After creating a killer resume and cover letter and passing the first round, it is time to face the final challenge:
Your job interview.
Being judged and evaluated by people who have your future in their hands is more anxiety-inducing than meeting the in-laws.
You’ve heard the interviewers and hiring managers say there are no right or wrong answers to calm you down before an interview.
They are almost always looking for a specific way of answering.
Which brings us to this guide. We’re going to cover the most common interview questions and answers, turning you into a bona fide interview expert by the time you’re done reading.
To make this guide as practical as possible, we covered just about every interview question out there.
Don’t let that put you off, though. You don’t have to read the whole thing end-to-end. To get the most out of the guide, we’d recommend:
How to Answer 14 Most Common Interview Questions [+ Sample Answers]
These questions are the ones you’re bound to hear at just about any job interview – whether you’re an intern, or a senior professional with a decade of work experience.
All of these questions are used to learn more about you, both as a person and a professional.
You might have heard the popular idea that there’s no right or wrong answers for job interview questions.
Well, while that might be true, there ARE a set of rules you need to follow when answering these questions.
If you understand what, exactly, the interviewer is looking for with each question, you’ll be able to give the right answer (and rock that interview!)
In this section, we’re going to go through 14 of the most common job interview questions and answers. We’re going to explain what the HR manager wants to see in you, as well as give you sample answers you could use.
So, let’s get started!
1) Tell me something about yourself.
How hard can it be to talk about yourself? We do it on a daily basis without much thought to it.
However, recruitment managers are not looking for your whole life story, your third-grade achievements, or what you had for dinner last night. Instead, they are looking for a pitch.
This is usually the first question asked in an interview, so it acts as your introduction. Make sure your answer is relevant to the position you are applying for. What you should be aiming for here is to present yourself as the ideal candidate for the job.
A good rule of thumb is to structure your talking points as follows:
- Briefly introduce yourself: What’s your name? How long have you been working as [profession]?
- What do you love about your job?
- What are your top 2-3 achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for?
Now, let’s go through some examples:
Possible Answers for “Tell me About Yourself”:
Hey! So, my name is John Doe and I’ve worked as a business analyst for 5+ years in Company X and Company Y.
I have some background in data analysis, having studied Information Systems at [Made-Up] University.
Throughout my career, I’ve done some pretty impressive stuff (if I do say so myself, haha).
For example, at Company X, I led a project for migrating all operations data to a new data warehousing system to cut down on costs. The new solution was a much better fit for our business, which eventually led to savings of up to $200,000 annually.
I am Jane Doe, a recent college graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I have just graduated with honors in Biochemistry. I know my way around a lab and have had multiple opportunities to put my knowledge into practice as a chemistry research assistant.
The lab felt like home, which is why I’d love to work as a lab assistant. I am passionate, hard-working, and extremely responsible. I am also looking forward to putting to practice all the things I learned during my time at university.
2) How did you hear about this position?
Although at first glance this might seem like a straightforward question, you should grab any opportunity you can to show your interest in the company.
Even if you haven’t been continuously refreshing the company’s website for job listings, make it seem like you have (in a professional way, of course). Show excitement and curiosity.
If someone inside the company told you about the position or recommended that you apply, definitely make sure to mention that.
You’ll have a much better chance at getting hired if someone credible can vouch for your skills.
So, mention his/her name and his/her position inside the company and give their reasoning for inviting or recommending you to apply for the position. Tell the hiring managers what excites you about the job opportunity or what exactly caught your eye.
Possible answers for “How did you hear about this position?”:
“I’ve known about [MadeUpTechnologies] for a long time – I’m a big fan of your products. I even own one of your latest phone models!
I love the company’s passion for creating super intuitive, beautiful hardware, and I would love to be a part of it.
So, when I saw your job ad at [RandomJobBoardWebsite], even though I wasn’t actively looking for a job at the time, I couldn’t help but apply!”
“I heard from Jim Doe, my old colleague and college friend, that [Company X] was looking for a new sales director. He encouraged me to apply, saying that my experience managing a sales team at [Some Software Company] would be helpful for [Company X].
I’ve heard a lot about [Company X] from Jim, and I’m a big fan of the way you do things there. I’ve always wanted to work for a company with a flat organizational structure.”
3) Why did you decide to apply for this position?
Through this question, the interviewers want to assess how passionate you are for the position. And no, the answer isn’t:
“Well, I’m very passionate about not starving to death.”
“Well, I needed the money, and you guys tend to pay a lot.”
What the interviewer is looking for here is to see how passionate you are about the job or the company. After all, job performance is directly linked to job satisfaction. The happier you are about your position at the company, the more productive you’ll be.
And here’s the kicker – your passion will be very evident during the interview.
When you’re talking to a person that’s passionate about something, you can pretty much feel them glow as they talk. And if you’re an HR manager who’s interviewed hundreds of people, this is a very good sign to hire the candidate.
So, use this knowledge to your advantage.
When asked this question, your answer should include 2 things:
- What motivated you to apply for this position, specifically.
- Why this company? Have you heard of them before?
Sample Answer 1:
I’m very passionate about sustainability and renewable energy. In fact, I minored in Environmental Science at [XYZ University].
I’ve always wanted to put my engineering degree to a good cause – and the position as a Sustainability Coordinator at [Company XYZ] is just the right thing.
