You can spend all the time in the world perfecting your resume and your cover letter. However, it is much more difficult to prepare for an interview. A few seconds is usually all you have to digest the question and formulate a response.
When it comes to the interview process, which usually happens in the last few stages of the hiring process, your best chance is to research and prepare the best you can. That includes practising in front of a mirror or asking a friend to mock interview you. Practice responding to common questions as many times as you need until you’re comfortable. If you are not prepared, the typical stress and pressure of an interview will be magnified tenfold.
That being said, here are 10 common interview questions to help you prepare for any interview.
1. “Why this company?”
In most cases, this will be the opening question as a standard test for shotgun blast applicants. To sift out the applicants who ‘bulk apply’ to any companies in hopes of landing an interview.
With that in mind, avoid giving generic or safe answers. If you can throw in two or three unique points about the company and why it appealed to you, you instantly pass this test. Compliment something the company did that’s interesting or something about someone in the company. Use resources like LinkedIn to delve deeper into the company and what they stand for.
You might not secure the job with your answer, but you can definitely lose it.
2. “Tell me about yourself”
This isn’t an invitation to recite your resume. Rather, a test of whether you can provide a concise and thoughtful overview of yourself. Be careful not to tell your entire life story or you’ll start sounding like a lullaby and lose the interviewer’s attention.
It’s great to have a few dot points prepared prior to entering the meeting because this is arguably the most asked question in an interview. Make sure these answers are relevant to your position. Think of it as more of a pitch rather than an introduction. The goal of it is to present yourself as the ideal candidate for this role.
Consider throwing in a few quirky details about you that are related to the role.
3. “Why should we hire you?”
Super direct and intimidating. Perfectly serving as a test of the candidate’s selling skills and stress capacity. But also a golden opportunity to showcase your preparation for the interview.
Companies want to know if you can get the job done as seamlessly as possible. So, bring a solution to one of their current problems to the table. Use an ongoing project as an example, tell them exactly how you can help, and how much better it is to have you onboard versus without you.
Being detailed is your advantage here.
4. “How did you hear about this role?”
Take this chance to breathe and recalibrate, if you need to.
Hear about it through someone close? Mention that!
Learn about it after doing research on the industry? Tell them how and what you were initially searching for!
See it on a job board? Say why it caught your eye, and tell them why this company, not others.
5. “What are your weaknesses?”
The majority of candidates will try to pitch a weakness that is sneakily a strength.
“I get too caught up in the details,” reads as “I’m detail-oriented.”
“I often work too hard,” reads as “I’m a hard worker.”
Don’t do that. Recruiters have interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates. They can smell your sneakiness from far away.
Give a real and honest weakness and show them how you’re working to overcome it. Not only does it demonstrate your desire to improve, but you’ll also get bonus courage points for being vulnerable.
6. “Tell me about a time when you failed.”
This is an assessment of:
- Whether you have faced failure/hardship.
- Your resilience and attitude.
- How you handle adversity and whether you have learned from it.
Be ready with one or two stories to share. Focus less on what went wrong, more on how you dealt with the situation (regardless of whether it turned out okay) and what you learned from it.
7. “Why are you leaving your job?”
As harsh as it sounds, no hiring manager wants someone that will jump ship the moment things go bad. Every company will eventually face some kind of adversity before leveling up. Hiring managers are looking for long-term employees that can help lift the company out of hard times, not run when things get tough.
Avoid giving answers that have a negative connotation about your former employer. After all, this company may very well be your former employer someday!
Highlight the positives a move will bring. It’s okay to be a little selfish here and talk about your personal goals. Good companies love ambitious individuals. So, sprinkle it with where you want to be and what you want to achieve in the next 5 years, or within this new company.
8. “How do you handle stress?”
Stress is a sure sign you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. And this is a good thing to let the recruiter know. Give a simple example of a time when you were under immense stress. Then, how you dealt with it.
One thing to add is that you have to be calm in this situation. If your body language is saying you’re stressed and your words are describing another person, it’s going to raise even more questions.
9. “What other hobbies or interests do you have?
When the interview reaches this stage, it often means they’ve approved of your professional background and would like to know if you can fit into their culture. One way to ascertain that is to understand your interests outside of work.
There isn’t a right thing to say in these cases. Just avoid the generic answers or claim to enjoy hobbies you actually don’t. Let your enthusiasm out during this period. The interviewers can feel your passion.
Bonus points if your hobby is something related to the role!
10. “What questions do you have for me?”
One common oversight for many candidates is that an interview is supposed to be a two-way interaction. It’s not just the company who is interviewing you, you’re also trying to find out if the company can help you achieve your goals.
Yes, make sure to ask questions that clearly indicate you’ve done your due diligence. These are questions like “What do you think made x project the success it is?” But also, don’t forget to ask the questions that might affect your wellbeing in the company, such as “How would you describe the culture in your company?” or “Is working remotely an option for this position?”
Take your time with this, because signing on with a company is equivalent to determining how you’ll spend most of your future days. Ergo, you are entitled to ask as many questions as you want.
Before you leave, don’t forget to thank the interviewer and those who attended for their time. Even if it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, it’s always great to build a genuine connection. You’ll never know when the stars will align. When they do, you’d want to be the first person they think of .