If you have a job interview coming up, it’s only natural to feel a bit stressed. Even if you’re mostly excited and confident about the process, you’re still going to experience some nagging concerns. Not only is there pressure associated with whether you’ll actually get the job, but you could also be experiencing anxiety related to answering questions about yourself, your skills, and your resume in real time. Depending on your baseline personality, the prospect of selling yourself to interviewers in a short amount of time could be your actual nightmare.
One way to lower your pre-interview stress significantly is to prepare well for the questions ahead of time.
One of the best ways to prepare is to think about likely interview questions and answers and how you might competently discuss anything you might be asked.
Your Job Interview Mindset
Before scheduling interviews, it would be best if you worked on your job interview mindset.
According to speaker and career coach Michelle Enjoli:
It’s important to walk into a job interview with the overall goal of meaningful engagement. A key indicator of a successful interview today is when both the interviewee and interviewers have engaged in an informative and engaging dialogue. Both parties should come prepared with questions that can help determine a mutual fit.
It’s not just about what sort of questions they ask and how you answer them. It’s about how meaningfully you are able to interact.
Keep this concept in mind as you approach your basic interview preparation.
Basic Interview Preparation
Job interviews tend to go better the more diligently you’re able to prepare in advance.
No matter what type of job you’re applying for, basic interview preparation will fit into the following major categories:
Choosing an appropriate outfit that is professional, comfortable, and suitable for the industry
Planning your route to the interview (if in-person) or setting the stage for a professional backdrop (if online/via screens)
Thinking through what a successful interview might look like and visualizing yourself succeeding
Studying the listed job description and learning the background and core values of the company
Planning thoughtful questions about the position to ask the hiring manager or interview panel
Preparing to address any gaps in your resume
Practicing your answers to common job interview questions
While there will always be outliers and odd questions from left field, most job interview questions follow a few specific types.
Types of Job Interview Questions
Depending on the nature of the job you’re applying for, there are several different types of job interview questions you might face.
On the practical side, you will certainly face behavioral interview questions such as
- Questions about you and how you interact with the world (skills, habits, personality, aspirations)
- Questions about your former employment and why you’re looking for a change (work history, performance, reasons for leaving your last position)
- Questions about your prospective employment at this new company (what you know, what you like to see happen, what you would change/improve)
On the more philosophical side, you are likely to be asked
- What you want out of life
- Why you chose this profession
- Where you see yourself in the future
- How you think you’ll fit in at your new job
- How you generally handle conflict
Before we get into specific examples of typical interview questions and some suggested responses you might consider preparing, let’s discuss a general approach for how to answer interview questions.
How to Answer Interview Questions in General
As you think through how to answer interview questions in general, here are three basic elements to consider.
No matter how much time you put into interview preparation, there will come a moment in every interview when you’re forced to go off script. When answering questions you didn’t prepare to face (particularly questions that may not make you look like the most favorable candidate in the world) you may be tempted to lie.
Other than the fact that it’s wrong to lie, there are several reasons why you should not lie in an interview, the most basic of which is this: with your nerves on high alert and your adrenaline pumping, you’re going to have a hard time focusing well enough to remember lies made up on the spot.
What if your lies create false expectations that could circle back to bite you?
It’s best to stick to the truth, if for no other reason than that it’s easier to remember facts than fantasy.
When interviewing for open positions, know that personal integrity is a huge draw for prospective employers.
When looking to fill an open role, many employers seek a candidate who is both trustworthy and ethical. This means that you make honest decisions and think of others when you act. (Glassdoor)
Ways you can demonstrate integrity during your interview can include
- Giving examples of times you did the right thing even when it was hard
- Explaining how you would keep customers/clients happy without lying to them or your superiors
- Addressing questions about ethics and responsibility
In many industries, integrity is rare. Showing you are a person with integrity can set you apart from the crowd.
Nothing’s worse than looking up and discovering that the eyes of the people interviewing you have glazed over in boredom.
In order to prevent this from happening, always keep your answers to job interview questions short and punchy.
Answer the question you’re asked without rabbit trailing or editorializing. Resist the urge to go off or tangents or show off the depth of your knowledge by belaboring a point. Instead, simply give a clear, succinct answer to the exact question asked. If hiring managers want more information, they can always ask followup questions.
