Your interviewers will likely start out with a question about yourself and your background to get to know you. Start out by giving them an overview of your current position or activities, then provide the most important and relevant highlights from your background that make you most qualified for the role.
Example: “Currently, I serve as the assistant to three of the company’s five executive team members, including the CEO.
From my 12 years of experience as an executive assistant, I’ve developed the ability to anticipate roadblocks and create effective alternative plans. My greatest value to any executive is my ability to work independently, freeing up their time to focus on the needs of the business.
It’s clear that you’re looking for someone who understands the nuances of managing a CEO’s busy day and can proactively tackle issues. As someone with an eye for detail and a drive to organize, I thrive on making sure every day has a clear plan and every plan is clearly communicated.”
2. How would you describe yourself?
When an interviewer asks you to talk about yourself, they’re looking for information about how your qualities and characteristics align with the skills they believe are required to succeed in the role. If possible, include quantifiable results to demonstrate how you use your best attributes to drive success.
Example: “I would say that as a security officer, I’m vigilant, proactive and committed to ensuring safe, secure, and orderly environments. In my last incident response rating, I received a 99% against the team average, which has been at around 97% over the past 3 years. I like to be thorough, documenting all incidents. I’m also a lifelong learner, always seeking out the latest security equipment and techniques to patrol buildings. I frequently make suggestions to management about security improvements and changes as my motivation comes from making a meaningful contribution.”
3. What makes you unique?
Employers often ask this question to identify why you might be more qualified than other candidates they’re interviewing. To answer, focus on why hiring you would benefit the employer. Since you don’t know the other applicants, it can be challenging to think about your answer in relation to them. Addressing why your background makes you a good fit will let employers know why your traits and qualifications make you well prepared.
Example: “What makes me unique is my experience of having spent four years in retail. Because I’ve had first-hand experience fielding shoppers’ questions, feedback and complaints, I know what customers want. I know what it takes to create a positive consumer experience because I’ve had that direct interaction, working directly with consumers in person.”
4. Why do you want to work here?
Interviewers often ask this question as a way to determine whether or not you took time to research the company and to learn why you see yourself as a good fit. The best way to prepare for this question is to do your homework and learn about the products, services, mission, history and culture of this workplace. In your answer, mention the aspects of the company that appeals to you and align with your career goals. Explain why you’re looking for these things in an employer.
Example: “The company’s mission to help college grads pay off their student loan debt speaks to me. I’ve been in that situation, and I’d love the opportunity to work with a company that’s making a difference. Finding a company with a positive work environment and values that align with my own has remained a priority throughout my job search, and this company ranks at the top of the list.”
5. What interests you about this role?
Like the previous question, hiring managers often include this question to make sure you understand the role and give you an opportunity to highlight your relevant skills. In addition to thoroughly reading the job description, it can be helpful to compare the role requirements against your skills and experience. Choose a few things you particularly enjoy or excel at, and focus on those in your answer.
Example: “Making a meaningful difference in the lives of my patients and their families motivates me to strive for excellence in everything I do. I look forward to seeing their reaction when we get a positive outcome that will change their lives forever. Like the family of a young boy we treated last year. At eight years old, he had experienced rapid weight gain and signs of depression. His parents described him as a usually joyful child, but now he seemed disengaged and uninterested in his typical schedule. In the end, we determined that it was hypothyroidism which is, of course, controllable with medication. The boy is adjusting well to the treatment and has returned to his joyful self. That’s why I became a nurse and why I’m pursuing a position in pediatrics.”
6. What motivates you?
Employers ask this question to gauge your level of self-awareness and ensure your sources of motivation align with the role. To answer, be as specific as possible, provide real-life examples and tie your answer back to the job role.
Example: “Making a true a difference in the lives of my patients and their families motivates me to strive for excellence in everything I do. I look forward to seeing my patient’s reaction when we get a positive outcome that will change their lives forever. That’s why I became a nurse, and why I’m pursuing a position in pediatrics.”
7. What are you passionate about?
Much like the previous question about motivation, employers might ask what you are passionate about to better understand what drives you and what you care most deeply about. This can both help them understand whether you are a good fit for the role and if it fits into your larger goals. To answer, select something you are genuinely passionate about, explain why you’re passionate about it, give examples of how you’ve pursued this passion and relate it back to the job.
Example: “As an experienced, service-oriented professional with more than a decade of experience working in boutique salons, I thrive on creating a welcoming environment for all clients and providing the highest quality skincare services. My specialized training and strong interpersonal skills have helped me become adept at developing long-term, trusted relationships that help to build a loyal client base. Some of my clients have been with me since the beginning—more than ten years now. These relationships are the reason I’m excited to go to work every day.”
