A Guide To Answering The 50 Most Common Interview Questions
While this article is about the most common interview questions you will face and how to be prepared for them,…
November 9, 2020 | 27 mins read
While this article is about the most common interview questions you will face and how to be prepared for them, it is also essential to understand why organizations conduct interviews. A careful study of the reasons will help you realize why it is incredibly critical to know how to handle interview questions.
Job interviews are an essential part of the selection and hiring process. An interview is a face-to-face verbal communication format for assessing the suitability of candidates. Increasingly it is also conducted on virtual platforms such as skype and zoom as well. Interview questions are an excellent way for an organization to shortlist the best candidates from a much larger pool of applicants. While applicants may possess similar qualifications and experience, a formal discussion can help bring to the fore qualities that may otherwise escape scrutiny
Let us look at some of the reasons why interviews are a critical part of the organizations’ recruitment process.
A well-conducted interview can benefit a company’s image through word of mouth. Even candidates who are not successful may promote a company by sharing their experience with excellent discussion during their interview.
Since an interview is usually an open-ended interaction, the format enables the interviewer to check a candidate’s presence of mind while answering questions. The answer’s speed and accuracy are also an excellent way to judge a candidate’s knowledge of the subject.
Unlike an objective type written test, interview questions are open and subjective. This allows for collecting additional details in the course of a discussion. Sometimes candidates warm up to specific conversations and can consciously or unconsciously share information useful for the interviewer to gauge the candidate’s suitability for the position.
Verbal interaction is instantaneous. To a keen observer, candidates’ articulation, tone, and manner bring their level of confidence, intellect, and knowledge to the fore. Certain types of jobs may require candidates to speak coherently without heavy accents. Only an interview can judge these capabilities.
Interview questions and answers provide the perfect platform for a seamless exchange of views and perspectives. This ensures that both interviewer and interviewee have the opportunity to state their mutual expectations. And because they receive immediate responses, they can seek clarifications on the spot. This ensures clarity of communication, clearing the path to move forward or terminate the process of recruitment.
Body language aids a lot in helping both parties observe and understand perspectives. A smile, the wave of a hand, or eye movement all account for a lot in strengthening spoken communication efficacy during basic interview questions.
Often, a candidate or an organization may want to avoid putting minor but essential aspects of their proposals in writing. Delicate matters may require a face to face affirmation. The phrase “speaking one’s mind” counts for a lot in an interview. Issues that may prove challenging to exchange in other ways of communicating.
More than giving the “right answers” to interview questions, it is vital to be aware of the overall qualities that potential employers are seeking in you. Communication skills, personality traits, analytical skills, behavioral traits, proper body language, professionalism, and attitude are usually the key attributes that interviewers look for in candidates.
Ensure that you also take time to practice and develop ways to present yourself well while preparing to face your interview questions. You should bring alive all of these qualities mentioned above in how you handle your interview. Keep in mind; it is not just answering that matters. Your interview is very much about how you come across as an individual.
This list is a comprehensive selection of topics that come up in most job interviews, and it is by no means exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order. Every interview will have a range of questions specific to the job on offer, dealing with subject matter expertise. However, this specific list only focuses on general interview questions and answers.
Kindly note that these answers are only to give you an idea of how to handle each question. They do not purport to provide you the best or perfect solutions. Do spend some time getting comfortable with these questions and answers, what hiring managers are looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right person for the job.
So, here are the 50 most frequent interview questions you could encounter in a job interview, and how you can answer them:
This is probably the most common among interview questions, usually posed right at the outset. It is also the question most of us are not entirely prepared for. While the question seems simple, it can set the stage for how comfortable you are during the rest of the interview. The important thing is to strike the right balance between explaining who you are as a person and about your chosen career.
You should be careful not to be understated, nor be boastful and overly dramatic. Begin with the present; add a bit of your past, and proceed to how you see your future. It certainly helps to be prepared, but you should sound conversational and not come across a memorized rendition.
While all the details about your education are already available on your resume, interviewers at times want to hear you explain it. This is especially true for candidates appearing for their first jobs. It is a test of your capability to articulate your student life and how involved you were with your academic life. Without getting into a laborious explanation about every detail, provide a concise summary beginning with your schooling, college degree, and other qualifications that you may possess. It may be a good idea to connect your stuff to the job you are seeking.
