How to Answer the Top 25 Important Interview Questions
Part of the job search process is preparing for your interview. Whether you’re in person or planning a phone discussion, it’s important to be ready to answer some of the most important questions. Once you nail down how to successfully articulate your answers to these questions, you’re ready for anything an interviewer might throw your way!
About You Questions
These questions are designed for the interviewer to learn who you are as a person and a professional.
1. Tell me about yourself.
You are almost guaranteed to receive this question, and it’s the most open-ended question you will ever be asked. The key to answering this question is to talk about what kind of professional you are. Don’t respond with an open-ended, meandering answer. Talk about what you specialize in, your achievements, and what makes you unique. Ivy Exec says some suggest keeping this answer under 5 minutes, but they believe even that is pushing it. They suggest answering this question in under 2 minutes, and end by offering to go into greater detail if the interviewer would like more information.
2. Walk me through your resume.
This is another open-ended question that can easily get out of hand. Go through your resume in reverse chronological order. Begin with your education, and work up from there. If your career history is rather long, don’t spend too long on the entry level positions. Ivy Exec says, “You can say that after college you worked your way up from associate to senior manager roles across 8 years before you landed your first job as a director at company X.” The goal of this answer is to highlight the parts of your resume with the most relevance and value to the job for which you are interviewing.
3. What are your greatest strengths?
It’s important to answer this questions with the strengths that relate to the job you are there to discuss. Simply saying “People skills” will not impress the interviewer. Never make claims without presenting evidence to back up your strengths.
4. What are your greatest weaknesses?
Don’t answer this question ambiguously by saying you ‘work too hard.’ Instead, discuss a weakness you’re conscious of and how you’re continuously trying to develop it into a strength. Don’t pretend you don’t have any weaknesses, the interviewer will see right through you. Answer your question honestly and frame it in a way that works to your advantage.
5. Why should we hire you?
“Because I am a hard worker” is not a deep enough answer. Consider a major problem the company is trying to fix by hiring for this role, then elaborate on how you’ve handled similar situations in previous positions. For this answer, stories are the key to success. The more detailed you are, the better. By the end of this answer the interviewer should be able to visualize you solving their problems in the role.
6. What is your dream job?
The number one rule for this answer: do not say you want to have the hiring manager’s job, or suggest you want to replace upper management. At the same time, do not describe a position that has nothing to do with the position you’re applying for. To successfully answer this question, talk about the functional responsibilities you enjoy and want to continue doing. Also talk about the environment and team you would relish working with (which should describe the company you’re interviewing for).
7. Why are you leaving your current job?
This answer should never involve bad mouthing your current employer. Suggest you are leaving because the position you’re interviewing for offers a better fit for your values, or give specific reasons you are excited for the opportunity. End your answer by saying you know you can do great things for the company.
8. Why were you fired from your last job?
Again, don’t talk bad about your former employer. A good way to tackle this question is to say you and your boss disagreed on certain things and you mutually agreed the role was no longer a good fit for you or the company. Have a positive outlook and share what you learned from the experience. Try not to dwell on the negative situation, and turn the conversation around by ending with how you can help your future employer.
Behavioral Interview Questions
These questions are designed to show how your past performance may influence future performance. The answers to these questions should be framed in the form of a PAR story (Problem, Action, Result).
9. Tell me about a time you displayed leadership in a tough situation.
You want to paint a very vivid picture here – make the interviewer feel like they are watching a movie. Ivy Exec says to describe a situation in which your team was unmotivated or lacking a clear strategy, explain how you motivated them, and describe how the team reacted to get out of the predicament.
10. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond.
This question provides a great opportunity to show how hard of a worker you are. Typically, describing a scenario in which time or resources were lacking to get a job done is most appropriate. Ivy Exec gives the following example:“A colleague was out of [the] office when one of his clients called with a serious problem. I jumped in to learn the details of the customer’s problem and how they use our products/services. I put my current tasks for the day on hold and stayed on the line with the customer until I could solve their problems by coordinating with the product team. Within an hour, the problem was solved. The customer was so thankful and appreciative that he said he would be sure to recommend our services and leave reviews online. A week later, [he] referred a new, big customer to us.”