I’ve been following your company for the past few years, and I love how you’re changing the renewable energy landscape in America.
Keep in mind, though, that if you don’t know much about the company or the position – that’s OK too. Just be honest and show your passion for the job. However, it’s always better to do your homework before going to an interview..
Possible answer 2:
I’ve always wanted to get into marketing. Having done promotional jobs here and there, I never had an opportunity to do something more serious.
I do believe, though, that I have just the right skills to get started: copywriting, basic photoshop, and of course, lots of creativity.
So, I thought that an internship at [Company X] would be an awesome start to my career in marketing.
Want to find more samples answers to this question? Check out our article on 10+ best answers to “Why do you want to work here?”
4) What are your biggest strengths?
There are two answers you could go for here: what your actual strengths are, and what you think the hiring manager or HR representative wants to hear. We would most certainly suggest you go with the first answer.
For this question, you would want to narrow your answer down to at most three strengths. Pick 1 or 2 skills that would help you really excel at the job, and 1 or 2 personal (more or less unrelated) skills.
Not sure which ones are your top strengths? Check out the table below to learn which one’s perfect for your field:
After picking your strengths, back it up with a situation or story that shows how you have used it to benefit you on the job.
After all, words are just that – words. The HR can’t know whether your “natural leadership” is an actual strength, or just means that you were super active in your high school class.
As you probably already know, this is one of the most common interview questions out there, so make sure you’re prepared for it before facing the HR manager!
My biggest strength is that I’m good at picking up new skills. I’ve worked a variety of different odd jobs – things like working as a waiter, house-keeper, cook, and a lot more (as you’ve probably seen on my resume).
For most of those jobs, I ended up picking up all the needed skills within 1 or 2 weeks (with basically no previous experience).
So, I’m pretty sure while I don’t have any experience as a bartender, I have the right certification, and I believe I can get good at it within a week or two.
My biggest strength is that I’m very efficient at working under pressure. No matter the crisis or stress, I can make the right decisions on-the-spot.
As an event manager at Company X, we were organizing an IT conference for a client. There were a ton of last-minute hiccups – some speakers canceled and the catering company said they’d be late for the lunch break. On top of that, we were understaffed because 2 of our volunteer organizers got sick and couldn’t show up.
At that point, things looked so bleak that we were considering canceling the event or postponing it. Instead, I took the initiative in my hands and sorted through the problems one by one.
5) What is your biggest weakness?
Ah, this is always a tricky one!
After all, you don’t want to mention your flaws during an interview, so it’s guaranteed to be a tough question.
The trick to answering this one is realizing that the interviewers don’t expect you to be perfect. Everyone has flaws, weaknesses, and things to improve on.
When asking this question, the HR manager is actually seeking to learn:
- Whether you have the right skill s for the job. If you’re applying for the position of a server in a busy restaurant, and you say your biggest weakness is performing under pressure, then you’re definitely not getting a call back.
- If you’re self-aware and really know what your sticking points are.
And NO: fake humble-brag weaknesses don’t count as weaknesses. You can’t just say that your biggest weakness is that you work too hard, or that you’re a perfectionist.
The key here is to mention a weakness that’s real, but not something that would get in the way of you doing your job. You wouldn’t want to say you’re bad at math if you’re applying for an accountant position, would you
It’s also good practice to mention how you are working towards overcoming this weakness and realizing how it affects you negatively. If you can, just balance it with a positive side effect: treat it like two sides of the same coin.
My biggest weakness has always been my communication skills. I’ve been pretty shy and anxious as a kid. Over the years, however, I’ve been really working on the issue.
At this stage, I’m much better than I’ve ever been, but I’m still far from perfect.
This, however, won’t have any impact on my job as a programmer. Despite lacking communication skills, I’m very good at working in a team.
Well, as a recent graduate, I’d say my biggest weakness is the lack of real-life work experience.
While I’ve worked on a dozen software projects in the university, I don’t have the experience of working in a fully agile environment with an experienced team.
I am, however, willing to do my best and catch up as fast as I can.
Looking for more samples answers about your strengths and weaknesses? Check out our full guide!
6) What do you know about this company/organization?
A quick search in the “About” page of the company/organization you are applying for should be enough, right? Well, yes and no.
Think of this as an open-ended question. There’s no real wrong answer here, other than:
I don’t know anything about this organization. In fact, how did I end up here? Can you guys call me a cab real quick?
However, the more you actually know about the company, the better your chances of getting hired.
Imagine 2 equally competent candidates:
- One who doesn’t particularly care much about your company, and is only applying because they know you pay good salaries
- Another who’s been following your company blog for ages, loves your product, and has several friends already working in the company
Which one would you pick? Exactly, the second one!
So, with this job interview question, you want to convince the recruiter that you’re the candidate #2.
Now, how do you do that? Well, a rule of thumb here is to do some Googling before the interview and learn the following about the company:
- What does their product or service do?
- What impact does the product / service have?
- What’s the company culture like?
- What are the latest news about the company? How are they performing?
- …And pretty much whatever other type of info you can dig up.
I hadn’t heard about you until recently, actually. I found out about [Company X] through your job ad on RandomJobBoard.
After doing some brief research on you guys, I ended up falling in love with your software and your mission.
Now, I’ve worked with a ton of different project management software – Example Software 1, Example Software 2 – but none of them were as intuitive and as Example Software 3.
