10 Common Job Interview Questions And How To Answer Them

As Seen In

logo of wsj
logo of wsj
logo of business-insider
logo of business-insider
logo of cnn
logo of cnn
logo of fatherly
logo of fatherly
logo of nbc
logo of nbc

Table Of Contents

When you’re preparing for a job interview, it’s a good idea to practice answering common interview questions. These are popular with hiring managers for good reason: covering everything from your educational background and professional experience to your long-term career goals and preferred work environment, common job interview questions provide a clear picture of who you are and what you can do for an organization.

Are you ready to land a new job? If so, check out ZipRecruiter! ZipRecruiter is free to use and you can apply for jobs with a single click. It’s also super easy to search for jobs based on location, job type, salary and more.

get started with ziprecruiter

10 Common Interview Questions And How To Answer Them 

Here are some of the interview questions you’re likely to hear during your next conversation with a hiring manager.

Tell me about yourself.

Open-ended questions like these can be daunting–or they can be an opportunity to provide insight beyond your resume. Practice your elevator pitch until you’re able to summarize your skills, qualifications, and goals in a minute or two, and remember to contextualize your strengths in the terms of what you’d bring to the role.

Sample answer:

“I’m a recent graduate of State University with a major in English and a minor in Computer Science. During my time at State U, I completed several internships in content marketing departments at various agencies and websites. I have a passion for helping brands develop their voice and tell their story. My portfolio shows examples of several projects I’ve worked on, including viral Tiktok marketing campaigns, an award-winning blog, and multiple case studies.

For more information, check out our guide on how to answer “tell me something about yourself.”

What do you know about this organization?

The worst answer to this question is no answer. The hiring manager who asks this question wants to know if you’ve done your research on the organization and if the company’s work and goals resonate with you.

Sample answer:

“I’m a big fan of Acme Corp and use your products almost every day. I’ve actually had an Indeed alert for your company for quite some time and was excited when I saw the listing for Director of Roadrunner Disposal Operations. I’d love to talk about how my experience in trap design and fake tunnel painting can help Acme achieve its goals.”

Why do you want this job?

You probably have multiple reasons for wanting this particular job, including the need to pay your bills. Focus on the reasons that will be most appealing to the hiring manager and be sure to tie your qualifications to your motivation. (Avoid the need for income. Even though that’s why most of us work, it won’t persuade the interviewer to hire you.)

Sample answer:

“I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use my graphic design degree and coding skills to help a non-profit organization really make a difference in the world. Most of my volunteer work has been with organizations that focus on ending world hunger, so I feel a strong connection with your mission. This seems like the perfect home for my interests and abilities.”

What’s your greatest strength/weakness?

You have many strengths (and yes, a few weaknesses, too). But when selecting strengths and weaknesses to focus on in job interviews, pay close attention to the job description for the role. If you’re applying for a sales position, for example, you might refer to strengths like customer service experience, conflict resolution, and communication skills.

If asked to name a weakness for the same role, you would want to avoid naming anything essential to the job–so don’t tell the hiring manager that you’re an introvert who prefers to work alone.

Whatever answer you choose, be honest. Don’t say that your weakness is that you care too much or that you’re a perfectionist. Do choose a weakness that you’ve worked on and have overcome.

Sample answer:

“My greatest weakness was a fear of public speaking–not something that’s likely to come up in an individual contributor role like this one, but something I decided I should overcome anyway. I joined Toastmasters and have grown to feel more comfortable speaking in front of an audience. It’s not something that’s necessary for my career, but I don’t like to feel like I’m making professional decisions out of fear. I’m very proud of my progress.”

Related: How To Talk About Your Weaknesses In A Job Interview

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Let’s be honest: most of us probably have no idea where we’ll be in five years. A lot depends on what life throws at you and how your goals evolve. But for the purposes of answering this question, pretend that things will go according to your current plan. Use your answer to share your professional goals and blueprint for fulfilling them.

Join The Break Community

Just make sure that your answer dovetails with the organization’s needs. For example, if you’re interviewing for a Registered Nurse job and you plan to go back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner, make sure that the hospital or clinic employs NPs. Otherwise, the hiring manager might fear that you’re planning to leave in a year or two.

