Job interviews, like most things, are all about preparation. Whether you love them or hate them, your job interview prep will likely dictate how well that interview goes. To assist you with that job interview preparation, we’ve compiled these examples of the most common interview questions, plus the best tips to help you answer them. We’re providing sample answers from some of our favorite career advice experts.
Once you’ve rehearsed your answers to these classic interview questions, you’ll undoubtedly feel more confident in your next job interview. And a confident candidate? Well, that’s a great first impression to make.
20+ Classic Job Interview Questions with Example Answers
#1: Tell Us A Little About You.
You’re right, this isn’t technically a “question.” But most interviews start with the interviewer asking you to talk about yourself. This is your chance to give your personal pitch, also called your elevator pitch.
- Explain who you are and what you’ve done so far in your career
- Talk about what you want to do next, focusing on goals that align well with the job you’re interviewing for
- Tie it back into the position at hand, ending on your “why,” e.g. “And that’s why when I saw this position, I knew I had to apply.
What not to say when answering “Tell us about you”: The biggest mistake we see when answering this question is oversharing personal details, stick to the facts and what pertains to your work only.
“I’m an innovative HR manager with 8 years of experience managing all aspects of the HR function — from recruiting to training to benefits— for Fortune 500 companies. I have spent the last six years developing my skills as a customer service manager for Mega company Inc., where I have won several performance awards and bee.
#2: Why Us? (Other versions of this job interview question: Why are you interested in this role? Why are you interested in our company specifically?)
When the interviewer asks you why you are interested in the role or in the company, this is your opportunity to do two things.
- First, you can show the interviewer that you’ve done your research on their company. You know about their products, their people, their work culture, and/or their mission. Touch on something about the company that really resonated with you.
- This also gives you the chance to show the interviewer that you have a genuine interest in the role — and that you weren’t blindly applying on the internet and “spraying and praying.” Show your passion for the company, and explain why you’re a fit for the job listing that you applied for.
“I’ve always read your editor-in-chief’s letter from the editor notes. I’ve really enjoyed learning about her vision for the magazine and seeing how that’s taken shape over the last few issues especially. For example, I know she’s written a lot about inclusivity, and I can see how the magazine has been diversifying in a number of ways. I really respect the team’s efforts and want to be part of it. I know my background in journalism and my interests as an activist will prove invaluable in helping to propel the magazine forward.”
#3: Why Are You Looking for a New Job?
This is a question that you should prep for in advance because you know without a doubt that it will be asked whether you’re job searching in New York City, London, England, or Star Staffing’s own Napa, California.
What you should do here: Answer honestly, and tie it into why you’re looking for a new job, but also why this new job is the perfect solution to your “why.” What you shouldn’t do here: Bash on your current or past roles, bosses, colleagues, or company. It’s unbecoming, but of bigger concern to the recruiter or interviewer: If you’re gossiping about your old companies, what would stop you from doing the same about the company you’re interviewing at?
Tips for answering this all too common job interview question:
- Explain why you’re job searching, but stay positive.
- Avoid any negativity in this answer. You’re looking for something better. And the company you’re interviewing for? That’s better.
Sample Answer from MediaBistro:
“My goal is to lead digital projects in a fast-paced agency. I love working on a creative team, thrive under pressure and have been told by my managers I excel at project management. My current company works with a small group of clients and I’m looking for exposure to a larger diversity of brands so I can continue to hone my skills.”
#4: Why Should We Hire You?
To answer this common interview question, touch on your qualifications and experience, and add why you’re uniquely qualified for the role. Explaining your qualifications shows that you researched the role and that you absolutely have enough experience to do the job well. Each person that interviews for the role, however, will have similar qualifications and experience. That’s why you should also touch on:
- A skill, a specific experience or qualification, or interest that makes you stand out as a candidate.
- Maybe that’s a soft skill, certification, course you recently completed, or your die-hard commitment to your industry.
- It can even be a culture fit, that often can be the stand-out differentiator.
