about to start and you feel anxious, you can keep calm by taking deep breaths. It will turn out fine!
- Focus on the interviewer’s questions. Focus on giving great answers to your interviewer’s questions instead of on how you’re feeling. Soon enough, you won’t be so nervous anymore, and you can finally enjoy the conversation you’re having.
3. Follow up after the interview
Now that your interview is over, the wait begins. But you can be proactive about it by following up on your application to show that you’re still interested in the job.
The key here is knowing when to give recruiters a follow-up call or email.
Depending on how your interview went, you may be tempted to give them a call right away. However, it’s best to wait a while before doing so. Recruiters and hiring managers follow a timeline when processing applications, which means they’re not able to make decisions on hiring immediately after an interview.
Also, the average response time after an interview is 24 business days. But you can already make a follow-up after a week.
When following up via phone call or email, you should:
- Properly introduce yourself.
- Talk about high points in your interview to help the hiring manager remember you better.
- Politely ask about the status of your application or when you can expect to know their decision.
- Thank them for their time.
4. Don’t be afraid to negotiate an offer
Congratulations–you’ve just received an offer! However, it’s not exactly what you were expecting or believe you deserve.
If this is the case, don’t be afraid to negotiate. It’s much better to speak up now and fight for what you know is your market value, instead of quietly taking it and regretting it later on.
The thing about salary and benefits, however, is that it’s often a sticky subject. It can be uncomfortable to talk about, so most of us avoid it. In fact, 58 percent of Americans who apply for a job accept an initial offer without negotiating.
And this shouldn’t be the case, especially because a survey found that 70 percent of managers expect candidates to negotiate an offer. What’s more, 85 percent of candidates who counteroffer get what they ask for.
For a successful negotiation, keep these tips in mind:
- Help them understand your market value. You can do this by justifying what you’re asking for. Give clear examples of why you deserve a certain perk or a higher salary. If you can’t justify it, it’s best to not mention it at all.
- Understand their limitations. When making a counteroffer, understand what they may actually be able to accommodate. For instance, a smaller company may not afford to pay salaries that other larger companies do.
- Be flexible. You should be negotiating because you really want this job too. In other words, you should be prepared to make adjustments to your counteroffer or meet halfway so it becomes a win-win situation.
5. Know how to handle illegal questions
When you come across an illegal question, you have a choice to not answer it. Examples of illegal questions are those about:
- Marital status
These questions can be not only uncomfortable to answer, but they are also big opportunities for discrimination. Unfortunately, some recruiters may ask these types of questions to select candidates that match their preferences.
You can respond to illegal questions by:
- Politely declining to answer. Recruiters know they shouldn’t be asking these questions, so don’t be afraid to say no. You can gracefully refuse to answer by saying something like, “I’m sorry, but I would rather not answer that question.”
- Keeping your answer broad. If you feel like you have to answer, keep it short and general. You don’t have to divulge any specific details.
- Asking why it’s relevant to the job. Sometimes, recruiters may ask an illegal question without meaning to. You can respond by respectfully asking why they need the information and how it will affect the job.
6. Ask about policies on diversity & inclusion
Research has found that organizations that are ethnically diverse are over 36 percent more likely to do well financially.
Unfortunately, not all companies treat people of different races, religions, and even genders equally.
To determine how much they value and welcome people of different backgrounds, don’t hesitate to ask your interviewer.
Some questions you can ask are:
- How many in your workforce are [of a specific gender, race, religion, or ethnic background]?
- What are your initiatives for empowering employees from different backgrounds?
- What are your views on diversity and inclusion?
You can also share with them how your experience with an inclusive work environment has made you feel more fulfilled and motivated to do your best at work or improve collaboration within a team.
7. Discuss remote work
If you prefer to work remotely but the topic doesn’t come up during the interview, you can broach the subject respectfully without sounding like you’re demanding that they make accommodations for you.
You can do this by asking, “Do your employees work in the office full-time, or do you have a hybrid setup?”
In workplaces where employees work remotely, you can also discuss how you maintain productivity while working from home by talking about your time management skills. Be specific about strategies that you use to follow work schedules and stay focused. An example is the use of project management tools, like Asana.
8. Know how to ace a remote interview
If you’ve been invited to an interview via a video call, here’s what you should do:
- Test your equipment beforehand. Do a trial call to check your microphone, speaker, camera, and Internet connection.
- Dress the part. Don’t show up to the interview in your pajamas. Even if your interview won’t see below your shoulders, dressing the part will put you in the right frame of mind and help you feel more confident.
- Choose a quiet location. Don’t rely on noise-canceling equipment alone. Sometimes, they can’t filter out loud noises like dogs barking. Instead, do your interview in a place where there are no distractions.
- Pick a professional-looking background. Virtual backgrounds may be an easy solution, but they’re not the best choice. They can be distracting. Sometimes, they also distort your image on the screen. The better option is to plan a background that’s clean and keeps the focus on you, like a white wall or a neat study room.
