Bravo, you are halfway there!
After all that effort you’ve put into writing a perfect resume, now’s the time to get ready for the interview. No matter what your dream job is, there is a common set of questions that anyone might be asked in a job interview.
Sometimes, these questions will be adjusted accordingly by the interviewer. So, here is a list of questions that might be asked by hiring managers and a guide on how to answer them.
01. Tell me about yourself
This is probably the very first question in any job interview.
Even experienced professionals might freak out before an interview. Don’t worry. This is the chance for you to sit back and relax, think about yourself and answer freely.
Afterall, the purpose of this type of questions is to create a comfortable environment for the interviewee.
At the same time, this means the interviewer wants to know about your professional background. Do not mention personal details such as family background, marital status, etc.
Here are some answer pointers to this question:
- Briefly mention your experience and highlight one significant achievement in your career.
- Talk about your current role and how it will fit into the company.
- Describe what you’re looking forward to doing next and what made you interested in this particular job position.
In a nutshell, your answer must reflect why you are the perfect fit for this job role:
I’m currently working as a marketing manager at [company name]. My main role is to organize and handle marketing activities of all our educational products. However, I’d like to explore more about the educational field by joining hands with you. I have more than 5 years of marketing educational products and would love to take up a new adventure at [new company name].
02. Describe yourself in three words.
This might be a variation of the “tell me about yourself” question. It gives you the chance to describe your personality very briefly.
When answering, it is best to come up with the most suitable attributes to make you fit for the job role.
This might be tricky if you are not prepared for it. So, it’s better to have a list of words and choose the best three and have reasons for selecting them.
Here is a list of words you can consider to describe yourself:
I’d like to describe myself as a dynamic, witty and an organized individual. I’m dynamic because I like to face challenges and adapt to changes in the working environment. In such an environment, I should be witty enough to learn new things quickly and figure things out on my own. I also strongly believe being organized from day one is a key to success both at the workplace and also in achieving personal goals.
03. How did you come across this job opportunity?
This is a great question to ask to keep the conversation going smoothly. Before rushing into complicated questions, most interviewers will put this question at the top of the list.
As an interviewee, this is the best chance to show your interests in their company. So, better be prepared. Do some research about the company, check their website and social media pages.
Your answer should emphasize how much you know about the company.Rather than saying you just saw the job advertisement in a website or newspaper, start off by showing your genuine interest towards the organization.
If you applied through a friend who is already working there, mention that as well. It will obviously play out positively:
I was not actively looking for job opportunities until one of my friends who work here mentioned this vacancy. As she has mentioned some really positive facts about the work environment here, I thought of applying to get to know more about the career opportunity.
04. Why do you want this job?
At this point, you can express more detail other than giving a brief answer about how passionate you are to get into the job.
The best answer for this question would include a mix of both personal career objectives and also how much you can contribute to the betterment of the organization.
So far I have worked as both an HR and finance executive at [company name]. I have qualifications in both fields. However, I want to converge my career towards HR management because that is my long term career goal. I can contribute to the organization through the skills I have acquired throughout the past 3 years of HR management.
05. What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
This question is a behavioral question. The interviewer wants to know how committed and focussed you are on the job.
Your answer to this will reflect how success oriented and down to earth you are. So, keep it simple and professional. Most importantly, DO NOT exaggerate!
If you are a fresh graduate or still in College, think of academic achievements.
Professionals can relate to past work accomplishments that address a considerable scope. The ideal answer should identify a situation, set of tasks, challenges faced and results gained.
Try your best to quantify the results gained. The numbers will give a positive impression to the hiring Manager and also will help to take the conversation forward in your favour:
I started my career as a cosmetics and beauty care consultant in 2017. At that time there was no proper schedule to answer customer queries regarding products. I implemented a policy for answering customer queries real-time by directing the queries directly to the corporate numbers assigned to the group of beauty consultants. Over the course of 4 years, this procedure increased customer satisfaction by 70%.
06. What are your biggest strengths?
Here is an excellent chance for you to talk about why you are the best fit for this job. Always keep in mind that you need to be honest. DO NOT fake it.
Open up your real strengths instead of making up strengths your hiring manager would like to hear. Be witty and choose the 3 best strengths you have.
The strengths should mostly relate to the job role. However, one of them can also be unrelated. Instead of mentioning these strengths, make it interesting and express a situation where you have used them.
Not sure how to get there? Check out the sample answer below:
I’d say my biggest strengths are detail-orientedness, time management and ability to work under pressure. As a fashion designer in a reputed designing firm, I have created over 100 unique designs of my own. There was a time when one of our clients wanted a design in less than 3 weeks. I managed to pay attention to the requirement and guide the team towards success by analysing all details requested. Together, we split the task into small tasks over a timeline and completed the design on time. The customer was very satisfied and wrote a positive recommendation too.It was a great deal of pressure. But, with the proper time management skills and attention to detail, nothing is impossible.
07. What is your biggest weakness?
Who likes to mention their flaws in an interview? Absolutely no one!
This is a question you should consider bringing forward the areas you would like to improve. Nobody is perfect. So, don’t exaggerate on your strengths and point them out as weaknesses.
For example if you say “I am too professional.” or “I am too punctual.” It shows that you are bragging about it.
Always mention a real weakness that also is related to the job role. You can even mention injuries if they might affect your job role.
Last but not the least, mention any plans you have for getting rid of the weakness.
Ability to understand foreign languages such as French and Italian is what I consider to be my weakness. When working at a restaurant, sometimes knowing these languages is a must. Once in my previous job, there were 2 French guests who checked in and I couldn’t handle them properly due to lack of French language skills. So, I started taking some online classes related to French and Italian. Now I am somewhat familiar but yet to improve.
08. Tell me about a challenging situation you have overcome
We have all been in crisis situations. If your interviewer asks this question,he/she wants to know about how well you can handle pressure.
“Working under pressure” is one of the classic strengths any candidate would mention. But, have you ever wondered how they will test you on that?
Explain how you have handled a crisis situation at work. Think of a time you had to work overtime to meet deadlines.Or that one time you had to support several colleagues to finish their tasks on time!
When answering a question like this, focus more on your actions rather than the conflicting scenario. Afterall, your hiring manager wants to know how you handle difficult situations.
Take a look at the sample answer below:
In my previous job, my immediate supervisor suddenly resigned and I was appointed as the replacement. It was a real challenge to take up the workload of a Senior Marketing Manager when all my experience was related to that of an Assistant marketing manager. However, with the passage of time, I learned a lot and improved my skills and expertise to fit the role. Soon I was confident enough to meet with foreign clients and take the organization to the next level.
Note: Sometimes they might test you right before the interview. They might trick you by saying that the interview won’t start in another 2 hours! It is all about testing your patience and ability to handle pressure.
09. Why do you want to leave your current job?
Beware! Tricky question!!!
Badmouthing is definitely not the answer to this question. You might be having angry coworkers, an angry boss, working late shifts, no personal life.. And the list goes on.
But, this is NOT the time to pour all that on the table. If you say any of those negative facts about your current workplace, the final result will be a big NO.
With that being said, let’s see what can be done here.
Focus on positive facts. Why not mention that you need a change? That does not do any harm. Talk about your plans to grow and how this company can help in building that career path. Adding to that: come up with ways you can help the organization in achieving its goals.
I always enjoyed working as an Assistant Manager and Marketing executive at Urbantis Org. But, I really want to converge my career into one role: preferably in the marketing path. By joining hands with Mercantrac Inc as the new Marketing executive, I hope to expand my marketing skill set while taking the organization into the next level.
10. What kind of work environments do you prefer the most?
Work environment can be understood in 2 ways:
- Physical environment
- Company culture
To answer this question, you need to do some research on the nature of the organization. Does it involve individuals working in isolation? What are its work hours? Do employees work in teams?
The best way to research is to check out the company website. If you have a friend who works or used to work there, have a little chat and get to know more.
