Common job interview questions, answers and tips

Do you have an upcoming job interview? Congrats! Now it’s time to prepare by assessing the interview questions you might be asked and how you plan to answer them. You’ll reduce your interview stress and worry by doing so.

Interview questions and answers

There are tens of dozens of questions the interviewer might ask during an interview. However, some standard questions encompass the general theme and focus of almost any questions you’ll be asked, and considering the answers to those questions is an excellent starting point.

Below is a myriad of questions that might surface during an interview, broken down by category and type. Though many of the categories have some overlap, it can be helpful to break them down to organize your thoughts. We’ve also provided some example answers to help you craft your responses.

Competency-based, behavioral, and traditional interview questions

Interview questions typically fall into one of three categories, which are:

  • Competency-based.
  • Behavioral.
  • Traditional.

Competency-based questions

Competency-based questions, as the name suggests, focus on your competencies.

  • Share a specific example of your leadership skills.
  • Tell me about a time you applied creativity to your job.

Behavioral interview questions

Behavior questions are more common in interviews these days than they once were. These questions are asked based on the premise that past performance is an indicator of future performance.

  • Provide an example of when you had a challenging time with a coworker and how you resolved it. What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time you missed an important deadline. How did you address it, and what was the outcome?

You can view 73 sets of behavioral interview questions, each with 30 related questions separated into five interview categories. Oh, and it’s free!

Traditional interview questions

Traditional interview questions are the common questions asked for the interviewer to gain insight into who you are, your work history, and your accomplishments.

The type of questions about yourself, your work history, why you’re looking for a new position, your salary, qualifications and job performance generally fall into one of the above categories.

Questions about you

The answers to inquiries about yourself provide the employer with insights into who you are as a person, how self-aware you are, and whether you’ll be a good fit for the job and organization. In most cases, your answers should tie to the position qualifications and company values for which you’re interviewing.

Q. Tell me something about you that’s not highlighted on your resume.

Well, I am a volunteer for a local pet shelter. I review their accounting books once a month to check for discrepancies and possible issues. It’s a way for me to put my professional skills to use in helping a cause that’s important to me.

Q. How do you handle failure?

I appreciate that failure is inevitable and tend to define failure differently for each scenario. Generally, I first admit to the failure and take responsibility. From there, I assess what went wrong and how it might have been avoided to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Additional questions about you that you might be asked:

  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • How do you handle working under stress?
  • How would you describe your work ethic?
  • How would your coworkers describe you?
  • What has been your greatest accomplishment?
  • What has been your greatest disappointment?
  • What won’t you miss about your current job?
  • What will you miss about your current job?
  • Describe the best job you’ve ever had.
  • How do you plan to achieve your career goals?

Questions about why you’re leaving your job

Your answer to the question about leaving your job, or why you’re looking for a new job, is important for interviewers to assess your integrity and honesty. It also helps them identify possible red flags. Be honest and direct and focus on expanding your skill set and opportunities when possible.

Q. Why are you looking for a new job?

I’ve learned a lot in my current position and enjoy working with my manager and teammates. I currently work with clients in the energy sector and would like to work with clients in the marketing and creative sectors at this stage in my career. This position would allow me to do that.

Q. Why were you fired?

There was an organizational assessment based on cost reduction needs, and certain positions that were not considered vital and could be outsourced for a lower cost were eliminated. My job fell into that category.

Additional questions about why you’re leaving your job that you might be asked:

  • Why did you quit your job?
  • Why is there a gap in employment on your resume?
  • What have you been doing since you quit your job?

Questions about why you’re the right person

Answering questions about why you’re the right fit for the job allows you to make your case about why you should be hired. Focus on what sets you apart from the competition.

Q. Why should we hire you?

I pride myself in my work ethic and drive to support the initiatives and efforts of the teams I work with, and it’s frequently highlighted as a positive attribute on my performance reviews. 

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a professional mission to surpass the goals set before me and have been able to do so frequently through innovative approaches and being open to others’ input and suggestions for the best overall outcomes.

