interview questions

Top Interview Questions and How to Prepare to Answer Them

Before landing your next job, chances are you will be subjected to multiple rounds of interviews. Over the phone, in-person or even online, these interactions can be stressful – especially if you’re not sure what to expect!

Luckily, we’ve compiled some of our top interview questions and put together our favorite tactics for answering them successfully.

Truth be told, these questions may already seem cliché depending on how long you’ve been on the job search, but the lessons learned by preparing for them can be invaluable on interview day. Employers will always be looking for problem-solving, forward-thinking candidates who are thoughtful participants in the interview process.

With that in mind, here are some common interview questions worth preparing for before your next interview:

“Can you tell me about yourself?”

Think of this as a short preview of what’s to come in the rest of the interview, not your life’s story! If your answer begins with, “I was born on a cool morning in September…” you might find yourself rambling on for minutes without even realizing it. Rather than trying to pack in too much information, try picking key experiences and personal or professional facts that will stick with your interviewer.

There’s no rule saying you need to follow a chronological structure, either! Rather than starting at the beginning, consider highlighting a few key moments in your career up to this point and how they’ve led you to applying for the opportunity at hand.

“What are your weaknesses?”

Are you really, “a perfectionist”? Is it truly a weakness that you, “just work too darn hard”? If you feel uncomfortable using these answers, the person of the other side of the table will be just as uncomfortable hearing them.

Rather than hiding from your weaknesses, focus on progress. Zero in on something you have actively worked to improve upon in your life and share the specific ways you are making positive changes in that area. Highlighting continued education efforts, independent research and a willing to learn new things might just help you make a lasting impression.

“Why do you want to work here?”

This question is aimed directly at the passion of the interviewee. In order to show that you really want the job, now’s the time to get specific. What drew you to this position other than the fact that you need a job? Connecting company values and culture to your own life is a great way to communicate why an opportunity excites you.

“Why did you leave your last job?”

In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!” Don’t let this question trick you into sharing negativity for your last job experience. Instead of blaming a mediocre manager or torching your former team, stay positive. By being brief but honest, then focusing on the lessons you’ve taken away from former roles, you can avoid taking the low road. Remember, the focus here should be on the impact you plan to make in the future, not on dwelling in the past.

Wildcard! “What type of animal/tree/ice cream would you be?”

You can prepare, review and repeat interview questions all you like, but once in a while there are interview questions that just stop you in your tracks. If you’re blindsided by a strange question that comes seemingly out of left field, do not panic. Whatever the actual content of the question, don’t let it rattle your cage.

Why? In the end, the interviewer is interested in hearing any answer, so be confident and share something that’s true to who you are. If you’re surprised by the question, be honest about it and do your best to relate your answer to the impact you can make by joining the team.

With more resources for job seekers than ever, many interview questions are no longer a secret. While these are some common questions, you need to be ready to answer whatever may come your way. Practicing through research, picking career highlights and sharing your personal passions and professional values will set you up for success, no matter what’s being asked!

What top interview questions did we miss? Share you favorites (or least favorite) below!

43 thoughts on “Top Interview Questions and How to Prepare to Answer Them

  1. that you for all the information given,.am looking forward to the Billing in Methodist i was interview for.

    • Hi Russell,
      These are both great questions I’m sure we’ve all come across on the job search! Being specific about your career’s story and how you align with a company’s values can really help in this case. Thank you for sharing; and please feel free to add in more question tips!

  2. Another interview question that catch you off guard is “where do you see yourself in five years from now?”

    • Thank you for sharing, Shana! Questions that force you to look ahead in your career can be tough to handle if you’re not prepared. Even though it might seem as though the interviewer wants to hear, “right here, boss!” it is a good idea to think bigger than that! Where do your passions lie, and what are you doing or planning to do to develop in your career overall? Connecting your personal dreams with your potential employers’ vision and values can impress on interview day.

  3. This was the most enlightening information I could receive. I especially appreciated the questions, “What are somethings about yourself.” I have been told that I go into a long ramble when I get excited. So, I will definitely try to use this information. Thanks again.