11. Tell me about a time you had to handle multiple, high-priority tasks.
When answering this question, keep in mind the objective is for the interviewer to learn how you handle pressure and prioritize important tasks. If your answer involves delegation, use this as an opportunity to show your managerial skills. If you want to really impress the interviewer, touch on the size of the projects, time frames, budgets, and overall scope of the projects.
12. How do you deal with stressful situations?
Don’t reply to this question with a one word answer! Simply saying ‘calmly’ will not work. Use stories to demonstrate how you were able to keep you and your team calm and focused in a stressful situation, and how it lead to a positive outcome.
13. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
Again, don’t talk bad about your former employer. Talk about a time where you disagreed on something and addressed the problem in a practical, emotion-free way.
Highlight how the experience made your relationship with your boss stronger, and what you learned from the experience.
When being asked about negative situations, reflect on them as an opportunity to grow.
14. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
The important part of this story is not the mistake itself, it’s about how you handled the mistake. Did you try to hide it? Did you find a way to approach your manager about it and remedy the situation? In this scenario, the interviewer wants to learn how you handle mistakes and what you have learned from the mistakes you’ve made in the past.
Cultural Fit Questions
These questions are designed to ensure that your style will gel with the rest of the company.
15. Why do you want to work here?
To answer this question, first talk about how you are confident in your ability to help the organization grow, then talk about the company in general and why it is appealing to you. For example, does the company’s mission align with yours? The answer to this question should never be driven by the compensation package offered.
16. What type of work environment do you prefer?
Your answer should reflect details similar to the company you’re currently interviewing with. If you have flourished in a similar environment, make sure to mention it. For example, do you thrive on a team of a certain size?
17. What other companies are you interviewing with?
If you weren’t being honest with your answer to the previous question, this answer might reveal that. If you are interviewing at a startup, a Fortune 500 company, and a company in a different industry, the interviewer might question what type of company you are actually seeking.
18. If I asked your boss what area you could improve in, what would they say?
The answer to this question should show appreciation for your boss and their feedback, not anger. If there are any preferred qualities listed in the job description, this is a good time to address them. Ivy Exec gives this example:
If the job description says ‘Preferred Experience: Basic proficiencies with Adobe Photoshop,’ you could describe something similar to the following scenario:
“Let’s say you create regular email campaigns at your current job, but rely on a designer for all the images. Your boss might wish that you could handle some of that work yourself, which would require you to become more familiar with design software.”
Hopefully by this point you have learned how to use Photoshop at a basic level, and you can confidently tell the interviewer you are making great improvements.
19. Where do you see yourself in five years?
You should answer this question authentically and not threaten the interviewer’s position (i.e. you want their job). At the same time, it should show how you see yourself growing within the company. Make sure to make it clear that it is with their company – hiring managers are not looking for job hoppers. A safe approach is to talk about gaining more responsibility and taking the company to new levels.
20. Who is our CEO?
This is to see if you’ve done your research. You should know who the key people are at the company before showing up for the interview.
21. What are the challenges facing our industry?
If you are transitioning careers and don’t have industry experience, this one can be tough. Just make sure to show you’ve done your research. A good way to do this is to talk about their competitors and how the company fits within the industry.
22. What are your salary requirements?
If you’re still in the early stages of interviewing, do your best to deflect this question. A good option is to say you’re open to discussing it if they are making an offer to hire you. If you answer this question with a number that is too high, they may prematurely decide you’re too expensive and the interview could end there. If you answer with a number that is too low, you’ve lost the power to negotiate a better salary.
23. What’s your management style?
This could also be considered a behavioral question. The interviewer wants to make sure your style will be a good fit with how their teams operate. Answer this question in the form of a PAR story (Problem, Action, Result). To address the ‘style’ part of this question, touch on what makes how you manage teams unique. For example, tell a story about how you created a friendly competition among the sales team, leading to a 25% increase in sales.
24. Are you willing to travel?
It’s not appropriate for an interviewer to ask you if you have a spouse or children that are going to keep them from traveling. This question is asked to address their concerns about if you can handle extended or frequent trips. Answer this honestly so you aren’t put in a position where you aren’t able to psychologically cope.
25. Do you have any questions for me?
The answer to this question is always yes! Come prepared with thoughtful questions. If you don’t ask questions it will come across as a lack of interest in the company or role, and interviewers never want to hear that you don’t want to know anything more.
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