Knowing and preparing answers to a few general interview questions ahead of time can help ease nerves in the interview room. Here are the most frequent questions you will come across in an interview and how to approach each question.
Read More: How to prepare for an interview
1. Tell me about yourself
When you interview this is a common icebreaker just to get the basics of where your professional background lies. Without going into deep detail, briefly touch on the following:
- Give up to three past job experiences that are the most applicable to the job:
“I have a social media background from my most recent job at XYZ agency, that I ran multiple accounts for. I learned everything I know about team communication from my project manager shadowing position at TTFN Strategy company that I held for 6 months. And before that I worked in bettering customer experience as a concierge with the FX Hotel Chain...”
- Explain why you are interested in this company:
"...I've enjoyed growing in my current role, but I want to expand and utilize my team-building expertise in a corporate environment. I am interested in your company because of its reputation for delivering great content to your clients consistently and with pride behind the team’s work.”
2. How would you describe yourself?
Your interviewer needs to find out if you have the personality qualities that would best align with what they believe are the most important skills to be successful in the role. When answering, touch on 2-3 characteristics and give an example of a situation where this personal quality came in handy.
For example, if you are driven and adaptable you might say:
“I am known for being both driven and adaptable. I tend to thrive in goal-oriented situations where I am given the opportunity to tackle problems and adapt to changing requirements. I always look for opportunities to help my team grow closer and adapt my own processes to improve our output. Because of my drive I was able to bring the problem my team was having with communication errors to my boss and because of my adaptability when we adopted a new communication channel platform, we were able to quickly start utilizing the software. As a result, my team won the top sales team three years in a row.”
3. What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
Employers want to know what makes you different from the other candidates they are interviewing. The interviewer wants to see if the qualities you possess will fit within the company culture and if you will bring something else to the table where other interview candidates might fall short. Usually, you will not know the other applicants, so it can be difficult to make yourself stand-out in relation to them. Try addressing your specific combination of experience and background make you a good fit. This will allow employers to key in on why your traits and qualifications make you the best candidate for the role.
When approaching this question consider the following beforehand:
- What are this company’s specific values: Look at the company’s mission statement, products, services, history, and culture. Read the job descriptions and role responsibilities that you might be capable of and review the required and desired skills, qualities, experience, and qualifications. See what characteristics align and focus on those that you only possess because of your various experiences. For example, if a job description is looking for those with experience with team building, mention your ability to motivate your team and how you measured the team’s growth due to this improvement using specific metrics.
- What you did that lead to success in previous roles: Think about your accomplishments and why you are the only person that could have brought the missing puzzle piece that solved the problem. For example, if you produced a solution to a bit of broken code that saved the company millions, explain the thoughts that led you to the solution and why your specific experiences helped get you there.
- Third-party validation of skills: Consider what you commonly get recognized for by previous employers. Think back to any positive feedback you received from performance reviews and retrospectives on completed projects. For example, if your employer consistently brings up your ability to adapt quickly to new projects in your performance reviews, it is a characteristic that other employers would also appreciate.
Example Answer: "I have a unique way of tackling problems because I draw experience from both hospitality and team building. In my previous work, I was often praised for completing my projects efficiently with detailed attention to the clients’ needs. This allowed me to take on additional projects, responsibilities, and roles within my team and eventually led to a promotion."
4. What do you find motivating?
When employers ask this question, they are gauging your level of self-awareness. Companies want to know what your sources of motivation are to see if their culture provides this type of motivation for you to be successful and align within the role. When answering be specific, give real examples of how you are motivated and tie it back into the company mission.
Consider asking yourself these questions to prepare your answer:
- What did a successful day look like to you at your previous job?
- Why did you choose this specific role or field?
- What in the job description prompted you to apply?
Example answer: “Changing people’s lives is what motivates me the most. When I had my first client come up to me with tears in their eyes saying how much they appreciated my help gave me a huge boost of confidence that I am in the right industry. I want to keep fixing problems in the world at scale, because those human moments are very meaningful to me.”
5. Why are you leaving your current job?
Employers are looking for red flags as to why you might leave a company, but there are many acceptable reasons to do so. When answering focus on the fact that this is a decision not a last resort, and that you were deliberate in making this decision. Note the positive changes you wish to see in your skills that apply to this new job.
- Note skill improvement: "I’ve been refining my cross-functional skills with side projects from other teams, learning new skills in other areas like user experience and got my UX design certification last month that I would like to utilize on a larger scale..."
