Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what questions a hiring manager would ask you during your next job interview?
We can’t read minds to know the exact questions to be asked but we can give you the possible questions that are frequently asked: a list of the most frequently asked interview questions, along with advice on how to answer them all.
While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question (please don’t), we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are looking for in your responses, and what it takes to demonstrate that you’re the right person for the job.
Consider this list to be your study guide for interview questions and answers.
Questions from the Past
These frequently asked questions cover the fundamentals that hiring managers want to know about every candidate: who you are, why you’re a good fit for the job, and what you’re good at. You may not be asked these questions in these exact words, but if you have answers prepared for them, you’ll be ready for almost anything the interviewer throws at you.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
This question appears simple, which is why many people fail to prepare for it, but it is critical. Here’s how it works: Don’t provide your entire employment (or personal) history. Instead, make a pitch—one that’s succinct and compelling, and that demonstrates why you’re the best fit for the job. Lily Zhang, a Muse writer and MIT career counselor, suggests using a present, past, and future formula. Discuss your current role briefly (including the scope and perhaps one major accomplishment), then provide some background on how you got there and any relevant experience you have. Finally, explain why you want — and are ideal for — this position.
2. How did you get to know about this job?
Another seemingly innocuous interview question, this is actually a fantastic opportunity to stand out and demonstrate your enthusiasm for and connection to the company. For instance, if you heard about the job from a friend or professional contact, make sure you mention that person and explain why you were so excited about the opportunity. Share how you found the company, if it was through an event or an article. Even if you found the job posting on a random job board, describe what piqued your interest about the role.
3. Why do you want to work for this particular company?
Be wary of canned responses! If what you say is applicable to a number of other companies, or if your response makes you sound like every other candidate, you’re passing up an opportunity to stand out. Zhang suggests one of four approaches: Do your research and highlight something that makes the company unique that really appeals to you; discuss how you’ve seen the company grow and change since you first heard of it; concentrate on the organization’s opportunities for future growth and how you can contribute to it; or share what has gotten you excited from your interactions with employees thus far. Whatever path you take, be sure to be specific. And if you can’t think of a reason why you’d want to work for the company you’re interviewing with by the time you’re well into the process? It could be a red flag that this position is not a good fit for you.
4. Why are you interested in this position?
Again, companies want to hire people who are enthusiastic about the job, so you should have a compelling explanation for why you want the position. First, identify a couple of key reasons that make the role a good fit for you. For example “I love customer support because I love interacting with human constantly and also the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”, and then explain why you love the company (for example, I have always been passionate about education, and I think you’re doing great things, so I want to be a part of this great team”).
5. What Value Can You Bring to the Organization?
When interviewers ask this question, they are not only interested in learning about your background. They want to see that you understand the company’s or department’s problems and challenges, as well as how you’ll fit into the existing organization. Read the job description carefully, do your research on the company, and pay attention in your early round interviews to understand any issues you’ve been hired to solve. The key then is to connect your skills and experiences to what the company requires and to share an example of how you’ve done similar or transferable work in the past.
6. What Are Your Strengths?
Here’s an opportunity to discuss something that makes you great—and a perfect fit for this role. When answering this question, consider quality rather than quantity. In other words, don’t recite a laundry list of adjectives. Instead, choose one or two (depending on the question) specific qualities relevant to this position and illustrate them with examples. Generalizations are never as memorable as stories. And if there’s something you’ve been meaning to mention because it makes you a strong candidate but haven’t had the chance, now is the time.
7. What do you consider your flaws to be?
Beyond identifying any major red flags, your interviewer is attempting to gauge your self-awareness and honesty with this question. So, “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life is not an option. Everyone has weaknesses but always strike a balance by considering something you struggle with but are working to improve. For example, perhaps you’ve never been particularly good at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you become more comfortable speaking in front of a group.
8. Tell me about a time when you demonstrated your leadership abilities.
You don’t need a fancy title to act as a leader or demonstrate leadership abilities. Consider a time when you were in charge of a project, took the initiative to propose an alternative method, or assisted in motivating your team to complete a task. Then, using the STAR method, tell your interviewer a story, providing enough detail to paint a picture (but not so much that you start rambling) and spelling out the outcome. In other words, explain why you’re telling this story and connect the dots for the interviewer.
9. Tell me about the mistake(s) you made at work.
When you’re trying to impress an interviewer and land a job, you probably don’t want to dig into your past mistakes. However, talking about a mistake and winning someone over are not mutually exclusive, according to Moy. In fact, if done correctly, it can be beneficial. The point is to be honest about the mistakes you made without blaming others, then explain what you learned from your mistakes and the steps you took to prevent it from happening again. At the end of the day, employers want people who are self-aware, can accept feedback, and want to improve.
10. Why Did You Have a Gap in Your Employment Period?
Perhaps you were caring for children or elderly parents, dealing with health issues, or traveling the world. Perhaps it simply took you a long time to find the right job. Whatever the reason, you should be ready to talk about the gap (or gaps) on your resume. Seriously, practice saying your response aloud. The key is to be truthful, but that doesn’t mean you have to reveal more information than you’re comfortable with. You can also discuss how skills or qualities you honed or gained in your time away from the workforce—whether through volunteer work, running a home, or responding to a personal crisis—would help you excel in this role.