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Interviewing can be an exciting but scary experience. In your worst nightmare, you botch the interview by panicking, losing your train of thought, contradicting yourself and spilling the coffee cup in your trembling hand. Preparing questions and answers to 20 of the most commonly asked interview questions can help you overcome interview anxiety and make a great impression.
Importance of Interview Preparation
Reviewing a list of most commonly asked interview questions gives you an idea of what to expect regardless of the position or job setting. Certain questions have become standard and routine because they are effective and legally defensible. Interviews can be stressful for interviewers, too, because they’re under pressure to find the best person for the job and screen out the less qualified. Knowing ahead of time what you may be asked can help you relax and win over the hiring manager.
How Should I Prepare Myself for an Interview?
Reviewing a list of commonly asked questions is a logical starting point. Prepare and rehearse answers to frequently asked questions to make sure you cover salient points without rambling when you get to the actual interview. The interviewer may ask follow-up questions, so save a few examples of your awards, accomplishments and past performance on the job.
Commonly asked interview questions often segue into more pointed questions about your skills and related experiences. Write down questions you think might be asked related to the job you’re seeking, such as how well you know certain types of software. Normally, job skill questions closely parallel the required and preferred qualifications stated in the job ad.
What Are Behavioral-Based Interview Questions?
Several of the 20 most commonly asked interview questions focus on past behavior in the workplace. Behavioral-based interviewing questions operate on the idea that past behavior generally predicts future behavior. For example, if you won awards for setting new sales records at your last job, you will likely do well in your next sales job if circumstances are fairly comparable.
Behavior-based questions typically ask you to explain, describe or recall a challenging situation you faced in the past. You may be asked to identify the steps you took to address the problem, your goals in that situation and actual results achieved. Be prepared to share success stories that your references can verify.
What is the STAR Method When Interviewing?
The STAR method should be used to answer commonly asked behavioral interview questions, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The STAR method articulates a challenging situation or opportunity faced in the past, identifies the task, describes action steps and states measurable outcomes.
Situation: a complex or difficult problem or opportunity in the workplace
- Example: Due to the sudden popularity of our new product line, I needed to quickly recruit 50 seasonal workers to help process orders during the busy holiday season.
Task: the tasks that must be done to reach a target goal
- Example: I set a goal of hiring 30 temporary workers within two weeks and 20 more workers the next week.
Action: steps taken to achieve the goal
- Example: I brainstormed recruitment strategies with my human resources team. We launched a massive online advertising campaign. I came up with the idea of offering cash incentives to new hires who recruited a friend.
Results: final, quantifiable outcomes
- Example: Within two weeks, 50 temporary, seasonal workers were hired allowing us to fulfill all orders on time.
List of 20 Most Common Interview Questions
The most commonly asked interview questions differ from one source to the next, but you will find considerable overlap. Employers across industries are looking for many of the same qualities: honesty, confidence, dedication, productivity, self-awareness and ambition. Anticipating a wide range of possible questions will help you come across as poised, polished and unflappable.
- Tell us about yourself.
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why are you thinking about leaving your current job?
- How and when did you become interested in this line of work?
- Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are some possible weaknesses or current limitations?
- How do you resolve differences and reach consensus on a team?
- What do you know about our company’s mission and products?
- What will your references say about you?
- Please describe your ideal job.
- Why should we hire you?
- How do you go about managing your time and setting priorities?
- Describe a situation that required you to rethink your priorities and go in a different direction.
- Please provide examples of how you have set and achieved professional goals within a designated time frame.
- Tell me about an upsetting incident with a difficult customer or co-worker and how you responded.
- Describe a time that you used creativity and resourcefulness to address a longstanding problem in a new way.
- What professional skills have you fine-tuned or acquired over the past year?
- Please share your biggest professional disappointment and how you coped.
- Do you prefer change or stability in an organization?
Recognize Curve Ball Questions
Side-step questions that you don’t think an employer should be asking, such as your marital status, ages of your children and any plans to have children. Respond by saying that you are ready and able to meet and exceed all job expectations. Further, some employers like to ask out-of-the-blue questions to assess your creativity and adaptability:
- What sort of animal is a lot like you?
- Tell me your favorite PG-rated joke.
- What would you do if you won the lottery?
- What annoyed you about your last boss?
Practice Interview Questions
Interviewing for a job is like auditioning for a role. You need to fit the part and stand out among tough competitors. When preparing for a job interview, select and rehearse practice interview questions. That entails writing down questions and rehearsing your answers in front of a mirror, or before a live audience of friends or family, if this is your first job interview.