- Stay positive: "...so I’m looking for an opportunity to focus on improving these abilities and to work towards a mission that I can be passionate about...”
- Bring it back to the role: “...I was interested in this role specifically because it will require regular presentations to the clients— It is very motivating for me to see the fruits of my labor presented alongside a team for a just cause.”
- Summarize: “...I have learned so much in my current role, but I want to be at a company that I believe desperately in this company’s cause and the culture is a much better fit for my overall goals in my career.”
6. What are your strengths?
Employers ask about strengths & weaknesses to get a sense of what you can provide to the role. In this answer focus on both the technical skills and the soft skills. Try following the format below:
- Mention 1-2 positive attributes: "I’ve always been great with networking and public speaking...”
- Give measurable examples: "...I brought us 8 new clients last quarter that earned the company about a quarter of a million on each account all from speaking at events and networking afterward. When I think about how we captured and maintained our accounts it always comes back to the fact that I built my cross-functional team through networking. We were able to accomplish our goals by using clear and consistent communication...”
- Relate examples to desired role: "...and I am positive that continuing to build my networking skills is something I want from my next role.”
7. What are your greatest weaknesses?
Sometimes it feels awkward to speak about weaknesses in a setting that should highlight your accomplishments. Employers know it is not easy to talk about weaknesses but when answered in a candid way can show the interviewer that you have thought about the traits that you would like to continue to improve. This is attractive to a new employer because they can see if you are self-aware and willing to change and grow.
Follow this formula when answering:
- Pick one weakness (not an underdeveloped strength): "I’m naturally introverted...”
- Give some context: "...since I was young and throughout my early professional career, I avoided talking when I wasn’t spoken directly to...”
- Describe a specific example: "...In team meetings I thought it was stepping on someone’s toes to provide feedback on something that’s not right and I hardly ever invited co-workers out for happy hour or lunch because I preferred to be by myself...”
- Tell how you are working to overcome it: "...To help me break out of my shell I joined an improv comedy group. It is still difficult for me get up in front of a large group to speak but I am working on it in a fun way and have met a lot of great people that are supportive of me reaching my goals. It’s made it easier for me to strike up a conversation with co-workers outside of meetings and which helps build more trust among my team.”
8. Describe a challenging work situation and how you overcame it.
This question assesses whether you perform well under pressure and takes into consideration how you solve problems. Stories tend to be more memorable so try to focus on showing a situational experience not just listing the facts. This is the time to show your human side and describe how you handle adversity within the workplace.
For this question, consider sticking to the STAR Method:
- Result or learning
Example Answer: “The first week I was given agency to run a client meeting by myself, my boss went on an unplanned leave of absence, and I was put on the spot last minute. I decided to spend my lunch working on the slides and then running them by my co-worker that had a good technical handle on the account. I found out that I knew more about the client than I had previously thought and gained the self-confidence as well as the trust of my co-worker. ”
9. What goals do you have for your future?
Interviewers and hiring managers are looking for someone that has long term plans to stay with the company, so employers will ask this question to gauge the likelihood of your future aligning with the company. The hiring manager also wants to know how ambitious you are and to see if you would be a fit long term. Consider your current trajectory in your career and talk about what else you would like to learn moving forward.
Example Answer: “I can see myself continuing to develop my marketing skills over the next several years. A big reason XYZ Company stood out to me is because it has the energy of a startup that I can grow and learn with. I know this experience will support my trajectory toward leading a marketing team.”
10. Why should we hire you?
This question can be very daunting to some. It is important to remember that every company wants a candidate that they have an absolute need for. Focus on the positive and unique traits that you bring to the table and restate your understanding of the company’s needs and the position they are trying to fill.
Example Answer: “From what I understand about this job, the position will require an adaptable teammate that thinks on their feet within a fast-paced environment. I am a team player that thrives in this kind of company culture, and I love when I get to wear many hats while staying busy with my team. Is my assessment of the company culture on target?”
At the end of the interview, you might be given an opportunity to ask questions. Keep the questions relevant to your conversation you just had. Interviews that are approached as conversations give the candidate the power and opportunity to interview the company as well to determine if this is going to be a good fit.
Preparing answers and thinking about all these interview questions ahead of time is going to help you stay collected and confident throughout the interview. Doing a little prep work can make the difference between walking away from the meeting with a sinking feeling versus booking the job.
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