Five most common interview questions
Careers advice, Interview

How to respond to the five most common interview questions

Some interview questions are most common than others. Being prepared to answer these questions helps you give the best first impression and feel a little less nervous.

Unless you have a crystal ball, predicting exactly which questions will be asked to you during a job interview is almost impossible. Each interview is different, each recruiter has their own priorities and every job position requires different skills and competences, making it difficult to know exactly what to expect.

However, there are some universal interview questions that you are almost guaranteed to encounter. Being prepared to answer these questions can help you give the best first impression and help you feel a little less nervous come interview time.

We scoured the web to bring you the five most common interview questions – and how to answer each – so that you’re armed and ready for your next interview.

Tell me about yourself

While this seems like it would be the easiest question to answer, it leaves many interviewees stumped. How do you boil down your entire life story to a 60 second response? You don’t!  You don’t need to go through your life (or even your work experience) in chronological order. Your interviewer will thank you if you have a concise, relevant answer prepared. Because this question is just so the recruiter can have a general view of you as a professional. Start with your relevant expertise. Instead of going through your resume year-by-year, give a general overview. You want to tell the recruiter what makes you right for this role.

Why did you apply for this job?

This is your chance to show why you are interested in the job – not the salary, benefits, commute, etc. While these are all important aspects, this question is designed to gauge the candidate’s understanding of the role and the company. Try building a response that focuses on day-by-day job tasks, ongoing projects, company history, and social commitments. In this way you will show your interlocutors interest, enthusiasm and professional maturity.

Why do you want to leave your current job? (or, if you are unemployed, why did you leave your last job?)

This is one of the most-feared questions by job candidates. Most think that the interviewer is trying to dig into your past or wants to know if you’ve had problems with your past employers or colleagues. Indeed, this is not the time or place to trash talk your current or former employers. Just give a convincing and straightforward answer, like: “I have been in this company for x years and now I’m looking for a new challenge” or “The company is going through a difficult time and I am looking for something a bit more established and stable.”

Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses

Let’s start with the easier one to tackle – strengths. Identify your strengths as your skills and experience that make you right for the job. Ask yourself, what sets you apart from others? What are some of your strongest soft skills? Talking yourself up can be difficult, especially for introverts. Try making a list and asking a friend for their input too. We’re often our own biggest critics and a friend may help you see a strength you’ve overlooked.

Weaknesses are more difficult to identify. You don’t want to say anything inauthentic (and please don’t say “I don’t have any”), but you also don’t want to say anything too serious that could hurt your chances of landing the job. It’s best to pick an honest weakness and show that it’s something you’re actively working to improve. For example something like “I’m still learning photoshop, but I’m enrolled in night classes” is safe because it shows you are working on it. Other clichés to avoid include: I’m a perfectionist and I work too much.

What are your salary expectations?

It’s likely that you’ll come across this question at some point in the interview process. Do some research. Reach out to your network, friends and family to get an average salary estimate for the role you’re aiming for. Remember to account for your professional level, sector and the country or region in which you are applying.