If you are looking for the most common interview questions, this article is going to show you exactly what hiring managers want by asking these questions and which answers they are hoping to get.
Interviews can be scary and with so many changes in the recruiting world, it can be quite intimidating and confusing to know which answers to prepare for a job interview nowadays.
From personal experience, honesty was the biggest factor in getting several jobs in the past, while not necessarily fitting 100% the requirements.
Before we dive into the common interview questions, you must always remember that you, as a candidate, will always have a say during an interview as well.
You are interviewing the company the same way they are interviewing you. You will, as well, need to take a decision at the end of that interview, if you would really like to work there or not.
The Most Common Interview Questions
These are the most common questions that any recruiter or hiring manager will ask during a job interview and you should always have your answers prepared.
1. Tell me a little about yourself
Although not technically a question, many recruiters open the interview by asking you “Tell me a little about yourself“.
The reason behind it is not because they want to hear your work history, for that they have your resume, they want to see your personality and how comfortable you are with them.
One good option is to start with your current position, list some of your achievements and then move on to explain how these help in understanding the requirements of the job you are interviewing for, or otherwise known as an elevator pitch.
Ideally, you should keep your answer under one minute and wrap up by stating your career goals, including the role and company you are interviewing with, in your goals.
This shows you are comfortable, confident, while genuinely interested in the position, a trait which any recruiter appreciates.
Interview Answer Example
“I am a Business Development Manager with ABC company for the past 4 years and total work experience of 10 years in different industries such as A, B and C. While I love my current position, which enabled me to grow the company sales by 10% each year, I am now looking for an opportunity to grow and that is why I have applied to the Head of Business Development position with DEF company.”
2. What do you know about us?
This is your chance to prove you are a professional individual and did your homework.
You can answer this common interview question in just a few sentences by explaining your knowledge about what the company does, list a competitor or two and finish with the reason that made you apply for a position with that company.
Interview Answer Example
“While reading about the company, I found that you are planning to expand to other markets in the coming 2 years and this was one of the reasons I decided to apply for this position. In my position, as a Business Development Manager with X Company, one of my main responsibilities was to do market research on X market, as the Company was interested in expanding its operations there, so I think my expertise in market research is valuable for this position.“
3. What is your biggest strength?
Although it’s such a cliché, this is one of the most common interview questions that many recruiters still ask and, while many other experts recommend listing an actual strength and explaining why that is your strength, my favorite answer, and the one that has proven to be the most successful is:
“As I do not normally like to praise myself, I would like to tell you what other people think my biggest strength is. My former Manager at Y Company (that you can later use as a reference), used to say that my biggest strength is patience. The reason he was saying this, is because, in the fast-paced environment that we used to work in, it was common to lose patience. I didn’t, and that is what helped me achieve my sales targets every year while having happy clients.”
The above answer has proven to be successful as it maintains the line between being confident and arrogant.
You want to express that you know what your strength is, however, you need to do it in a manner that does not make you sound arrogant.
While it seems random, this question is not, and you want to make sure that the strength that you are listing in your answer is an actual asset for the job you are interviewing.
Some strengths can be weaknesses, depending on the job you are applying for, so give it a good thought.
4. What is your biggest weakness?
Among one of the most common interview questions, yet the one where most candidates fail to prepare a good answer example.
While personally I prefer going completely honest with an answer, I do not recommend this, as you might be throwing yourself under the bus.
This is who I am, I have flaws, same as every other candidate and company in the world.
Going back to the question, other experts advise on listing a flaw that you are actually working on improving.
“I get nervous when pitching high-level executives, however, I am currently taking a course on how to handle these situations”.
My personal advice is that it all depends on the company and person you are interviewing with.
If, for example, you are interviewing with a very laid back and open-minded company and offer the second answer, they might feel that you just learned a script and you are not genuine enough.
The bottom line is, trust your instinct on this one and provide an answer depending on the circumstances and make sure you have prepared a list of weaknesses before your interview.
5. What would you improve about our company?
This interview question is a great opportunity to sell yourself.