  4. I always have trouble with “Do you have any questions?”. Most of my questions are for after I’ve been offered the job. I do ask what their hiring timeline is, when do they want someone in the chair?
    Mostly, I just to know when I should stop wondering if I’m getting the job. A most frustrating new trend is that you don’t get a call, note, or email to let you know . . anything. You take the time to interview with a company, but they never contact you one way or the other. In my day, if someone came in and interviewed, I would let them know if I chose another candidate. That way they’re not dangling. I understand it can be a challenge, it is time consuming, but, I’m not suggesting you contact everyone who applied, just those you thought enough of to call in to talk to.

  5. This is awesome information. Also, I practice not in the mirror but, I record my self on laptop or phone as a video and play it back. It helps me to critique myself and be aware of hands movements as well as facial expressions. You may be surprised at what you see.
    I was!

  6. Great information, very professional, well articulated, and most importantly they reflect the essence
    of reality. But, I would like to add one thing: Through several interviews I had, It was clear that the interviewer didn’t have any plan to hire you, but, rather was done because being advised to do so. Thank you gain for this valuable information.

    • Hi Mark,
      You’re welcome! No matter what interview situation you happen to step into, it is always important to arrive prepared, act professionally and remain positive. You never know where an opportunity will lead or what will prepare you to take that next step forward! Thank you for sharing.

  7. “Tell us about a boss you didn’t get along with…a time you solved a problem, left an organization better than you found it, had an idea that was rejected and how did you react?”

    • Thank you, Patty; these examples show another type question that is great to prepare for! Similar to, “Why did you leave your last job?” this question can be tricky because it might put you into a negative mindset at the start. Rather than focusing on the disagreement, practice highlighting the positive take aways from difficult projects and disagreements, and how you plan to apply those lessons in your future.

  8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Give me a time when you faced adversity in the work place? And what was the situation and outcome?

  9. How do you suggest answering the questions like ‘tell me about a time where you faced adversity or difficulty and how you handled it’, if you have never really had to deal with adversity or difficulty in the workplace? I find myself struggling to answer that since it doesn’t really apply to me.

    • Hi Brenda,
      Thank you for sharing this; situations like these can definitely be tricky. On the surface, it might seem like a ‘good’ problem to have since it means you’ve had positive experiences elsewhere, but you still need to be able to answer the question directly, as well. No matter what, this is a great question to show employers how you solve problems and commit to self-improvement. Can you think of any skills, inside or outside of the office, that you’ve worked to improve that can beneficial in a new office? Now’s the time to share your specific process for learning how to improve, detail your progress, and plans to get even better in the future!

  10. Prior to becoming disabled, I managed teams of 100+ Associates. I’ve recently gone back to work on a much lesser scale. I am actively looking for another leadership role. What is the best way to explain a large gap in employment? Should I be upfront about my disabilities?

    • Hi Steve,
      Thank you for sharing your story. While it’s true that many employers will ask about an employment gap, they are also less concerned with why a candidate had an employment gap and more concerned about how a candidate addresses that employment gap.

      Did the candidate maintain a positive attitude about the experience, and apply lessons from challenges they faced to new opportunities ahead? Did the candidate learn any new skills during this gap? How motivated is the candidate to progress with a new opportunity? Answering these questions can flip the conversation, focusing on how you were able to overcome a challenge and continue to develop professionally.

      I hope this helps!

  11. How does one get an interview? I haven’t had one since 3/2015. I spend many hours tailoring my ISD/training resume and cover letter to fit exactly what the companies are looking for yet I am always one in several hundred. I used to get calls every few weeks for phone screens but that’s no longer the case. I find that LinkedIn and going to conferences, etc. are disastrous & only amount to false hope. No one does informational interviews anymore. Any ideas? I did career counseling & had my resume redone several times.

  12. Thanks Andrew, great advice. Here is other ones. What is your great weakness? Why did you leave your previous job?

  13. “Tell me a specific time when you went over and above your job to help a client and what was the outcome.” That question always trips me up.
    I feel like I give good service to all my patients. I always leave feeling like I should give some ground breaking example. What do you suggest?

    • Hi Chris,
      Thank you for the great example! While it’s definitely a good idea to express your commitment to consistent quality in all service situations, sharing specific examples can only help to add impact to your story. Don’t think of these examples as having to be epic, over-the-top tales; even the most seemingly normal interaction can be ground breaking in its own right. A personal story can help you stand out in a crowded field of skilled candidates.

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