March 5th, 2009
23 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers

 ‘Take me through your CV’ or ‘Tell me about yourself’, that’s how your interview may begin. Having an idea of what the questions might be is helpful. This is why it is important to do the 4Ps – Prepare, Practice, Punctuality and Presentation. Ultimately, it makes you ‘the chosen one.’

 Ace the interview and you will get the job. Even a super-CV won’t make up for a tongue-tied session full of unnecessary fumbling or poor presentation.


 Try and don’t be petrified! Be Prepared! Nowadays employers often ask questions premeditated to discover how you would deal with certain situations and how you would behave. They are called competency based questions. Companies want to know about your skills and track record, not just your knowledge and experience.

 See a list of 23 most common interview questions and answers put together below by– these are likely questions you may be asked:

1. Why have you applied for this position?

 This question invites you to express your interest and to clarify what you are looking for in your professional life. It is also an opportunity to express long-term opportunities and to qualify if this is the actual position that you can see yourself working in for the next 3-5 years or whether you’re planning to ‘grow.’

 Your answer to this question helps you express your interest in carrying out the necessary duties and responsibilities that this role will entail. To answer this question in an enthusiastic manner that shows your desire to fulfil the requirements, you must show a thorough understanding of the role and what you can contribute to it.

 One way you might frame your response?

 ‘This is exactly the position that I am looking for as it will fully utilise my vast knowledge in this field and also enable me to develop my skills in other areas’ etc.

 2. Can you talk me through your resume?

 This is your opportunity to discuss your professional experience in depth. Seize the moment and talk about your career successes and achievements, bringing in details that were not included in your resume or cover letter.

 It’s always a good idea to explain why you have left previous employers to move on. You must always be positive with reasons for leaving and never be negative about past employers or bosses.

 3. What would you like to be doing professionally in 5 years time?


 Among other things, an interviewer wants to assess your commitment to staying with the firm and if you have long term career aspirations. If a company is going to train you, for example, they want to know that they’re going to get a return on their investment. Always keep in mind that you’re being assessed for the current position and not your Next step on the career ladder.

 Try not to appear overly ambitious. Make it clear that your mail goal is to achieve success with the role for which you are being recruited? and then you can assess your long term future.

 4. What are your key strengths?

 This is your opportunity to shine and show that you are task-focused under pressure, integrate successfully into a team environment and are also effective working independently. (These are the ‘Big Three’ of strengths.)

 Discuss your ability to understand, respect, and function within various corporate cultures and identities. Cite examples where you’ve proven yourself to be trustworthy, meticulous, and detailed-oriented.

 This is your opportunity to shine and use highly motivational words that will enthuse the interviewer whilst not appearing boastful and big headed. This is where you show that you would be a welcome addition to any progressive and reliable employer.

 5. What are your weaknesses?

 Okay? Now we’re in really tricky territory. You’ll be shooting yourself in the foot saying things like, ‘I always like to take a Monday off sick’, ‘I am moody’, ‘I don’t really like people’, ‘I always blame others for my mistakes’ etc.

 This question is often the most difficult to respond to because you must be able to frame your answer in the positive. Something like this: ‘I have to work to balance my perfectionism with my attention to deadlines.’

 6. What are you looking for in your next job?

 The answer to this is simple and can be the same for virtually anyone:

 ‘I’m looking for an employer that will respect and appreciate my loyalty and commitment and compensate me appropriately for my hard work and dedication.’

 7. Give me an example of when you have had to use your initiative?

 This question is your chance to demonstrate that you are able to think and act for yourself, to lead others, and to create consensus in order for ‘warring factions’ to come together and work cohesively toward a common goal.

 8. How do you get on with your colleagues?

 This question is sometimes posed as ‘Are you a people person?’ The intent is to find out how well you work with other people and if you are able to contribute and add value to your team and colleagues.

 In your answer, explain ways in which you can share your knowledge and assist others in achieving their deadlines to ensure the companies overall success. Point to examples that show you are able to work successfully within a team environment and if you are able to earn the respect of your peers and superiors.

 9. What would your colleagues say about you?

 Different than ‘how well do you get along with you colleagues, this question gives you the opportunity to use motivational and flattering words to describe yourself. Wrap yourself in gold with words and phrases including: hard working, thoughtful, respectful, firm but fair, reliable, good sense of humour, a contributor, and a great team player

 10. How reliable would you say you were?

 Reliability in an employee is very much a valuable asset to any prospective employer. Will you show up on time? Meet deadlines? Deliver on your promises:

 Employers want to know that their employees are reliable so that if things go wrong that you can be counted on in a crisis.

 11. What are your salary expectations?

 When someone asks us to ‘value’ ourselves, it pushes all kinds of emotional buttons. On the one hand, you don’t want to sell yourself short, but on the other hand, you may be afraid of sounding egotistical if you ask for what you think is ‘a lot of money.’