If you’ve done good research on the company you should have already discovered at least an area where it needs improvement and where you can help, showing the recruiter that you are a good fit for the position.
If you are interviewing for a Social Media Manager position, for example, you can say:
Good Answer Example
“I have noticed that, while the company’s content on social media is of very good quality and you have a high following, the engagement rate is quite low or lower than the average. During my time as a Social Media Executive for ABC company, one of my main responsibilities was actually to increase engagement. Through carefully studied tactics, I have managed to increase engagement by 10% on a month by month basis, which also led to increased sales.”
If you choose to provide such an answer, you should be prepared to also provide a solution.
Remember, always start on a positive note, and then continue talking about what can be improved.
6. Why are you leaving your current job?
Bear in mind that recruiters, or at least most of them, know when somebody is lying, therefore at least try to provide an honest answer.
Of course, if the reason you are leaving your job is because you hate your boss, don’t say that.
Never complain about your current employer.
You can, however, say that you have been with the company for however long you have, and you don’t have any prospects of growth in the near future.
You feel that the position you are interviewing for is more suitable for your career plans.
If, on the other hand, you were made redundant or let go, be honest about it. It happens a lot after 2008 as more and more companies are going bankrupt and closing down or they just narrow down their operations.
Good Sample Answer
“While I was given a great opportunity when I took this job, and I am grateful for it, I expected to be given the chance to grow and head the department after so many years with the company. I will not be able to grow, as the company does not want to invest in hiring more people, which leaves me no choice but to look for such an opportunity somewhere else.”
7. Why did you have so many jobs?
Many recruiters do not understand that we are not in the ’60s anymore and there is no job stability nowadays, so it might be worth remembering that if someone gives you a hard time for that, maybe that opportunity is not the best for you.
If you truly are a dedicated professional who just didn’t have the chance to stay for a very long time with a company and you are looking for stability, say that.
Be honest. Mention the reason for departure for the last 3 positions. This will help them understand better what you’ve been through and asses if there is any danger of you job-hopping.
Interview Answer Example
“While I am aware that I’ve held quite a few positions throughout my career, this was not entirely my wish. I have been in my previous position for less than a year because the company was not doing well, therefore I was made redundant. In the position that I’ve held prior to that, I was hoping to be given the opportunity to grow and advance in my career, because I have proven myself, however, the company decided to hire someone from outside of the company, instead of promoting internally, which gave me no choice, but to leave, as I have expressed my desire to fill in the new position and I met all the requirements.”
The bottom line, never forget that job interviews are a two-way street.
It’s not only companies who have a choice, but it’s also the candidate as well who is interviewing the company and deciding if it is a good fit for his or her future career plans, personality, etc.
Never let anyone disrespect you and treat you badly.
If a recruiter behaves as if you are just a number and you are not valuable, that is a sign of toxic company culture and environment and you might want to reconsider wanting to work there.
8. Why do you have a gap in your CV?
Same as with every other question, it’s best if you go with being honest.
You took time off to travel, explore a passion, think about what you want in life, you were unemployed, cared for a family member, etc.
Whatever the reason, it’s only human to not be able to secure a job straight after another.
9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In order to know how to best answer this question, you need to understand the reason behind it.
Recruiters and hiring managers are trying to understand what are your career plans, how motivated are you in terms of growth and how your plans fit with their company.
Having said that, it is always good to be frank, while also realistic.
If, for example, you are applying for a Business Development position, this would be a good answer:
“Although, nothing is certain nowadays, I would like to become the Head of Business Development. I will be experienced enough to lead the department and mentor the team by that point”.
10. Why should we choose you over other candidates?
This is a tricky job interview question that is meant to test how confident you are about your experience and skills, while also making sure you are not arrogant.
There is a fine line between the two and you need to be careful when choosing your answers to such interview questions.
Good Answer Example
“While I haven’t met any of the other candidates and don’t know anything about their experience and skills, I know that while working as a Sales Manager with X Company I have reached and exceeded my targets every year, while having a retention rate of 50%, numbers that are valuable for any sales team. On top of this, I have worked with clients in different industries and markets and have more than 5 years of experience as a Sales Manager, which makes me a strong candidate for the position that I am interviewing for.“
An answer along these lines shows the recruiter that you are experienced enough and have the skills to handle the position.
