Job interviews are daunting, and its scary to be thinking about how to handle all the questions employers often like to ask. To help you, we’ve compiled a list of the most common interview questions alongside a few insider tips on how to handle them, so you can come up with your own original answers. 

 

But, firstly, let us let you in on a little secret - the secret for answering any interview questions, even the tough ones - is to simply listen carefully to what the interviewer is asking you, don’t be tempted to think ahead, and just try your best to make your answers feel real, and part of a natural, flowing conversation. 

 

As tempting as it might be to come prepared with ready made answers you’ve spent hours memorising, you not only run the risk of sounding a bit like a robot, but you'll probably end up with the same boring answer as the candidate before you. 

 

Below are some techniques that can help you develop your own answers for various types of questions. Think carefully about how each example question relates to you, your experience and the job you’re applying for. 

 

Help yourself to feel more confident with your responses and practice ahead of time with friends and family. And then on the day of the interview, trust yourself to answer the questions in your own voice and personality. Remember, the employer is trying to discover who you are. 

 

Remember, listen carefully to the interviewer and stay in the moment, don’t force your brain to get ahead of itself and spout out a memorised response. Once you get the idea, you can usually use similar techniques on any questions thrown your way. 


1. What’s your greatest weakness?

 

This question is often used by people new to interviewing, but since it can show how a person handles the obvious, even longtime job interview pros may ask it. Aim for a response that sounds sincere, but winds up positive, using the basic format of (1) this is my weakness; (2) I’ve worked on it; and (3) now I’ve learned to turn it into a strength.

 

It can vary from that, but mainly you want to leave a good impression of how well you face and then overcome issues. What you don’t want to do is play the old worn-out “I work way too hard” weakness card. You might get away with it, but it shows no creativity and possibly leaves a taste of someone who thinks they are outsmarting the interviewer – or trying to.

 

2. What’s your greatest strength? 

 

There are many good ways to answer this question, but when you prepare think ahead of time about what the new job requires, by carefully reviewing the job description, and what you’ve done in the past - check over your CV for this. Think of a strength of yours that fits nicely with the job you want. And make sure to have a quick story as an example of how you successfully used that skill or strength in a prior job.

 

You don’t want to brag, but you also don’t want to seem like you’re uncomfortable talking about your strengths. Again, just answer naturally.

3. Tell me something about yourself 

 

Often a favourite question to ask a job candidate. It’s usually used at the beginning of an interview to get a feel for the candidate – and to see what they choose to tell about themselves. Remember that there are a lot more questions to come, so you don’t want to start with “I was born on a Sunday… ” And you definitely don’t want to focus on overly personal things like marriage status, health issues, or unrelated hobbies.

 

This is a time to tell your short career story, perhaps starting with education, and touching on key points in your career that ideally lead up to this moment – and the reason you're their ideal candidate. The best things you can tell them about yourself are things that make them think “we can use someone like that.”

4. Where do you see yourself five years from now?

 

This is one of those questions with no one-size-fits-all answer. It all depends on the type of company and job. Some interviewers look for strong signs of ambition. Others, for a person who will be content to grow slowly, taking on more responsibility as the need arises. And some, although they may not tell you this, are fully aware that you may not see yourself at all in this company in 5 years, but are just looking to see how you handle the question.

 

Hopefully your research prior to the interview will help you decide what is best. A good answer usually paints a picture of a person who will look to build solid working relationships, and do their best wherever they are and whatever challenges they are given. Someone looking to become an essential part of the company and take on new projects and opportunities as they arise. You may also want to mention some particular goals or things you’d like to take on at some point based on the type of job.

5. What do you know about our company?

 

Companies like to know that you took the time to research them and learn about what they do, and perhaps something about their values and stated mission, if they have one. The last thing you want to do is show up and say that you don’t know much, but are very willing to learn. That tells them you’ll have the same passive attitude as an employee.

6. Why do you want to work here / why are you right for this job?

 

Once again, find a way to use your career story to point to exactly this job at this time. Really think about this ahead of time. You don’t have to prove that this is all you’ve ever dreamed about since you were a little kid – unless that’s true. But even then, try not to be too over the top.

 

And try not to make your answer completely about what this generally represents such as I’ve always dreamed of working in the creative industry, as opposed to explaining why this company in particular fits so well with your career goals.

 

Again, doing your research ahead of time can make all the difference. And remember when you answer to keep their needs in mind. “I would love to help you to ___.” (Fill in the blank based on your research.)

7. Why did you leave, or are thinking of leaving, your last job?
 

If you’re still in a job, then your answer can say something about looking for a more challenging job, or realising that what you really want to do is what this new job offers, or you’re looking for advancement. The main thing is to make it positive and NOT knock your current (or former) employer.

 

If you were fired or quit your last job, it’s especially important to think about your answer ahead of time. You don’t want to badmouth the last employer, because it makes the interviewer think that one day you’ll be saying this about them, even if you assure them it’s not true.

 

If something went wrong that they may hear about, be honest (you don’t need to go into major detail here), and follow up with what you learned from it and how you’re more determined than ever to do a great job now. If it’s just that it wasn’t a great fit, you can say that – adding something about why you think this job is.

8. What’s your greatest accomplishment up to now?

 

Think about everything you’ve ever done – both in the workplace and elsewhere – and then choose one experience that speaks to the job you’re applying for in some way. Most of you will think of things from other jobs, but there are also things you may have started or taken charge of that you’re especially proud of that can apply. Try to fit the skills of that experience, and the way you tell the story, to the new job.

9. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever had to overcome?

 

If possible, you can use the same story from the previous question (odds are they won’t ask both), and simply adapt the story as needed. Or, there may be some other thing, especially from a prior or current job, where you saved the day despite some really tough circumstances. Where I’d be careful is taking a story from your personal life.

 

You don’t want to let them too far into things that should stay personal at this point. So while your biggest challenge may have been overcoming cancer, disability or a serious accident, this is probably not the time to bring that up, unless of course it relates directly to the job you’re applying for.

 

Just as an fyi … from a legal standpoint, illness and disabilities are not areas the interviewer should go into. And if they do, just bring it right back to your skills and work abilities.

10. Do you have any questions you’d like to ask us?

 

If you don’t already know this, most interviewers end the interview by asking what you’d like to know about them or any other questions you might have. So come prepared with some questions that show you understand the company and job. You can ask things like what an average day on the job might be like or what challenges they see for the department over the coming year or something specific that you got from your research. Please don’t stick with just those. Use them to help spark your own questions!

 

As a rule, a first interview is usually not a good time to ask about salary or benefits, unless they raise the issue – or unless you’re sure this is your only interview and the salary wasn’t stated anywhere you could see it. At the very least, don’t try to negotiate salary at this point unless an offer is made.

 

 

In the end, it’s important to remember that it’s not so much the exact words you use when answering questions, but more the overall impression you leave. So answer each question as well as you can, but don’t get caught up worrying about what you just said. 

 

Keep it flowing and conversational. Remember to stay pleasant and have good energy, and leave with a smile and a firm handshake. 

 

The rest is about how well you fit within the company’s goals and culture, and those are things a good interviewer can get a feel for no matter how much you try to figure them out and adjust.

 

All you can really do in any interview is to help them see the best real you – and the potential match!

 

 

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