How to answer the 5 most common job interview questions

How to answer the 5 most common job interview questions

Two women seated at a desk conducting a job interview

You will never know what questions you’re going to be asked in a job interview. However, you can still prepare a few answers in advanced to some of the most commonly asked.

Although the questions we’ve chosen here may not all be asked, we are quite confident that most of them will. So to help you get ahead and stay confident in the interview, here are the 5 most common questions and how to answer them.

Can you please tell me a little about yourself?

“Tell me about yourself” is more than a throwaway opener for most interviewers. When hiring managers pose this open-ended question they’re hoping candidates will give them some insight as to why they think they’re a good fit for the job.” | Robert Half

This is often asked by the interview to help settle your nerves and begin to build up a rapport. However, it is also a great way to get to know your personality and see where your focus lies.

You may be tempted to delve straight into how amazing your qualifications are; how many skills you have and the years of experience – but we would advise to save most of this for later. Begin by giving a brief explanation as to what attracted you to the role. Pay a few compliments about the company and focus on why you love what you do.

Finally, give a brief summary of your background and what you have to offer. Don’t go into too much detail as the employer would prefer to ask about those topics later. You also don’t have to talk completely about work. You can discuss the weather and your journey here, and even about your hobbies or family life.

What do you know about the company?

“Just as you conducted research into the company before you wrote your CV, you need to look at the Company forensically before the interview. If you really want this job, you’ll know the company inside out, from their financials and their marketing strategy to their key personnel and interview process.” | Martin Carline, CV Template Master

This is where your extensive research comes in – and if you haven’t done any, then now is the time!

The employer wants to know that you are truly interested in the role and the company. The only way you can show that is by knowing as much about the business and the industry as possible. You can do this by spending time online reading about the company. Another great place to visit is their social media sites.

If the role or industry is new to you, then it would be even more important to swot up before you attend the interview. The employer will be more impressed if they can see that you are new to the role. It will show that you are able to take the initiative and work hard to achieve your goals.

Going in to the interview with little knowledge of the business will typically result in rejection. The employer will politely continue with the interview, but your chances of being hired are pretty much already over. It really is that important!

Why did you apply for this job?

The interviewer asks this question to find out more about your career goals and how this position fits into your plan. They want to make sure that you are sincerely interested in the job and will be motivated to perform if hired. In addition, they want to know what you know about the company, industry, position (and if you took the time to research), and to understand your priorities and preferences — which aspects of the company and/or job are appealing to you and why? | Pamela Skillings, Big Interview

‘Passion’ is the word that sums this up perfectly. The hiring manager wants to know that you are actually passionate about the role, and not just interested in the money or staying for a few months.

Most companies are looking for longevity, commitment, passion and dedication. In your answer you need to focus upon those aspects. Let them know you are interested by picking on certain aspects of the role and the company. Your answer is more likely to be believable if you are specific. For example, if you were applying for a customer service role you could say how much you enjoy speaking with customers and helping them.

Why should we hire you?

“Basically, you want to get across that he or she will get a enthusiastic employee who has the exact right skill set for the position and that you’ll get to—and therefore look forward to and be motivated to—do something meaningful, build your skills, and work toward the next step of your career.” | Lily Zhang, The Muse

This is a very direct and often difficult question to answer. But don’t be afraid to hit this question head on with a confident answer. Focus upon three things to impress:

  • The skills, qualifications and experience you have to offer
  • Your past performances – proven track record
  • How you will fit in with the team and the company’s culture

With the first point above, try to focus upon specific aspects. Do not give a generalised and sweepings statement. We know that your marketing degree with help you to perform well in a marketing role. Instead, look at your credentials and give them a direct correlation between the role and what you have to offer.

The second point again needs to be relevant. Try to give examples of your achievements that the employer can see would work for them – certain advertising campaigns or marketing strategies that could be used in their company.

The third and final point is just as important as the other two. You want to give the employer a sense that you will fit into the team nicely. During the course of the interview try to figure out what type of company they are. Often the manager will display the culture of the company, so tweak your personality to suit. If there is anything in particular that you found out about the company before the interview, you could weave that into the conversation.

What are your weaknesses?

Answering this question correctly is about trying to find a balance between two wrong answers. For example, if you say this – ‘I am hopeless at meeting deadlines’ – you are going to look bad. Also, if you say this – ‘I can’t think of any weaknesses, I am perfect’ – you are going to come across as dishonest, over confident and arrogant.

Honesty is what the employer is looking for, so consider at least three genuine weaknesses before you enter the interview. Consider something which is a real weakness, but wouldn’t put the company in any real danger – or your job.

Here are three examples to consider:

I have a hard time trying to say no to more projects, which often means I take too much work on before finishing what I’m doing.

I lack a little experience in…

I always meet my deadlines but sometimes panic as they get closer.

Finally, the most important part to this question is letting the interviewer know what you’re doing to improve upon your weaknesses. So close out each one of your answers with your development. For example, you could say:

I am now trying to manage my time much better and keep a track of my workload. This will help me to know how much time I have available, and will ensure I complete my current tasks before moving onto the next project.

Here are some more common interview questions from Niharika, a trainer at

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