Whether you’re a millennial who’s part of the largest percentage of the labor force, a seasoned employee with decades of experience, or a member of Gen Z who’s applying for their first job, figuring out how to prepare for an interview is always a challenge.
While there’s no way to know exactly what a hiring manager will ask, there are some important themes that most will touch on. Learning about these questions and running through them in a mock interview will help you perform your best.
Ready to start practicing and find a job? Here are ten common interview questions you should be ready to answer.
Common Interview Questions About Your Background
These deceptively simple questions have two purposes. First, they give the interviewer some insight into who you are, what’s important to you, and whether there are any immediate red flags. Second, they illustrate your ability to give concise answers without rambling or going off-topic.
1. Describe Yourself in a Couple of Sentences
Unless they specifically ask about your hobbies, answer this question based on your current work life. Bring up your present or most recent position and mention the parts of your background that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If possible, try to avoid bringing up topics that could trigger an unconscious bias in your interviewer. Even though hiring managers do their best to be impartial, steering clear of “controversial” topics like home life, religion, and politics (unless you’re interviewing in a related field) is in your best interest.
2. Why Are You Interested in This Position or This Company?
“Why do you want to work here?” can be a difficult question to answer honestly. Even if your main motivation in the job search is earning a paycheck, that isn’t the reply recruiters are looking for. Instead, focus on why you applied to this particular role instead of another similar one.
This is where doing your research ahead of time helps you stand out. Mention that your values align with the company’s mission, you love their recent project initiatives, or that you’ve heard great things about the company culture and work environment. Be as specific as possible to show that you spent time learning about the company before your interview.
3. Why Did You Leave Your Last Role?
If you left your last workplace because your boss was insufferable and you were underpaid, giving a blunt and straightforward answer may not be the best approach. Instead, focus on what you’re looking for in a new job. Perhaps that’s more opportunities to learn and grow, a better culture fit, or the chance to make a bigger difference in your community.
This question may also come in conjunction with “why were you fired?” or “why did you have a gap in employment?” Be honest when answering, but know that you only have to give details you are comfortable sharing. Try to re-frame negative experiences as learning opportunities and explain why you’re now ready for a new position.
4. What Did You Dislike About Your Previous Position?
This question may sound like a chance to vent, but it isn’t. Your interviewer is seeing whether you can focus on the positives even in light of a negative question, and they’re also checking to see if the things you disliked most are present in their company as well. As with the previous question, guide your answer toward what good things you’re looking for in your next position.
5. What Expectations Do You Have Regarding a Salary?
This is an uncomfortable interview question, but it helps recruiters identify whether you have similar views on the job’s value. If you’ve been historically underpaid or are making a career switch, don’t answer with your prior wages. Research the average salary for similar positions in your area and say “It appears that the typical range is x-dollars to x-dollars; is that in line with your budget for the position?”
Likely Interview Questions About Your Skills
If you’ve written it well, your resume should showcase your hard skills and technical expertise. Potential employers want to know about more than that, though—one of their biggest struggles is finding candidates that also have the right soft skills. To find out if you fit the bill, they’ll dig deeper and with questions like these.
6. What Are Your Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses?
This is an inquiry into your self-awareness, humility, and honesty as much as it is about the actual answer. Instead of dumping a list of traits, choose one or two strengths and weaknesses that are most relevant to the role in question. When it comes to weaknesses, mention something that you’ve struggled with in the past but have a plan to improve.
7. How Do You Handle Success and Failure?
How do you deal with stress? Do you fly off the handle, shrink back and hide, or approach it with a level head?
How do you act after a big success? Do you brag to everyone around you, take credit for others’ achievements, or celebrate the accomplishment as part of a team?
The best way to answer these questions is with specific examples. Choose a time that you responded well and briefly describe the events leading up to your response.
8. Tell About a Time You Dealt With a Difficult Work Situation
Like the one above, this question also requires a specific example. Try to think of an instance in which you had to mediate conflict, meet a shortened deadline, use critical thinking skills, or deal with a difficult client. If possible, choose a situation that relates to the role you’re applying for.
9. Why Should We Hire You?
This is your chance to showcase your enthusiasm, drive to succeed, and other attractive character traits. Your answer should showcase what makes you a uniquely qualified candidate. Make sure to hit these points: your capability of doing the job, your fit with the company culture, and how you’ll deliver stellar results.
10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
Don’t shrug this question off! Asking intelligent questions shows your investment in the hiring process. Come to the interview with a prepared list of questions and jot down more as you think of them while the interview goes on.
Are You Prepared to Answer These Interview Questions?
These are far from the only interview questions hiring managers could ask. Even so, the best way to prepare for an interview is to practice open-ended questions like these so you’re ready to answer anything that comes up.
Once you’ve run through a few mock interviews and settled on some go-to examples, it’s time to start landing the real thing.
Instead of spending your time combing the internet for relevant job listings, use the Innovo Staffing job search tool. We’ve rounded up the best open jobs in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Visit our site to sort them by title, skills, or location and find the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.