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How to Answer 5 of the Most Common Job Interview Questions

This author works full-time as an office manager in a physical therapy clinic and part-time as a freelance writer.

Learn how to answer some of the most common interview questions.

Learn how to answer some of the most common interview questions.

Answering Job Interview Questions

You've submitted your application and have just gotten a call for an interview. How can you prepare to ace that job interview? One of the best job interview tips you can follow is to prepare for the questions you will be asked. You may not know exactly what to expect, but if you plan something to say for the most commonly asked job interview questions, you will be ahead of the game.

I worked with hiring applicants for over 10 years. Many of the positions were entry-level, but there were a few mid-level positions, too. I've also been on the other side of the table and been interviewed for several jobs. From my experience, these are five of the most popular questions in a job interview and what the employer expects to hear.

1. Tell Me About Yourself

This is a wide-open question that can be answered in a dozen different ways. You often get one of two extremes: the person who tells you their whole life story that has nothing to do with the job or the one who only tells you about their previous work experience.

It is hard to relax in a job interview, but this question is designed to help you do that. It is a question that allows the interviewer a chance to get to know you as a person. Will you fit in with the company? This is more than just qualifications, but personality and character. Answering this question should give them a glimpse into who you are besides an applicant.

In answering this question, mention one or two hobbies or an unusual tidbit about you. Maybe you have traveled to Africa or raised horses. This can give you a chance to be memorable and stand out from the countless other applicants. Make your answer personal to you.

At the same time, this is a job interview. Also mention something about your previous work experience, but do not make it a copy of your resume. Provide some detail that wasn't mentioned in your application that will also give some insight about your work experience. Maybe you led a team in an office competition for most sales in a month.

This question can be a great way to introduce yourself to your employer or recruiter. Plan ahead and use it to your advantage.

2. What Do You Know About Our Company?

I will never forget the first time I was asked this question in an interview. I stumbled through the answer and I don't remember what I said, but I never was caught unprepared again. Interviewers often ask this question to see how much you bothered to learn about the company. They want to know that you want to work for them, not just any job.

For entry-level positions, you could get by with stating the product or service the company provides and some very basic information. However, if you are looking for mid-to senior-level employment, you should know something about the place you would like to work. You should read their mission statement and any news about the company that you can find. Since most businesses have some kind of website, you can often find all you need from there. If not, do a search to see where they have been mentioned.

On the other hand, you don't want to sound like an encyclopedia that has rehearsed the information. Choose a few things that are important or relevant to you. For instance, if you like to work with kids and they hold a fundraiser for a children's hospital, mention that. It will show that you have done some research and that you would fit in with the company.

3. What Are Your Strengths?

This is a question that a lot of people dread. However, the purpose of interviewers to ask it is to see how well you can sell yourself. Basically, they are asking you why they should hire you. Your answer should tell them and provide points to support that.

First, select several strengths that you have that are applicable to the position you have applied for. If you are looking at sales, mention that you are outgoing and that you like people. For data entry, being detail-oriented is a good strength to have. You only need two or three to list.

Second, provide examples of how you embody that trait. Just saying you are detail-oriented doesn't mean much unless you add that you entered a thousand clients into a new database at your last job.

4. What Are Your Weaknesses?

Even more people dislike this question and many feel that it is unnecessary. Would anyone even name a weakness that they think would keep them from getting the job? This question is more about gaining insight into you than one particular weakness. Many candidates do not know how to answer this question and they often just give a lame character trait that has nothing to do with work.

You have two choices. One option is to name a weakness that can also be a strength in the right setting. Perfectionism could also mean detailed, a workaholic is also dedicated to their job. You can choose to mention something that you know will be appreciated by the employer.

The second option is to be truthful about a weakness you have and mention how you are improving in that area. Maybe you struggle with multitasking but you have learned to write a list for the day so you don't forget a task. It could be that you forget to update people on what you are doing, so you have started putting a reminder in your calendar.

No one is expected to be perfect; you just have to show that you recognize your faults and are striving to do better. Personally, I like the second option better since it makes the person sound more sincere.

5. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

This is a question that can be trickier to answer than you might think. The interviewer is looking to see if you will still be with them in five years because it is expensive to hire and train someone that will be moving on. However, you also don't want to lie and say what you think they want to hear just to get the job. The job should be a good fit for both of you.

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The interviewer is looking to see what your long-term goals are. Do you want to advance and work your way up to vice-president? Or are you more concerned with job security and having a low-stress career? How good these answers are will depend a lot on the company. If you are interviewing for a company with 15 employees, saying you want to advance in five years may not score you any points. Where is there to go in the company? On the other hand, if you are going for a sales position in a company with 30 or 40 salespeople, saying you just want to keep your same job may be seen as a negative.

Once again, it comes down to researching the company and trying to figure out their needs and how you can meet them.

You Can Ace That Interview!

You always want to be honest in an interview, with yourself and with the interviewer. However, there are certain ways to answer the questions that are honest and beneficial to you. Many mistakes are made because the candidate did not know what to say and just spoke the first thing that popped into their head. In the end, it wasn't what they meant either, but it was too late to take it back.

By taking the time to plan what you want to convey to the interviewer, you will be more likely to have a successful interview.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Mark on May 28, 2019:

Thank u so much for this helps me a lot

Reena Dhiman on October 08, 2015:

Thanks for answers to all interview questions, All questions are generally asked in every interview so it can be very helpful for all job seekers.

greeneyedblondie on April 08, 2014:

I have a teacher in my school that talks a lot of these questions when going on a job interview. She says to make sure you say your TRUE weaknesses. She used to hire teachers and she knew people who would say something like, "I don't have any weaknesses" or give a fake one that doesn't matter. I think they would want to know weaknesses to see where you can grow as an employee and person.

jm72writes (author) from Missouri on April 17, 2012:

I was writing this article for the applicant, not the hiring manager. These are questions that are often asked in job interviews, especially for entry level positions. My goal was to provide some tips to candidates on how best to answer them. Many of the other questions that are asked in an interview are specific to the job, but these are general, which is why they show up on most lists for practice interviews.

Brad Masters from Southern California on April 17, 2012:

As a hiring manager, these questions are not helpful to picking the right candidate.


jm72writes (author) from Missouri on April 17, 2012:

Thank you! I know interviewing for a job can be a stressful event, but if you have an idea of what you want to say, you will feel more confident. It's amazing what some people will say though and not realize what others think about it.

emilybee on April 17, 2012:

This is a very useful hub. I always don't like the question about what my weaknesses are. But I like the ideas you mention in ways of answering it. The 'where you see yourself in 5 years' is a great question of employers. Recently I heard someone ask that question, liked the applicants response and told them that they ask that because one time they asked it and were told by the interviewee they planned to move across country in 5 years. They didn't get the job-it indicated they weren't serious about the position and their loyalty. Very useful-sharing and voted up.

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