“When I read the job posting I noticed that you specifically mentioned you were looking for someone with project management experience. As you can see on my resume, I have over 10 years of experience as a project manager, but what I think really sets me apart from other candidates and will make me a valuable addition to your team is my ability to combine that with my people skills. I really value lasting relationships and actively seek to build those with developers, vendors, and senior managers alike. I also enjoy interacting with customers and know that a happy customer is a repeat customer. My passion for this industry and the job I do drives me to deliver high-quality work every day.”
#5: What is Your Work Style?
This question can sometimes seem like a trick question — if you don’t “match” their typical work style, will you not be taken seriously for consideration for the role? — but if you do your research, and respond honestly, you’ll do just fine. If you want more information on this topic, we’ve written an entire article completely answering it, which you can Find your Work Style here. Touch on things like how fast you work, how accurate you are, or your preferences for individual and teamwork balances. Above all, be honest.
“I am able to adapt to any workplace. I try to maintain a fast pace during my work shift to remain focused while completing my tasks. I strive to be efficient and strive to ensure all work is completed properly and without error. I work well on my own but am more than happy to work with others for collaborations or team-based projects. I take my position seriously, and am completely dedicated and driven to succeed.”
#6 (and #7): What Are Your Strengths? Weaknesses?
The epitome of the classic job interview question. You’ll likely get asked not only about your strengths as a professional but about your weaknesses.
For your strengths, choose a trait (or traits) that are tied to the role you’re applying for. Explain to the interviewer why your strengths make you the best candidate for the job and give an example of how it has helped you be successful in the past.
When you’re answering what your weaknesses are, choose an example that doesn’t hold you back from doing the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a role that requires typing and sitting down for eight hours, your weakness shouldn’t have anything to do with your typing skills or how you struggle with focusing for long periods of time. Instead, you can choose a weakness that you’re already consciously working on. You can even choose a “strength,” and turn it into a “weakness” that you’re trying to improve already.
“I have a very strong attention to detail. Sometimes, this can turn into a tendency to perfectionism. In the past, I found this leading me to triple-check every item on a spreadsheet, closely proofread emails to ensure I’d communicated what I was trying to get across in a clear, concise way, or fiddle with the layout of a presentation to ensure that it was perfect. I’ve since learned to successfully budget my time and gauge which tasks require and actually benefit from this level of precision.”
#8 (and #9): What Are Your Goals? Or: Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?
When you’re asked about the future — whether it’s about your specific career goals or what your plans for the next few years are —don’t stress. These questions allow you to explain your career vision and integrate the role you’re interviewing for into that vision. It’s a great opportunity to show you’re invested in the company long-term, too. Make sure your five-year plan sounds like something you can achieve at the company—no one wants to hire a candidate who can’t see themselves growing within their company.
“In five years, I’d like to have developed a deep expertise of video strategy and how to use video to promote brands, which is why I’m excited about this position. I know my role will require me to become a master at video, which aligns well with my long-term goals. Additionally, in a few years I could see myself enjoying the project management aspect of video strategy, as well.”
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Behavioral and Situational Interview Questions
#10: Tell me about a time when you faced a tight deadline and how you handled it.
These questions — the “Tell us about a time when…” or “Give us an example of when…” questions — are called behavioral and situational interview questions. Expect at least one of these in your interview. To answer behavioral and situational interview questions effectively, try using the STAR Method to tell an effective story and give a phenomenal answer.
- Situation: Describe the situation you were in. Give context to the problem you solved.
- Task: What did you need to fix? What problem were you facing?
- Action: How did you/your team respond? How did you solve the problem uniquely/efficiently?
- Result: What happened in the end? How was your company/team better off because of the problem you solved?
Using the STAR method to answer behavioral questions will make tough questions a little less overwhelming to answer. Try to think of a few example STAR responses before your interview so you’re prepared.
