How To Ace The 50 Most Common Interview Questions
In 2012, the search giant asked a candidate, “How many cows are in Canada?” while Bain challenged an interviewee to estimate the number of windows in New York. Amazon asked a candidate, “If Jeff Bezos walked into your office and offered you a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea, what would it be?”
The moral of the story was that job seekers need to anticipate less conventional interview questions, and that they should think of oddball queries as an opportunity to demonstrate their thought process, to communicate their values and character, and to show the prospective employer how they perform under pressure.
But as it turns out, most companies will ask more common interview questions like “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?”—and it’s important that you prepare well for those, too.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- Why do you want to leave your current company?
- Why was there a gap in your employment between [insert date] and [insert date]?
- What can you offer us that someone else can not?
- What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- Are you willing to travel?
- Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
- What is your dream job?
- How did you hear about this position?
- What would you look to accomplish in the first 30 days/60 days/90 days on the job?
- Discuss your resume.
- Discuss your educational background.
- Describe yourself.
- Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
- Why should we hire you?
- Why are you looking for a new job?
- Would you work holidays/weekends?
- How would you deal with an angry or irate customer?
- What are your salary requirements?
- Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
- Who are our competitors?
- What was your biggest failure?
- What motivates you?
- What’s your availability?
- Who’s your mentor?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
- How do you handle pressure?
- What is the name of our CEO?
- What are your career goals?
- What gets you up in the morning?
- What would your direct reports say about you?
- What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
- If I called your boss right now and asked him what is an area that you could improve on, what would he say?
- Are you a leader or a follower?
- What was the last book you’ve read for fun?
- What are your co-worker pet peeves?
- What are your hobbies?
- What is your favorite website?
- What makes you uncomfortable?
- What are some of your leadership experiences?
- How would you fire someone?
- What do you like the most and least about working in this industry?
- Would you work 40+ hours a week?
- What questions haven’t I asked you?
- What questions do you have for me?
Do your homework. “One of the biggest complaints of hiring managers is that many job interview candidates know very little about the company they’re interviewing for,” says Andy Teach, author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time, and host of the YouTube channel FromGradToCorp. Google the company you’re interviewing with and read some of the articles that pop up; study the company’s website; know the company’s mission, its products and services, its locations, and who their top executives are. Go to the Public Relations tab on their website and print out some of their latest press releases. “Study them so that you can talk in the interview about what’s going on with the company now,” he says.
Prepare a list of likely questions. Shweta Khare, a career and job search expert says getting a list of common questions for an interview is easier than ever before. “You can never underestimate the importance of preparation. It’s the first step and the most important,” she says.
Identify what the organization wants and needs. “While the focus of ‘Why should we hire you?’ (and other similar interview questions) is on ‘you,’ the interviewee, it’s important to remember the answer isn’t all about you,” says Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers and author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success.
6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
You need to know about this person’s long-term goals. Employee turnover costs a fortune, especially for a high-level role. You’re looking at recruiting and training again for the same position, losing revenue on an empty desk, and another learning curve process that drains your bottom line.
In this type of question, watch out for fiction: Four out of five candidates lie in interviews, according to a 2013 University of Massachusetts study. Leadership trainer Mark Murphy told Forbes that possible signs of lying include:
Of course, they may just be nervous. Job interviews can be trying. The folks at Leadership IQ recommend letting things get awkward: If you get a response that’s a big bunch of nothing, just wait. Silently. Expectantly. And see if they give you more.
9. What’s your greatest strength? Greatest weakness?
The first thing this question will reveal, of course, is the candidate’s best and worst qualities. If the job is in customer service, and the candidate’s worst quality is irritability under pressure, that may not work out.
Reasons for failed hires
“The interview is their time to shine, and they should be confident [enough] to answer this question,” writes Lizotte. “It gives an employer valuable insight into their level of self-awareness and commitment to professional growth.”
Especially for managerial roles, she adds, because “managers need to exude confidence in order to supervise other employees … [They need to] believe they are doing a good job, know when to ask questions, and know what they need to improve their skills to be a better manager.”
Operations questions to ask a company about their business
Operations are focused on issues like how many employees a company needs, how to identify top customers, how to differentiate yourself from competitors in the market, and how to divide responsibilities amongst the team.
21. What does a normal day at your company look like? (H, CP)
This needs to be answered during the interview to make sure the company is a good fit for your life. It’s hard to find success with a company if you can’t work during the times they actually need you.
This question also helps people considering buying a business in the industry decide if it’s the right type of company for them. Check out our blog How to Buy a Business for more information on buying a business.
22. How do you manage customer relationships? (H, BI, CP)
23. How do you delegate tasks? (H, SME, CP)
Success is often a benefit that comes when you trust others to handle parts of the business you know less about. For example, people in their 20s are way better at social media marketing than someone in their 60s.
Everyone can follow your sales processes if you provide them a good example of how to provide service for customers. Be prepared to answer questions on how you delegate. It can help people immensely.
Fun Questions to ask Business Owners
As an interviewer, all questions don’t have to be serious. If you are interviewing a business owner, be prepared to ask some fun questions. Here’s some fun and insightful questions that are typically in interviews:
32.What are your favorite books?
33.Who are your favorite entrepreneurs to follow?
34. What are some business opportunities today that you wish someone would tackle?
Whether you are an interviewer, business owner, or just a curious person, the world offers so many opportunities to learn from other people. When you see someone offer a service you appreciate, let them know and ask yourself, “How can I apply this to my market?