Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

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You have landed an interview for a job that you are enthusiastic about. Congratulations! It is great that you’ve made it this far and shows that you have already dedicated a great deal of work to your job search. Now that you are getting ready for the interview, you want to make a great impression.

You might feel nervous and unsure of how to prepare. For some more general tips on how to get ready for an interview, feel free to check out some of our recruiter tips for a successful interview and how you can get into the right mindset for interview success.

In addition, one of the most important things you can do to prepare is to be aware of the questions that you’re likely to be asked and practice responding to them. Keep reading to learn more about the most common interview questions you can expect and how to answer them.

“Tell me about yourself” 

Your interviewer will likely ask you some variation of this question. It may seem relatively simple, but because it is so open-ended, it can sometimes cause people to freeze up. This can feel stressful. The question is often asked near the start of the interview, which means it may decrease your confidence for subsequent questions if you struggle to answer the first one.

Fortunately, there is a simple formula that you can follow to help make this question a bit less intimidating. This formula is called the PAWS method.

The PAWS Model

Using the PAWS model, you begin by talking about your Profile. This means starting off with a brief summary of yourself. You might explain how long you have been living in your current city. Additionally, you could mention some of your current or past involvement in your community. You might also want to discuss how you become interested in the relevant subject matter to the job you are applying for.

You then move on to discussing your Academic background. This is where you bring up qualifications that are applicable to the position of interest. These can include classes you have taken or certifications and degrees you have acquired.

Next, you go on to describe your Work experience. This is where you speak about some of your most relevant and recent work experience. You should also include any volunteer experience that is applicable.

The last part of the PAWS method is where you mention your Skills. Here you mention one or two of your strongest and most important skills for the job. Finally, you should finish with a closing sentence, either stating why you are interested in the position or stating why your background would allow you to make a positive contribution to the organization.

“Why do you want to work here?” 

It is common for interviewers to ask why you want to work in the position you are applying for. They may ask a slightly different variation of the question, such as “Why did you apply to this position?” When employers ask this question, there are a few things that they are trying to figure out about you.

First, they want to learn about your knowledge and understanding of their organization and of the role you applied for. Secondly, they want to gauge whether you really seem interested in this job. Thirdly, they want to see if your career goals are aligned with the position.

So, keeping the interviewers' intentions in mind, how should you go about answering? The very first thing you should do to prepare for this question is to do your research on the company. Make sure that you understand the organization’s mission and values, as well as how the company runs. Additionally, make sure that you understand the key responsibilities for the role in question.

You’ll then be able to incorporate some key points of what you found from research into your answer. This is important because it shows that you have done your homework and that you are interested in the role.

You will next want to explain why some of your skills, experiences, and interests align with the job and the organization's mission. Overall, you want to make sure that your answer is sincere because if it is not, it will likely show.

A sample answer might look like this:

“I read an article about the outreach your organization has done in the community, and how you have really made a difference for individuals struggling with X. Volunteering and community involvement is an important aspect of my personal values as well. I have experience working with groups such as X and Y. I would be enthusiastic to work for a company that shares my values, and to get a chance to see that my work actively contributes to making the community a better place.”

"What is your greatest strength?" 

Employers might ask you to explain what you see as your greatest strength or strengths. They want to know if you are self-reflective, and also if your strengths are applicable to the job. This can sometimes feel awkward to answer because most people don’t like to feel like they are bragging about themselves. Nevertheless, it is an important one to be able to answer.

Preparing an answer beforehand can help you feel more comfortable with this question. To answer, you should first state your strength directly. This could be a hard skill, such as being a great writer or programmer. It could also be a soft skill, like empathy or organization.

Whatever skill you choose to go with, make sure that it is something you truly see as one of your greatest skills. Also, ensure that it is something you think is relevant to the job in question.

Next, it is important to provide one or two examples of times when you employed this strength. It is also helpful if you can discuss some measurable positive outcomes that you saw in these situations.