8. Why are you leaving your current job?
There are many reasons for leaving a job. Prepare a thoughtful answer that will give your interviewer confidence that you’re being deliberate about this job change. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your current or previous role, focus on the future and what you hope to gain in your next position.
Example: “I’m looking for an opportunity that gives me the ability to build closer, long-term relationships with clients. In my current role, the sales cycle is so short that I don’t spend as much time building a rapport with my customers as I’d like. Relationship-building is one of the reasons I chose a career in sales, and I look forward to working with a company where that’s a top priority.”
9. What are your greatest strengths?
This question gives you an opportunity to talk about both your technical and soft skills. To answer, share qualities and personal attributes and then relate them back to the role for which you’re interviewing.
Example: “I’m a natural problem-solver. I find it rewarding to dig deep and uncover solutions to challenges—it’s like solving a puzzle. It’s something I’ve always excelled at, and something I enjoy. Much of product development is about finding innovative solutions to challenging issues, which is what drew me to this career path in the first place.”
10. What are your greatest weaknesses?
It can feel awkward to discuss your weaknesses in an environment where you’re expected to focus on your accomplishments. However, when answered correctly, sharing your weaknesses can show that you are self-aware and want to continuously get better at your job—traits that are extremely attractive to many employers. Remember to start with the weakness and then discuss the measures you’ve taken to improve. This way, you’re finishing your answer on a positive note.
Example: “Earlier in my career I noticed that because I was so enthusiastic about my work, I had a tendency to say ‘yes’ when I should have been saying ‘no.’ At one point I ended up so overwhelmed by my workload, taking on so many projects, that I was working evenings and weekends. It was stressful, and that stress affected my production quality. I realized this was counterproductive, so I started using workload management tools to set better expectations for myself and my teammates.”
11. What are your goals for the future?
Often hiring managers ask about your future goals to determine whether or not you’re looking to stay with the company long-term. Additionally, this question is used to gauge your ambition, expectations for your career and your ability to plan ahead. The best way to handle this question is to determine your current career trajectory and how this role plays into helping you reach your ultimate goals.
Example: “I would like to continue developing my marketing expertise as well as my leadership skills over the next several years. One of the reasons I’m interested in working for a fast-growing startup company is that I’ll have the ability to wear many hats and collaborate with many different departments. I believe this experience will serve me well in achieving my ultimate goal of someday leading a marketing department.”
12. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Understanding how you imagine your life in the future can help employers understand whether the trajectory of the role and company fits in with your personal development goals. To answer, provide general ideas about the skills you want to develop, the types of roles you would like to be in and things you would like to have accomplished.
Example: “In five years, I’d like to be an industry expert in my field, able to train and mentor students and entry-level designers alike. I would also like to gain specialized experience in user experience to be a well-rounded contributor working with design and marketing teams on large-scale projects that make a difference both in the company and the global community.”
13. Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?
This question is often used to assess how well you perform under pressure as well as your problem-solving abilities. Keep in mind stories are more memorable than facts and figures, so strive to “show” instead of “tell.” This is also an excellent opportunity to show your human side and how you’re willing to go the extra mile without being asked.
Example: “It was the first day of my boss’s two-week vacation and our agency’s highest-paying client threatened to leave because he didn’t feel he was getting the personalized service he was promised. I spent my lunch hour on the phone with him, talking through his concerns. We even brainstormed ideas for his next campaign. He was so grateful for the personal attention that he signed another six-month contract before my boss even returned from her trip.”
14. What is your salary range expectation?
Interviewers ask this question to make sure your expectations are in line with the amount they’ve budgeted for the role. If you give a salary range exceedingly lower or higher than the market value of the position, it gives the impression that you don’t know your worth. Research the typical compensation range for the role on Indeed Salaries, and tend toward the higher side of your range. Be sure to let the hiring manager know if you’re flexible with your rate.
Example: “My salary expectation is between $XX,XXX and $XX,XXX, which is the average salary for a candidate with my level of experience in this city. However, I am flexible.”
15. Why should we hire you?
While this question may seem like an intimidation tactic, interviewers generally bring this up to offer you another opportunity to explain why you’re the best candidate. Your answer should address the skills and experience you offer and why you’re a good culture fit.
Example: “I have a passion for application development that’s grown stronger over the course of my career. The company’s mission aligns with my personal values and, from my limited time in the office, I can already tell this is the sort of positive culture in which I would thrive. I want to work for a company that has the potential to reshape the industry, and I believe you’re doing just that.”