With these three elements in mind, you’ll be ready to think in a more specific way about how to answer interview questions.
10 Sample Interview Questions and Answers
While it may be impossible to predict exactly which interview questions to prepare for, below we have listed 10 typical interview questions along with some suggested responses. While you may need to adjust them to suit your purposes, they will give you a good place to start as you prepare for your interview.
1. “Tell us about yourself.”
This is one of the top questions candidates are asked, and it’s a deceptively simple one.
It only seems simple:
Receiving such an open invitation invites more perils than opportunities, because you’re given no framework for your response — just a blank, clue-free canvas. (Harvard Business Review)
Without having a clear plan to answer this question, you could wind easily wind up making one of these common mistakes:
- Trying to tell your whole life story in two minutes
- Attempting to condense your entire work history into a single sound byte
- Rambling about something unhelpful, such as what you like to do on the weekends
- Talking aimlessly about your friends and family
In truth, none of these strategies will set you apart from the other candidates. To stand out, you must walk into the interview with a clear plan to answer such open-ended questions.
Don’t simply rehash information they could read straight off your resume. Instead, take some time before the interview to think about the job description and the company itself.
Identify a need the organization has, and use this part of the interview to demonstrate how you would help meet that need.
Your answer should always start with, “I’m the type of person who…”
Example Answer: “I’m the type of person who stays keyed into the latest trends and knows how to leverage them to the best advantage.”
2. “Why should we hire you?”
This, according to career coach Michelle Enjoli, is one of the job interview questions you should definitely prepare to answer.
Her professional advice:
In addition to the qualifications listed in your resume or discussed previously, include any soft skills you possess that can help you demonstrate leadership, collaboration, creativity or productivity with some examples.
Start off your answer with “I would be a great hire because…”
Example answer: “I would be a great hire because I always follow through on every task assigned to me, and when I finish my responsibilities early, I always look around to see how I can help others.”
3. “If we hired you, what would you hope to accomplish in your first week?”
This is clearly a behavioral question. Though the amount of time they specify may vary (anything from your first day to your first thirty days to your first six months or year on the job), what they’re really hoping to see is if you’ve put any thought into the role itself and how you would go about fulfilling it.
During your answer, you must show that for you, this job opportunity is more than a wish or a prayer. It’s a concrete reality you’re more than ready to step directly into.
Show you would hit the ground running.
How you answer, though, will depend in part on several factors
- The position itself
- Your current experience level
- The expectations of new hires within this specific company
If you’re a new hire straight out of grad school, you should talk about transitioning into the role and learning procedures and gaining practical experience alongside your new team. On the other hand, if you’re stepping into an experienced leadership role, you’ll want to include some sort of practical plan that shows you’ve thought about what the department needs and how you will help lead and guide them toward a workable solution.
Prepare an answer that starts with “During my first week on the job, I plan to…”
Example answer for an entry-level position: “During my first week on the job, I plan to settle in with my team, learn the relational dynamics, and understand the ins and outs of the position. I’ll ask the questions and seek the clarification I need to be sure I’m following procedures and meeting deadlines.”
4. “What does your ideal work environment look like?”
Employers are searching for more than just someone who’s qualified for the position. They’re looking for someone who will fit into their existing systems and work environment.
That means not only must you show not only that you can do the work but also that you can fit into company culture.
You’re also a person with your own needs and desires. While you should certainly be honest and make those known, it’s important that the answer you give match at least in part with what you know the company can offer.
- Do you need specific technology or equipment?
- Are you hoping mostly to work in person, from home, or with a hybrid model?
- Do you enjoy fast-paced environments with lots of hustle and bustle or do you need peace and quiet to concentrate?
These are some of the elements you should consider as you plan ahead during your interview preparation.
When answering this question, lead off with, “My ideal work environment is a place where…”
Example answer: “My ideal work environment is a place where I can access the help, tools, and resources I need quickly as needed while still blocking off hours at a time to concentrate on my work and accomplish tasks.”
5. “Are you a morning person or a night owl?”
