Common interview questions and answers

Knowing how to answer common interview questions and answers when applying for jobs is extremely important. During the process of applying, one of the best yet potentially most intimidating moments is when you finally land an interview. Whether you are heading into a physical office or you are preparing for phone or Zoom interview questions, feeling ready to handle the questions you are asked can help make you less nervous and better prepared to put your best foot forward.

In this guide, we’ll help you get ready for an upcoming interview by sharing the most common interview questions asked, with helpful tips on how to answer each type of question.

Answering personal interview questions

During an interview, one of the goals of the hiring manager or HR representative is to get to know you. An interviewer hopes to understand your personality and how you view the world through a series of personal questions aimed at understanding who you are. This information will help them determine whether or not you are a good fit for the role and/or the team.

As you prepare, look over the following list of personal interview questions:

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself.
  • What motivates you?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Tell me about your work style.
  • Tell me about one of the greatest moments in your life.
  • Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
  • What is your dream job?
  • Do you enjoy working on a team?
  • Do you enjoy working on projects alone?

Key tips for answering personal questions

You should answer personal questions with a blend of information about yourself and your professional experience. Keep in mind that you want to share enough about yourself to help an interviewer get to know you, but you don’t want to get carried away and overshare. Focus on highlighting the best parts of your personality, and let your true self shine.

For example, you might answer the common question “Tell me a little bit about yourself” in the following way:

“I’ve been working in the marketing industry for over nine years now. I got my start right out of college with an internship for AJC Agency, where I was a copywriter. Since then, I have held numerous marketing roles, each of which has taught me an incredible amount. In my free time, I love to take my two rescue dogs hiking. I’m also an avid reader, with a particular love for true crime novels.”

Answering previous roles and experience interview questions

Most hiring managers will want to know about where you have worked before, why you are leaving your current role, and what experience you have that will match the job for which they are hiring. Use the following common questions and tips to prepare for speaking about your previous experience:

  • Why are you leaving your current position?
  • Why did you quit/were you fired from XYZ role?
  • What experience do you have that will apply to this role?
  • Do you have any educational experience that will apply to this role?
  • Why would you be a good fit for this job?
  • What specific qualifications are you bringing to the table that make you an ideal candidate?
  • What were your responsibilities at your last job?

Key tips for answering work experience

Often an interviewer will look over the jobs listed on your resume and ask about specific roles and why you left. Be prepared to share a succinct amount of information highlighting why you moved on to a new position. Try to keep these answers positive. For example, if you were fired from a job, instead of speaking about the experience negatively, you could spin it in a positive light. You might point out two things you learned from the experience and how you moved on to something new.

Answering behavioral interview questions

Along with your technical qualifications for a role, an interviewer will want to try to understand how you behave in a variety of scenarios. Behavioral questions are aimed at learning about your soft skills and how they align with your hard skills. These are skills that allow you to work well with others and handle difficult situations. The following are a few examples of behavioral questions:

  • Tell me about a time you had to manage conflict with a coworker.
  • Tell me about a time that you encountered a problem at work. How did you solve it?
  • What would your previous coworkers say is your greatest strength?
  • Describe a time when you felt overwhelmed at work, and how did you handle it?
  • How would you motivate a team member who doesn’t want to contribute to a project?
  • Tell me about the best boss you have ever had and the worst boss you have had.
  • What motivates you?

Key tips for answering behavioral questions

Behavioral questions are also sometimes referred to as STAR interview questions. STAR is a format for answering a question highlighting a Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This is a great way to create answers for numerous behavioral questions. For example, if you were asked, “Tell me about a time you had to manage conflict with a coworker,” the following is an example of how you could use STAR to answer the question:

  • Situation: I had a coworker who was not holding up their end of a project. We were in danger of falling behind due to their inaction.
  • Task: For this project, I was in charge of making sure that we turned in the presentation to our manager by a set deadline. I was responsible for working with this teammate to pull the data necessary to showcase each claim.
  • Action: Seeing that we were falling behind, I decided to approach my coworker to determine why they were not providing me with the information I needed. I set up a 30-minute meeting on our calendar to talk to them one-on-one. During this call, I pointed out that I had sent three emails requesting data and that we were facing a nearing deadline. I asked if they had encountered any roadblocks and how I could help.
  • Result: As a result of our meeting, I found out that my coworker wasn’t receiving my emails due to a glitch in our server. We quickly reviewed the information I needed, and they produced the numbers necessary by the end of the day.

Answering interview questions about your goals

Not only will a hiring manager want to know whether or not you’ll be a good fit for a specific job, but they will also want to know how you will fit into their company long-term. To understand more about how you fit into the big picture, they might ask you some of the following common goal-oriented questions:

  • Why are you interested in a new role?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What is your projected career path?
  • Describe your ideal company culture.

Key tips for answering goal questions

When answering goal-related questions, you want to portray how you plan to continue to grow and work toward important professional milestones. Ideally, you want to speak about your future plans in a way that aligns them with the company. For example, if you are interviewing for a customer representative role and you are asked about your projected career path, you might answer the following way:

“My goal is to begin with your company as a customer representative, which will allow me to put my previous experience to use, while also gaining new skills. Ideally, I’d like to move into a management role down the road. I believe that as I grow my experience, my ability to work well with others and motivate teammates will make me a great fit for a future management position.”

This helps a hiring manager see your value not only in the immediacy but down the road.

Answering interview questions about expected pay

If an employer is interested in hiring you, they will need to know whether or not your pay expectations align with what they have budgeted for the role. Near the end of the interview, you might be asked a few questions about how much you expect to earn. The following types of questions help align everyone’s expectations:

  • What is your salary / hourly expectation for pay?
  • Are there specific benefits you are expecting?
  • Are you willing to work on a bonus structure?
  • Are you willing to work for commission?

Key tips for answering compensation questions

Talking about pay can feel uncomfortable. However, it is important to be honest when answering questions about compensation. If you have specific salary requirements, be straightforward about them. There is no need to waste your own time or a company’s time if your expectations are not aligned.

Bonus tip: interview questions to ask

While much of the interview will involve you being asked questions, near the end of an interview, an interviewer might also ask if you have any questions for them. Even if they don’t offer this opportunity, come prepared with a few questions and bring these questions up on your own.

Examples of questions you might ask include the following:

  • What qualities do you see as important for the ideal candidate for this role to have?
  • What is the company culture like here?
  • What is the work/life balance like for this role?
  • Are there any extra job requirements I should be aware of, such as travel?
  • What opportunities for professional growth does your company provide?