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5 common interview questions — and how to answer them

Michael Kingston, freelancer | February 17, 2014


Here are five of the most common interview questions, as well as what the employer is looking for in your response.

An essential part of interview preparation is formulating answers to specific questions. And there are some standard questions that frequently come up during an interview. Here are five of the most common interview questions, as well as what the employer is looking for in your response.

1. Tell me about yourself
This is the most predictable yet sometimes the most frustrating of all interview questions. The interviewer has a copy of your résumé in front of her so why ask the question? This is simply your opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light.

For best results:

  • Focus on three or four areas within your résumé that are relevant to the job opening.
  • Be concise. Limit your moment in the spotlight to two or three minutes maximum.
  • Show enthusiasm. Hiring managers love a genuinely interested candidate.
  • Don’t get personal. Focus solely on your professional achievements.

2. What do you know about the company?
A vital element to interview preparation is researching the company, including its background, structure and current industry trends. Employers are most impressed by candidates who have taken the time to thoroughly investigate their brand. To stand out from the competition, always check current press releases or company updates on the morning of your interview to reiterate your enthusiasm and interest in the role.

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This is another favorite from the lineup of interview questions and answers. Responding to the strengths element of this question should be relatively straightforward if you have thoroughly analyzed the job posting and identified the key skills needed. By highlighting your personal strengths that most closely match the company’s needs, you are emphasizing your suitability for the role. When it comes to weaknesses, restrict it to just one. It’s not a trick question; everyone has weaknesses. The key is to demonstrate your willingness to work on improving them. Admitting to a weakness also shows a level of self-awareness.

4. Why do you want to leave your current position?/Why do you want this job?
Most candidates typically respond to this question by outlining what benefits they will gain from accepting a particular job. The employer ideally wants to know not only what the company can do for you but what you can do for the company. What aspects of your qualifications and experience will add value to the organization if you are offered this job? If you are currently employed but miserable in your present role, it is essential to focus on the benefits of joining the employer, rather than how terrible your predicament is. A negative attitude is one of the principal reasons that new employees fail to succeed in a new job.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Unless you’ve been peering into your crystal ball recently, it’s impossible to give an accurate answer to this question. What the employer is looking for is an indication of long-term commitment. If you are the preferred candidate, will their investment pay off? Your response should imply that you intend to stick around and grow your career with the company. You may also want to turn the tables and ask the hiring manager where she sees the company in five years’ time.

Michael Kingston is a top industry hiring manager with over 18 years of experience. He is also the author of the best-selling Pass The Job Interview guide.