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Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Updated on September 12, 2014

Interview Questions and Answers with Tips and Tricks

There are some very common and some trick questions employers like to ask the applicants at the job interview. Some of them can be really easy to answer while others can leave us speechless. All you have to do to excel at the interview is to prepare yourself. Naturally there are some questions you can't be prepared for but there are some for which you can prepare yourself before the interview takes part.

On this page I will be listing some of the most common questions that I was given at my job interviews and questions which I had heard when my boss was interviewing candidates. I also list my answers to some of the questions, advice on how to approach a specific question (my advice and advice from employers).

I asked some of my friends who are executives or heads of department to give their insights on how they conduct interviews and what answers they expect with the common questions.

Keep in mind that there are thousands of employers out there and although the guidelines I am giving on this page may work for many, there isn't such a thing as an uniform answer when it comes to these questions.

Photos in this article are public domain, used with permission or my own work unless stated otherwise.

What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?

One of the most common questions I have heard

The question itself is very straightforward. But the answer is not. I believe most of us wouldn't have much difficulty listing their positives but negatives can be a hard cookie to crack.

But lets start with the positives. Honest, hard-working, polite... These sound familiar? I think there is nothing wrong with picking these but you should keep in mind that these exact words are something that is already expected of you and they don't tell anything about you (well except that you are honest, hard-working and polite). I believe it is better to choose more descriptive terms. When I was listening to my boss asking these questions even I was feed up with one word positive answers that most people used.

Best to work on an example don't you agree?

My Strengths: Communicative, team player, love to learn new things

How to Say it: I have great communication skills and I can handle myself in pretty much every situation. I consider myself a good team player as I have always gotten a good feedback whenever I was a part of a team. I also love to learn new things, so I am really excited to face new challenges this job might bring to me.

And now to the negatives. We all have them. The fastest way to not get the job is by saying you have none. Second fastest is to be completely honest. We all like to sleep long and most of us would rather have the whole day off than to have to work. But this is something your employer does not want to hear.

I was advised in the past to not say any negative weakness that could be work related and I strongly agree with this advice. If you're applying for a office assistance there is no need to highlight that you often misplace the documents (even if you find them quickly). Every negative characteristic or weakness you might have should sound positive or be something that you are improving yourself upon.

I have a gap in my history knowledge but I am taking night classes to improve it and as English is my second language and thus I tend to make mistakes (you are free to point it out to me by the way in the comments section) but I am constantly trying to improve my written and spoken skills by attending classes and practicing. This tells something negative about me but also points out that I am aware of my weakness and am working on improving them.

When you are asked about your weaknesses they don't need to be work related. If the employer insists on something work related you can answer that if there ever was an issue you were able to work it out to your and your employers satisfaction.

Examine Yourself - Make a chart of your traits

Before you prepare to answer the question about your weaknesses and strengths you first need to know them. Take a piece of paper and write down everything that you think describes you. You can also ask your family and friends to chip in as sometimes we have some traits that we can't see by ourselves.

1: You're Hired! Interview Skills to Get the Job
1: You're Hired! Interview Skills to Get the Job

You're hired! This book will help you best prepare for your job interview (and before and after). The book has a lot of tricks that are presented in a very straight forward way.

I really appreciate the "after" part as there are subtle things you can do after the job interview that will help leave a good impression.

 

What do you think of this company? Why would you work for this company?

Preparation is key!

Do your homework. Research! Know your enemy (future friend). There's nothing more embarrassing than coming to a job interview and knowing nothing about the company and the job position you are applying to. You don't have to know their every financial secret but their basic information and what they do is a must. If you are applying for a job as secretary in a company that manufactures toilet seats you are expected to know they manufacture them and not just that they have an opening for a secretary position.

There is some place for admiration when it comes to this question. Give high praise about the company (don't over do it) and say why you would love to work with them. Some shameless self promotion is in order too.

"I think your company produces great toilet seats, I saw them the other day in the store and I loved your new design."

"I would love to work in your company as I believe I am just the right person for the job. I heard nothing but good praise about your company and I would like to contribute to your success."

If you know or have heard that the company is helping the community in any way (supporting local farmers, childcare, is eco friendly) be sure to show your admiration.

Every answer is better than no answer

There's nothing worse than silence after the question is asked.

Do you see yourself doing this job in the future?

Trick question that I failed at

This was the question at which I failed in the past as it caught me by surprise. I was asked this question when I was looking for a job while I was a student. It was a job interview for a seller in a groceries store. I have no disrespect for this trade but I personally didn't see myself as a seller in the future. Logic dictated that they would want to hear yes. But I knew I would lie. It took me ages to mutter "yes, I guess so". Naturally my answer was not very decisive and the interview was brought to the end.

I believe most of us didn't have a lifelong dream to become a seller and most people that are sellers (and many other occupations for that matter) would jump ship if a greater opportunity was given to them. It's normal and natural. BUT employers search for people to employ for as long as possible, especially if they are good at what they do.