This way, it will be easy to come up with a fabulous response as follows:
I always enjoy working in an environment that encourages teamwork. It will be more effective as everyone’s input will be taken into consideration. Physically I like to work in open office environments with areas for activities that promote collaboration rather than isolation.
11. Describe a typical day at work in your current job.
At this stage your hiring manager clearly wants to know whether your current job tallies with the job you’ve applied for.
Highlight a fruitful work day with your duties, activities, goals and how you communicate in order to make your workday successful. To organize your answer, follow these steps:
- Find the common ground between your current job and the job under consideration.
- List down the tasks in chronological order.
- Explain why you perform each task and the results brought about by them.
- Be honest and concise.
- Finally, let them ask questions about it.
Still clueless on where to start? Take a look at this answer:
In my case, each day is different and full of adventures. Usually I start off by checking the schedule and prioritize tasks starting from the most important task. At the beginning of each day there is a morning brief with my team. We talk about our monthly target and strategies for achieving it. As a marketing manager, I follow up any prospects and respond to mails. Before lunch I utilize any free time discovering any backlogs and incomplete tasks. After lunch, I work on marketing campaigns and analyze the success of completed campaigns. Finally I prepare a report and mail it to the top management before the day end briefing. At the day end briefing, we talk about completed tasks, backlogs and plans for the next day.
12. Are you considering job openings in other companies?
Ever been on the lookout for tricky questions?Well, then count this one in!
Always be careful and smart when it comes to this.
There are two possible situations:
Either you are interviewing with other companies or you are not. Both these situations are good as long as you give a polite answer.
If you are actively looking for a job, it is better to say that you are keeping options open:
Well, I’m at an early stage of job search. So I have applied for several companies and have a few interviews lined up. I think it will help me learn about how to utilize my skills and where I will fit the best. Currently I find this position fascinating and full of chances to learn new skills and explore new avenues in marketing.
13. What is your current salary?
Is it ethical to discuss previous salary details with anyone? Doesn’t quite seem like it. But, at some point in the interview, you will have to expect this question.
However, DO NOT lie. Instead, you can readjust your answer in such a way by asking the requirements to perform in the job role.
For example you can say:
“Before discussing salary details, I’d like to know more about the job role and your expectations.”
Or else if you are more comfortable in actually discussing your salary, go ahead and mention a range:
“It’s in the range of $40k. Does this position lie in the same range?”
After the interviewer shares his/her thoughts on this, you can decide whether to accept or reject their offer.
14. How long are you planning to stay with us?
What the interviewer really wants to know here is whether their investment on you will be worth it. What if you quit after 6 months? Well, they would definitely not want that.
At the same time, there can be different meanings to this question:
- How long do you plan on being employed here?
- How long do you think you will be in this role?
- Where do you see yourself in another 5 years?
So, it’s better not to say the first thing that comes into your head. Hiring a new candidate is an expensive process.
Try not to mention a specific timeline when answering. Stick to your interest in the company and the job role.
I’ve always been looking forward to an opportunity to work at Carlsons because of its corporate culture. I would like to commit to this job position as long as I can. I am interested in career growth within the company.
15. Where do you see yourself in another 5 years?
Taking up a job is not only about serving an organization to help its growth. It also means achieving personal goals and growing as a professional.
Here, the interviewer wants to know whether you are an individual who isn’t resistant to change. You are expected to show your mission, vision and long term goals.
In another five years you wouldn’t probably wanna do the same thing being in the same job position. Your interviewer knows that.
Do not give arrogant answers. Instead, be polite and express your plans on climbing up in the corporate ladder.
For example, if you plan on joining as an assistant manager, picture yourself as the Senior Manager in another five years.
Take a look at the sample answer given below:
I picture myself as the Senior manager of 30+ professionals in another 5 years time. To go there, I’d like to learn as much as possible about the ever changing business trends and management styles.
16. Why have you switched jobs so many times?
The interviewer has full authority to ask this question if you have worked in 2 or more full time job positions over the past 1 year. They have the right to know why it has happened.
As discussed under an earlier question, hiring a new employee is a costly task. So, they need to make sure you are fully qualified, capable and you are NOT a job hopper.
