17 most common interview questions and answers

Last updated: July 20, 2024
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Heath Alva
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17 most common interview questions and answers
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You’ve made it. After hours spent putting a killer resume together, tens of cover letters written, and a bunch of job listings applied for, you’ve landed yourself an interview.


It’s not over yet, though. You still need to wow your potential employer during the interview.

While there are a few things you can do to really nail this (which you can read about in this article about getting prepared for an interview), the biggest by far is being prepared for the questions you’re likely to face.

In this article, we’re going to cover the 17 most common questions that interviewers ask, and how to answer them. We’ll also throw in a few bonus questions that you can bring to the table during an interview.

Let’s get started.

1. Tell me about yourself

Why do interviewers ask this question?

This is usually one of the first questions that hiring managers ask. It’s a good way to kick off the conversation in a nice, light manner, with little pressure on you as the interviewee to come up with a concise or detailed answer. It also helps them to understand how you view yourself, and what you consider to be your most important attributes.

How to answer this question

You should aim to answer this question by discussing your work ethic and how you succeed in a work environment. I’s okay to also talk about who you are as a person outside of work. Just make sure that you tie your hobbies and interests to skills that will help you succeed in the role.

Here's more info on how to answer the "Tell me about yourself questions in an interview.

2. What is your greatest strength?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

This is one of the most commonly asked job interview questions, because it gives the interviewer a sense of what you can bring to the table, as well as how you view yourself.

How to answer this question

You’re quite likely to be asked this question, which means you can easily prepare for it. The best answer to this question is one that is true, and that you can back up with a factual statement or anecdote.

For example, if you believe your greatest strength is problem-solving, you can say something along the lines of:

“I’d say my greatest strength is problem-solving. For example, in my current role, my colleagues often come to me to help them fix machinery when it isn’t operating correctly”

3. What is your greatest weakness?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

The reason this question is often asked during the interview process is to get an understanding of your self-awareness. That is, are you aware of your own limitations, and are you working towards improving upon them?

What not to say

You’ve probably heard of some common answers to this question, such as:

The idea here is that you turn your weakness into a strength.

The thing is, interviews have heard this about a thousand times now, so it’s really not that effective.

What to say instead

The truth is this:

We all have weaknesses.

Rather than trying to frame your weakness as a strength and sound like the perfect candidate, show a bit of humility and modesty, and actually describe a weakness you have that you’re aware of. More than that, though, go on to explain how you’re working on that weakness.

For example, you could say:

“My biggest weakness is that I really struggle with keeping up to date with new computer software. Every time my son comes around for dinner, I have a list of things I ask him to teach me, so that I’m always learning.”

4. Why should we hire you over all other candidates?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

Of course, they’re trying to figure out if you’re the ideal candidate for the job, but they’re also looking to see how well you understand the requirements of the job. Because, of course, to explain why you’re the best fit for the job, you need to know what the job is all about!

How to answer this question

Be prepared to answer this question by getting a strong understanding of the key requirements of this role. You’ll probably find this in the job ad, but you can always call a recruiter in advance and say something like:

“I’m looking at applying for this role, and I’m wondering what attributes the hiring manager is looking for in an applicant?”

5. How did you find out about this job vacancy?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

Mostly, they’re assessing which channels are working best for attracting candidates.

How to answer this question

You don’t need to go into too much detail with this question.

Just answer it honestly and concisely:

“I came across the job ad when I did a jobs near me search on Jobcase."

6. Why do you want this position?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

This one is quite straightforward; the interview wants to know why you are interested in this job, and why out of all the ads you’ve come across in your job search, you decided to apply for this one.

What not to say

Don’t answer with something like, “Because I need to pay my rent”.

What to say instead

Try to link the job to your wider career path goals.

For example, if you’re hoping to become a construction supervisor in the future, tell the interviewer why you feel that this position gives you an opportunity to reach this goal than your last job.

For three more example answers to the interview question "Why do you want to work here?".

7. Why did you/do you want to leave your current job?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

They’re looking to find out which circumstances make you want to leave a job.

If those circumstances might exist in their own company (for example, having to work weekends), then you might not be a good fit in the first place.

What not to say

Try not to answer this question negatively, such as:

  • Because I hate my co-workers

  • Because the pay is terrible

  • Because I hate working weekends

What to say instead

Even if these are the reasons, you can put a positive spin on them. For example:

  • Because I’m looking for a job with a company culture that is more aligned with my own values

  • I’m in an entry-level position at my current company, and the prospects to increase my pay aren’t very good

  • The hours my current employer needs me to work no longer fit well with my lifestyle.

8. What are your salary expectations?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

The hiring manager will have a budget to work with, and they want to make sure that your expectations are within that budget.

How to answer this question

It’s a good idea to give an expected salary range here.

You can check out a site like PayScale to find out the average salary for a given position in your area, so you know what’s reasonable to ask for.

For example, if you know the average salary is $20k per year, you might say:

“Based on my experience and skills, I’m looking for $20-25k per year.”

9. How do you handle stress?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

All jobs get stressful from time to time.

This doesn’t mean that they are expecting you to be stressed, but more that they want to gain an understanding of how you might handle stressful situations.

How to answer this question

While you’re doing your interview preparation, think about the last few times you got stressed out at work.

Then, try to figure out how you coped with that stress, how you handled the situation at hand, and then how you reduced your stress levels.

Explaining that real-life situation as it happened is the best way to answer this question.

10. Do you have any goals for the future? What do they look like?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

In an ideal world, the best candidate will have future goals that the job can help them work toward.

For example, if your dream is to become a commercial construction manager, and this role offers that progression as a career path, you could be the perfect fit.