Well, I know that you’re one of the biggest investment banks in [town / state / country]. Company X pops up on news pretty often – I’ve read that you’ve invested in some of the hottest tech IPOs, and have several up-and-coming biotech companies in your portfolio.
I got particularly interested by your recent investment in [Startup X], I found that interesting because of [Y Reason].
7) Why should we hire you?
Ah, the ultimate humble-brag question.
Now, the real question is, how do you sell yourself without trying to look arrogant, desperate, or needy?
A good rule of thumb here is to stay away from the extremes. Think you’re a good fit for the job? Say that “you have the right experience.”
Whatever you do, don’t oversell yourself:
���I’m the best salesman you’ve ever met!”
Instead, make a general statement (I’m a great fit for the position because…) and talk about your experiences and achievements.
Here are 3 general points you can mention:
- How you’re super passionate about working for the company (and why).
- How your skills fit their requirements.
- How you’re going to help the company solve their existing problems. Improve a metric, setup a process, etc.
Well, as a start, I have all the skills and work experience required for the job. I’ve worked as a Sales Manager for 5+ years, and over the past 2, I’ve closed several deals totalling in 6-figures.
Oh, and on top of that, I have experience working with tech companies, so I’ll be able to pick up all the product specifics much faster than the other candidates.
I have just the right skill-set to excel as an executive assistant. While I haven’t previously worked as a personal assistant, I pretty much fit the bill for the role.
I’m extremely organized, having managed several project teams in my university. I led the organization of Event #1 and Event #2. This involved continuous communication with 12+ companies, 30 speakers, and 15+ sponsors.
I’m very meticulous and organized, and I’m more than capable of helping the CEO get the most our of their free time.
Looking for more sample answers? Check out these 10+ answers to “Why should we hire you?”
8) What are your salary requirements?
This is always a tricky question. You don’t want to lowball yourself, but at the same time, you don’t want to be told “No” because you gave such an outrageous number.
When answering, keep these 3 things in mind:
- What’s the average salary for someone of your skill-level?
- How much does the company pay employees of your skill level? GlassDoor should be super helpful here.
- Finally, how much are you getting paid in your current company? In most cases, you can probably negotiate a pay bump from what you’re currently getting.
The final number you tell them should incorporate all 3 of the points we just mentioned. Do you know for a fact that the company is doing well (and compensates employees accordingly)? You’d quote a higher salary.
Is your skill-level above average? This should be reflected in your salary.
As a rule of thumb, you can figure out 2 numbers: what’s the “good” scenario, and what’s the “best” scenario?
Answer the interviewer with your “best” pay, and worst case scenario, they’ll negotiate it down.
Or, you can also answer with a range, and chances are, they’ll pick the number somewhere in the middle.
My salary expectation is around $70,000 annually.
My salary requirement is in the $30,000 – $40,000 range annually.
9) Do you have any questions for us?
You’ll hear this question in every interview you will attend.
While there isn’t a right answer, there IS a wrong answer:
Nope, all good! Thanks, I’ll go show myself out.
Instead, with this question, you want to show your enthusiasm about the company. Imagine they’ve already hired you and you’re starting tomorrow – what would you like to know about them?
Keep in mind, though, that the questions shouldn’t be too easy (So, what does your company do?).
Other than showing the recruiter that you’re really interested in working for them, this is your opportunity to really find out more about the ins and outs of the place.
The answers you get from the interviewer could also be an indicator of whether you really want to work there or not.
So, what kind of questions can you ask? Here are some of the most essential ones:
Possible questions to ask at the end of an interview:
- What does a regular day in this company look like?
- What’s the best thing about working for the company?
- What’s the worst thing about working for the company?
- What would you say are the biggest challenges a person in this position might face?
- What are the most important skills and qualities one must have to succeed in this position?
- What do you like best about working in this company?
- What are the most pressing issues and projects that need to be addressed?
- Do you have training programs available to employees?
- What sort of budget is there for my department?
- Why kind of opportunities do you have for future development?
- What are the performance expectations for someone in this position?
- Do departments usually collaborate with one another?
- Do you celebrate birthdays or retirements in the office?
- Do employees usually hang out with each other outside of work?
- Is there anything else I can help you with at this stage?
- What is the next step in the hiring process?
For the complete list of all the questions you can ask the interviewer, check out our article!
10) What are you looking for in a new position?
The easiest way to answer this question would be to simply say that you’re looking for whatever the company is offering.
Look at it from the point of view of the potential employer. Would they hire someone if they answered this question with:
A good salary. And uhh, well, that’s about it!
This answer pretty much says that the moment they get a higher paying offer, they’re going to jump ship!
Instead, explain to the interviewer that this job at this company is the perfect fit for you. Mention what your short-term and long-term goals are, and how this position ties to it.
I’m looking to further apply my machine learning skills that I developed during my 2+ years of work at [Startup X]. There, I used to do programmatic ads model design.
Now, I’m looking for an opportunity to work on a larger scale project that involves setting up programmatic ads for audiences of more than 10 million people.
I believe that worked with such a large-scale project will allow me to progress significantly faster in my career.
11) Are you considering other positions in other companies?
Here’s a tricky one: How much does the HR manager need to know here?
If you admit to having interviews with other companies, it might look like you’re not 100% dedicated to this one.