Well, if you really are a job hopper, then you are in trouble.
So, how to convince them about your long term commitment?
Switching jobs has its own good reasons. Well, now is the time to pour them out. Maybe they didn’t communicate your job role properly in your last job. Say it..
To speak about that, I once applied for the post of a Business analyst at a renowned telecommunication firm and they took me in because I had a Bachelor’s degree. However, there was a misunderstanding about the job role. Afterall, they wanted me to work with business statistics. But, I was thinking of an “IT Business analyst” role. There was a communication gap in the whole series of interviews. As soon as I understood this is not the job I was looking for, I decided to resign. Similarly in the second instance, a new IT startup hired me as their new business analyst. But, the nature of the projects they got were not that complex and the team of developers managed to do without my role. Apparently I had no clear job and sometimes I had to perform market research and competitor analysis. That’s when I decided to move on.
17. Why is there an employment gap in your resume?
Employment gaps are normal. You will be on the safe side as long as there is a fair reason for it.
To start with, it’s always best to explain employment gaps in your cover letter. If you have done so, you won’t need to put much effort at the interview explaining it all.
Otherwise, you owe the interviewers an explanation.There are several acceptable reasons for employment gaps:
- Looking for a job
- Taking care of parents or someone in need
- Accident/ injury
- Educational purpose
- Relocating from one geographic region to another
- Moving on because the organization is not supporting the job role anymore
- You were fired
These are totally acceptable. Be honest and make your answer straight without beating around the bush!
We have crafted some example answers to explain employment gaps:
- I met with an accident in 2018 and faced a severe back injury. The nature of my job included lifting heavy objects. So, due to the injury I had to take time off and rest for 2 years.
- My father was my guardian from my childhood. In 2017 he was diagnosed with [disease name] which required full time attention from a caretaker. I couldn’t afford a caretaker at that time and I decided to look after him until he got better. Now he is fully recovered and I decided to take this step.
- I started my first job while in the 2nd year of my Bachelor’s degree. With the workload, I had to postpone my degree by 1 year. However, I understood I had to complete my studies before being employed. Last month I graduated and here I am.
Well, if you were fired from the previous job, we have an answer for that too. Read on..
18. Why were you fired?
Just like you are doing research about the company before an interview, your recruiters will definitely do some research about YOU. Although this company is a competitor of your previous employer, there can be connections of some sort.
For the same reason, they might have already found out you were fired! And yes, you have to be totally honest. Speak positively, and DO NOT blame your previous employer at any cost!
Let’s take a look at some sample answers to get more insight:
- Due to the pandemic situation, we had to follow work from home policies issued by the company. However, as I was the librarian, the nature of my job did not include working from home. Due to this the job role was eliminated.
- I had attendance issues. Sometimes I ran personal errands during office hours. But now I do not have those personal issues. I agree it was totally my mistake and won’t happen again.
- I had a conflict with a co-worker and because I took a professional matter personally. This had happened several times and then I realized the working environment was not the best fit for me. Recently I saw this job opening which is totally different from the previous one. This also matches my qualifications and I think I can strive and do my best here.
19. How do you feel about working on weekends or late hours?
Not all jobs follow the typical 9 to 6 work hour schedule. Some jobs need employees to be flexible depending on various facts such as:
- Clients living in different time zones
- Achieving targets at the end of a month
- Special meetings
And the list goes on…
First of all, understand why you applied for this job. You might probably know the depth of commitment accordingly. By asking this question, the interviewer can make sure you are a flexible person or not.
Consider the sample answer below:
I’m always ready to work at odd hours and weekends. I would appreciate it if you could let me know in advance. Then I can arrange any other plans at another time.
You can also ask whether they make an Overtime payment in such situations:
Do you offer any payment for working at odd hours?
This way, you can build a good rapport with the interviewer and take the conversation forward.
20. How do you plan on balancing work and personal life?
If your job needs you to commit out of office hours, the interviewers will surely throw this question on the table. They need to make sure you will enjoy the job and at the same time have time with your family.
