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How to Answer the Common Job Interview Questions (with Example Answers)

By Susan P. Joyce

Interviewers seem to have favorite questions that they always ask every job candidate. The best way to impress interviewers is to have thought about the question and prepared to answer it in advance.

Some of these questions will also be asked while networking or just talking with family and friends.

Smart job seekers prepare in advance for those questions so they can answer them effectively, impressing the listener and moving closer to a job offer. Some people find it helpful to write out their answers. Others just make notes. Which ever method you choose, take the time to prepare.

If you can, have a friend or family member ask you the questions, and then answer them without looking at your notes. Or, practice in front of a mirror. Whatever works best for you.

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The Job Interview Questions Asked Most Often

These are the most common questions asked and how to handle them:

  • What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

    Yes, this question is asked often, and yes, you do have a weakness. But, be sure you choose the "right" weakness for this job, describe it, and move on. Here's how...
  • What Is Your Greatest Strength?

    Be sure that your strength is appropriate for the job you are seeking. Being able to "leap tall buildings in a single bound" didn't get Clark Kent his job as a reporter. Learn how to answer this question well.
  • Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

    Don't let this question derail an opportunity. Yes, they want to know if you are planning to stay, and what you think your future holds. Here's how to tell them.
  • What Do You Know About Us?

    Demonstrate that you are actually interested enough in the opportunity to have done research into the employer. Too many candidates just hit the apply button for no reason (apparent to the employer). Show that you are not that uninterested candidate. This is how.
  • Tell Me About Yourself

    Not an invitation to ramble on about your favorite baseball team, your car, or your boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife. Here's how to make points with this answer.
  • Why Should We Hire You?

    Frame your answer to this question in a way that highlights your qualifications for the job. Do NOT explain how having the job will benefit you. Use this strategy to answer.
  • Why Do You Want THIS Job?

    This may sound like an invitation to describe how landing the job will benefit you. But, it's not! Describe why this job interests you, sharing both your personal goals and your understanding of the job. Here's how to do that effectively.
  • Why Do You Want to Work Here?

    Again, this may sound like an invitation to describe how landing the job will benefit you. Again, it's not! The want to understand how much you know about them -- how interested you really are in the job.
  • Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Job?

    Careful! No ranting and no trashing of your current employer. Many good reasons exist to decide to leave, and they can have nothing to do with how horrible your manager might be.
  • Variations on -- Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

    • After Being Fired

      Being fired happens to many of us, and it's not necessarily because you were a bad employee. But, regardless of the reason, you can frame the situation so that you don't come across as someone an employer would avoid hiring.
    • After You Quit

      People quit their jobs for many good solid reasons, but you need to be able to explain why clearly and without seeming angry or saying nasty things about that previous boss or organization.
    • After a Layoff

      Layoffs happen to many people and are not your fault. So, be prepared to explain about the layoff without trashing anyone or anything at your former employer.
  • Explain Your Gap in Employment

    Finding a job when you are unemployed is challenging. But, explanations are still necessary. This is how to explain that gap.
  • Do You Have Any Questions?

    Don't make the mistake of under-estimating the importance of this question! Having good questions (not about the vacation time!) is a sign to employers of your interest in the opportunity.
  • How Did You Find This Job?

    This question is also easy to under-estimate. Demonstrate your interest in the employer and, if appropriate, be sure to give credit to the employee who referred you to the job. They may be rewarded for the referral, and you'll be more likely to be hired.

Interested in what you shouldn't say in a job interview? Read 30 Bad Answers to Job Interview Questions -- funny and sad (because the bad answers are real).

For another take on these questions, read Smart Answers to Common Job Interview Questions written by Job-Hunt's Guide to Working with Recruiters Expert, recruiter Jeff Lipschultz.

Using Your Pre-Interview Preparation, Answer the Questions Smartly!

Do NOT go into a job interview anticipating that a job offer is waiting for you when you get there.

And don't expect to "wing-it" to a successful conclusion. Think of a job interview as an audition for the job.

Accept the invitation to interview as an opportunity to demonstrate why you are the candidate they should hire.

Increase your confidence and your probability of success by being well-prepared for every job interview. [See Pre-Interview Preparation for tips.]

Send a Thank You After EVERY Interview

Regardless of the mode of the interview -- in-person, telephone, Skype, or video conference -- send a unique, personal thank you to each persone who interviewed you. That thank you will put you ahead of the majority who don't send thank you notes, and it will also give you an opportunity to remind each interviewer how unique and excellent you are.

More about thank you notes: Sending Your Thank You After the Job Interview including many sample thank you notes like Sample Job Interview Thank You Email.


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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Guide to Job Interviews

Essential Job Interviewing Requirements:

Job Interview Tips:

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Succeeding at Different Kinds of Job Interviews:

Successful Job Interview Preparation:

Job Interview Follow Up:

Effective Job Interview Thank You Notes:

More Information About Job Interviews:


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