On the other hand, if you say you are not considering other positions, it might make you seem like you don’t have other options (and the company has the upper hand in salary negotiations).
The right way to go about here is to find common ground between the two answers.
The interviewer is probably asking because they want to know whether they have competition in hiring you. They also want to know if you are serious about the industry and are legitimately looking to be employed in this field of work.
If you do have other interviews lined up for other companies, express that you are keeping your options open but that you favor this job in comparison to the others.
Don’t have many other options? Stick to the same approach.
Whatever you do, don’t make it seem like you’re desperate or that you don’t have any other options.
I have had two interviews during the past week with companies in X and Y industries.
However, as I’m very passionate about both your industry and the work you have done during the past several years, I am more inclined toward working for you, if everything works out.
Not yet – I wasn’t really actively looking for a job until my friend, [name], recommended your company. I’m not looking for just any company – I’m interested in an interesting, engaging project such as yours.
12) What is the professional achievement you’re most proud of?
This is another version of the “Why should we hire you” question, but with a focus on one very specific achievement.
This one’s pretty straightforward, just mention your #1 professional achievement and you’re good to go.
As a given, the achievement has to be related to the job you’re applying for. Let’s say you’re applying for the position of Sales Manager:
“I’m very good at underwater basket-weaving, having woven 20+ baskets in the past year.”
“In my previous sales position, I managed to hit and exceed department KPIs by 50%+ for 6 months in a row”
Keep in mind, though, that you want to be very specific with your answer. To get this right, try using the STAR method. It goes something like this:
S: Situation – Set the scene and context.
T: Task – Describe what your challenge or responsibility was.
A: Action – List and dwell on all the actions you took towards addressing the challenge or responsibility.
R: Result – Explain what the outcomes were and how they fit with the overall goal of the project or company.
So, find a work-related achievement that showcases your contribution through your skills and experience to something that matters to the company.
My biggest achievement is the fact that I went from being an intern to managing company X’s entire marketing over 2 years.
As an intern, I basically had 0 instructions on what to do – it went like “hey, go learn social media advertising and get it going.” The founders didn’t exactly expect me to achieve much, and didn’t particularly care, as they were 100% focused on making the product work.
Instead of just complaining about a lack of direction, I started reading up on digital marketing – pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I learned how to do content marketing for example, from Neil Patel’s blog, and started putting everything into practice.
My first success was getting an article to go viral, generating over $5,000 revenue in a single day. While that’s not much for a software company, it felt like a lot for an intern.
After that, the founding team gave me a lot more trust, and assigned me a small marketing budget of ,000 per month. With a lot more confidence in my abilities, I started experimenting with other strategies.
Then, over the next 2 years, I got promoted to Head of Marketing. After making a couple of hires, I managed to scale up our marketing efforts, growing the company from $2,000 to $30,000 monthly recurring revenue.
My greatest achievement so far is graduating from [University X] within 4 years, with a GPA of 3.9. My family was unable to support me financially, so I had to take care of all the university bills on my own.
Through hard work and dedication, I ended up graduating with almost no student loans. I managed this through a combination of:
- Working part-time while studying
- Doing seasonal full-time work during the summer
- Maintaining a high CGPA and winning 2 scholarships over 4 years
13) What kind of work environment do you like best?
The aim of this question is to assess whether you’ll fit in the company’s working environment.
For example, some organizations are pretty structured and hierarchical, they require tight organization and have a well-planned day filled with rules and guidelines on how to do things.
If you’re the creative, think-out-of-the-box type who likes to break the rules and innovate, this is probably not going to cut it for you.
On the other hand, some companies are more laid back, with a lot less bureaucracy. “Go get us more sales” can actually be your main duty for the week if you’re working in an early stage startup.
If you’re the type who prefers to have strict to-dos and objectives, you probably won’t enjoy such a job.
So, the takeaway? Different people work best in different environments, and that’s okay.
Before you go to the interview, go through the company’s website and social media pages to get a sense of the general vibe and environment there.
Look at employee reviews on GlassDoor, or if you know someone already working there, ask them.
Depending on what you learn, answer accordingly.
I work best in smaller companies. I really dislike the corporate world – rules, guidelines, SOPs, and so on. I perform best when I have a certain level of freedom to do things. Want to find innovative solutions to problems you didn’t even know you had? I’m your guy.
Want someone to just blindly follow instructions and do what they’re told? Then we’d probably not be a good fit.
I love working in a youthful, energetic environment. You know, when you’re working on a common goal with a team of people who are as passionate as you are?
I like to think of my work as a second home, and my coworkers as family.
The last company I worked at had such an environment, and I excelled at the job.
I get that exact feeling about Company X, since the moment I walked in here for the interview. So, I’m pretty excited to get to know how you guys work!
14) Where do you see yourself in five years?
Sometimes the honest answer to this is “Hopefully not doing this.” especially with entry-level jobs.
Don’t think the hiring manager doesn’t know it, though. There are diplomatic ways to go around it.
In general, the motivation behind this question is for the interviewer to assess whether you are an ambitious person or not and whether you have realistic expectations for your career.
Make sure to avoid any of the cliche answers such as…
“In your seat!”
“As the big boss man”
Instead, think realistically about what the next step after this position is, and whether it is possible to reach it within the company you are applying at.