Begin by being truthful about how you came across the position, avoid making up stories to impress your interviewers. It may seem innocuous, but it presents the perfect opportunity to show your passion for and connection to the company. Share why you are so excited and what, specifically, caught your eye about the role. This will set the tone to answer the next most common question in an interview.
Avoid a generic answer! You can stand out by being specific to the company while responding to such interview questions. If what you say can apply to various other jobs and companies, you have lost the opportunity to make an individual mark. Therefore, this is why you need to research the company, its past, present, and future trajectory. Focus on the organization’s opportunities for future growth and how you can contribute to it.
Share your excitement of having heard about the many excellent opportunities to contribute (In circumstance you intend to refer to an existing employee of the company, make sure you have already received permission from the employee concerned to do so). Remember, if you don’t know why you want to work for the company or articulate your reasons well to basic interview questions, you will come across as ill-informed and not serious about the position.
These interview questions are a straightforward way to judge your level of preparedness and your genuine interest in the company you want to join. Avoid repetition of their press handouts. Be prepared with a summation of their business, ranking, product lines, and key competitors. Specifically, please talk about your understanding of your role and its contribution to the organization’s overall business.
This question is similar to the earlier question, but it is specific to the job you have applied for. It is a question that relates to your suitability for the job description. Companies want to hire people who are enthusiastic about the job, so you should have a clear answer about why you are a perfect match for the position. Identify the key factors that make the role a great fit for you. The question relates to the reasons you want this particular job in this specific company. So, you need to provide detailed justifications. Study the job description carefully and link your skills to it.
Among various interview questions, this may sound a bit upfront. But if you’re asked it, you’re in luck. It gives you the perfect opportunity to get straight to the point and sell your attitudes and skills. It would be best if you were prepared to explain why you can do the work and deliver outstanding results; you are sure you will fit in with the team and culture. If you have prior experience, this is when you must highlight key achievements from your previous assignments.
When asked your greatest strengths, think quality, not quantity. Regularly achieving your sales targets in your previous assignments is not a strength. It is how you plan and manage to achieve your targets. Also, do not give a lengthy list of strengths. Pick one or two specific qualities that are relevant to the position and illustrate them with examples. Stories or interesting anecdotes are always more memorable than generalizations when answering interview questions.
What your interviewer is trying to do with this question is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. Identifying one’s weaknesses and being prepared to work on them is a good trait among potential candidates. Remember, nobody’s perfect. And nobody is expecting you to be perfect as well. Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at writing legible business reports, but that you have taken a couple of initiatives to set that right.
Always keep a diligent record of all your achievements at work, big and small. It comes in very handy to answer interview questions and to include them in your resume. There is nothing better than a track record of achieving excellent results in past jobs, so never be shy when answering these types of interview questions! Provide the interviewer with a quick background by explaining the context and task required to complete, and describe how you achieved success. Keep your explanation short, covering the key points. Elaborate on them only if you are asked for more details.
Be conscious about avoiding an elaborate ramble. How you describe your achievements is as important as the achievement itself. Do not over-state your approach and achievements. You should come across as a professional who went about doing your job, rather than boastful and self-centered. If it was a team achievement, say so, and credit the teamwork. Organizations want to know if you are a good team player.
We all face challenges and conflicts at workplaces. Do not pretend that you have never had one. Like your achievements, this is another aspect of your work-life that you need to be diligent about keeping a record. Even if you are not eager to talk about conflicts you’ve had at work, be honest about difficult situations you may have faced. And remember, this is not a friend you are talking to. In interview questions and answers, professionalism demands that your explanation is devoid of emotion.
Stay calm and tell the story by spending more time talking about the resolution than the conflict. Make it a point to mention what you’d do differently next time to show that you are open-minded about conflict resolution.
You do not need to be a CEO or a Head of a department to have experienced leadership situations to answer these interview questions. Even in the lowest rungs of the corporate ladder, many occasions provide you opportunities to exhibit your leadership skills. These opportunities and your responsiveness should form part of your record of achievements. You were probably allowed to lead a short project, or perhaps you motivated your team colleagues to accomplish something significant.