Additional questions about why you’re the right person for the job:

  • Why should we take a risk on you?
  • What sets you apart from the competition?
  • How can you contribute to this role and our company?

Salary inquiry questions

Questions about salary can be difficult to answer upfront, and it’s ok to respond by saying that you’d like to learn more about the job details before discussing salary. However, at some point, the employer needs to know your salary expectations to determine if they can meet them or not. With that said, there are certain states and local areas where questions about salary are illegal and prohibited.

Q. What are your salary expectations?

I’d feel more comfortable discussing salary expectations once I have a better understanding of the job duties and responsibilities, as well as the overall benefits and compensation package.

Q. What are your minimum salary requirements?

Based on my current understanding of the job duties and responsibilities, I’m open to a base salary range of $80,000 to $85,000. However, that could change based on new insights about the position and the overall compensation and benefits package, and I’m open to discussing it further.

Additional questions about why you’re the right person for the job:

  • What was your starting and final salary?
  • Why would you take a job for less pay?

Questions related to your qualifications, work history, and job performance

It’s crucial for recruiters and hiring managers to understand your qualifications, work history, and job performance. These items dictate whether you’ll be able to meet the job requirements. 

When responding to these types of questions, be specific and use quantifiable data where possible. Your answers should highlight specific qualifications and experiences that align with the job requirements. When discussing challenges and weaknesses, include how you have, do, or plan to address them.

Q. What part of this job will be most challenging for you?

I know I’d have a team of six employees in this position. In the past, delegating has been challenging for me. I don’t want to overload my employees. With that said, if I don’t delegate, I run the risk of overloading myself with work and giving the impression that I don’t trust my employees. I’ve addressed this challenge by ensuring open communication between myself and my team, so I’m clear on their workload, the types of responsibilities that interest them, and addressing why I’m delegating tasks and my expectations. I’ve also taken some training courses on managing that address delegating effectively. These efforts have helped, and I now delegate more easily and confidently.

Additional questions related to your qualifications, work history, and job performance:

  • What values guide your work?
  • Tell me about your education and training background.
  • What major challenges and issues have you faced at your current job? How did you handle them? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about your biggest mistake. What did you learn from it?
  • Which job has been the most and least rewarding to you?
  • What do you most often get criticized about?
  • What strategies would you implement to motivate your team?
  • Tell something that you would do differently at work if you could do it over again.
  • In what type of work environment do you tend to thrive?
  • Describe your ideal manager.
  • Describe your ideal coworker.
  • What do you expect from a manager or supervisor?
  • Give some examples of when you worked in a team.
  • Sell me this desk in two minutes or less. Ready? Go.

Questions about the new company

Employers want to know that you have a clear idea of why you want the job and why you want to work for the company. Take time to research the company and the position to answer these questions. If you aren’t ready to respond professionally and clearly, you risk coming across as disinterested and unprepared.

Q. Why is our company appealing to you?

I appreciate that the company values include care, compassion, and empathy, alongside integrity and customer focus. I believe that it’s difficult to serve customers and build trust without care, compassion, and empathy, so having those values encourages customer loyalty, which sets you apart from other customer-facing organizations I’ve researched. Those values also align with my personal values, making it an ideal fit.

Additional questions about the new company:

  • What challenges are you looking for in a job?
  • How do you think our company is better than your current company?
  • What can we expect from you within 30 days on the job?
  • When are you available to begin work here?
  • Is there anything about the company you’d like to know that you’re not aware of at this point?

Tips to prepare for an interview

  • Roleplay and practice answering the interview questions with a friend.
  • Don’t attempt to memorize your responses. Instead, read through your responses, so you have a sense of how you will answer during the interview and trust that you’ll be able to respond successfully.
  • Review your resume and past performance reviews to help craft your responses.
  • Read through the job post a few times and craft responses that directly address the qualifications and requirements highlighted. 
  • Brevity is your friend. Keep your answers focused and to the point.

Preparing for your interview by crafting responses to questions ahead of time puts you one step closer to acing the interview. Once you’re sitting across from the interviewer, you can trust that you’ll feel confident in answering whatever question comes your way.