Within the next 5 years, I’d like to reach the position of a Senior Business Consultant. During the time period, I would like to accomplish the following:
Help 20+ organizations improve their business
Create a personal network of highly specialized professionals
Learn as much as I can about optimizing and improving clients’ businesses, as well as the essentials of operating a company
As a start, I want to learn if accounting is the right field for me. While I loved what I studied at the university, I want to see if working in the field feels the same.
If I do end up enjoying it, I’d like to specialize in either internal auditing or forensic accounting, as I really like to discover and solve problems. From what I’ve seen from your job ads, you guys are hiring for both, so I hope it’s going to be possible to move up from the position of an “intern” within the next few months!
Still not sure how to answer this one? We don’t blame you! Sometimes, you might not know what you’re doing next week, let alone next year! Check out our guide to answering the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” job interview question to find more possible answers.
How to Answer 18 Situational Job Interview Questions
You’re past the hard part.
You already know the most common job interview questions, and can probably deflect whatever the interviewer throws at you.
Depending on your specific situation, though, you might also need to learn how to answer these situational job interview questions…
1) Why haven’t you gotten your Master’s Degree/Ph.D.?
As a start, keep in mind that the interviewer isn’t judging you for your decision.
After all, if they were looking for someone with a better degree, they wouldn’t have invited you to an interview. The degree is not the dealbreaker here, but your answer to the question might be.
When asking this question, the interviewer is trying to see your reasoning for pursuing a career instead of getting another degree.
Heck, there’s a chance that if you give them the right answer, they’re even going to like you more than someone with 3 Phds!
So, simply explain why you didn’t think that another degree was the right thing for you at the time.
Don’t say you were lazy or didn’t feel like it, or that it’s a waste of money (even if that might be the case).
Instead, give compelling arguments, such as…
- You wanted to see whether your field was the right one for you.
- You didn’t have the financial resources at the time.
- You wanted to get some practical work experience before committing to another degree.
At this stage of my life, I decided to pursue my career instead of further education. On the one hand, I want to make sure that Marketing is what I want to do with my life.
On the other hand, I believe that in my field, practical work experience is a lot more valuable than academic.
So far, my decision has paid off pretty well – I’ve already gotten a lot of experience doing online marketing for 3+ companies and delivering awesome results to boot.
I might eventually decide to pursue a masters, but at this point, I really don’t see the point in that.
Because it’s not in sync with my future career path. I believe that for software engineering, practical experience matters a lot more than having a degree.
While I am eventually planning on getting a Masters, it’s going to be in a more theoretical field, such as Artificial Intelligence.
2) Why have you switched jobs so many times?
If you’ve switched jobs in a very short period of time (2 or more full-time positions in 1 year), the interviewer is bound to ask about it.
After all, job-hopping is one of the biggest red flags for HR managers.
True, you might have had a reasonable cause. Maybe the second company you got hired in just wasn’t a good culture fit for you.
Well, you’ll have to communicate that.
Companies tend to be skeptical because of the following reasons…
- You might be a job hopper. Some people tend to switch jobs the moment they get a better salary offer.
- You might be unqualified for the job and you quit because you couldn’t deliver.
- You get bored easily and your solution to that is quitting.
So, your job here is to convince the interviewer that you don’t belong to any of those 3 categories.
You need to make them realize that you will not jump ship a few months after getting hired just because some recruiter PM’d you on LinkedIn with a better offer.
The best way to answer this question is to explain the reason you switched jobs. It could be one of the following:
- The company culture wasn’t a good fit. This happens to the best of us – sometimes, the company just isn’t the right one.
- The job description was misleading and you ended up doing something you either didn’t enjoy, or were not qualified for.
- You learned that you simply didn’t enjoy the job, and are not willing to try out something different. While this isn’t the best potential answer, it’s honest and chances are, the HR manager will understand.
The last company I got hired in just wasn’t what I expected. The hiring manager didn’t communicate the role well enough.
As you already know, I’m a copywriter – I write sales copy. I work with:
-And sales pages
Around a week after I started work at the company, I realized that they were actually looking for something completely different. They asked me to write generic blog and social media posts, which is pretty far off from what I do.
This was really not what I expected, and not something I find interesting.
Well, as a start, my first job was in a big corporation straight out of university. While I did learn a lot there about Software Engineering practices, I also learned that a huge company with lots of regulations, rules, and the like isn’t for me.
So, at the end of my internship there, I decided to try working at a startup. I enjoyed that job a LOT more, as it gave me a lot of freedom when it comes to problem-solving. I wasn’t told HOW to do it. Rather, I was given the option of coming up with my own solution.
Unfortunately, the company went belly-up after failing to raise money, putting me back on the job market.
And here we are – [Company X] is pretty much THE place I’ve always wanted to work in. I’ve heard a lot about your company culture, and thought I’d really belong there.
3) Why did you change your career path?
If you recently changed your career path, the interviewer is sure to ask about it.
Don’t worry – there’s nothing wrong with this.
A lot of people go through a career change. Some even do it several times in their lifetime!
As long as you’re good at what you do, no one cares if you were a pediatrician in one year, and a professional chef in another.
When asked this question, all you have to do is answer truthfully. Explain how your old job just wasn’t for you, and how the job you’re applying for is so much more interesting.