Weave such examples into an engaging story. If you are comfortable, go ahead and introduce a bit of humor as well—nothing like a smile to keep your listeners engaged while answering interview questions.
The perfect way to approach such interview questions is to talk about a situation that involved a disagreement and how you handled it professionally and learned something from experience. The critical thing in addressing this question is to be aware that this question checks if you can control a work disagreement. What interviewers are keen to know is how you handled the dispute. While everyone has disagreements, organizations need the reassurance of your openness to sorting out a potential conflict and move on with the task at hand.
You need never shy away from these kinds of interview questions. We all make mistakes, so there is no point in feeling awkward talking about it. If you explain it right, it can show you in a very positive light. The key is, to be honest without placing blame on other people. Choose to narrate an example where you realized your mistake immediately and quickly went about sorting it out. When handling interview questions, refrain from choosing to talk about measures that show you in low light, such as highlighting a drinking problem or an episode of terrible behavior.
Explain in clear language what you learned from your mistake and what actions you have taken to ensure it will not happen again. Employers are looking for self-aware folks who can take feedback and care about doing better.
Similar to the question about making a mistake, your approach should remain much the same. Make sure you pick a real, actual failure that you can speak about with all honesty. It may be a good idea to begin by defining what you consider a failure and then explaining the context. For example, you could start by saying that you consider not being fully prepared for a sales pitch as a failure on your part, explaining what happened, and sharing what you learned from it. Like in the context of mistakes, it is vital to show that you learned something from experience.
If the new job involves a step up in your career or rounding up your learning process by seeking a different set of skills or moving from a much smaller company to a big brand, then answering this question should not be a problem. You just need to state your reason confidently, with honesty and clarity.
However, if the job you are seeking is no different from the one you are in, you need to be prepared with a more effective response while dealing with interview questions and answers. Ask yourself why you are moving. Is it because the pay is better? Is it because you are not getting along with your current employer? Keep your explanation positive because you have nothing to gain by shedding a negative light on your current employer. Frame things in a way that shows that you are eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you are interviewing for is a better fit for you. And if you were let go from your most recent job, keep it simple and straightforward. Tell them the truth. In all likelihood, a reference check may bring out the real reason in any case.
The question comes up if you have lost your earlier job because your employer terminated your services. If it was because of circumstances beyond your control, such as a company reorganization, a merger, or a buyout, all you need to do is state the reason. On the other hand, if you have lost your job due to your performance issues, or perhaps as a result of an unpleasant episode, you may need to reframe it as a learning experience.
Try to avoid making up excuses and blaming circumstances. Your best bet is to be honest, because as pointed out earlier, a reference check may bring out the real reason in any case. Share how you have grown, and you now approach your job and life with more care and attention. It furthers your cause if you can portray your learning as an advantage for this next job.
Maybe you were taking care of family matters, dealing with health issues, or simply decided to take time off to pursue another interest. Perhaps, after quitting your earlier job, you are just taking time to land the right position. Whatever your reason, you should be well prepared to discuss the gap in all honesty. You can even try and give the void a positive perspective of how it gave you time to hone your skills. Even responding to a personal crisis has the potential to strengthen your resolve or make you experience a renewal of sorts.
Venkatesh began his career as an accountant at a leading real estate firm. After more than a decade of tireless work, he decided he needed a career change. Being an accountant no longer excited him. And neither did he have the resources or the courage to venture into a business of his own. He still wanted to continue with a secure salaried job, but not as an accountant. He prepared for interview questions and answers by taking online resources in career counseling guidance and framing his pitch for a new job. He realized that being an accountant, a sales manager, or a software engineer, at the heart of all successful careers were a few common traits- sincerity, the ability to keep learning, and good analytical skills.
He had proven himself on all those counts in his previous job in no small measure. He had excellent references as well. Arming himself with ways to articulate these strengths to potential interviewers, he began his search for a new job with an engaging story about renewal and reconditioning. He had shortlisted logistics as a conceivable industry type to enter. Within a week of applying for four positions, he received an interview call from three of them. Two of these interviews resulted in an offer of employment. Today, three years later, Venkatesh is a delighted and successful branch operations head with a leading logistics company.