“While I typically like to plan out my work in stages and complete it piece by piece, I can also achieve high-quality work results under tight deadlines. Once, at a former company, an employee left days before the imminent deadline of one of his projects. I was asked to assume responsibility for it, with only a few days to learn about and complete the project. I created a task force and delegated work, and we all completed the assignment with a day to spare. In fact, I believe I thrive when working under tight deadlines.”
#11: Tell Me About a Conflict You’ve Faced at Work
While many of us vent about problems at work easily with friends (maybe too easily!), you should take a much different approach when answering this common question in a job interview. Be sure to balance how much you discuss the conflict with the resolution and don’t worry about being perfect, just be sure to answer the question thoroughly.
“First of all, take a deep breath and remember that you’re not the first person who’s ever faced a conflict at work—and you definitely won’t be the last. Once you’ve done that, remember that the interview’s trying to get the proof she needs to make a solid hiring decision about you. The fact that she’s asking the question is not a personal attack against your character. It’s an attempt to see how you approach problems. So don’t be afraid to get into some of the details when answering—just make sure to end on a positive note (a.k.a., what you learned from the experience).”
#12: Tell me about a time you made a mistake that affected a customer. How did you resolve the problem?
In this instance, your interviewer is trying to assess how you perform under pressure and address shortcomings. Use your answer to highlight one or more of your professional skills:
- Clear communication
- Customer service
- Problem solving
- Critical thinking
You can also use this interview question to showcase your ability to identify and correct your mistakes. Because mistakes happen! And a potential employer loves a candidate who can admit them, make improvements, and move on.
“I was on the wait staff of Coppa’s Restaurant when a customer at one of my tables ordered our special salad. She said she did not want peanuts because she is allergic to them, but I neglected to inform the kitchen staff.
When I brought the dish out, thankfully, she saw the problem before she started eating. Naturally, she was very upset. As the waiter, it was my responsibility to satisfy the customer. I apologized to her and, to make up for my mistake, I did not charge for the salad but instead offered her a coupon toward her next meal, which she gladly accepted.”
#13: Give me an example of a goal you achieved in your previous role and explain to me how you achieved it.
Whether you’re applying for an entry-level or senior role, an interview question about achieving goals is bound to come up. Your interviewer will want to determine how good of a fit you are for the role you’re applying to and how skilled you are at achieving targets. Be sure to
- Communicate your goals clearly and don’t be vague
- Put your best foot forward as a candidate by describing how your goals align with the company’s goals
- Take the opportunity to once again mention your skills
“When I started working for XYZ Company, I wanted to achieve the Employee of the Month title. It was a motivational challenge, and not all the employees took it that seriously, but I really wanted that parking spot, and my picture on the wall. I went out of my way to be helpful to my colleagues, supervisors, and customers – which I would have done anyway. I liked the job and the people I worked with. The third month I was there, I got the honor. It was good to achieve my goal, and I actually ended up moving into a managerial position there pretty quickly, I think because of my positive attitude and perseverance.”
#14: Describe a time you failed. What did you learn?
This is another very common and classic behavioral interview question that’s designed to assess your integrity. It’s also the job interviewer’s chance to unearth potential weaknesses. For you, this is a golden opportunity to prove that you’re humble enough to recognize when you’ve misstepped, that you grow through what you go through, and that you’re quick on your feet.
“Last summer, senior executives of H.B. Bank visited our regional office. In preparation, our management asked my team to put together a report along with spreadsheets and a slide presentation to show our performance over the last 12 months.
One of our team members who was tasked with creating the spreadsheets took ill the week before and was unable to complete the work. My manager said he would do it, but he had already been staying late at the office finishing projects before the visit.
So I volunteered to work on the spreadsheets in addition to the other tasks I was doing. It meant some late nights, but I got them done. The visit with senior management went well. They were impressed with the materials we provided. My manager publicly commended my dedication and thanked me for putting in the extra effort.”
Part-time Job Interview Questions
#15: Why is a part-time position the right fit for you?
Here at Star Staffing, we find people temp jobs and part-time jobs in California in addition to full-time work. More often than not, this question throws our job candidates for a loop.