It is essential to keep a healthy work-life balance for any person. Ask questions from the interviewer to know more about the job role. Ask how often you will need to attend to calls from foreign clients.
This way, both the parties can open up and be transparent. When giving the final response, be neither a workaholic nor a complete family man. Stay in the middle and do some justice.
Let’s look at an example:
21. How do you handle stress?
At some point of the interview, your recruiters will wanna know how well you can perform under pressure. This is especially applicable for high-stress work environments.
What you can do here is, give a clear example of a situation you performed under pressure:
I once worked at a restaurant named [restaurant name] and my main duty was to take and serve coffee orders. It’s a really challenging task during winters. The number of orders I had to handle was nearly 5 times compared to other seasons. I was super stressed during winters. What I usually did was to skip any breaks and focus on serving customers.
22. Why have you decided to change your career path?
Wish this was easy as trains change rail tracks.. But guess what? It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Just imagine a whole lot of candidates with years of experience lined up in the same queue as you. They must be having experience in the same path.But look at you! You are waiting to start afresh.
Wanna know how to knock them off the queue? Well, keep it simple and convincing.
There is no harm in talking about previous work experience and finding a connection between the two paths. At the same time talk about chances to grow and learn:
Although I have worked as a developer for 3 years, I enjoy testing. I would like to learn through mistakes and look at more opportunities rather than sticking to the role of a Software developer. I have experience in testing because all the time a bug is reported, we have to recreate it according to the steps given by testers. I’m 100% sure I can take up this challenge.
23. Why haven’t you acquired your Master’s or PhD yet?
Gaps in education matter as much as gaps in employment. If the chance of getting promoted is proportional to your educational qualifications, this question is sure to get in your way.
Some companies will recruit you and need you to start the next qualification and show proof of progress. If that’s the case and you haven’t started the next step, you may be facing one of these issues or something similar right now:
- Financial issues
- Family commitments
- Lack of time
Or.. are you lacking interest? If so, that’s a NO NO at the interview. The best way to answer here is to mention your future educational plans.
If you think that working hours will clash with class schedules, talk to your interviewer and ask for any possible arrangements. If you see you as the best fit, they will surely consider this request.
I have already planned to start my Master’s in 3 months time and I didn’t have enough time off in my previous job for studies. I hope you can consider giving me the weekend off so that I can complete my Master’s. It will be great because I will be more qualified and add more value to the company as well.
24. How would your coworkers describe you?
This one is similar to “Tell me about yourself” and “describe yourself in 3 words.” The interviewer wants to make sure you are being completely honest about yourself.
Stick to one or two traits that will describe you the best and explain why those traits match you.
For example, if you chose to say that your coworkers will describe you as a cool individual, mention a reason.
My coworkers will probably say I’m cool and easy to work with because recently there was a sudden deadline that was specially related to a task assigned to me. Instead of being stressed out, I completed the task on time.
25. Tell me about a time you made a mistake
Making mistakes is common to all humans. Don’t pretend that you are flawless. Be prepared to answer this question because it gives an idea about how fast you can learn from mistakes.
A new job is all about challenges. If you give a positive and straightforward answer here, it implies that you are a challenge seeker.
But what if you emphasize more on the negative side? Well.. that’s not going to make a perfect answer.
Always keep it simple and explain how the mistake helped you to improve. Otherwise, interviewers will figure out your weaknesses that might lead to negative results.
Some key tips to keep in mind:
- Do not blame anyone else for your mistake.
- Do not overemphasize your mistake.
- Do not say that you have made no mistakes.
- Mistakes are negative. Start with it and gradually spin negativity to positivity.
Let’s look at how to tackle this question in a positive manner:
When I joined as the marketing Manager at [company name], I organized a workshop for promoting [product name] which was lacking in sales at the time. But, the message campaign I scheduled was not executed and there were no participants for the workshop. Then I got to know that scheduled campaigns must be approved by the senior management. Thereafter, each time I organized such workshops, I got all campaigns approved and managed to conduct over 30 successful workshops. This increased sales by 50%.