This may feel like one of the stranger job interview questions, but it’s actually quite revealing. Employers want to know if you’re going to be dragging into morning meetings with a thundercloud over your head.
Conversely, they may be probing to see if you’re a good fit for working a shift that, because of time zone differences, includes occasional late-night Zoom meetings with the Tokyo office.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Just an honest one.
It’s okay to start this answer with, ”Honestly, I’m…”
Example answer: “Honestly, I’m a bit of a night owl. My best brain waves always seem to come around ten o’clock pm! That’s why I always keep a notes app on my phone.”
6. “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
One of the hardest parts about answering a question like this is balancing your ambition with the needs of your prospective employer. In giving your answer, remember that what they’re really trying to figure out with this question is whether hiring you will be a wise investment of their time and resources.
Start with “In ten years, I see myself…” and then progress to show how you will benefit the company itself and/or the industry as a whole.
Example answer: “In ten years, I see myself having gained the skills and expertise necessary to head this entire division.”
7. “Who is one of your personal heroes?”
It doesn’t matter if you choose a historical figure, a relative, or a character from a Marvel movie. As long as you’re able to highlight what you admire about that person and relate it back to the work, the company, and/or the industry as a whole, this question can be used to your advantage.
In preparing your interview answer, use this formula: “I admire X because Y.”
Example answer: “I admire Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his speaking abilities. As someone who will do a lot of public speaking in my role at this company, I have studied some of the greatest orators of all time, and he ranks right up there with the best.”
8. “What’s the best job you’ve ever had?”
The important part of this answer isn’t what job you had (they can learn that from your resume) but why you loved it so much.
Even if you’re applying for a high-level management position, you can mention working in an ice cream truck as a teenager if it helps you highlight what you learned or how you developed in that position.
Leading into your answer for this question is as simple as saying, “You know, the best job I ever had was actually…”
Example answer: “You know, the best job I ever had was actually when I worked at my uncle’s automotive center. I learned strong customer service skills and how to explain complicated mechanical concepts in simple language for the everyday consumer.”
9. “What are you expecting in terms of compensation?”
Interview questions related to salary can prove tricky.
If asked about your desired salary during the interview, make sure your answer falls within the range generally offered for this type of position, always taking into account your personal experience.
For example, here’s the current salary range for an executive assistant:
It would be wise to lead into your answer with something like, “Based on the current rates and my experience…”
Example answer: “Based on the current rates and my experience, I’d ask for no less than $73,000 a year.”
10. “What questions haven’t we asked that you hoped to answer today?”
This is the dream interview question, and it gets asked more often than you might think.
Not only does this question give the interview panel a chance to see an unexpected side of you, but it also gives you an opportunity to highlight any of your strengths, skills, or experiences that the interview has not yet drawn out.
Of course, only you are in the best position to know how best to answer this question.
In order to make sure you’re ready, always have a list of 3-5 character traits, qualities, or elements from your life that you absolutely want to highlight. During the interview, as they come up and are covered, mentally check them off the list. That way, if this question is asked, you’ll know precisely which element you still have left to highlight.
Start this answer with the phrase: “What I love to tell people about myself is…”
Example qualities may include:
- Your experiences with travel, cultural exchange, or skills with languages
- Your ability to overcome relational tension and get along with others
- Your strong relationships or connections with experts in your field
- Your willingness to seek workable compromises
Being prepared with an answer will keep you from hemming and hawing. You can jump right in with an answer that makes you look amazing and shows how you’re perfectly suited for the position.
Nail Your Interview Questions and Answers and Land Your Dream Job
Before you can succeed at your new job, you’ll need to land one, and before that happens, you’ll have to nail the interview questions and answers.
Remember, as you approach answering typical interview questions, always be sure to keep in mind the three basic elements of answering job interview questions:
These core values will stand you in good stead no matter what you’re asked during your next job interview.
Learn More with Lensa
Interview preparation may seem overwhelming, but it’s a lot less stressful when you have access to the tools you need to succeed. Along with prepping your interview questions and answers, check out these further resources from Lensa.
5 Transferable Skills You Need and Companies Want
Avoiding Job Search Frustration: 5 Tips to Stay Motivated and Get Hired
How to Decline a Job Offer After Accepting Another One: 10 Best Practices