If you’re applying for a part-time position, this is one of the most typical interview questions you’ll receive and you should be prepared with a solid answer that shows why you’re a good fit for the role. Our best advice: Don’t make it sound like you have to have a job to support whatever you’re doing with the rest of your hours (which implies that you’d settle for anything). Here are a few possible answers:
- This is exactly the kind of position I’d look forward to coming into every day, and the part-time hours will work well with my schedule.
- I’m looking for a part-time position that takes advantage of my skills, like this one, so I can do work I love while I also earn some money to cover my expenses while I’m attending school.
- I’m looking for a job with flexible hours that allows me to work to my strengths while balancing the responsibilities I have after hours.
- I enjoyed working similar hours at a previous job, and I look forward to serving your customers in the same way.
#16: When are you available? What is your ideal work schedule?
For this part-time job interview question, be prepared with specifics. Giving the recruiter or hiring manager your accurate schedule and information will help move the hiring process along quicker and smoother. It will also allow both you and the employer the chance to determine if your schedule aligns with the needs of the position. As an example answer, it can help to end on “Of course, I can be flexible within that schedule depending on your company’s needs.”
#17: How would you describe your ability to adapt?
During a part-time job interview, you may be asked this question in order to assess how quickly you can learn and absorb new information. To ensure you’re a good fit for the role, employers may want to understand how you adapt to changing environments and circumstances in a professional capacity. This is a good opportunity to discuss your strengths and provide real-life examples of how you’ve adapted in the past.
“At my last job as a customer service associate, I always had to expect the unexpected. I often had to complete multiple tasks at once while remaining patient and enthusiastic with customers. I’ve practiced adapting to new environments and understand the value of being flexible in the workplace.”
#18: If given the opportunity, would you prefer to work full-time?
Employers may post jobs as part-time or temporary at first, so they can assess whether candidates would make a good full-time employee or respond to shifts in their workload in the future. It can help to answer this question in two parts: 1) Since you’re applying for part-time work, assure them that while you’d be “open to” full-time work, you’d also be happy with the position listed. 2) If you’re interested in full-time work, though, say so!
“I’m available for part-time work now, but mostly I am interested in working for your company. In the coming months, I could definitely be available to work more hours.” (You can give a reason if you have one, such as family schedule, education schedule, etc.)
“I would love the opportunity to become a full-time employee. I am very excited at the prospect of this part-time job, but I would gladly take on a full-time position if it were ever available. I believe my organizational and time management skills would make me a very strong full-time employee.”
“I’ve wanted to work for your company for years because of your consistent success in the industry. I would like to become a permanent employee for such a terrific organization, and if that means full-time work, sign me up! I’m a quick learner with a passion for the work you do.”
Other Interview Questions
#19: Why are you looking to leave your current role? Or Why did you leave your last job?
Regardless of your reasons for leaving, don’t badmouth your previous team, boss, or company. Even if you’re elated to be leaving, you may not want to share all the details of your exit with a hiring manager. Prepare your answer to this interview question thoughtfully. Answer it concisely and with grace.
- A career change
- Company reorganization
- Better work-life balance
- Additional education
- Personal reasons
- Pursuing a different career path
#20 Do You Have Any Questions for Us?
The answer here — always, always, always — is, yes. You should typically prepare anywhere from three to five questions to ask the interviewers when given the opportunity. These questions should show that you’ve done your research on the position, and on the company and thoughtfully considered yourself in the position. Allow the interviewer a chance to answer questions about your priorities for your next role, whether that’s about flexible scheduling, work culture, or how they structure their bonuses.
Sample Answer: Business Insider offers a long list of over 30 questions appropriate to ask at the end of your next job interview. A few of our favorites include:
- ‘Beyond the hard skills required to successfully perform this job, what soft skills would serve the company and position best?’
- ‘What have past employees done to succeed in this position?’
- ‘How would you describe the company’s culture?’
Prepare for your upcoming job interview with these 20 most common interview questions to be sure you really impress as a candidate.
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