When you are keen on shifting your career, it is essential to exude clarity of thought and make a convincing case for yourself. It is all about diligent preparation to deal with interview questions. Venkatesh succeeded because he was able to articulate how his experience was transferable to a new role. It did not matter if the two jobs had no direct connection. When you can show how seemingly irrelevant expertise is very relevant to a future position, you would have made your case.
Employers want to know whether they can afford you or get away by offering a far lower salary than the position’s budgeted amount. Also, most employers assume that you are seeking a job to increase your pay a bit.
It is best to avoid answering this question immediately. Instead, try and deflect the issue by saying you would like to discuss more about the company’s role and expectations before talking about the salary. You could also make it known that you are willing to discuss pay if your candidature stands approved. Or you could also flip the question back to them by seeking what kind of salary they have in mind for the job. If possible, let them make the first offer. Make yourself aware of industry standards beforehand, and if possible, about the company’s record on salary levels.
These types of interview questions and answers can be tricky. You need to be careful about answering it. It is a probe to understand if you would fit into your new role. An excellent way to handle this question with confidence is to single out a few opportunities that the new position you are interviewing for offers that your current job doesn’t. This will not only help you keep the conversation positive; it will also emphasize why you’re so excited about the job.
Here is an excellent opportunity to reinforce your excitement about the position on offer. Again, single out a few possibilities that the new role you are interviewing for offers that your current job doesn’t. Make it a point to mention that you are looking forward to building on all your experience and contributing to the company’s growth.
Talk about the things you have heard about the company. Much like an earlier question about why you would like to work for this company, focus on the organization’s opportunities for future growth and how you can contribute to it. You could talk about how much you enjoy teamwork and believe that this company can potentially offer you ways to grow and flourish.
Think strength, think flexibility. Remember, this is a question about your preferred leadership style, not how you want to be managed. So put your best foot forward and talk about being motivational, caring, and mentorship values. Sound conversational and avoid bookish answers. This is true for all interview questions and answers.
A question like this is basically about how aware are you of yourself and the environment around you. It is about your interpersonal skills and your work ethic. Your ex-colleagues could be your team, your co-workers, and your seniors. You must weigh in with all honesty and humility about your thoughts on how people at your current job may describe you. They may be contacted for a reference check, so avoid exaggerations.
Knowing how to deal with pressure and stress is an integral part of being successful in the workplace. Talk about the measures you usually take to deal with stress. Healthy initiatives such as a regime of yoga, meditation, a work-out, or even music after a long hard day are all excellent points to make, but avoid stating them just for effect. Share the things you practice. It would help if you also shared something that you consciously practice at the workplace, such as maintaining a positive spirit and being a good communicator.
If the position you are being interviewed for happens to be a front-facing sales team or in customer services, this is a natural question. Apart from the regular, prepared answers about patience, empathy, and confidence, it would help if you made it a point to mention that you will make every effort and great care to adhere to company-specific training modules in handling an unhappy customer. Remember, companies want you to represent their interests and ensure that they do not jeopardize any part of their customer relationships with employees’ whims.
How you answer the question and describe your mentor can say a few things about your perspectives and approach to life. Potential employers would like your cultural alignment with their beliefs and value systems. Now it may be that you do not have a mentor in the term’s strict sense. But the question relates to the people who influence your approach to life. Ensure your answer assures them that you are highly motivated, grounded, and entirely in control of your destiny.
Suppose you are a regular reader of books, great! If you aren’t, you do not need to pretend. However, if you are good at your work and are serious about building a successful career, you are likely to read a lot online or keep abreast of developments in your work field. Talk about it. When they pose this question, interviewers want to know if you have extended learning inputs beyond your workplace’s four walls.
There are many aspects of being prepared for an interview that goes beyond preparing for that particular interview. How you spend your time outside of work is one such aspect. You can answer this question well if you genuinely have some exciting things you do outside of work. It is never late to take up interests that supplement your individual growth. Sitting and watching TV is not a very bright answer. Helping with household chores is an excellent way to reinforce yourself as being responsible. But the perfect things are those that in some way aid the soft skills that make you a wholesome personality.