What not to say

Whatever you say, don’t say no. Even if you don’t have any great big goals that you’re working toward, you can still answer this question more positively.

What to say instead

If you have long-term goals, tell the recruiter what they are, and try to explain how this job fits into that bigger picture.

If you don’t feel that you have any future goals planned out, you can answer the question like this:

“At the moment, I’m in a place where I’ve achieved the goals I had planned out, and I’m in a phase of planning out some new ones.”

Of course, it’s best to have at least a couple of goals to discuss, so if you’ve yet to put anything down on paper, check out our guide on writing SMART goals.

11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

This is similar to the “what are your long-term goals question”, except a little bit more specific.

The reason five years is chosen, apart from it being a nice round number, is that employees stay in a job for an average of 4.6 years. So, by asking where you see yourself in 5 years, the interviewer is actually asking, “will this job help you get from point A to point B?”

How to answer

Again, there is no wrong answer here, but it’s best to answer by covering:

  • Some short-term goals you hope to have achieved

  • The role you see yourself being in

  • Long-term goals you may have partially worked towards

  • Personal development (such as gaining new skills or experiences from the job you’re applying for)

12. What makes you unique?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

Managers aren’t just looking to find a candidate who ticks the qualification boxes on the job description; they’re looking to hire an actual person, with unique characteristics.

So, they want to know who you really are, and what is special about you!

What not to say

In this case, you don’t want to answer by giving a characteristic that is expected, so don’t mention something that’s part of the candidate expectations in the job ad.

What to say instead

Prepare for this question by asking some friends, colleagues, and managers what makes you unique, and what makes you valuable as an employee.

Try to find something that will help you stand out from the other candidates, but make sure to keep it job-focused.

Are you the person that your friends always call when they need help? If so, you’re answer could be:

“I’m the one in my friends’ group that everyone turns to when something unexpected happens. They know I can keep a level head and react quickly and calmly, even in a stressful situation, and that they can count on me when things get tough.”

13. Tell me about something that's not on your resume

Why do interviewers ask this question?

This is a question that interviewers ask all the time.

Often, the intention is to catch you off-guard, and to see how you handle thinking on your feet.

How to answer

You can answer this question in one of two ways.

The first is to describe something that you’re interested in personally, which can be quite endearing and build a personal rapport. But, as with any time you mention something personal, make sure you tie it back to how it positively impacts your work.

For example:

“I go hiking in the mountains every Sunday with my dog; the exercise and fresh air help me clear my head and puts me in a great mood to start the work week off strong.”

The other option is to describe a specific quality you have in the workplace, and then give an example.

For example, you might describe yourself as a team player, and then describe a situation in which you worked toward the betterment of the team as a whole, possibly even sacrificing your own benefit to do so.

14. How would your colleagues describe you?

Why do interviewers ask this question?

Interviewers ask this question to see if you’re aware of how others perceive you, and your actions in the workplace.

How to prepare

This is a pretty common interview question, so you should prepare to answer by asking your current or past colleagues about their impressions of you as a workmate.

15. Tell me about your biggest professional accomplishment

Why do interviews ask this question?

Mostly, they’re interested in how aware you are of your achievements, and are also trying to get a gauge of how you respond to success.

How to prepare

Before your interview, take a look at the qualities they are looking for in a new hire, and try to identify a time you’ve accomplished something in the workplace that demonstrates that quality.

For example, if they’re looking for someone who is self-motivated, talk about a time where you showed initiative, came up with a solution, and put it into practice.

16. What motivates you?

Why do interviews ask this question?

It’s important for managers to be able to motivate their workers, so they want to know what makes you tick.

They also want to know if you know what that is!

How to answer

Just tell them what it is. There’s no wrong answer here.

If you’re motivated by helping people, great. If you’re motivated by money (and you’re applying for a sales role, great.

It’s a good idea to be truthful, because if your motivation style doesn’t fit with their management style or workplace culture, then you want to know upfront that things aren’t going to work out.

17. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Why do interviews ask this question?

Employees aren’t robots, and employers know that you’re going to have interests outside of work.

This helps them to build a bigger picture of you as a person, and what might motivate you outside of work.

How to answer

Again, you can simply answer this one directly and truthfully.

Try not to say something like, “Umm, I don’t know,” and keep your answer office appropriate (don’t say you like to drink and party all weekend.)

Prepare in advance by considering what you do over the weekend, and when you get home from work during the week.

Questions that you can ask your interviewer

It’s always a good idea to have a few questions up your sleeve to ask your interviewer.

99% of the time, they’ll finish up their question by asking:

“Do you have any questions for me?”

From their perspective, answering with “No” tells them you’re not that interested in the job, or that you’re just looking for a 9-5 to pay the bills.

Even if that is the case, you should still show interest by asking at least a couple of questions.

Here are some great examples to have prepared:

  • What traits are you looking for in a new member of the team?

  • If I’m successful, what will my first three months look like?

  • Can you tell me about the onboarding and induction process?

  • What are the company’s core values and goals for the next year?

  • Can you give me some insight into what your hiring process looks like?

Check out 25 more examples of questions to ask an interviewer.

Any questions?

As with all parts of the job search process, the key is to be prepared.

Go through each of these questions, and prepare answers.

Then, try practicing them with a trusted friend, family member, or mentor, until you feel comfortable answering them naturally.

That will have you best prepared for that next interview, so that you can go in with confidence!

Ready to start looking for a new job? Check out our job search here.



David Bailey
Bullet point

I'm actually a little worried about future interviews. I think it will come with experience.

Jared Bowerman
Bullet point
  1. Can you pass a drug screen?