With a fair deal of exaggeration, your resume is just a piece of impersonal paper that offers nothing but crude facts. Interviews, on the other hand, reveal much more about your personality, attitudes, manners and values.
The first face to face meeting often becomes the turning point in the hiring process. That’s why it’s wise to invest some time in research and preparation for your next job interview.
Back at school, we always strived to learn all exam questions in advance. Job interviews work in a similar fashion. But instead of marks, good answers can get you a fantastic job.
We’ve collected 100 most common job interview questions to help you get ready to tackle tricky questions and craft smart responses to the major questions coming your way.
Five categories of interview questions
Certainly, recruiters won’t ask you all 100 questions in a row. But chances are they’ll sample a few questions from each of the below categories to get a full sense of your skills and personality.
- Traditional questions. Open-ended questions about your background, goals, and work style.
- Behavioral questions. These ask you to provide specific examples of situations that illustrate an achievement, a learning experience, and even a failure.
- Cultural fit questions. More personal or creative questions that are common in companies that value workplace culture.
- Logistical questions. Practical issues revolving around work history, how long you plan to stay or your salary expectations.
- Oddball questions. Random stuff and icebreaker questions. Your opportunity to let your personality shine through. Yet another way that enables them to gauge your cultural fit.
These fairly common interview questions may sound familiar to you because they’ve been around for decades.
They’re some of the first questions in an interview that get the conversational ball rolling as the interviewer starts to figure out who you are and what are your qualifications for the job:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you consider to be your greatest professional strengths?
- What would you say are your weaknesses?
- Why do you want this job?
- Why should we hire you?
- What would you contribute to this job?
- If you had a personal mission statement, what would it be?
- If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
- What do you feel makes you unique?
- What do you find motivating?
- How do you define and measure success?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How does this position fit in with the career path you see for yourself?
- Would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?
- What are some of your hobbies?
- What were some responsibilities in your previous job?
- What’s your work style like?
- What were some of your favorite things to do in your last position?
- What were some of your least favorite things to do in your last job?
- What would your manager say are your best strengths?
- What would your manager say are areas that you need to develop more?
- How do you make decisions?
- What could you contribute to make this company better?
- What are you looking for in your next position?
- What’s your style of management?
- Can you describe the best boss you ever had?
- Can you describe the worst boss you ever had?
- How do you manage your time?
- What are you looking for regarding career development?
- What’s a goal you have for self-improvement in the next year?
- How has your education gotten you ready for your career?
- If you got this job, what would some of your goals be?
- How do you keep yourself organized?
- If you could choose, would you prefer working in a team or alone?
Tips for answering traditional questions
Some of the questions may sound quite personal — like “Can you tell me more about yourself?” or “What makes you unique?” — they’re all openers to point out your professional qualifications.
Instead of talking about your own goals and priorities, your responses should reflect the core competencies of the job in a natural-sounding way. The recruiter wants to make a successful hire and needs to see your value for the company.
2. Behavioral questions: How do you act on the job?
No one ever really impressed a hiring manager with abstract ideas about their work ethic or skills. If you say something, you need to prove it.
And that’s when behavioral questions come into play.
It’s simple. Past behavior predicts future behavior. By seeing how you’ve fared in the past, recruiters can have a clearer vision of how you’ll perform in the future.
Personal stories make your job candidacy far more memorable and colorful. So if you want to leave a great impression, intriguing anecdotes are a great way to do it:
Common behavioral questions
- Can you describe a time you demonstrated leadership?
- Can you speak to a time that you had to handle criticism of your work?
- Tell me about a time when your workload was especially heavy and how you dealt with it.
- What would you do if you were asked to take on more assignments than you could conceivably finish by the expected deadlines?
- Can you give me an example of a time you had to follow a policy with which you didn’t agree?
- Tell me about a time you went above and beyond expectations at work.
- Have you ever worked on a time when someone was not pulling his weight? What did you do?
- Have you ever had trouble working with a manager?
- Have you and your boss ever disagreed with something you did? How did you deal with it?
- How do you handle difficult customers?
- How do you deal with stressful situations?
- Have you ever had to deal with a coworker who put you down at work? What did you do?
- Can you tell me about a time that you faced a difficult situation with a colleague?
- Have you ever had to give someone tough feedback? How did you go about that?
- Have you ever gone against official policy or directives? Why? What were the results?
- Can you give me an example of a challenge or conflict you faced at work? Describe how you handled it.
Tips for answering behavioral questions
Behavioral questions let you zoom in on specific situations, your reactions and decisions to light.
Now’s the time to bring in some examples. To highlight success stories that demonstrate you have the core competencies the interviewer is looking for.
Remember to stay authentic and true to yourself. Stories that talk about your values implicitly are more digestible those that do so in an explicit and rather embarrassing way (“I’m a very hard-working person.”)
For the start, prepare your stories that relate to the most common questions – a time you demonstrated your leadership skills, overcome a challenge, were a member of a team, solved a precarious problem and when you failed — but rose like a phoenix from the ashes.
3. Cultural fit questions: Do you share our values?
Research has shown good workplace morale and employee perks can improve individual performance, retention and teamwork as well as prevent workplace conflict.
No wonder hot trending topics like workplace values and the happiness levels of employees receive a ton of attention.
The same goes for your interview. Recruiters are keen to gain a sense of your cultural fit and will use the following questions to do so:
Common cultural fit questions
- What does teamwork mean to you?