An answer for a recent university graduate could look like this:

“One of my greatest strengths is my time management skills. In my last year of university, I was able to take a full courseload while volunteering at X and Y, and starting a club for Z. This sometimes-posed challenges. For example, last year I had a five-hour volunteer shift on the same day as a final exam. I am happy to say that I earned an A on that exam. Because of my time management skills, I did not have to worry too much because I was able to prepare for the exam in the weeks leading up to it. This skill allowed me to be able to take part in many activities that are important to me, without feeling like I am compromising other responsibilities.”

“What is your greatest weakness?”

Questions about your weaknesses are likely to come up. They can feel quite challenging because you are trying to make a good impression. Don’t panic — there’s a way to answer these questions authentically while maintaining your confidence and job prospects.

You might be wondering why employers would even ask such a question, given that your strengths seem most relevant to the job in question. There are important reasons. Employers use these questions to gauge how self-reflective you are, as well as to understand your capacity to grow and learn from your mistakes.

In answering this question, you will want to highlight weaknesses that are not principal to the job. For example, if the job description states that experience with Microsoft Excel is important, do not state that you really struggle with Excel.

Also, you want to avoid clichés, or stating weaknesses that you are hoping they will interpret as strengths like “I put my career first” or “I am a perfectionist.” Answers like these make them question your authenticity and ability to self-reflect.

Start off by stating your weakness directly. Do not dwell on it or go into too much depth. Then you want to end on a positive note.  Explain what you have learned regarding this weakness, and how you are working to improve it.

Bonus points if you have tangible examples of how you’ve made progress.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

It’s very common for the interviewer to end the interview by asking if you have any questions for them. You might be tempted to respond “no” to this question, with you’re thinking being that questions could make you seem apprehensive or confused about the position.

However, it is always in your best interest to ask a few questions. This is another opportunity to show the employer that you are truly interested in the position and to demonstrate that you have done your research. Additionally, it is a chance for you to learn more about the job and to help you decide whether it would be a good fit for you.

You should come with one or two questions prepared. At least one of these should be specific to the job at hand.

For example: “The job description mentioned X... can you tell me a little bit more about that?” Or “I was really intrigued by the work you have done on X... I would love to know more.” Then, you might want to prepare a question that could be used for many jobs. In terms of more widely applicable questions, they tend to have one of three primary purposes.

The first purpose is to better understand what employers are looking for in a candidate. One question that falls into this category could be “What do you think makes someone a strong candidate for this role?” A bolder approach could be “Do you have any concerns or questions about my qualifications?” The second question here gives you an opportunity to address their concerns and demonstrate that you are qualified for the role. However, it might be more intimidating to ask if you are worried that you won’t be able to respond appropriately. Thus, the first question is a great option as well.

The second category of questions are those that aim to help you learn about the employer and the company you might work for. For instance, “What is your favorite part about working at your organization?” and “Why did you start working here?” These questions can help you determine whether the job seems right for you.

The third category of questions are those that help you gain a better sense of the role you are applying for. For example, “What do you think is the most challenging part of this role?” Another example is “What do you think is the most important part of this position?”

These questions help you paint a better picture of what the job might look like and see it as more than just words in a job description.

Wrapping Up 

Preparing for a job interview can help you feel confident going in. A great way to go about this is to think about your answers to the most common interview questions. In preparing your answers, it is wise to do research on the company and job description in question.

It is also wise to do some self-reflection on your personal brand and decide which experiences and skills you want to highlight in the interview. We also want to note that, while being prepared is helpful, there is a limit to this. You do not need to come in with scripted answers completely memorized.

This may make it difficult to adapt your answers on the fly and make you feel stuck if you forget the exact word choices you prepared. Instead, it is a good idea for you to have a general idea of what you want to say. We hope you found this article helpful and wish you the best of luck in your upcoming interview. Happy preparing!

If you are looking for more personalized advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at!


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