Answers to the most frequently asked job interview questions

While every job interview is different, and will almost certainly contain some questions about the specific role you’re competing for, there are some classic questions that employers usually ask to get the conversation going. Here are some of the most common that you are likely to hear – along with the best way to answer them.  

Most interviews will start off with a conversational sounding ice-breaker like this:

So, tell me a little bit about yourself… ?

This isn’t small talk. Don’t bring up your likes and dislikes, pass-times or pets. Give your elevator pitch. Offer a brief description of your career and how your past work and accomplishments make you a great candidate for the job at hand.

What would you say is your greatest weakness?

This question makes everyone uncomfortable. You want to sell your candidacy, so naturally, you don’t want to talk about things you’re not good at. That’s the point. Employers want to see how you answer uncomfortable questions and how well you can communicate in stressful situations. Because on the job there will be stressful situations.

Think of a skillset that isn’t vital for the job you’re interviewing for. Talk about how you’ve realized that you are a bit weaker at it and how you’re taking steps to improve. That demonstrates that you are self-aware and willing to learn.

For example:

I’m very comfortable with public speaking, but my previous employer wanted every presentation accompanied by illustrative PowerPoints. I struggled to come up with compelling images and slides. So, I’ve taken a PowerPoint course and I’m getting much better at animations and presentations.

Why should I hire you?

This common job interview question is a gift. It is your opportunity to sell yourself for the role. Describe any special abilities or accomplishments you have that show how you stand head and shoulders above other potential applicants. It’s okay to boast in a job interview. Just don’t sound boastful.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Explain how this role fits in with your overall career goals. If it seems like a good career move for you, then excelling at it will benefit you professionally as well as benefit the company. You will be motivated. Employers don’t want to waste time hiring someone for a role that is unrelated to their goals who will probably leave is as soon as something more relevant comes along.

Why do you want this job?

Of course, you want the job because you need a paycheque and job hunting is a drag, so you’d like to stop. That’s not how you answer the question.

Similar to the “five years” question, you want to answer in a way that shows how the job fits with your career goals. It is also an opportunity to flatter the employer. Show them that you’ve done your homework and researched the company. Tell them what you like about their business and culture and why you would be enthusiastic to be a part of it.

Do you have any questions for me?

Don’t ask about salary or benefits. Naturally, you want to know those things, but they’ll come up during the negotiation phase once the employer makes you an offer. In the initial interview, everything you say should be calculated to get you to that offer. This includes the questions you ask.

Ask smart questions that show you have some knowledge of the industry, and that you’re already thinking about how you can contribute to it. You want the interview to be a dialogue between professionals, not an interrogation. So, anything you can do to get a conversation going about working in the sector will make you a more memorable candidate.

Ask about the challenges of the role, trends in the industry, questions about the company that shows you’ve done your research, and what the next steps are in the hiring process.

Just don’t say, “No, I don’t have any questions.” That can make you seem disinterested.

Most job interview questions – other than those about skills specifically necessary for the role – are designed to determine how enthusiastic you will be for the job and if you’ll be a good fit with the company and culture. Be yourself, be friendly and conversational, but always keep in mind what the interviewer is really looking for when you choose your answers.

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