Some job interview questions are obvious and are always asked. It’s best to be prepared, so you can ace them. Practice your answers, preferably with an audience, so you are comfortable answering them.
The Top 10 Interview Questions
Roughly in the order of the frequency they are asked, although, of course, your mileage may vary depending on the employer and the interviewer.
1. Tell me about yourself.
While technically not a question, this is very popular. It is an easy way for the interviewer to learn what you think is important about yourself, and, consequently, it often provides good insight into the job seeker. So, it is frequently asked. The good news is that this means you will get a lot of practice answering it.
Understand that this is not an invitation to describe your life history or your passion for getting drunk every weekend! If your hobby of trying fine wines is relevant to the job, you can certainly discuss that passion. “Connect the dots” between what you have done in previous jobs and the requirements for this job.
Hopefully, you have an elevator speech (right?!), and your elevator speech will be a good foundation for this answer. For more tips, check out “How to Handle Tell Me About Yourself.”
2. What’s your greatest weakness?
A very popular question, and an easy one to mess up. You want to be somewhat honest about your weakness (but not too honest – this is not the time for “true confessions”!) and also indicate that you have taken action to over-come the weakness. Best to remember that the interviewer is neither your best friend nor your religious guide. For more help with this one, read “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?” and “Avoid Costly Talking-too-Much Mistakes.”
3. What’s your greatest strength?
Great opportunity for you to do some careful boasting. Definitely not the time to be very humble, but best to avoid sounding like you think you created oxygen. Again, do your best to connect the dots between the requirements of the job and your accomplishments and strengths. For more ideas, read “What’s Your Greatest Strength?”
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This can be a very tough question because most of us are focused on getting that next paycheck, not any particular long-term goal (even if we should have a “big picture” of the future in mind). You don’t want to seem too ambitious. You don’t want to seem un-ambitious. Honesty is usually the best policy, and this post has a great discussion of how to make that work for you.
5. Why do you want to work here?
With this question, the employer is trying to find out how knowledgeable you are about the company (or whatever kind of organization it is). The question really is – how much do you want this job?
These days, employers are buried under tons of resumes from people just clicking the “Apply” button seemingly without really caring who the employer is or what the job is. This is your chance to show this employer that you are not that kind of job applicant – you are a genuine candidate for this job. This is how you do that.
6. Why should we hire you?
When an employer asks this question, he or she is handing you an invitation to sell them on hiring you. Take advantage of this opportunity to dazzle them with your insight into how well your experiences and skills fit the requirements of this job and this employer.
List as many relevant accomplishments as you can (preparing in advance will help you be dazzling!) and maybe even a few irrelevant accomplishments that demonstrate your “wonderfulness.” Read “Why Should We Hire You?” for more details on answering this question.
7. So, what do you know about us?
This question is often under-estimated by job seekers, but it is something of a litmus test for employers (like # 10 below). If you haven’t done research about them that you can articulate, they will think that you aren’t really interested in the job. The assumption is that if you were really interested in the job (unlike most applicants!), you would do research and know quite a bit about them.
Check out “So, What Do You Know About Us?” for insight into what employers are thinking and how you can answer this question effectively.
8. Why do you want to change jobs?
This question can feel very threatening, but it can usually be handled smoothly and then put behind you using a simple 3-step process: (1) say something nice about your current/former job, (2) say something nice about this opportunity, and (3) add a smooth closing comment before asking a question to change the subject. For examples, read “Why Do You Want to Change Jobs?”
9. What salary do you want?
This is probably the scariest question for most job seekers. The best solution is, of course, preparation – knowing something about the employer and how well they pay as well as understanding the total compensation being offered and the typical salary range for the job. Then, you can answer this question smoothly and confidently. Read how to prepare and what to say in “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question.”
10. Do you have any questions?
This is a critical end-of-the interview question which can make or kill this opportunity for you. Prepare questions in advance, based on your pre-interview research (right?!), and take notes of additional questions to ask during the interview. If you don’t have any questions, you seem to be uninterested in the job and the employer. For help in handling this question, read “Do You Have Any Questions?”
Your best “defense” for a job interview is thorough preparation and practice. Not easy or fun, but a good payback for the time you invest.
More About Succeeding at Job Interviewing
© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.