Sample answer:

“I’d love to keep developing my translation skills and am currently working on bringing my Mandarin up to fluency level. My goal is to become an assigning manager for translation work, building on my experience as a managing editor at various publications.”

For a more information on how to answer this question, check out our guide on how to answer “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Tell me about a time when you experienced failure and how you coped with the situation.

Even the most successful people experience failure at some point in their careers. What makes them successful is what they do after they fail. Use this question to show that you’re resilient, able to take criticism, and prepared to turn challenges into success.

Sample answer:

“I didn’t get into my chosen academic program the first time I applied. I was sure my career was over at age 18, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. While securing tutoring for my second try, I realized that I loved teaching. I eventually got into my program but changed my emphasis to the education aspect. That early reversal turned out to be the foundation for my entire career.”

What’s your ideal work environment?

Answer this question honestly but pay attention to the work environment you see when you attend the interview. (Or, if your interview is virtual, use a resource like Glassdoor to read reviews of what it’s like to work at the company and keep that information in mind.)

For example, if you like to collaborate with team members, you might prefer an open-plan office to a cubicle setup.

Sample answer:

“I freelanced my way through school, so I’m very self-motivated and able to create my own schedule. A fully remote job is ideal for me because it enables me to be creative and work without interruption.”

Tell me about the best/worst boss you ever had.

This is a tricky question because you always want to avoid saying anything negative about a former manager or employer when you’re interviewing for a job. If you go negative about a former employer, the hiring manager might think that you’ll say the same thing about them at another job interview down the road.

If asked specifically about a bad boss, you might talk about how you learned to work with managers who have different communications styles or an extremely busy schedule, etc. Just be sure to put the focus on what you learned and on the positive outcome.

Sample answer:

“My toughest boss was my first manager early in my career. He was a very direct person with high standards who was working under a lot of pressure. The experience of working for him proved invaluable, however, as I learned how to take professional criticism well. He also elevated my standards for my own work, something I’ll always be grateful for.”

Why should we hire you?

This question can feel abrupt, but it’s a reminder that a job interview is no time to be bashful about touting your own abilities. Come to the interview prepared with a list of job duties from the listing and tie your skills and qualifications to the company’s greatest needs.

Sample answer:

“I’m an experienced seller who regularly exceeds my sales goal. I was named seller of the year three quarters running at my current job. Most importantly, I have expertise in the area that you’re expanding. I will be able to hit the ground running and close deals on my first day at work.”

For more information, check out our guide on how to answer “why should we hire you?”

Do you have any questions for me?

This question provides you with an opportunity to learn more about the job, company, department structure, company culture, and the next steps in the hiring process.

Sample answer:

“I’m excited about this opportunity and very interested in the job. Can you tell me what the next steps are in the hiring process?”

For more responses to this question, check out our guide that covers questions to ask in an interview.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What are the hardest interview questions to answer?

The hardest interview questions are those that take you by surprise. These may include behavioral interview questions, skills questions, or unusual questions meant to throw you off and test your creativity.

What are good interview questions to ask?  

The best interview questions for hiring managers to ask are those that allow the candidate to share their skills and abilities and how they relate to the job. The best interview questions for candidates to ask include those that shed more light on the job requirements, company culture, and expectations in the role.

What are behavioral interview questions? 

Behavioral interview questions are those that give hiring managers insight into how a candidate would behave in certain situations at work. This type of question attempts to predict future behavior based on past experience (or hypothetical actions).

What are some unique interview questions? 

Unique interview questions include those that are meant to throw candidates off their stride. These include questions like “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” or “If you could solve any problem facing the world, what problem would you choose and how would you accomplish it?”

The Bottom Line

Although you won’t be able to anticipate every query, having answers to typical questions will help you remember your most impressive skills, abilities, and qualifications–and that will come in handy no matter which questions the hiring manager chooses to ask.

Ready to put your interview skills to work and land your next job? Find opportunities near you using ZipRecruiter.