26. Do you have any interests outside of work?
These types of questions are usually asked to measure your ability to multitask. Afterall, any organization has extracurricular activities.
This is the best chance to show your interests and achievements outside of work. Tell them about the club memberships you have, the number of games you’ve led and won..etc.
For example you can say:
I’m more into working out because the nature of my job is sitting in one place and working at a laptop screen. So, I am concerned about fitness and BMI. One of my friends who works here mentioned there is a gym at the company and I’d love to work out there. It will be easy for me to balance both the profession and fitness.
The above answer talks about a fitness hobby and slowly relates it to the job role. When crafting your answer, follow these tips:
- Do not go into more detail about your hobby. It might convince interviewers that you are more concerned about hobbies than the job.
- Select an activity that counts as a hobby. Don’t mention personal life tasks such as dropping your kids to parties, taking them to the dental clinic everyday, sleeping etc.
- Do not say that you don’t have a hobby.
27. What do you like the most about our company?
The objective here is to understand whether you possess the passion to work at the organization. You must do some homework before the interview to answer this one.
- Explore the company web page.
- Get an idea about their products.
- Take note of who the founder is and do some research.
- If you have any friends who work there, contact them and get to know about the company culture.
After doing the homework, you will surely end up with a successful answer. To show your interest, finish off the answer with an opening to know more about them:
I’ve been following your website for quite a long time and I noticed you have some free online courses for beginner level programmers. I subscribed to the free Java certification and recently completed it. I really enjoyed following it and I’d like to know more about the other similar products you offer.
28. What do you think our company could do better?
Once again! Research is key to answering this question too. If you just applied for a ton of jobs and are not sure which one this is, then you are in trouble!
The recruiters want to make sure to have a clear vision about what’s in store for you. Talk positive and show your willingness to commit to make things better. DO NOT point out negativity and blame the organization.
Talk about how great things are and suggest an improvement:
I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate your efforts to keep your website up to date with evolving technology. However, if the careers section was more visible and emphasized, many candidates will find it easy to navigate through available job opportunities.
29. When can you start?
Well.. well.. This is one of the final questions interviewers will ask especially if they are interested in hiring you. When it comes to this, the chances are that:
- You are already working somewhere else.
- You are not employed yet
If it’s the latter case, you may say that you’d like to start as soon as possible.
But, if you are already employed, there should be a period of notice to your current employer before you can resign. This should be clearly communicated to the interviewers to avoid disappointments.
Notice of resignation has been a significant policy in many job roles today. This can vary from 2 weeks to one month depending on your designation and place of work. Your interviewer will surely understand such situations.
Here is how:
It would be a great opportunity to join your team as the new [job role]. But, before that I have some projects to complete in my current job and the official resignation notice period is [duration]. By that time I will be able to train my replacement and move on.
30. Do you have any questions for us?
Most probably at the grand finale of an interview, the interviewer will ask this question. Answering with a “No, everything is clear.” will leave a negative impression.
Instead, you need to show your involvement in the interview. Ask questions related to the job role, the company and your candidacy. Here are some tips for crafting your questions:
- DO NOT ask closed questions that have “yes” or “no” answers. Ask open ended questions to keep the conversation going.
- DO NOT waste time asking questions that you can find answers simply by doing a google search.
- DO NOT ask questions about activities out of the job role.
- DO NOT ask questions about the interviewer’s personal life or office gossip.
- Ask one question at a time without combining multiple questions in one go.
- DO NOT ask about salary and benefits especially if it’s a first round interview. Take up the chance if the interviewer brings that topic in.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- What would a typical day of my job role be like?
- What do you expect from me during the first 3 months of joining?
- How do you evaluate the performance of employees?
- What is the most important skill to have in order to excel at this job?
- I’d like to know more about the company culture.
- What is the vision and mission of the company?
- Do I have sufficient qualifications to fit in the job role?
- When can I expect a reply from you?
In this article, we have covered some of the most common interview questions and answers. You will always be a successful candidate at the job interview with enough pre research and preparation.
Start now and good luck for your job interview!