Role playing common interview questions is a smart move well worth the time and effort. Some interviewing pros even recommend taking as many face-to-face meetings with prospective employers as possible simply for the extra practice.
While role playing a difficult situation with a friend or talking through good interview questions in front of a mirror is a great place to start, a live test-run with a hiring manager helps increase confidence, polishes communication skills, and gives you a chance to fail and correct course.
Understanding your weaknesses in an interview may be impossible before you are in the hot seat. Factors like social attention span, the ability to make and maintain appropriate eye contact, and even the quality of your handshake all play a significant role in a face-to-face first impression.
Knowing the answers to common job interview questions and being able to communicate them in a way that makes you an excellent candidate for the position in the eyes of the hiring manager often doesn't come naturally.
Polish your skills by studying these common interview questions and conversation starters
1. Tell me about yourself.
Keep your answer brief and focus on how the open position intersects with your interests, education, and experience.
Many times, interviewers start with a request that seems like the beginning of a friendly conversation. Your answer to this soft approach reveals much about communication skills, your ability to self-edit in real time, and how you may present yourself to clients and coworkers.
2. Why should I hire you?
Check the job description and highlight the areas where you are a good fit for the position. Be clear about your skills, talents, and education that match the employer's requirements.
Answers to simple questions like this offer the employer valuable clues about your confidence level while revealing the kind of egotism that team-oriented departments avoid.
3. Would you rather be liked or feared?
This question takes some people by surprise, so think about the answer carefully. Answer honestly, and be prepared to give a brief explanation. Employers want to gain insight about your personality and work style and habits.
4. What issues have you had with previous bosses?
It may seem like a trick question, but it's an effective way for potential employers to find out if you'll speak ill of your co-workers and supervisors. Be tactful and keep your answer short.
5. Which is more important to you; money or job satisfaction?
Money is crucial. But to employers, the job matters more. It isn't a question designed to get you to work for free, so take this opportunity to be specific about how important it is to you to consistently produce high-quality work.
6. What do you know about our company?
A few hours before the interview, Google the company. Check the “news” tab for any current events. If there's negative press, don't bring it up in the interview, but focus on the positive. Know the names of the major players in the company; especially in the department where you'd like to work.
Employers want to know you've done your research on their company, the position, and work culture. They want to feel that you really want to be a part of their team.
7. Why do you want this job?
Aligned with the previous questions, when a potential employer asks you why you want to work for them, they want to know if you took the time to research and study the organization or company. Before sending out resumes and completing job applications, you probably had a good understanding of which companies are hiring and which companies in your industry you'd pursue.
Talk about the aspects of the company’s culture that fit well with your work style and personality. Mention how this job fits in with your ambitious career goals.
8. What kind of experience do you have?
If you don't have a lot of relevant experience, focus on how your past successes indicate a good fit with the position. Be honest, creative, and think through how you can present your work experience in a way that makes you an asset to the company. Getting a good job without experience is possible.
9. Where else have you applied?
Honesty is important here, but so is diplomacy, tact, and the ability to self-edit. Keep this answer brief, mention a couple of other reputable companies in the area that you'd also like to work for, and make it clear that you are keeping your options open and taking the job search process seriously.
10. Can you describe what you'd like your career to look like in five years?
Designed to reveal whether you are a self-starter who has measurable, actionable, and realistic goals, this interview question offers a chance to showcase your ability to plan. If you aren't on a career path that excites you, set goals now.
When an interviewer asks you where you see yourself in five years, they are looking for evidence that you have a plan and can set measurable goals.
11. How did you hear about this job?
It seems like a soft question to open an interview and set a relaxed tone. The interviewer wants to know whether you are looking for any job, or you want to work for this company. Many job candidates find companies that are hiring on job boards or at job fairs, but it's important to take this opportunity to let the interviewer know that you follow the company on social media, working for them is one of your career goals, and you want to be on their team.
12. Why are you leaving your current position?
The interviewer wants to know if you'll speak poorly about your current employer or co-workers. No matter how much rapport you've built with the interviewer, do not discuss negative aspects of your current job or your motivation for leaving the company.
Instead, focus solely on the positive move you'd like to make and how it fits your career goals. Talk about your optimism about the prospect of working for the company and your excitement about the position.
Try to avoid the topic of whether you are keeping your job search a secret. If the interviewer asks directly, say that you'd like to remain where you are until you find the right fit. Indicate that you are looking for the perfect opportunity with the right company to further your career.
13. Would you rather be the number ten employee that everyone loves or the number one employee that everyone hates?
There's only one “right” answer to this common interview question. The best way to handle this situation is to say that you'd prefer to fall somewhere in the middle.
Being “the best” is important, but no one gets there without the assistance of their coworkers, so being hated isn't an option. Take this opportunity to showcase how much you value the respect and cooperation of your team.
14. Describe a time when you failed at work. How did you handle it?
Limit your description of the incident to one or two sentences. Focus on the positive by highlighting what you learned and how you put that knowledge into practice in a way that turned the failure into a valuable experience. Describe how you would use that unique experience to benefit the company if the hiring manager chooses you to fill this position.