As much as we may not like it, personal questions do crop up among general interview questions. It is a good idea to be prepared to handle them instead of fumbling for an answer. It is, in fact not polite, nor even legal to ask certain kinds of questions, but a question about planning a family may not always be posed with ill intent. It may be a genuine concern for certain types of jobs, or maybe the organization wants to make sure there isn’t an extended leave of absence looming shortly. You may answer it with a quick no or just bring the topic politely back to the job at hand.
Interviewers approach the question of how you manage your time in several ways. They are keen to know how you exercise judgment, communicate, and shift gears when needed. Start by talking about whatever system you’ve found works best for you. Whether you plan your day or week, a to-do list app that you take recourse to, or a color-coded spreadsheet. Explain how you juggle between tasks and your approach to delegation of responsibilities. You may want to illustrate your response with a couple of real-life examples.
Much like the question about things you do outside of your work, there is merit in knowing your driving force. Interviewers like to get to know you better. If you have something you are passionate about, go ahead and describe it. While all employers would love it if you were genuinely passionate about building a great career in your chosen field of work, there is no harm if your passions were not related to your work.
While Prem was the head of marketing strategy for an FMCG company, his real passion helped protect historical monuments. He had an interesting way of describing his work. He would tie it up with exciting tidbits from history, stories of long-forgotten personalities, and the meticulous research that goes into making a case for restoring ancient buildings. He would make it sound as if that passion by itself was the reason he excelled at his stable career as well!
There is no point blurting out, money! While it may make for a light-hearted moment, do go on to explain yourself with something meatier. Think of the things that energize you at the workplace. It may be exciting challenges, the prospect of meeting new people or seeing your customers praise a new feature in an app you helped build. What perked your interest when you read the job description for this new position? Tie in your explanation to something relevant to the role and company you’re interviewing for.
Like any average person, you could refer to traffic jams, delayed flights, or clerical errors. But be careful because hidden in this question is an attempt to find how you differentiate yourself from others and deal with challenges. It may sound good to say incompetence, procrastination, and people who are not punctual annoy you. But you must follow it up with how you usually overcome these hurdles and remain focused on delivering your results at the workplace. Since there’s no need to dwell on something that annoys you, you can keep this response short and sweet.
These are general interview questions about finding the right fit for the job and whether the job fits you. The best way to answer this question and sound truthful is to look back at your own experience and recall the things that always keep you motivated, help you succeed and grow. Pick one or two things to focus on and articulate them with a positive thrust. If you can give an example from a great boss, it’ll make your answer even stronger.
If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals. Bear in mind; an organization would like you to set realistic expectations, know that you are adequately ambitious, not overly so, and ensure the position on offer aligns with your goals. Think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.
A question like this is what they call in cricket a googly. Everybody knows it is a fallacy and an exaggeration to call any job a dream job because needs and aspirations keep changing. But at the same time, interviewers want to know whether this position is really in line with your current career goals. So, talk about your goals and ambitions, and tell the interviewer why you think this job is a definite step in the right direction.
On the one hand, you want to express your enthusiasm for this job, but at the same time, you don’t want to give the company any more leverage than it already has by telling them there’s no one else in the running. Depending on where you are in your search, you can talk about applying to or interviewing for a few roles with a few things in common. Then mention how and why this particular role seems to you like a particularly good fit.
This question is about your self-esteem and the confidence you have in your skills and capabilities. Again, go prepared with an answer by reflecting on why you could deliver specific jobs that others struggled to accomplish. Or why you thought you were the right person for the job you were doing and not someone else. Illustrate these differences with an example or two, back up your claim to the position by presenting some evidence of two critical traits that you possess that the job requires.
While the previous question had you pitted against others in the fray for the same position, this question pits you against the existing employees in the company you are hoping to join. So, it would be best if you took care not to sound too arrogant or self-important, but at the same time, you should be able to bring alive the confidence in your capabilities. It is a good idea to begin by saying something positive about the company or specific product you’ve been asked to discuss. Then provide some background on the perspective you’re bringing to the table and explain why you’d like to explore the changes or corrective actions you are thinking about.
An open-ended question, but it is a good sign if a recruiter is interested in more than just what’s on your resume. It probably means they looked at your resume, think you might be a good fit for the role and want to know more about you. You could talk about a positive trait, a story or detail that reveals a little more about you and your experience, or a mission or goal that makes you excited about this role or company. All interview questions are designed to elicit as much information from you, about yourself.
