The prospect of a job interview can make even the bravest job seekers a bit uncomfortable. You’ve put in so much work to get to this point, and suddenly when the big moment is before you for you to make your case for your candidacy in person, it’s not uncommon for the nerves to creep in.
The majority of interviews last between 45 minutes and an hour. And the entire interview process could take nearly 23 days on average. But according to FastCompany, you only have about 7 seconds to make a great impression on your recruiter. On top of that, interviews can feel like the great unknown because, while you might have a sense of the basic format of the interview, you never know what question an interviewer might throw your way.
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to prepare, including reading up on some of the most common interview questions so you can be ready for nearly any question that comes your way.
Top 7 common interview questions
- Tell me about yourself: Consider this your 30-second (but likely longer) elevator pitch. Sharing a bit about your past present and future is a helpful formula to stick to, as you share your experiences in your current and past roles and what brought you into this particular interview. Share a bit about why you want the job, and how your experiences have shaped you into a great candidate.
- Why do you want this job, and to work for this company? Employers love to see dedicated and loyal employees who care about the company and are excited to represent it. This question helps weed out the click-happy applicants from those that are serious about working for the company, and who can point to reasons why the job caught their eye, or why they are applying with that company, specifically.
- What are your strengths? Many people prepare 3 adjectives to highlight their strengths. While it’s not a bad practice to just share adjectives, we actually recommend you share your strengths, and then share examples that demonstrate your strengths in action.
- What are your weaknesses? Weaknesses are a part of life. When you share your weakness, you’ll want to be honest, but make sure that the particular weakness you choose to share isn’t one that will interfere with you getting the job. For example, don’t say you have bad phone skills if the job requires you talk on the phone. As you share your weaknesses, be sure to frame them in a positive light. Show your self-awareness about your weaknesses, but be sure to also highlight the steps you’re taking to remedy and overcome that weakness.
- Where do you see yourself five years from now? Share your aspirations for the future. Do you see yourself moving up from an analyst to a management role with the company? More than anything, your interviewer wants to see if you have goals or aspirations to drive you and motivate you on the job. Do you plan to just stay in an entry-level position forever? If you present a lack of motivation to grow in your career, your employer may feel unmotivated to bring you on board.
- Why are you changing career paths? It happens more often than you think. Your resume shows a career trajectory headed in a specific direction. Then for whatever reason, you’ve decided to shift directions and change up your career path. While to some employers, your job application down this new path might look opportunistic, you know it’s not. As you explain your very good reasons for changing up your career, you have the opportunity (and responsibility) to highlight how your past experiences have shaped you into the perfect candidate for the job at hand.
- Tell me about an accomplishment you’re proud of. There’s nothing like a track record of success to make your case for you. Impressing an employer isn’t just about the mechanics of being able to do tasks. Ultimately, results matter. If you have quantifiable results, such as increasing sales or helping your former company cut costs, share that. Even if you don’t have numbers-based results or achievements, you can share projects you’ve had the chance to either lead or be a part of, and how that’s impacted the company. Perhaps you created a project manual that streamlined processes and made it easier for any employee to dive into the project. Share that! Prepare examples of what you’ve done on the job that you’re proud of.
- Explain how you’ve handled a difficult situation at work. Truth be told, difficult situations at work and in life are inevitable. Are you the kind of person who shys away from addressing important issues and sweeps them under the rug? Or do you deal with challenging people or situations at work head on? This says a lot about you, and about your ability to overcome and learn from challenges.
- What areas would your boss say you needed to improve on? This question, once again, is an opportunity to share an area or two of weakness. But again, remember to frame it with what you’re doing to overcome and improve this area of your life.
- What are your career goals? Your interviewer is trying to gauge how your career goals and the job you’re interviewing for align. When a job and career goals align, a new hire is more likely to stick with the company as they move toward those goals. If you’ve never thought about your career goals, now is a great time to start thinking through those and creating some before you head into the interview. Goals are an important part of being successful at anything you do.
- What is/was your biggest failure? Being self-aware and humble enough to admit your mistakes and failures, but bright enough to learn where you went wrong is a terrific trait. Failure isn’t failure unless the experience is wasted. Sometimes failure brings about the biggest successes because of what we learn from them. Be sure to frame any failures in a positive light to highlight how the experience impacted who you are today.
- Discuss a time you went above and beyond for a project. You may find it hard to brag on yourself, but now is a great time to demonstrate your willingness to go beyond your job description. Employers love to see employees with initiative to succeed, and commitment to the company and cause at hand. Are you someone who only does the bare minimum at work or who does what it takes to get the job done without regard for your job description? Prepare some examples you can share with your interviewer.
- What gets you out of bed in the morning? Your interviewer isn’t asking about if your dog licks your face in the morning begging for a walk. They want to know what excites you, what gives you a sense of purpose, and what motivates you from the start of your day till you go to bed. Talk about your life passions, and what drives to succeed. Simon Sinek calls it your “Why”. We all need our own “why” to move forward and succeed in life. Think through then explain yours.
While the majority of companies will stick to a set of common interview questions, some companies tend to throw oddball questions out there to see how you can think on our feet. While you can prepare for the most common interview questions, it’s important to remain flexible and able to think through other questions that might come your way. Having a good grasp of the commonest interview questions will help you feel prepared and less nervous as you go into your interviews, and better able to respond to
Best practices for interview preparation
- Research the company: Know before you go is a great motto when it comes to job interviews. If you haven’t already done research into the company for a phone interview, now’s the time to delve into the company website and blog, take note of their style of writing, what they’re writing about, who they’ve worked with, award they’ve won, who’s in charge, etc. Prepare to impress.
- Write out your questions ahead of time: Interviewers will generally ask if you haven any questions for them at the end of their questionings. It’s important to always have some questions to ask because it shows you’re an active participant who’s truly interested in ensuring the company and you are a great fit. Preparing your questions in advance can help mitigate any nerves that might be present in the moment and ensure you ask some thought-out questions.
- Practice answering common interview questions in front of a mirror: Practicing in front of a mirror will help with your response delivery, as you become more comfortable looking at someone in the eye (yourself in this case) as you respond to some of the common interview questions.
- Select your outfit: While an interview outfit might seem like the least thing to think about, statistics show that about half of interviewers would eliminate candidates who showed up at an interview not dressed appropriately. So how you dress and the image you present is critically important to your candidacy. A good, general rule of thumb is to inquire about the dress code at the company, and take it up a notch or two with your interview attire. You want your interviewer to be able to picture you in the job, so dress accordingly (i.e. don’t show up in a suit or stilettos for your interview at a startup).
With a bit of advance preparation, you can feel great going into your next interview. Study the most common interview questions, practice delivering your responses, and then check out our other blog posts for more tips and tricks for your job search and interviews.
The CareerBliss Team
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