- Enter the interview room early. Just as you would show up to an interviewer’s office early, you should log on early for a virtual interview too. Try to be in the call around 15 minutes early.
Never be late for a call by using Jobscan’s Job Tracker. Using its Interviews feature, you can record all your interview schedules and other details, like the interview type, date and time, the name of the interview, and more, all in one nifty tool.
9. Use LinkedIn to prepare for your interview
Show up for your interview equipped and ready. You can use your Linkedin account to do this.
- Look up your interviewer. It helps to get to know who’s interviewing you. Check their LinkedIn profile to see their connections, the experts and influencers they follow, and their recent LinkedIn activity. This will give you an idea about their interests, which may also help you prepare for what questions they’re most likely to ask.
- Research the company. Get to know the company by looking up their LinkedIn page. You can tell a lot about their culture, work environment, and mission through the posts they share, as well as what people say about them.
- Use LinkedIn’s interview prep feature. You can also practice answering questions with LinkedIn’s interview prep. Simply choose a question category, such as Common Questions, or filter questions according to your preferred job. You can record yourself answering a question or writing a response, and LinkedIn will give you detailed feedback.
10. Demonstrate that you’re a good culture fit
- Learn about the company’s mission and values. Why do they exist, and where are they headed? How do they aim to achieve their goals? You can learn a lot about a company by checking its website and social media pages. You can also do this by reading up on what they’ve done so far. Have they been in the news, for example
- Find common ground. Align yourself with the company’s culture, values, and work style by finding things in common and mentioning those during the interview. But don’t just say something for the sake of saying it. Make sure that it’s something that truly resonates with you or that you believe in.
- Talk about how their values are true in your personal life. Another way to demonstrate how well you fit into their organization is by sharing how you put the same values that the company upholds in your personal life. You don’t have to elaborate too much on it. What’s important is to illustrate how you apply certain values in achieving personal goals or everyday living.
Interview questions do’s
- Think of answers in advance to common interview questions like the ones on this page. Come up with a few stories from your career that illustrate things like challenges overcome, innovation and creativity, conflict resolution, etc.
- Practice out loud. If you feel weird talking to yourself, find a friend who will role play with you and pepper you with questions.
- Study the job description to create talking points and relevant questions.
- If you’re doing a video interview, get rid of distractions, use a clean background, and test your tech (lighting, video, and audio) beforehand.
- Before your interview, decide how you want to present yourself (confident, thoughtful, friendly, etc) and take a few minutes to release tension.
- Promptly follow up after the interview with a gracious message.
Interview questions don’ts
- Don’t be desperate, even if you really need the job or money.
- If you’re preparing for a phone interview, don’t be too casual – dress as you would for an in-person interview. You might be tempted to “show up” in jammies, since the interviewer won’t see you. But suitable clothing gets you in the right mindset and helps you feel more confident.
- Don’t talk too fast. Pause before answering questions. You will sound better if you take a second to breathe and think. Come up with a few phrases you can use to acknowledge the question before you pause and breathe.
- Don’t wing it! Research the company ahead of time to prove that you are more excited and more prepared to take on the role than any of the other candidates.
What are the weirdest interview questions?
Some examples of the weirdest interview questions are:
- What would you do if you won the lottery?
- What superpower would you like to have, and why?
- How would you rate me as an interviewer?
These are no doubt unusual questions, and they get asked pretty rarely. But when interviewers ask ridiculous questions like these, it’s usually to better gauge your personality, critical thinking skills, or culture fit.
What is the best answer for “Tell me about yourself”?
The best way to answer this question is to “sell” yourself. Talk about your key skills, qualifications, and experience that make you a great candidate. You can also make your answer more impactful by keeping it relevant to the company’s business needs and requirements for the role.
What are the five most difficult interview questions and answers?
Some of the most difficult interview questions are:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time when you failed or made a mistake.
- Tell me about a challenge you faced and how you handled it.
- Why should we hire you?
What if you can’t answer an interview question?
If you’re having difficulties answering a question, you can:
- Ask your interviewer to repeat or clarify the question. This will give you more time to think as well as a better sense of what’s being asked.
- Take your time. Rushing to say something just to say anything may only make things worse.
- Admit that you don’t know the answer. If the question does fall outside of your knowledge or expertise, be honest about it.
- Redirect to a subject that you’re familiar with. You can also redirect the conversation to a topic that you’re more knowledgeable about.
For example, you can say, “Unfortunately, that goes beyond my expertise. However, I’m quite knowledgeable on [a subject you’re good at that’s related to the question].” You can then elaborate on it if the interviewer gives you the go-ahead.
To keep you focused during your interview, prepare using a tool like Jobscan’s Job Tracker, which has a Notes section where you can jot down common interview questions and sample answers for each.
Before the interview, refer to this section and go over what you’ve written. This will help you feel more confident and prepared.
More expert insights on this topic: