How to Prepare for the Most Common Interview Questions
Updated: Jan 28
Written by: The Job Transitions Team
Are you feeling nervous about an upcoming job interview? That's completely normal, but with a little preparation you can calm those nerves and give a confident performance. Here is a guide to some of the most common questions and what you can do to prepare for the interview.
"Tell me about yourself."
This is usually one of the first questions you'll be asked in an interview and it can be asked in many different ways. It's a broad question, so it's a good idea to have a well-prepared answer ready. Focus on your professional background and accomplishments, and keep the personal details to a minimum.
It's a good idea for every job seeker to create an Elevator Pitch about themselves as they prepare to enter the job market. Your Elevator Pitch is a one minute or less presentation about your strengths and interests that would be marketable to the position you're applying for. Think of it this way:
If you had one minute and one minute only (the time of a short elevator ride) to market yourself to the decision-maker, what would you say? It should be a nice mix of your job related points (experience) and the soft skills you bring to the table. The following is a good example:
“I have over three years of management experience in the retail industry, which has provided me the opportunity to develop excellent communication skills. For example, I'm responsible for facilitating and delivering training sessions to all new employees on company operations, values, and goals. Additionally, I'm bilingual in English and Spanish, which allows me to effectively communicate with a highly diverse base of clients and employees. I'm very detail-oriented, with excellent organizational skills. For example, I have extensive experience in collaborating with other functional departments to design and implement continuous improvement processes, which have enabled our company to exceed its annual revenue goals. In my spare time, I enjoy volunteering as an assistant coach for my daughters soccer team. Believe it or not, those can be very exciting games!”
Something like that. A nice mix of job related points and soft skills. Please note: It is important to prove your soft skills are correct (for example). Otherwise, you're just giving an opinion of yourself.
"Why do you want to work for this company?"
It's important to do your research on the company before the interview so you can speak knowledgeably about why you want to work there. Some points you might mention include the company's values, mission, and culture. You could also mention any specific products or services that you're excited about working on. Visiting the company website is a good place to start.
"What are your strengths?"
This is your opportunity to talk about what you're good at and how those strengths can benefit the company. It's a good idea to have a few specific examples ready to illustrate your points. Just be sure to avoid coming across as arrogant or overconfident. If you need help in identifying and prioritizing your strengths, visit this short podcast which will illustrate how to establish and prioritize your Points of Marketability.
"What are your weaknesses?"
This is a tough question, but it's important to be honest. No one is perfect, and it's okay to admit that you have weaknesses. Just be sure to frame your answer in a positive manner. The key is to mention how you're actively working on improving in those areas. For example, you might say something like, "I used to have a hard time speaking in front of large groups, but I've been taking public speaking courses to improve my confidence." This might seem difficult to do, but with a little bit of thought, I'm sure you can come up with a good example.
"Why should we hire you?"
Very similar to the “Tell me about yourself question” just asked in a different way. This is your chance to sell yourself and convince the interviewer that you're the best candidate for the job. You might mention your relevant experience, skills, achievements, and how they make you a strong fit for the position. You could also talk about your passion for the industry and your short and long-term goals.
"Tell me about a time when you faced a challenge and how you overcame it."
Employers want to see that you can handle challenges and come up with solutions. When answering this question, think of a specific example from your past where you faced a difficult situation and were able to come up with a successful resolution. Be sure to explain the steps you took to solve the problem. These types of questions are called Behavioral-Based interview questions. The interviewer wants the candidate to give a specific example of solving a problem, utilizing a soft skill, or achieving a goal. The following are other examples of Behavioral-Based questions:
“Tell me about a time when you had to use your leadership skills to meet a goal.”
“Tell me about a time when you had to work with a team to solve a problem or achieve a goal.”
“Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult employee. How did you manage the situation?”
Although it is difficult to predict the exact behavior-based questions the interviewer might ask, most companies include two or three soft skills in the specific job description. If you have a job description, that is a good place to start. Learn more about Behavioral-Based interviewing.
"How do you handle stress or pressure?"
It's important for employers to know that you can handle the pressures of the job. When answering this question, think of a specific example of a time when you were under a lot of stress and explain how you were able to stay calm and focused. You might mention techniques you use to manage stress, such as taking breaks, prioritizing tasks, or seeking support from colleagues.
"How do you handle conflict or disagreement with a coworker?"
Employers want to know that you can handle conflicts in a professional and productive manner. When answering this question, think of a specific example of a time when you had a disagreement with a coworker and explain how you were able to resolve it. Emphasize your ability to communicate effectively and find common ground.
"What are your short and long-term career goals?"
It's important for employers to know that you're committed to the company and have a clear vision for your future. When answering this question, think about where you see yourself in five years and how this job fits into your long-term goals. In addition, mention what you perceive to be your next move within the organization (short-term goal) as well. It is important to communicate that the job you are interviewing for right now meets your present short-term goal. Why else would you be interviewing with them if it wasn't meeting or at least has the potential to meet your current short-term career goal?
Preparing for common interview questions can help you feel more confident and give a stronger performance during your job interview. By familiarizing yourself with these questions and practicing your answers, you can show the employer that you're the best fit for the job.
If you're feeling unsure about your resume or your interview skills, consider scheduling a free resume review and consultation with Job Transitions, Inc. We can help you polish your resume, practice your interview skills, and increase your chances of landing your dream job. Don't let nervousness hold you back – take the first step toward your future career and schedule a consultation with Job Transitions today.