So whenever you are asked this question answer YES! You see yourself being good at this job in the future. Did you notice how I used "being good at this job" instead of "I see myself working this job"? This is my solution to the honest answer to this question that benefits you.

Put the negatives behind - We all know the situations are hard but when you are on a job interview leave the negatives out

Photo Source: Public Domain

Your previous employment! Why did you leave your job? What did you hate about your previous job?

Things are getting trickier!

Never and I mean absolutely NEVER talk bad about your previous employer. He (or she) might be eligible for the worst boss in the world award but that is between you and him.

Whenever I heard someone talking (casual friend chatter excluded) bad about their previous boss I though they will be doing the same in the next job.

NEVER say it was your fault either. Unless the fault is something that can't be perceived as a negative - like you got laid back because you moved to another location, you got pregnant, you got injured and couldn't do your job any more...

I talked with a friend who said that at a job interview she was asked this question. She did a mistake of saying that she was laid back. She said it was their fault, not hers before anything else. She got pregnant. In all fairness it was their fault but the way she presented the situation the impression was just not right. If you will start by blaming others, chances are the employer won't be interested in hearing the whole story. In her case it would be better if she would have said she got fired because she got pregnant and that although she doesn't think this is fair there's nothing she could do about it. This says the same thing. The employer will know it wasn't your fault and will see that you have respect for your previous employers (even if they don't deserve it) and won't have to worry about you bad mouthing him or her around.

How I answer these questions?

Well I was lucky enough to not be fired in the past. I did leave a job because I already gave it everything I got. The job wasn't challenging any more and I as I am always seeking to improve myself and am looking for a job that would allow some room for growth and advancement.

There was nothing I hated about the last job. If there would be any issues we would always work them out without any problems.

What has been your greatest achievement?

I love this one

This question might not be as common as some others but it is one of those that can easily keep us speechless. Most young job seekers will answer that their greatest achievement is finishing high school or university and although this is a great achievement the problem with this one is the word most. If you will say this it won't make you stand out in any way.

This question might be a bit easier for people who have some work experience, especially if they were given some kind of credit in their previous work position. Nothing sounds better than saying "I am really proud of my employee of the month award that I got working in the Company X".

Think about things that you have achieved in your life, no matter how small that could be applied to a job you are being interviewed for.

photo credit: kevinthoule via photopin cc

Are You Prepared for Additional Education?

There's only one right answer to this one

YES! Even the easiest of the jobs might require you to educate yourself further somewhere in the future.

What can you offer that other's can't? Why should we hire you?

Shameless self promotion

You know you are the right person for the job and you know that you deserve it. Now it's time to tell your future employer just that! Again you shouldn't say why others are worst than you and why you shouldn't pick them! Focus on yourself an yourself alone.

When I was asked this question my answer was usually something in the lines of:

"I believe I am right for this job because I am highly motivated, I believe my past work experiences would benefit your company..."

We will take a break here. It is important you let the interviewer know why they would benefit from having you in the company (in my opinion) so the answer must relate to the position you are applying to.

"...as I am familiar with working with children, I have hosted numerous child workshops and know how to work with kids that require additional attention or have difficulties learning".

Put your best foot forward. Spotlight your competences that are significant to the position.

Salary! How much do you expect to be paid?

This is a tough one. I consulted my friends who employ people to how they treat this question. They all agreed that giving a number too high is a no go! As for how low to go? Well we were not in the same boat with this one. Some said as low as possible some said the best salary is the one that they are willing to pay (naturally you not knowing the number), others said the best number is the one that is expected for the position.

How I handle this question. Never say something unrealistic. You can't expect to be paid a salary of the chief executive if you are applying for a hotel receptionist. Never underestimate yourself and say a number that you wouldn't be happy with.

Before applying to the position you can check what the average salary for the job is. Just go to any search engine and type "average salary for --occupation-- in 2013". This will give you an idea on the salary. You should also keep in mind that this isn't necessary the best number as salaries vary depending on location. If you live in a small town the salary can be smaller than if you would live in Manhattan.

If you have a question and would like to know how would be a good way to answer it ask it here. I will do my best to answer it as soon as possible.

Share what you think could be a positive negative - Can you think of a negative trait that would sound positive?

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    • tracy159 profile image

      Tracy Smith 3 years ago from Maryville, TN

      My negative is that I'm early. Depending on how long of a drive dictates how early, I like to prepare for everything. When I had to drive an hour I would be an hour early to work. Never know if something could happen. I now live 10 minutes away and I'm still a half hour early. Itâs positive because Iâm always early and on hand if things are busy. Itâs a negative because bosses tend to think youâre trying to just get overtime and I canât stand to be last minute to anything including meetings. It just bothers me that I might be late.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I think a lot of people are in denial about their negative traits. But if this can be overcome, then those traits could be confronted and dealt with properly - and thus you could honestly answer questions about them.