Here is another good reason you need to be on the ball to prepare for a new job, even if it is just an interview you are attending. Usually, such a question comes up if your interviewer is your potential future boss. He or she is curious about what kind of research you have done about the job you are interviewing for. They want to know if you have given serious thought to how you will get started and what initiatives you will be taking as soon as you are hired. Essentially, you will be able to convincingly answer this question if you are cued into the dynamics of the job and the resources you are likely to have at your disposal once recruited for the position. They are unlikely to hold you to your response, but it leaves an excellent first impression if you can spell out a game plan.
Your earnings are a vital part of it all, and these are among basic interview questions. And that makes it essential to be well prepared to handle the query. If you have done your research on what you should be paid, it will help you answer the question confidently. It is usually good to quote a slightly higher figure, based on your experience, education, and skills. Make sure you let them know you are flexible, but you know your skills are valuable, that you want the job and are willing to negotiate. But you must only discuss your salary if the question has been posted towards the end of the interview. If you get this question very early in the process, delay giving a number because you want to discuss the job and your role expectations before you jump into the bit about your salary.
Your objective should be to set realistic time-frames that will work for both you and the company. If you are ready to start immediately, you could offer to start within a week. But if you need to give notice to your current employer, don’t be afraid to say so; people will understand and respect that you plan to wrap things up. Some companies offer to compensate for your settlement with the previous company if they want you to join them immediately. But if time permits, the best option is to take a quick break between jobs and enjoy some time off to refresh and renew your energies.
While this may sound like a simple yes-or-no answer, it can be a bit more complicated than that. The simplest scenario is one where you are open to moving. Or you are ready to compromise something in your personal life and agree to relocate for the opportunity that the job presents. But if the answer is no, or at least not right now, you can reiterate your enthusiasm for the role, briefly explain why you can’t move at this time, and offer an alternative, like working remotely or out of a local office. Sometimes it is not as clear-cut; say, you would like your children to finish their school year; then, you need to be clear about timelines. If you really cannot relocate for some very compelling reasons, it is always better to clearly state this right at the outset.
Much like the answer to the question of relocation, your response here is entirely dependent on your openness to travel. It could be a simple ‘no problem at all,’ or requesting a certain amount of flexibility in planning your travel itineraries, or you simply cannot afford frequent travel due to personal commitments. Whatever your circumstances are, it is always best to be clear with your potential employers right at the outset.
Given the competitive business environment today, it is not unusual for a potential employer to pose this question. If you are wholly cued into your field of work and what constitutes accepted norms in that industry, you will likely be fully prepared to respond to the question. However, if it does come as a surprise to you, then you need to ask yourself just how important this job is to you. If it is of paramount importance, then you may need to simply accept your circumstances for the moment and make necessary adjustments in your routine.
However, it is well within your rights to seek a fuller explanation and not readily agree to extend your workdays.
By now, you have probably had a good interview. Ask yourself what more do you want to know about the position? You could pose a few questions about the team’s composition you will work with if chosen. You could inquire perspectives on a current happening within the business domain that the company operates in or their reactions to some new development.
Just when you thought you were done, your interviewer throws you this open-ended, seemingly random question. Stay cool. First, if there is something relevant that you haven’t had a chance to mention, do it now. You can then use the opportunity to summarise your understanding of what the position requires and assure them that you fully believe you are the right fit. Tell them that you know they are looking for someone to hit the ground running, and that is precisely what you are looking forward to.
We typically underestimate the importance of preparation and the value of our skills and our accomplishments. Effective communication goes a long way in helping us outline the key points we will want to share with prospective employers, even when handling basic interview questions.
Harappa Education offers an incredibly impactful online course, Speaking Effectively. Tailored for growth-minded professionals, team leads, managers, and other job seekers, it teaches the use of emotions and facts to communicate convincingly. It also helps you present ideas clearly and precisely and use non-verbal cues to speak powerfully in any setting. Feeling comfortable and relaxed influences your confidence and interviewers always appreciate a calm and confident candidate.
Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics & skills related to the Communicate habit such as Interpersonal Skills, Personality Development, the Process of Communication, What is Report Writing, Writing Skills and Self Introduction for Interview.