Practice interview questions and answers vary depending on your field and the type of job you’re pursuing. For example, recent college graduates may be asked about their favorite classes in school, whereas, aspiring managers will be questioned on their leadership ability and executive decision making. You may find it helpful to ask your mentors and references what sort of interview questions they think you will be asked in an interview.
Practice Interview Questions for Students
Current students and recent graduates will be asked interview questions geared toward entry-level job seekers. Check with your campus career center for information on when company recruiters may be visiting your school to fill internships, summer jobs and permanent positions.
Intern interview question:
Q. What are your favorite subjects in school?
Tip: Mention classes in your major or minor along with general education courses that related directly to the type of job you’re pursuing.
A. I have always loved biology and English classes, which led me to a career in science and technical writing. My references will tell you that I am one of the top students in my program and I am excited to gain real-world experience as an intern with your company.
Recent college grad interview question:
Q. What has best prepared you to be successful in a full-time professional job?
Tip: Give an example of a special accomplishment and relate it back to the job you’re seeking.
A. I was able to pay my way through college by starting a painting business with the help of my parents. As my reputation grew, I expanded and hired a summer crew. My real-world experience makes me an excellent candidate for a management trainee position.
Practice Interview Questions for Teachers
Teachers can anticipate questions related to philosophy of education, instructional methods and work history listed on their resume. Behavioral-based interview questions are commonly used to assess the candidate’s professional disposition, skills, knowledge and competencies. Prepare practice interview questions and answers that are pertinent to important issues in today’s diverse schools.
Q. What has worked for you in creating safe and inclusive classrooms?
Tip: Recall examples from student teaching or previous jobs where you championed diversity and fostered safe, respectful learning environments.
A. I display posters in my classroom that celebrate diversity and relate to upcoming history lessons. On the first day of class, we discuss respect and ground rules for class behavior. I also review the definition of bullying and the school district’s anti-bullying policy. Fewer behavioral problems occur as a result of this proactive approach.
Practice Interview Questions for Nurses
Nurses can anticipate questions related to their communication skills, problem-solving, nursing competencies, decision-making, leadership, teamwork and professionalism. Coming up with practice interview questions and answers can help you demonstrate your ability to remain cool and collected under pressure. Nurses currently working in the field should answer questions about their experiences in the field, and recent graduates should provide examples from their clinical rotations.
Q. Please provide an example of how you have approached a patient with serious medical problems who went against medical advice.
Tip: Think of situations where you made a positive difference in the life of a patient. How did you develop trust and rapport? Reference clinical strategies and techniques from training.
A. While working as a nurse educator at a community health care center, I was assigned a patient with worsening diabetes who told me she was tired of everybody lecturing her about weight. I took a Brief Motivational Interviewing (BMI) approach and supported her through the process of setting goals for lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise.
Commonly Asked Wrap-Up Questions
Interviews conclude with routine questions that sound good but don’t mean the job is in the bag. For example, all candidates are asked when they are available to start. At the very end, you will be asked if you have questions. Ask a couple of questions about the job or company to show enthusiasm and clarify job requirements. Commonly asked interview questions at the end of the conversation are typically straight forward:
- May we contact your references?
- Are you available to work evenings, weekends and alternating holidays?
- Do you understand that this job requires frequent overnight travel away from home?
Tips for Answering Commonly Asked Questions
Keep in mind that employers meet with hundreds of applicants and get tired of hearing the same overused answers. For instance, don’t sound like everybody else and claim you’re an overachiever or a perfectionist when asked to identify your weaknesses. Strive for originality. Be refreshingly honest and disclose a skill that you intend to master and explain what you’re doing to improve in that area.
Avoid memorizing your answers or you will seem robotic. An interview is not an oral exam. A pleasant interview should flow like a conversation. Listen to the question being asked and don’t veer off track when answering.
20 Behavioral Interview Questions for Which You Should Prepare→
How To Answer "Why Should I Hire You"?→
How to Deal With Ambiguity in Interview Questions→
5 Strengths That Will Help You Get The Job→
What Is the STAR Method and How Can You Use it in Your Interview?→
Things to Say in an Interview for a Lead Position→
- Military.com: Government Jobs: Top 10 Interview Questions
- University of Idaho: Fifty Common Interview Questions
- University of Southern California Career Center: Interview and Follow-Up
- Society for Human Resource Management: Behavioral Interview Guide: Early Career Job Candidates
- TRD.org: Behavioral Interviewing
- Nurse.org: Thirty-one Sample Nursing Interview Questions With Answer Guide
Dr. Mary Dowd brings decades of hands-on experience to her writing endeavors. Along with general knowledge of human resources, she has specialized training in affirmative action, investigations and equal opportunity. While working as a dean of students, she advised college students on emerging career trends and job seeking strategies. As director of equal opportunity, she led efforts to diversify the workforce and the student body.