You know the responsibilities of this position and have been successful in the past, all of this while not disregarding or disrespecting other candidates.
The interviewer can ask this question in different ways. Another way is “Why should we hire you?”
11. Are you interviewing with other companies?
This question is usually meant for recruiters to find out how much competition and time they have in regards to the recruitment process if they are planning to invite you for a second interview or make an offer.
As a side note, it’s a good sign if you’re being asked this question.
It’s good to mention that you have applied to several companies in the same industry for the same or similar position and have interviewed with one or two already.
If they ask for exact names, you can mention that you would like to keep it confidential as you are in the middle of the recruitment process.
Nobody can force you to tell them which companies you have interviewed with already.
“As mentioned earlier, I am looking for an opportunity to grow, therefore, yes, I have already interviewed with several other companies for similar roles.”
12. What is your current salary?
Depending on where you live, this question might be illegal and you don’t need to answer it.
However, if you want to be frank about it, go ahead but mention all the benefits such as a pension, annual vacation, bonuses, commissions, etc.
This will give the recruiter a better overview of the whole package and will help them understand if they can match or exceed your current package.
If you do not want to disclose your package, you can say that this is confidential information, as per the company’s policies, however, you are looking at securing a job, for example, between 45k and 50k per year. Always place your expectations on the lower end, in this case, if you expect to secure a 45k per year, this will be your starting point.
Good Answer Example
“Unfortunately, I cannot disclose my current salary, as this is confidential information, however, I can tell you that I am looking at securing a Sales Manager position, which according to the market, is remunerated between 45K to 50K per year.”
13. What are your salary expectations?
This is another tricky question, as you need to make sure you are not under or over evaluating yourself.
A good piece of advice is to make sure you do a proper market study regarding the salaries for this position.
In order to be able to get a realistic idea, you need to take into consideration the exact title (Junior, Mid -Level, Senior), the size of the company and also how many years of experience do you have.
For example, if you are applying for a Marketing Manager position, an annual salary would be, hypothetically, between 27,000 – 48,000, where the minimum is usually offered in a small or startup retail company and the highest in a large multinational financial institution.
You can use a number of online tools, such as Pay Scale to find out which is the salary range for a particular position in your area.
Once you have done your homework, you will be able to have a figure in mind and know how to answer what your salary expectations are.
Interview Answer Sample
“I would need to better understand the requirements of the job, to see the full job description and to overall understand your expectations from the person who will be filling this position. Nevertheless, according to the market, such a position would be remunerated between 40k to 50k per year, which is what I am looking at.”
This is a fair answer, as you cannot just throw a figure after one interview. You might rush into saying a figure, only to find out later that, for example, they do not provide a premium health insurance, but a class B insurance.
You need to understand the whole picture and their benefits, before stating your salary expectations.
Also, if you are applying for a Sales position, you need to know the commission and bonus scheme, as that might double or even triple your income, depending on your industry.
14. Do you have any questions for us?
The answer to this question is always YES.
Usually, this comes at the end of the interview, however, it is one of the most important interview questions.
If you’ve done proper research on the company, you should have a number of questions for the interviewer.
Most of the questions should be about the job.
While some people advise on asking about future plans for the company, I do not recommend that, as they do not sound genuine and don’t find them relevant at this stage.
Refrain from asking questions about compensation, benefits, and other things alike.
There are exceptions of course, and it all depends on the position you are applying for, so try to be genuine when asking questions, while getting information that will enable you to make a decision about the possibility of working with that company.
I hope this guide to answering the most common interview questions will help you nail your next job interview.
Common Interview Questions key takeaway
While most of these questions might seem easy to answer to, you would be surprised to find out that most candidates fail job interviews because they do not prepare answers to common job interview questions.
You do not need to memorize your answer, you just need to go through them in order to have an idea about your potential answers and how these answers will help you position yourself as a top candidate.