12 Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

woman with glasses thinking i can and i will

This may not be a comprehensive list of all questions that can be asked during an interview, but it is the 12 most common interview questions with sample verbiage to demonstrate how to answer them.

As with anything you do in life, success in an interview begins with preparation. Go through the list and make notes on a notepad as to how you would answer. Don’t be afraid to take that notepad with you to the interview. The hiring manager will not think poorly of you because you have notes. In fact, it will help demonstrate that you’re a serious person who plans ahead. Without further ado, let’s answer some interview questions.

Tell me about yourself.

  • How did your professional life begin?
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • What is one major thing you’ve discovered?

I received a PhD in Plant Science from the University of College Cork in Ireland. For the last 9 years, I’ve been heavily involved in research and research group collaboration  microbe interactions can affect crop yields and the 2nd being how to exploit antimicrobial peptides to control plant diseases.

What additional opportunities have been presented that you wouldn’t have had outside of this career?

My work has granted me the opportunity to manage projects (which has allowed me to mentor undergrads). I’ve co-authored patents (one of which centered on technology that was licensed by agricultural tech companies for commercial use). I perfected my practical, hands-on lab skills.

What do you want to do with what you know?

Ideally, I’d like to be able to not only continue with the practical side of research but also have a leadership role that will allow me to demonstrate expertise to a team of researchers.

Why should we hire you?

I have the right combination of qualities, personal characteristics, education, and experience that will lend to success in (*NAME OF POSITION*). After researching (*NAME OF COMPANY*) and learning more about the role and company, my interest in this position has only been solidified. That strong interest, backed by a solid, well-rounded education in (*LIST A FEW THINGS YOU’RE WELL EDUCATED ON *) coupled with my experience as a (*THE NAME OF YOUR ROLE – MAKE IT MATCH THE JOB DESCRIPTION AS BEST YOU CAN*) make me perfectly suited for the role you seek to fill. You want someone who can (*PICK A COUPLE OF THINGS FROM THE JOB DESCRIPTION AND LIST THEM HERE*). There won’t be much of a learning curve for me as I already have experience (*DOING A THING THAT MATCHES THE TASKS YOU PICKED FROM THE JOB DESCRIPTION*).

I’m sure you’ve had candidates who appear better on paper than me, just as I’m sure you’ve had candidates that really didn’t peak your interest. You’re looking for someone who can help clients manage risk. My previous experience ensures that I understand how to keep the goals of the business in mind while my experience with working one on one with customer will help guide the customer-oriented side of each transaction. Another thing you mention in the job description is that you want someone who is has an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve developed strategies and have personality traits that effectively work towards that entrepreneurial spirit, like my deep seated and strong work ethic.

What is your greatest strength?

My greatest strength is (**something you can do with your eyes closed**). When I first started at (**the position you noticed you had this strength**), I was (**performing this task**). At first, I struggled a bit and all of a sudden I realized I could do (**whatever the strength is**). Your job description indicates you are seeking someone who can (**do a certain thing**). My ability to (**your greatest strength**) will ensure greatness at (**that task you are talking about from the job description**).

What is your greatest weakness?

I think my greatest weakness centers around the fact that I hate confrontation and have found myself compromising my position on a subject in order to keep the peace. This can create a problem; especially in (**name of industry**) environments because there are times when you have to tell people something they don’t want to hear. I’ve been working hard to overcome it. I’ve been practicing being more assertive without coming across as difficult. In the spirit of fairness, I take the time to listen to each set of ideas and focus my words or criticisms in a way that ensures they are constructive and I’m able to offer actual solutions and not just a compromise to keep the peace.

Why do you want to (or did you) leave your current job?

Do not, under any circumstances, complain or speak negatively about your last job or the people there. I don’t care if you walked into the office one day and they were having a burning party with the stuff from your desk. The plain truth is that you’ll usually do better in a job search if you’re currently employed. New employers will want to know that you’re not some job hopper that leaves on a whim.

I am very excited about this new and exciting opportunity. Frankly, I wasn’t even looking for new employment, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to come talk to you about this position as it is more aligned with my career goals and dream job.

What are your salary expectations?

