1. Tell me about yourself.
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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 three 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?
Tip: 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 with consumers in person.”
4. Why do you want to work here?
Tip: Interviewers often ask this question as a way to determine whether or not you took the 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 appeal 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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 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 reactions 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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 and 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?
Tip: Hiring managers often 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 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?
Tip: 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 expertise 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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 was the ability to 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?
Tip: 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.”
19. How do you handle stress?
Tip: 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?
Tip: 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 our website within a week of seeing the video.”
21. What is your teaching philosophy?
Tip: 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 micromanaged. 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?
Tip: 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.”
23. Tell me about your work experience
Tip: An interviewer may or may not already be familiar with your background. Regardless, this question gives you the chance to share in detail your experiences that are most valuable to the prospective role. Employers want to know that you’ve reflected on their expectations for a qualified candidate and that you have directly relevant or transferable skills. The best answers clearly present the experiences on your resume in terms of how they prepare you for this position’s responsibilities.
Example: “I have 10 years of experience in personal finance management, and I have assisted 45 repeat clients in increasing their capital by an average of 15% every year. As a financial analyst, I’ve used visual growth charts to show my clients how each saving plan option can impact their goals. When I became a senior financial analyst, I supervised other analysts and trained them in providing the most helpful experience to our customers. As your senior financial consultant, I aim to integrate my individualized approach to helping clients build the retirement fund they will depend on.”
24. How do you define success?
Tip: Your answer to this question will most likely vary depending on where you are in your career, but at any stage, how you define success influences goals and how you measure them. Employers ask this to help them understand what kind of employee you’ll be. A good answer will show that you know how to define and measure goals and you’re willing to challenge yourself and work hard to meet them.
Example: “I define success as fulfilling my role in my team and in the company. I work toward completing my individual duties as effectively as possible, balancing that with professional growth and contributing to larger organizational goals. In my previous role, success meant exceeding weekly metrics, implementing processes that supported the company’s KPIs and meeting quarterly professional development goals.”
25. How do you work under pressure?
Tip: This the direct version of the question, “Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?” Performing well under pressure can be the difference between an average employee and an excellent one. This is another good instance of when to use the STAR method to talk about a specific time you were faced with a challenge, might have succumbed to stress but managed to calmly find a solution.
Example: “Throughout my career, I’ve discovered how to embrace working under pressure. I find that routine can make us complacent, so I try to look for challenges that push me to grow.
One time, I was supposed to deliver a project to a client in five days. A colleague who was working with another client had the same deadline, but he had to take a leave of absence due to personal reasons. I was forced to take up both projects at the same time. While I felt an initial sense of panic, I tried to reframe it as an opportunity to see what I might be capable of. Instead of letting the stress get to me, I came up with a very detailed time management plan and found new ways to boost my efficiency that enabled me to deliver both projects on time.”
26. What is your dream job?
Tip: Employers typically ask this question because they want to ensure that your interests and passion align with their job. A good answer will describe a role that matches the one you’re interviewing for. For instance, if you’re applying for a leadership position, you might discuss how your dream job would include supervisory responsibilities.
Example: “I enjoy guiding other team members on projects and making sure everything goes smoothly. My dream job would be a leadership position where the other team members are active participants and communication happens daily. I love seeing a project through to the end and celebrating everyone’s hard work.”
27. What can you bring to the company?
Tip: This question is similar to, “Why should we hire you?” A strong answer will demonstrate the skills you have to be successful in this role as well as your potential to bring a new perspective to the business. Explain why your skills, experience and characteristics uniquely position you to advance organizational objectives.
Example: “My problem-solving abilities allow me to work extremely well under pressure, which I understand is a common occurrence in this role. In a previous position as the purchasing lead, I had to decide which supplies to order to stay within the budget, but I had a limited amount of time to make a decision. I quickly created a spreadsheet that helped me compare manufacturers’ prices and was able to order the necessary supplies on time and within our budget. I used the spreadsheet throughout the rest of my time with the company to help them save over $500,000. I will bring the same interest and motivation for making an impact here at ABC Company.”
28. How do you handle conflict at work?
Tip: Employers ask this question to gauge how you interact with various stakeholders of differing opinions. Often, being the right person for the job involves more than just hard skills, hiring managers also value candidates who can collaborate with others and approach conflict in a productive way. A good answer will discuss a time you encountered a conflict with a colleague, maintained the patience to resolve it and what you learned—how you grew personally and professionally—as a result of the experience.
Example: “I was working as a project manager on an IT project, and one technician was constantly late finishing tasks. When I approached him about it, he reacted defensively. I kept calm and acknowledged that the deadlines were challenging and asked how I could assist him in improving his performance. He calmed down and told me that he was involved in another project where he had to do tasks that were not in his job description. After a meeting with the other project manager, we came to a resolution that alleviated the technician’s workload. For the remainder of the project, the technician delivered great work.
I learned that you don’t always know what others are experiencing and by keeping that in mind, I can better navigate conflict and be a more helpful and supportive colleague.”
29. Why are you interested in this position?
Tip: Interviewers aren’t trying to trick you with this question. They typically want to be sure that you applied for this job because you’re genuinely interested in it. Avoid voicing concerns about your current position or company—negative comments about your employer are often interpreted as unprofessional. A good answer will positively frame your transition and communicate your desire to grow in the role you’re interviewing for.
Example: “While I highly valued my time at my previous company, there are no longer opportunities for growth that align with my career goals. This position fits perfectly with my skill set and how I’m looking to grow in my career. I’m also looking for a position at a company like yours that supports underserved communities, which is a personal passion of mine. Can you tell me more about how the company creates growth opportunities for people who work here?”
30. What skills would you bring to the job?
Tip: While this is similar to questions like, “Why should we hire you?” or “What can you bring to the company?” It gives you the opportunity to be more specific about your work ethic, style and unique abilities. An impactful answer will use the STAR method to illustrate how your unique skills might benefit the team or organization.
Example: “I can make anyone feel comfortable in a new environment, which makes me a good fit as a human resources assistant. In my previous position, a new employee came to me and told me that she didn’t think she was right for the company culture. After talking to her for a few minutes, we realized that she felt too much pressure to participate in company events. I started introducing events that involved fewer competitions and more casual environments, and she quickly grew more comfortable with her team.”