I realized that being a doctor is not for me. While I did enjoy my 3 years in med school, the 6 year study period was too much.
I wanted to start making money and help out my family way before that, so I dropped out of university and started taking online courses in accounting.
At this point, I’m pretty good at it, having done 2 internships so far in [Company X] and [Company Y].
Simply because I enjoy doing sales much more than accounting. After 5 years of working as an accountant for Firm X, I decided I wanted to try something new.
I asked my boss at the time to let me transition to the sales team, and I ended up liking it AND being pretty good at it.
4) Why did you decide to leave your previous/current job?
When asking this question, the interviewer wants to learn:
- Did you have a good reason for leaving your last job? The HR manager doesn’t want someone that just jumps ship the moment things go bad.
“Oh, well, the company started bleeding cash and was on its way to bankruptcy.”
“I felt like it was time – I got to a point where everything I was doing felt monotonous. I learned as much as I could at this position while delivering amazing results. It was, however, time to switch to something new.”
- Did you leave on good terms? Meaning, did you go through the offboarding process, instructing your coworkers on how to take up your responsibilities? Or did you just say “Adios” and stopped showing up at work?
“Things started to get really boring, and the boss man was kind of mean. I totally deserve better, so I just ghosted them and now I’m looking for a new company. Hi!”
“I didn’t feel like the company’s values coincide with mine. The management was too controlling and micromanaging. I prefer to have some control over my work, and being able to contribute by going above and beyond my requirements.”
Of course, I went through the off-boarding properly. Meaning, gave a timely resignation notice, and transferred all the essential company knowledge to my replacement.”
- Did you leave voluntarily, or were you fired?
“I got fired for missing work for a week without an excuse.”
“I was fired, actually. The fault was in my communication skills at the time. I misunderstood my supervisor’s instructions and ended ended up setting a higher monthly spend on ad account for the client. The losses were not more than 3-figures, but apparently, the relationship with the client was already strained, so they ended up leaving.
Of course, I really took this to heart and worked very hard on improving my communication skills, to ensure that I don’t make any mistakes of this nature ever again.”
5) Why is there a gap in your work experience?
In most cases, a gap in your work experience doesn’t really mean anything. You probably have a very good reason for it.
The interviewer, however, will definitely ask about it, and you should answer adequately.
There’s no secret sauce to answering this question, just let the recruiter know about your situation, whatever that may be:
- Maternity leave
- Health issues
- Caring for a sick family member
- Time off to pursue further education
- Relocating to a different city
- Working on a personal project
Whichever the case may be, just explain the situation in brief and move on.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if you were laid off at work, or you quit and had trouble getting a new job, you should be very subtle about it.
If the interviewer knows that you’re struggling to find a job, you’re going to give them the upper hand in salary negotiations.
“I had a baby and had to take maternity leave.”
“My father was sick, so I had to be the one to take care of him full-time over a few months.”
6) Why were you fired?
Now this is a tough one.
Getting fired is pretty much never good.
Keep in mind that we’re talking about getting fired, not getting laid off. There’s a huge difference between the two:
- Getting laid off means that you got let go for something that had nothing to do with your competence. I.e. budget cuts, company down-sizing, etc.
- Getting fired, on the other hand, means that you got let go for a reasonable cause. And chances are, it’s probably your fault.
If you got fired and the interviewer asks you about it, you should be honest. After all, they can easily check-in with your previous employer.
Your best shot here is to be critical about your mistakes, and explain what you’ve done to improve.
“None of it was my fault. My boss is a total tool, and he hates me for no real reason. He yelled at me for no real reason!”
In the example above, the interviewee gets defensive. That’s a pretty huge red flag for the HR manager.
Instead, try saying something that shows that you’re aware of your mistakes.”
“The main fault was in miscommunication. The interviewer was unclear about the job responsibilities – from what I understood, they were looking for a senior-level marketer to oversee their email marketing operations.
At the end of the day, though, it turned out that the company was looking to experiment with email marketing, and specifically for someone to set it up from scratch.
While I did my best to deliver, in the end it turned out that their niche doesn’t actually need email marketing. This was against the management’s vision, so that decided to let me go.”
7) How do you feel about working weekends or late hours?
You’re gonna get asked this question in one of the following 2 cases:
1) You’re applying for a job that requires working odd hours.
In this case, your answer is pretty straightforward – since you’re applying for such a job, you probably don’t have any problems working odd hours.
“Sure! I’m OK with working late hours or weekends, as long as you let me know about it at least a few days in advance.”
2) You’re applying for just about any other type of job.
Now, you should look at this as a red flag. Is the employer just checking your dedication, or are they looking for someone that’s going to work 24/7 with no overtime pay?
In this case, ask them to clarify what they mean.
“Given enough warning, sure. Is that something I’ll be required to do often? Do you offer overtime pay for this kind of situation?”
8) How would your boss or coworkers describe you?
This question is pretty much the same as “what are your greatest strengths,” the only difference is that it should be from the point of view from your boss or coworkers.
Here, you want to focus on your traits and achievements that you’ve previously been praised for (After all, the interviewer might ask for a reference!).
There are at least 2 ways to answer this question:
1) Describe a specific situation where you excelled at work (and received praise from your boss and coworkers)
“They’d say I’m super hard working. During my weekend-off, not one, but three of my coworkers got sick, and I had to spot for them.