While my research shows that this position should average an annual salary of (**look at salary.com**), the actual dollar amount I seek is negotiable. I understand that “salary” is made up of many variables and is only a part of the compensation package I’ll receive in my position as (**name of position**). My experience, education, knowledge, hard skills and soft skills indicate that I am well worth the compensation package that will be offered.

(Alternatively) Please provide your desired hourly rate?

Sadly, my research shows that Transition Care Coordinators in New York are paid about 5% below the national average of $40,000. With that said, the Louisiana average is right at $38,500 per year which mathematically breaks down to $18.60 per hour at 40 hours per week. Of course, compensation (and use the word “compensation” specifically) isn’t all about dollars and cents. The job description didn’t really indicate what type of compensation you all are offering, only that the position is full time. How do you break down compensation? ß Ask them this.

This “what is your desired hourly rate?” question can be tricky. If you’ll notice, you didn’t actually answer the question. You just said what the average is and then put it back on them. That’s the main idea here, but don’t bring up salary unless they do.

Tell me about a time when…

STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result

Situation: (Run Previous Office as Paperless Environment)

My previous office was run as a paperless environment. It makes prioritizing and organizing far easier. My current boss had hardly anything in an electronic format. His belief was that if he could put his hand on the paper, he wouldn’t lose it. As such, he was very resistant to even use the scanner on the printer to scan and email the completed documents to customers. He wanted to snail mail them.

Task: (Never assume someone is being difficult, actively listen to get to the bottom of the issue)

After spending some time talking with him, I learned that he had a time when he lost all his documents, contracts, some office photos, and saved emails because his laptop was stolen. There was nothing anyone could do to recover the lost data because there were no backups. By taking the time to actively listen to the reason for his resistance and resultant disagreement with me, I learned the reasoning behind it.

Action: (Teach don’t preach)

While it did take some of my time, I taught my boss how to back his data up to the cloud and taught him about web-based storage (like DropBox, for example). so that if his laptop was stolen again, he wouldn’t lose everything. I showed him that not only could he access his cloud account from his phone, but also from any computer anywhere. Admittedly, there was some frustration in the beginning of this journey because he simply didn’t understand the concept of cloud storage.

Result: (He is now running his business and his home as a paperless environment)

However, once the light bulb came on and he began to understand the concept, he started asking what else he could back up to the cloud. By not assuming he was only being difficult, by taking the time to actively listen, and by demonstrating things that were relevant to him, I was able to not only resolve the disagreement but change his mind completely. One of the problems in today’s world is that people don’t listen to each other. It’s said that no one listens to hear, they listen to respond. It isn’t my goal to just have the next best thing to say, it is my goal to listen so that an understanding can be reached, and the issue resolved.

How do you handle stress and pressure?

Set goals – SMART: Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely

First, I would stop. Sometimes, stepping back and looking at the big picture helps to demonstrate the path of the project. It is so easy to get tunnel vision. I would call a team meeting in order to get us back on track to the predetermined goals of the project. I would ask for a status update. Once I know the track of the project and find the hurdle that we’re having a hard time getting across, we can re-evaluate the schedule and goals, do a course correction and move forward.

The best way to handle stress is by setting the right priorities or goals. It can be easy to get overwhelmed. This is where my focus on the details will come in handy. I’ve also become very good at thinking on my feet and assessing situations quickly to come up with fast solutions. Additionally, being highly organized helps me to keep up with demanding deadlines and having a resilient personality means I can accept criticism when it is necessary to make improvements for myself.

What are your goals for the future? (Where do you see yourself in 5 years?)

I’ve often set goals for myself to be at a certain place in life at a certain time. Ultimately, I don’t seem to end up exactly where I think I’ll be. Usually I’m a little better off than the goal I set. The only true way to answer this question about the future is to look at my past. If you had asked me this question 5 years ago to try to find out where I’d be today, I would’ve said….

So, while I would tell you that I’d like to be a department head or a team leader, I understand that I may be in a different place. I will work hard to achieve whatever goal I set, but I’m flexible and adaptable enough to do a course correction, if necessary. And I guarantee you this; I will do my best in this role and try my best to have a wonderful career at (**name of company**). When the time comes, I will assume more leadership roles, hopefully easing some of your intense workload.

No matter how you answer the questions, always incorporate how you’ll be able to help the company in your answer. They’ll be thinking, “What does all of this mean for me” every time you speak.

Good luck!