 You are worthy! If you do some research before the interview, you’ll walk through the door knowing exactly what the ‘market value’ of your skills are. Don’t accept less? Unless you have a compelling reason to do so (a short-term assignment, for example, or a company where you’re really eager to get your foot in the door and move up the ladder)>

Don’t be shy when you state your salary requirements and the kinds of benefit package that appeals to you. Have strength of conviction in your answer and say it in a clear and concise manner that sounds confident and says, ‘I’m worth I!’

 12. Why do you want to work for us?

 This is your opportunity to explain that the company is exactly the type of company that you would feel proud to say you work for. It’s also your chance to show that you’re conscientious and serious-minded. How?

 Use your answer to demonstrate that you’ve researched the company in depth. Talk about their community efforts, their corporate philosophy, etc. as you explain your reasons for wanting to work for a ‘winner.’

 13. What do you know about our company?

 You’d be amazed at the number of people who show up for interviews with little or no information about how the company operates. It is critical that you know exactly what the company does and how they generate income.

 Use your answer to discuss the company’s market share, demographics, price points, etc. The knowledge you’ve made an effort to amass before you’re even an employee is a tangible expression of the interest you’ll show after you’re an employee.

 14. Have you been applying for other positions?

 Always say yes to this question, but add that ‘your company is my first choice.’

 15. What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?

 This is the opportunity for you to explain the one thing that has given you the most satisfaction in your professional life. You won’t sound like you’re bragging, don’t worry.

 A Suggestion:

Although ‘team achievements’ are important, you’ll make more of an impression if you can talk about an accomplishment that was yours and yours along?and for which no one else is able to take the credit.

 16. How do you prioritize?

 Knowing which activities must be done first and which must be put on the back burner is at the heart of meeting deadlines. Answer this question by explaining how you tackle the most immediate need first, often assessing and reassessing the changing timeframes of each project.

 Explain that you ‘get the job done’ by staying late and putting in the hours to see a project through to completion.

 17. What motivates you?

 While most of us work for a salary and what we can do with the money from our monthly paycheck, saying, ‘I’m in it for the money’ is (understandably) a poor response.

 Instead, say that you are motivated by a boss you admire and can learn from, colleagues that you respect and doing a fantastic job that enhances the companies overall success and feeling that you add value to the organization that you feel proud to say you work for.

 18. How well do you get on with your boss?

 As much as a question about your old boss, this inquiry also tests your discretion. Never go into a negative rant about an old employer. It doesn’t make them look bad, it makes you look like you’re on a rampage in the soar grape patch.

 Explain that you learned a lot from your previous boss. Explain their management style and what it was that made them get the best out of you.

 19. What is your work ethic?

 Do you work to live or live to work? Both of these ‘all or nothing’ philosophies will send up red flags at an interviewer. Instead, express a work ethic that is rooted in balance. Present yourself as a well-rounded individual who likes to work hard and play hard, and enjoys many things in moderation.

 20. When are you available to start work?

 Unless you think it will spell the difference between getting hired and not getting hired, never say, ‘I can start tomorrow.’ Although you may think it comes across as enthusiastic, it will really come off as desperate.

 It’s not unreasonable to ask for a week or 3-4 days’ grace period before beginning your new position. This will give you time to get all the details of your life into alignment so that you’ll be ready to begin work with no distractions or interruptions.

 21. Can you tell me about yourself?’

 Try to answer this question with positive attributes about yourself and relate any work skills that you have gained through your previous employment. You can tell them the type of personality you have in regards to work ethics.

 This is the time you have to market yourself and tell them what you are good at, relating your skills to the position. Give specific examples if you can.

 22. ‘Why do you think this job is suitable for you?’

 This is another opportunity to add to the mountain of skills you’ve already described by talking about additional experiences you’ve had. Be sure the ones that you talk about relate directly to the job that’s being offered.

 You can also talk about how different aspects of the position may satisfy you on a personal level. For example, ‘I would be proud to work for your non-profit organization and would feel good about working to save the rain forest.’

 23. ‘Do you have any questions you would like to ask?’

 Make sure you ask something, because this shows you are interested in the job. You can ask something about the company, ask about their expectations from the successful candidate or ask if there are opportunities within the company for advancement in the future.

 Final Word? About Telephone Interviews

 Some companies use telephone interviews to draw up their shortlist so it is worth giving some thought to how you would cope with this technique. In many ways you need to be prepared for a phone interview in the same way as you would for a face-to-face interview.

 The most common mistake for telephone interviewees is answering questions too quickly. Silences on the telephone feel much longer than they really are. Don’t let that throw you. Take your time to consider your answers calmly before speaking.

 You should try and ensure that you have some privacy – so try and find a quiet phone that you can use and where you won’t be disturbed and then you need to get yourself into interview ‘mode’.

 Then, go ahead and ‘dazzle them’ with your brilliance.

Good luck!!!

Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping you to explore your career at any stage.

One thought on “23 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers

  1. Wow, I am shocked that no one commented on this post. Thank you Catherine for a very insightful post. I just recently got out of the military and not having to interview for the last 10 years has definitely spoiled me a little. I have to learn all the ins and outs of questions I would be asked etc… and this is a great beginning and an awesome resource. Thanks again.

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