The weekend was peak season in Nantucket, so the restaurant was getting seriously overwhelmed. All of a sudden, we went from being very prepared for the season, to complete panic.
Had to jump between serving, bussing, and line-cooking, but overall, managed to survive through the weekend successfully.”
2) Quote a performance review
If you’ve previously worked in an office job, you’re probably all too familiar with these.
Did your boss give you a glowing performance review? Make sure to mention it here!
“Well, in my last performance review in September, my boss described me as someone who takes initiative.
My position as a PR manager involves constantly keeping track of our clients brand reputation, and if something goes wrong, dealing with it as fast as possible.
In a lot of cases, you need to be very proactive – if you wait for your entire team to have a meeting on how to deal with the issue, it might already be too late.
There were 4-5 different situations where I had to take charge and react to problems literally the moment they arose, whether it was during my work hours, or not.”
9) Do you have any serious medical conditions?
When asking this question, the interviewer wants to learn if you have any medical conditions that could impair your ability to do the job correctly.
In most cases, you’re not obliged to give an answer. If you do have a health condition, and it doesn’t have anything to do with your career, you can simply choose not to answer, or to say “No.”
However, you might want to disclose anything that could potentially have an impact on how you perform.
For example, if the job requires you to lift heavy boxes, for example, and you’re not able to do so because of a condition, you should let the HR manager know.
“I don’t have any serious medical conditions”
“I’m unable to lift heavy objects because of issues with my back, but it won’t have any impact on how I perform at an office job”
10) What would your first 30, 60, or 90 days look like in this role?
If you’re applying for a senior or leadership role, you’re probably going to get asked this question.
Chances are, at this stage of the interview, you already know a lot about your future position and the company.
Now, it’s time to show off your knowledge in your field, and explain how you’re going to start making things happen at the company.
So, here’s how to answer the question:
For the first 30 days:
You’re probably going to need to get to know the company first. You’re going to be learning as much as possible, including information on:
- What does the company do?
- What are the key processes?
- What does your department do?
- What are the current problems and challenges?
- Where can you help?
Then, during the 60 days:
You’ll start start making things happen. From all the info you gathered, suggest a handful (3 to 5) initiatives you could take on:
- You’d audit the company email marketing strategy and suggest improvements
- You’ll help come up with better ad copies for Facebook marketing
- You’ll help the team with their ongoing marketing initiatives
Within the first 90 days:
You’re already have started making an impact. Describe several things you think are going to be functioning better:
- Online ads are going to be performing better by 10-20%
- Email marketing operations are going to be more streamlined, taking significantly less manpower
11) Are you a team player?
Wherever you’re applying, the answer to this question should be a “Yes!”
Even if you’re applying for a completely solo role, chances are, you’re still going to have to work in a team occasionally.
We’d recommend being very specific about your answer here – don’t just say yes. Give the interviewer an exact example of when you excelled at working with a team.
“I’m much better at working in a team than alone, actually. That’s what I love about working in advertising – everyone has their own specific type of a creative spark, and when you combine it all, magic happens!
I’m good at both leading and following in terms of creativity and brainstorming. I’m also super receptive to others ideas, and do my best to help them execute it without nay-saying or criticism.”
“Yep, definitely. I excel at team-work.
This one time while working at [Company X], I was assigned to an existing team working on a web application for a business process management company.
They were working on a tight deadline, and needed help on the API side.
I optimised their development cycles and oversaw a team of three developers while collaborating with the other two dev teams.
Everything went pretty well, and we managed to finish the project on time.”
12) Are you a risk-taker?
This one’s pretty tricky, as the answer here depends on your profession and field.
Ask yourself – is risk-taking a valuable skill for the job?
If you’re a pilot, for example, the answer should be a strict “No!”
If, on the other hand, you’re a day trader, then risk is an essential part of your job.
So, depending on how valuable risk is for your job, answer accordingly.
You could also give a more strategic answer. Let’s say, for example, you work in investment banking. You need to be a risk taker to an extent, but being too risk-friendly might make the entire company go bankrupt.
The strategy in such a case would be to show that you’re all about calculated risk. You’re willing to take chances, but only when the odds are in your favor.
As with most interview questions, you should give examples of situations where you had to take risks, and what the end-results were.
“Yes, I’m a risk-taker. I believe that to achieve real results, you always need to be willing to take a certain level of risk.
Pretty much any marketing initiative you launch is tied to risk. You can plan everything from beginning till the end, but no matter how well you plan it out, things might just not work out.
It’s just part of the job – in order to succeed, you need to take launch risky campaigns on a regular basis, and hopefully, one in every 5 is going to bring you massive results.”
“I’m not a risk-taker, I’m more of a risk-manager. As someone who’s been in finance for years, I can say with a lot of confidence that there’s risk in everything.
The most important things are to one, minimize your risks, and two, minimize potential damages if everything goes very, very wrong.
While working at Investment Bank X, we had a very interesting policy for investing in new fintech projects. We used to avoid moon-shots, high-tech projects, as well as anything that had an experimental business model.
Our strategy was to invest in proven tech. As in, proven product-market fit, business model, etc. In most cases, these were runner up companies. We wouldn’t invest in that one innovative company that was all over the news – we’d instead invest in their latest competitor. More often than not, this ended up being more profitable, and significantly less risky.”
