Once upon a time, job interviews were nonexistent! Instead of going through extensive interview processes, individuals “worked” by completing tasks necessary for survival. In fact, it wasn’t until 1921 that Thomas Edison introduced the first recorded example of a written exam to evaluate a job candidate’s knowledge. As time went on, advancements in our society such as faster transportation and technology forced us to reevaluate how we determine the best candidate for certain jobs. Today, you could go through two or three interviews before hearing back if you got the job!
While interviews have evolved over time, the purpose has remained consistent. Employers want to ensure that they choose the right fit for the company based on their organizational goals and the individual’s skill sets. While job seekers tend to dread job interviews because they can be stressful, it’s a time for individuals to shine and show off how they can help a company succeed.
To help guide job seekers, we put together a list of some of the most common job interview questions and tips on how to answer to each of them.
Can you tell me about yourself?
One of the most basic, yet trickiest job interview questions in the book. Your answer could go a number of different directions: “Do I tell them about my childhood, my college experience, or about my previous jobs? Where do I even begin? The possibilities are endless!”
When answering this question, put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer. What do you want them to remember about you? Put together a two-minute story that you can share that includes how your past experiences directly apply to the position you’re interested in, specific examples of how you achieved success and touch on your plan to reach your goals in the future. The ‘about yourself’ portion of the interview will often set the stage for the rest of the conversation, so make sure to put your best foot forward!
What are your weaknesses?
This is another really common job interview question that can trip anyone up because who really wants to talk about what may potentially make them unfit for the job? A common pitfall to avoid is the “humble brag” or saying something that sounds like a weakness but, in reality, is actually something positive in disguise. “My weakness is that I just work too darn hard!” may seem like a sneaky way out, but any experienced interviewer will see right through this tactic.
To best answer this question, think about the things that aren’t necessarily your strong suit, such as giving or receiving feedback, organizational skills or presenting to others. Then, explain how you’ve taken steps to improve those skills. Instead of saying, “I’m bad at receiving constructive feedback,” and leaving it at that, you could say, “I used to take feedback very personally and it was a problem that affected my performance. However, as my career continued, I realized that feedback is the key to professional growth and I began to embrace, and even ask for others to critique my work.”
What are your strengths?
In contrast to the last question, this one is difficult because interviewees will want to avoid bragging, but also want to come off as the best qualified candidate for the job.
To approach this question, think about the job description. What are the key skills the employer is looking for? Does the job require excellent people skills, the ability to utilize a certain software, or strong communication? When giving your answer, provide a few examples of your strengths that apply directly to the opportunity at-hand. For example, a response might sound something like, “I have excellent communication skills. Over the past five years, I have made this a focus as I developed relationships with teammates, as well as clients. My communication skills have come so far that I’ve been able to present to ten of our clients while landing six major deals.”
Why do you want to work here?
While this question could scream common sense, it actually helps hiring managers in a number of ways. Your answer will give insight into how you’ll fit into the company culture, and how much research you’ve done beforehand.
As an interviewee, this is your opportunity to shine by tailoring your answer to specific areas of the company that you actually love! Whether it’s community involvement, the core values, the company reputation or a story you recently read about the CEO, you can tie these examples back to why you’re the perfect candidate for the open position. For instance, “I was browsing your Facebook account and came across an album that showed your teammates volunteering in the community. This stuck out to me because I’ve been volunteering at local organizations for many years. It’s exciting to see a company not only match the technical skills that I’ve learned, but also encompasses my personal philosophies like giving back.”
Why did you leave your last job?
This is one of the trickiest, yet almost always asked job interview questions that trips up many job candidates who may have recently left a sticky situation. It makes sense that employers would want to understand why you’ve decided to make a career change!
The answer to this question must be honest, but proceed with caution. Avoid negative speak about your current or previous employer by responding with honesty and respect. For example, focus on how your career move will help grow your personal development or how the culture change makes sense with your goals. “I believe I am better suited to work in an environment where the goals of the organization align with my personal career goals.”
Why should we choose you?
What makes you the best fit candidate? The spotlight is all yours! Employers are looking to hire teammates who will help solve a problem, whether that’s driving sales, promoting brand awareness or delivering excellent customer service.
To prepare for this question, it’s time to think about qualifications and anecdotes again. Keep your answer fluid and concise, but try to touch on points that will make the interviewer’s ears perk. For example, “I have top-notch administrative skills that match what you’re looking for. I will be an asset to your company because I can communicate well with others and I look forward to working with every customer that walks through the door.”
What motivates you?
In this instance, the interviewer is trying to gauge what makes you successful at work. There’s a large difference between a teammate who thrives in a fast-paced, high energy environment than someone who likes to build reports in a quiet space. Both are absolutely fine, but this question will help determine if you’re a great culture fit for the company and the opportunity being discussed.
When giving your answer during the interview, be as honest as possible at your ideal work environment, goals and things that drive you to succeed on a daily basis. Think about focusing your answer on things like meaningful work, goals, core values, mission, etc. Often, you can better determine these factors by completing a behavioral or personality assessment.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is difficult because some of the answers that might pop into your head aren’t necessarily things you should say to the interviewer, like “working up the ranks,” “becoming CEO,” “sitting in your seat one day,” etc.
Instead, think about the job itself and where it can take you in the future. For instance, if you’re applying for a recruiting job in the healthcare industry, you could focus on how you want to become a Care Management healthcare expert one day, and this job will help make that goal a reality. The key here is to illustrate your desire to stick with the company and grow your career in a way that positively impacts both you and the organization long-term.
What would your colleagues say about you?
Another tough question because it’s hard to brag about yourself, as well as speak for others. The purpose of this question could be for the employer to gauge how you’ll fit into the team dynamic and to see if your answers match what your references say.
Instead of making this a laundry list of all the great things about yourself, narrow it down to traits that will make you an asset to the team. Are you dependable, positive, organized, effective at communicating? This is another question where you can tailor your answer to exactly what the employer needs based on the job description. This is a great time to provide a story about how you worked well with a colleague in a previous role.
What are your career goals?
The first and most important step in preparing for this question is to define your career goals! Before you prepare an answer, think about where you are now, where you want to be and the steps it will take to get there. Clearly identifying your career goals is the first major step to achieving them!
During an interview, be concise and specific about your goals. Be sure to frame your answer in a way that makes the employer know that you see yourself in that position in the future. Also, be prepared to elaborate on how you plan to achieve your goals!
While job interviews can be a stressful part of the job search, they are also a way for you to show off your great skills and personality traits! To best prepare for your next job interview, take a look at the questions above and prepare answers ahead of time! Have you answered other common job interview questions we didn’t include? Share your top examples in the comments below!