An interview is an integral part of the hiring process, and you need to be prepared in order to impress your potential employer. You will never know exactly what they will ask you until you get there, but most interviewers have a set of common questions that help them filter out those who are not suited for the position. These questions are relatively general, so they are appropriate for any job in any industry, and you should come prepared to answer them in your interview.
In this article, we take a look at some common interview questions and the best way to answer them.
Here are some general questions that help an interviewer understand your personality and interests:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What were your duties and responsibilities in your last job?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What are you passionate about?
- Why are you interested in this role?
- How do you work under pressure?
- What do you know about our company?
- What is your definition of success?
- Why are you changing careers?
- Why are you the right person for this position?
Questions about experience and background
These are slightly more specific questions that an interviewer uses to assess your suitability for the job:
- How does your previous experience prepare you for this job?
- What did you like or dislike about your previous job?
- What made you leave your previous position?
- How do you handle stress at work?
- What specific skills did you acquire from your last job?
- Describe an important project you worked on in the past.
- Describe a time when you disagreed with your manager.
- How did you handle irate or angry customers?
- Tell me about a time when your work was criticised.
- Describe your worst day at work. What did you learn from that experience?
Here are some more thought-provoking questions that help the interviewer understand what you have accomplished and whether you would be a good fit for their company:
- Tell me about your biggest accomplishment on the job.
- If you found out your superior was into fraudulent activities, what would you do?
- What was your most challenging assignment, and how did you handle it?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- How do you handle workplace conflict?
- How will you contribute to our company?
- What type of culture are you looking for from your next company?
- What are you hoping to gain from this position?
- What do you think our company could do better or differently?
Sample interview questions and answers
Doing research and rehearsing answers to some general questions that an employer might ask you can give you a tremendous advantage in an interview. Here are some tips with sample answers to questions that you might hear during your interview.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Instead of sharing your life story, respond to this question by talking about the key aspects of your career. Answer in a way that makes you appear to be the best fit for the position and shows how you can add value to the company.
Example: 'I started my career in retail management, but a few years ago, I moved into the medical field. I have always been good at bringing people together, leading teams and successfully managing stores, so I decided to seek a career in administration. For the last five years, I have been building a career as a disciplined health administrator.'
2. What is your biggest weakness?
Consider answering this question by confessing to a weakness that has nothing to do with the job you applied for. For example, if you're applying for a nursing job, owning up to the fact that you are not good at making presentations is honest while not having a big impact on your ability to succeed as a nurse.
Example: 'Working with numbers has always been my weakness. Fortunately, as a graphic designer, this has not hindered my ability to focus on the creative processes involved in my job.'
3. What are your strengths?
Interviewers usually ask this question to judge your abilities and whether they align with the job responsibilities and needs of the company. The best way to respond is to describe the strongest skills you have that directly correlate with the position you are applying for.
Example: 'Having a knack for customer service and resolving potentially difficult situations boosted my career as a customer service representative. I have also worked hard to develop strong communication skills. In my six years of experience, I was recognised as the best service representative for four years and then promoted to team leader.'
4. Why do you want to work here?
A simple question like this allows the interviewer to judge your aspirations and expectations for the job and the company. An impactful answer would have you speak about the employer's reputation, the company's brand value and the conducive working environment for building a career.
Example: 'I have worked as an oral hygienist in a children's dental clinic for five years. Not only am I experienced, but working for your reputed clinic, which helps children, would enable me to continue to put my skills to use for the type of work I enjoy best.'
5. Tell me how you overcame a difficult situation at work.
The best way to answer this behavioural question is to use the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Discuss the challenging situation you had to resolve, the task you needed to accomplish and the actions you took. After that, emphasise the results you achieved.
Example: '**During a difficult financial period, I negotiated repayment schedules with several suppliers. I resorted to a barter system with a payment plan, which worked for the suppliers and the company while keeping the revenue flowing. The business trust we built with the suppliers over the years proved very helpful. It made me realise the value of customer relationships.'
6. What made you leave your previous position?
Interviewers use this kind of question to examine your previous job experience and your attitude toward work, as well as to gauge what you expect from the position with their company. The best way to answer is to remain positive and admit that you are seeking change and career advancement without showing any bitterness toward your previous employer or job.
Example: 'After graduating, I got a job with Lo'Hao International. Working with their creative team and learning about digital marketing was very exciting. However, after four years of experience, I think I'm ready to handle a managerial position. As a smaller company, Lo'Hao had limitations. On the job, I completed a marketing management course, so I believe that I can be an efficient digital marketing manager with your company.'
7. What are your salary expectations?
Interviewers ask this question to determine whether or not they can afford your services. It also reveals how much you value yourself and your work. You could be eliminated if the interviewer feels that the salary expectation is beyond the company's range or your competencies. Prepare yourself by doing some research about the average salaries in your specific position.
Example: 'Most d**igital marketing managers here in Singapore earn an average of S$110,00 per year, and I earned S$105,000 last year. For my experience, I would certainly welcome a salary of over S$110,000, but I am open to negotiation.'
8. How do you handle stress at work?
The interviewer asks a question like this to judge your experience in handling stressful conditions in the workplace. Respond by discussing your positive actions rather than your negative feelings when stressed.
Example: 'I'm able to stay calm when I think of the bigger picture—'what is the ultimate goal I'm trying to achieve?'—and then break down my projects into smaller tasks. Even if a big project is due tomorrow, I ask myself, ‘What's something I can tackle in the next 30 minutes?' Before I know it, I've made significant progress on my list of action items and that impossible project doesn't seem so impossible anymore.'
9. Tell me about your biggest accomplishment on the job.
Interviewers usually ask this question to learn about your proven abilities. They are interested in evaluating your accomplishments, work ethic and core values. In your response, consider mentioning an instance where your company faced a problem that you solved. Discuss how your timely intervention helped save money and preserve their reputation.
Example: 'In my previous job, our technology development team lost a member due to relocation. She was the lead developer for the iOS version of the application, and nobody else on the team had experience developing iOS applications. However, I did have some experience, so I volunteered and was able to develop the application successfully. It was released three days ahead of the target date. Our company saved its reputation and also added another revenue stream.'
10. What are your future goals?
This question allows the interviewer to determine whether you plan to remain with the company or move on as soon as you get a better opportunity. Keep your response focused on the company and the job, and emphasise that the position aligns with your long-term goals.
Example: 'I prefer stability in my life, so I'm looking for a job that I can hold for the long term, where I can become a valued worker and advance to positions of increasing responsibility and authority. The teller job here at ChungMi Credit Union, with its internal training program, would enable me to become a branch manager once I have proven my skills in team leadership and customer service.'