13) How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
If you’re applying for a high-stress job, you’re guaranteed to get asked this question.
The aim of this question is to see if you’re the type of person who’d survive working at the job, or fall through the cracks when the first signs of trouble show up.
Obviously, you wouldn’t answer with the following…
“Well, I end up having a panic attack, crying, and running away from work.”
Instead, answer as follows…
- Say that yes, you do tend to perform well during stressful situations
- Give 1-2 examples of a situation where you had to perform well under pressure
Now, let’s go through some real-life examples:
“Though I can’t particularly say I enjoy stressful situations, I AM very good at working under pressure.
During chaos and panic, I tend to take a step back, think, plan, and prioritize.
For example, there have been times I’ve had to juggle multiple university projects and assignments at the same time. I would break up large assignments into small, individual tasks, and prioritize based on:
- How fast I could complete each task
- Figuring out which task would take the longest
- Which project had the earliest deadline
This way, my work became a lot more manageable. The most times I had to experience such situations, the better I performed overall.”
“I actually prefer working under pressure. I look at it as a challenge – a situation where I really have to up my game to succeed.
As a cook, working under pressure is pretty much part of the job. I’ve been in several situations where the restaurant was understaffed for the occasion. Heck, it’s pretty much a constant thing during peak season.
When there’s a ton of orders coming in and we can barely keep up, I tend to get significantly more productive than usual.”
14) Do you prefer hard work, or smart work?
By definition, hard work is when you, well, work hard. It’s when you’re willing to put in a lot of work to get the job done.
Smart work on the other hand, means doing the work efficiently. If you manage to get the job done in 2 hours instead of 5, with the same end-result, you’re doing smart work.
Keep in mind, though, that by asking this question, the interviewer is looking to understand what your work ethic is like. Meaning, they’re looking for a healthy combination of both, not just one.
That is, they want you to be the candidate who not only thinks smartly but works hard as well.
So, your answer here shouldn’t be one-sided…
“Oh, I looove smart work. That’s when you come up with what to do, and make other people do it, right?”
Instead, explain how you excel at both:
“I don’t particularly have a preference – I believe that both hard and smart work is important to get the best results.
Smart work, on one hand, lets you figure out the best and most efficient way to get things done.
Hard work, on the other hand, means that you’ll do the job right. Even if there’s no way to do it smart or efficiently, you’ll be willing to put in long hours of work to get it done.
I’m the type that does both.
For an example of smart for, during my time at [Made Up Corporation], I was in charge of the sales department. As a process improvement initiative, I migrated from an outdated, in-house CRM, to Pipedrive. This improved the department’s productivity by around 20%.
On the other hand, the whole migration process took around 3 months of hard work. As the software we were using was outdated, trying to learn how to map and migrate our data was a lot more complicated than we’d expected.”
15) How quickly do you adapt to new technology?
Today, whether you’re applying for a software engineering job, or as a cashier in a supermarket, you’re going to need to use technology at least on some level.
It’s very common for a company to adopt new tech – new point of service system, self check-out kiosks, customer management software, and whatever else.
So, you should be able to pick up new tech ASAP. Any new change shouldn’t completely disrupt your work.
So, when answering this question, you should talk about how tech-savvy you are.
“I’m pretty tech-savvy. I’ve worked with a lot of different Point of Service systems so far, and have zero difficulties learning how to use new ones.”
As a given, I own a PC, have used Office 365, and all the usual stuff.”
“I’ve always been interested in tech. In fact, I’m the type of person to actively seek out new software to help solve business problems at work.
I’ve worked with 3 different Customer Management Software in the past, such as PipeDrive, SalesForce, and Zoho CRM.”
16) Do you have any interests outside of work?
If the interviewer asks you this question, take it as a good sign!
It means that they liked your professional background, and now they’re just trying to get to know you and see if you’re a good fit for the company culture.
It’s pretty hard to go wrong here, unless you’re going to answer something like:
“I have literally no hobbies.”
“All I do is play video games all day.”
Just talk about your hobbies and interests, and you’re all set!
Bonus points if you can mention something that’s also relevant to your job (creative writing if you’re applying for a copywriting job, for example).
“I’m a big fan of creative writing. I have my own personal short-story blog, and contribute actively to several online writing communities (such as Writing Prompts on Reddit).
Oh, and I’m also a huge fan of the New York Giants.”
“Well, I’m very interested in all sorts of sports. I like to keep active, as it really helps keep me productive. Over the past 2 years, I’ve done a bit of everything – fencing, archery, hiking, and several other things.”
17) What do you think our company/organization could do better?
Well, this one’s interesting!
While not too common for most organizations, it’s a favorite amongst tech companies.
How come? Well, answering this question shows a couple of things…
- That you’re really passionate about the organization, and have done your research
- Are not afraid of giving feedback
Obviously, you should be very political about your feedback. You can’t just say that:
“Well, a lot of things really. I’m not enjoying this interview right here, for example.
And your product kinda sucks, no offense. But hey, there’s always room for improvement, am I right?”
Instead, you want to show off the research you’ve done. Talk about anything that might seem off about their product or business:
“I actually went through your resume builder before coming to the interview, and found several things that seemed kinda counter-intuitive.
Not to say that it’s too hard to understand, or something, but it took me a while to figure out some stuff.
If you want, I can open up my laptop and show you what I mean.”