16. Do you have any questions?
This might be one of the most important questions asked during the interview process because it allows you to explore any subject that hasn’t been addressed and shows the interviewer you’re excited about the role. By this point, you’ll likely have already covered most of the basics about the position and the company, so take time to ask the interviewer questions about their own experiences with the company and gain tips on how you can succeed if hired.
Example: “What do you love about working for this company?” “What would success look like in this role?” “What are some of the challenges people typically face in this position?”
17. What did you like most about your last position?
Tie your answer to this question into the company’s needs and focus on explaining your proven performance at your last job. Be specific and provide an example.
Example: “What I liked most about my last position the ability contribute in a collaborative way with other teams. Each team member was encouraged to bring new ideas to the project which were respectfully considered by all. For example, we once worked with a client who was relying on us to solve a critical issue. Our team met to discuss the situation. After I recommended a plan to resolve the issue, we took time considering the pros and the cons of the solution, building on how to make the idea better and more comprehensive. When we implemented it, it worked better and faster than everyone expected. The client was very pleased.”
18. What did you like least about your last position?
Avoid saying anything negative about your former employer, managers or colleagues. Make this answer about your career growth and your enthusiasm for joining their organization.
Example: “While I enjoyed my time learning and growing in my last job, there was a lack of opportunity in the way I wanted to progress in my career. I deeply enjoy being challenged and getting better at what I do, which I understand is a top priority for managers at your organization. That’s why I’m excited to continue having conversations about this opportunity.”
Much like preparing for a test in school, the best way to succeed in your interview is to study and practice. Do research on the company and the job, and practice your talking points until you feel confident about your answers. The more you prepare, the more likely you are to leave a lasting impression and outperform fellow candidates.
19. How do you handle stress?
This isn’t a trick question to see if you get stressed at work or not. Rather, how you handle a stressful moment is an indicator of your ability to solve problems. Employers want to hire candidates who react to stress in a constructive manner, so it’s important that your answer to this question demonstrates personal growth.
Example: “I’m able to stay calm when I focus on the bigger picture and break down my projects into smaller tasks. What is the ultimate goal I’m trying to achieve? From there, I make a list of action items with reasonable deadlines. Even if the big project is due tomorrow, I ask myself, ‘What’s something I can tackle in the next 30 minutes?’ Before I know it, I’ve made significant progress and that impossible project doesn’t seem so impossible.”
20. What is your greatest accomplishment?
It’s easy to get hung up on figuring out your single most impressive accomplishment. Instead, think of a few achievements that showcase your work ethic and values. If you can, pick examples that also tie back to the job you’re applying for. The STAR method is a great tool to ensure you highlight not only your role but how you drove business results.
Example: “In my last role, I managed all social media content. I noticed other brands were experimenting with videos and seeing great engagement from their customers, so I asked my boss if we could do a low-budget test. She agreed, so I produced a video cheaply in-house that drove double the engagement we normally saw on our social channels. It also drove conversions, with 30% of viewers visiting to our website within a week of Videos’’
21. What is your teaching philosophy?
This isn’t a question solely for those applying to teaching positions. Employers may ask this of anyone who might be leading or teaching others. A good answer will concisely identify what you think teaching should achieve and include concrete examples to illustrate your ideas.
Example: “When it comes to managing people, my teaching philosophy is to start by asking questions that hopefully get the person to come to a new conclusion on their own. This way, they feel ownership over the learning rather than feeling micro-managed. For example, in my last role, I was editing an article written by a copywriter I managed. The story didn’t have a clear focus or hook. In a one-on-one meeting, I asked her what she thought was the main point of the article if she had to sum it up in a sentence. From there, I asked if she thought the focus was clear in the article. She didn’t think it was clear and instead thought she should rework her introduction and conclusion. As a result, the article improved and my direct report learned a valuable writing lesson that she carried into her future work.”
22. What does customer service mean to you?
If you’re applying for a public-facing role, an employer may ask this question to see how you think customers should be treated. A good answer will align with the company’s values, which you can glean through researching their customer service policy, understanding their products and clientele, and reflecting on your own experiences as a customer. Your answer can either come from the perspective of a customer or a customer service provider.
Example: “In my experience, good customer service involves taking responsibility when something goes wrong and doing what you can to make it right. For example, on a recent flight, I had pre-ordered my meal only to discover they didn’t stock enough of my dish. Instead of simply stating the facts, the flight attendant apologized sincerely and offered me a free drink or premium snack. To me, this apology went a long way in smoothing things over. The freebie was an added bonus that made me feel valued as a customer and choose the same airline for my next flight.”