- What three qualities do you look for in a workplace?
- How would you deal with a coworker you don’t get along with?
- How well would you say you adapt to change?
- What are you passionate about?
- Describe your ideal company culture. What four or five characteristics does it have?
- Who inspires you and why?
- What motivates you to come into work every day?
- What was it like working at your last company?
- What are some of your workplace values?
- Do you prefer a more structured work environment or one where you can be more entrepreneurial?
- What personality types would you say you work best with?
- What are some activities you like to do outside of work, and how do they benefit your day-to-day job?
- What would your friends tell me about you?
Tips for answering cultural fit questions
Clearly, most of these questions focus on workplace values. But they also aim to review your soft skills, like communication, flexibility, passion, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
The best approach is to research the company culture and mission statement online and, perhaps, also by talking to its employees (via LinkedIn or in person).
These cultural fit questions should also help you to figure whether you’re at the right place. If the company values and work style make you feel you’d like to work for them, go ahead. Reflect your alignment in your responses and let them know you’re up for the job.
4. Logistical questions: Employment history and salary expectations
This category contains fairly straightforward questions. Details on your resume, your professional goals, or your salary expectations.
Salary negotiations, in particular, may show up a bit later in the hiring process, usually in a second interview when things get a bit more serious.
Anyway, you should be ready to talk about these logistical topics regardless of when they crop up. Here’s a rundown of what to expect:
Common logistical questions
- You worked at your last company for a long time. Will it be difficult moving to a new firm?
- Why have you changed jobs so often over the past few years?
- If you got this job, how long would you plan to stay with us?
- What did you earn at your last job?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Why do you have a gap in your job history?
- Why do you think you can lead a team without any previous managerial experience?
- Why do you want to join our company?
- Why do you want to move from an academic field to the business world (or vice versa)?
- Why should we give you the job over other applicants?
- Would you jump ship if you received another offer?
- What other companies are you applying to?
- What caused you to leave your last position?
- Why do you want to leave your current position?
- Why did you take a job that seems unrelated to your career path?
Tips for answering logistical questions
Now’s the time to talk about your professional history. Be ready to describe your last job, its responsibilities, and your reasons for applying elsewhere.
Challenging topics that you should skillfully handle include potential employment gaps or career changes. If that’s your case, don’t despair — come up with sound reasoning and try to connect the dots on your career path.
And concerning the pay, check out websites like Payscale and Glassdoor. They may help improve your position in salary negotiations while still staying within a reasonable range.
5. Oddball questions: The odd and unexpected
Imaginative as they are, these quirky questions deserve a special category. They are far from totally unpredictable, though.
Recruiters like to use them to throw you off balance a bit and see what happens when you get out of your comfort zone. Also, they want to check your ability to think on your feet and see how you make decisions in real life.
By requiring creativity and wit, these questions can tell a robot from a person. Like a CAPTCHA challenge, really. So all you need to do is demonstrate your inventiveness and come up with surprising, fresh answers that will steal the show.
Potential oddball questions
- If you could live your life over again from the beginning, what’s one thing that you would change?
- If you could be an animal, which one would you be and why?
- If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
- What’s one new thing you taught yourself in the last year?
- What would the name of your app be?
- You have two minutes. Teach me something.
- Why do people climb mountains?
- If you were on a desert island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?
- If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?
- If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?
- You’re a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?
- What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
- What is your least favorite thing about humanity?
- How does the internet work?
- Why are manholes round?
- How would you cure world hunger?
- What do you think of garden gnomes?
- Pepsi or Coke?
- If you’re the CEO, what are the first three things you check about the business when you wake up? (Dropbox)
- What would the name of your debut album be? (Urban Outfitters)
- How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida? (J.W. Business Acquisitions)
- If I gave you $40,000 to start a business, what would you start? (Hubspot)
- What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer? (Trader Joe’s)
- If you were a brand, what would be your motto? (Boston Consulting Group)
- How many basketballs would fit in this room? (Delta Air Lines)
- If you had $2,000, how would you double it in 24 hours? (Uniqlo)
- How many cows are in Canada? (Google)
- How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building? (JetBlue)
- A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here? (Clark Construction Group)What songs best describes your work ethic? (Dell)
- Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it? (Amazon)
- What do you think about when you are alone in your car? (Gallup)
- Can you say: ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time? (MasterCard)
- If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us? (Trader Joe’s)
- How would people communicate in a perfect world? (Novell)
- How do you make a tuna sandwich? (Astron Consulting)
- When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why? (SpaceX)
- If you had to, which two celebrities would you pick to be your parents? (Urban Outfitter)
Tips for answering oddballs
Prepare for the unpredictable. There’s no single formula that will help you answer every question in this category.
However, you can set up a rapid-fire question and answer practice session with a friend to see what you come up with. You’ll see how you react without preparation and how good your improvisation skills are.
Remember not to overthink these too much. Keep your imagination active and flexible. This will help you unleash your creative genius as your spirits loosen up a bit.
Keep calm and do your homework
Job interviews can get a bit intimidating, but it all depends on your attitude.
We’ve collected 100+ most common interview questions but now it’s your turn.
If you skip preparation, you’re about to fail. Once you do your homework, though, you’re all set to win the hearts of hiring managers and get the job you’re hoping to land.
Remember — succinct, thoughtful, witty responses have the power to tackle any tricky question. And that’s what will make you feel more confident and ready to put your best foot forward.