This question helps the interviewer learn how self-aware you are. You can use the answer as evidence that you are not only self-aware but also heavily invested in the future of the company and willing to use the lessons you've learned to further your career.
15. What kind of professional environment do you enjoy most?
The hiring manager isn't asking how they can best accommodate your working style. They want to know if you'll be a good fit inside their company culture. When answering this question, take the opportunity to highlight your knowledge of the company's inner workings and show how their environment will work well for you.
Logic interview questions require careful preparation
Thanks to tech giants like Facebook and Google, logic interview questions are commonplace. Depending on the position, there may be just a few of this type of question. The hiring manager may also use the logic question and answer process to make their final decision.
There's a snail at the bottom of a 40-foot well. It climbs only three feet each day but then slides back down two feet. How many days does it take the snail to get out of the well?
Many people believe that the correct answer is 40 days. The snail doesn't slide back down on the last day, though. The answer is 38 days.
Practicing with logic questions online can help soothe nerves and build skills in this area.
Logic interview questions can be especially challenging in the moment when you feel rushed. Some employers take pride in their difficult interview questions, so try to relax and take a deep breath before you answer.
If you answer a logic question wrong, take it easy. The question may be an attempt to gauge your ability to deal with pressure and failure. The interviewer may be looking for signs of anxiety, panic, or the inability to cope with problems.
What is your opinion of garden gnomes?
Non-traditional companies like Trader Joe's may ask questions that seem out of place in a job interview. Your answer could reveal a quick wit, a sense of humor, and your willingness to have fun.
How to learn more about the company and job during the interview
The answer to the following query is one of the most important you'll give. Remember that you are also interviewing the company, so take time before the meeting to study the position and ask questions to fill in missing information.
What questions do you have for me?
Changing jobs is a major life decision, and tackling this interview question head-on will show your maturity and prove that you are serious about the opportunity. Consider asking these questions:
- How would my position with this company contribute to its biggest goals this year?
- What drives results with this position?
- What is the number one short-term goal of this company?
- What long-term growth plans does this company have?
- How many new employees are brought in by current employees?
- If you offer me this position, what do you expect me to accomplish within the first 90 days?
- Can you describe the onboarding process for this job?
- What traits do your top employees share?
Understanding the interview process
By the time you are in front of a hiring manager or member of the HR department giving answers to interview questions, you've invested a good deal of time, effort, and energy in the process.
Even if you get the job, the process may take longer than you expect. For example, a typical entry-level interview at Yahoo, IBM, or Cisco starts with a phone interview. To get the attention of Amazon or Twitter, applicants must pass an online assessment and then have a phone conversation with a member of the company's HR team.
According to data collected from Glassdoor Economic Research, getting an in-person interview takes an average of 22.9 days in the United States. That number was 13 days just a few years ago. Germany, the UK, and France take between four and nine days longer. Screening processes that may include background checks, personality tests, skills tests and even drug tests slow the process.
How to research interview questions for a specific company
Digging deeper into a company's online presence, finding out who the major players are, and learning as much as possible about their interview process helps you decide whether they are the right match for your expectations and goals.
The chances that you know someone personally who interviewed at the company for the same position are slim, but websites like Glassdoor offer unique insight into the interview process, including interview questions, for hundreds of thousands of positions at companies all over the world.
To find specific interview questions, click on the link “Interviews” at the top menu of the Glassdoor website, choose “Interviews” and from the drop-down menu select the sub-menu item that most closely matches the position you want.
For example, under Sales Interview Questions, there are over 90,000 questions that candidates have shared. An interviewer at Salesforce may ask, “What Salesforce product would you sell and how would you sell it?” A candidate for the Medical Sales Representative position at Johnson & Johnson reported that their interview included the request to, “Tell me about an account where you lost business. What did you learn and what did you do to regain that business?”
Job descriptions offer important clues about interview questions
Studying the job description again after sending in a resume is crucial. It contains valuable information, and you can spend precious pre-interview time deciding how you'll answer the interviewer's questions in a way that will help them determine that you are the ideal candidate for the particular position.
The job description is a list of qualities, skills, and attributes that the hiring manager or team leader wants in a new employee. It often gives valuable insight into the company culture, structure of the hierarchy, and any strict technical requirements. The information at the beginning of the job description is often most critical. In fact, the first few duties listed in the job description may make up as much as 80% of the total job responsibilities. It's important to focus on your skills and education in these areas when choosing the best answers to interview questions.
Employers want to hire a candidate that can come up to speed with the rest of the team as quickly as possible. The section in a job description outlining required experience and education are also front loaded with the most valuable items first. Study your resume to make sure that it reflects your knowledge in these specific areas.
Preparing for an interview by studying the company and potential interview questions and answers is a smart move. Understanding the hiring manager’s needs regarding the open position increases confidence and helps to make the most of the face-to-face time you have with your potential new employer.