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How to Answer 5 of The Most Common Interview Questions

Written By Rachelle Enns on May 4th, 2020
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Rachelle Enns
Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune 500 executives find success in their career.
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In this guide, MockQuestions walks you through the 5 most common questions you may face in a job interview. We teach you the purpose and best approach to each question, and show you what to avoid when giving a response. We also help you to craft the best personalized responses to these classic, and notoriously challenging interview questions.

COMMONLY ASKED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

It's impossible to know exactly which questions your interviewer will ask. However, there are a few common questions that most interviewers keep in their repertoire.

The questions that we include in this guide are considered old classics, so your interviewer may put their own twist on the question. Still, overall, you can expect a similar version of these questions to arise during your job interview process.

These commonly asked interview questions are utilized to reveal work ethic, character, personality, and overall fit.

QUESTION #1: TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF

THE PURPOSE: The interviewer wants you to give them a ‘career snapshot.’

THE APPROACH: The Past, Present, Future framework is the most straightforward approach to answering this common and notoriously challenging interview question.

  • Past: Provide a brief overview of your career journey.

  • Present: Discuss your current career situation, as it relates to the job.

  • Future: Talk about your career aspirations and how this opportunity is a fit.


The Past, Present, Future framework helps you to keep your thoughts on track, allowing you to deliver a well-organized answer with impact.

AVOID: Diving too deep into your personal life, speaking far too long, jumping all over the place, or reciting your resume. Remember, your answer is a career snapshot, not an autobiography.

ANSWER EXAMPLE: “I pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, where I became fascinated with children's mental health, specifically the rise of anxiety, depression, and ADHD in North America. Upon graduation, I interned in the children's mental health department at Organization ABC, where I was responsible for new patient intake and file documentation. Since completing this 3-month internship, I have gained considerable confidence in my knowledge in the areas of children’s mental health, emotions, and behaviors. I am now ready to move forward into the next phase of my career. I plan to grow my career, specifically in family outreach programs. I understand that your organization focuses on the launch of outreach programs for families in this community. Your mission aligns perfectly with my core passions, and it would be an honor to grow my career with this esteemed organization.”

TRY IT OUT: “I have worked as a [X] for [X] years, primarily working in [discuss your responsibilities/skills]. I have always enjoyed [discuss the duties/tasks that align best with the new job opportunity]. Currently, I work for [X], where I [discuss your primary responsibilities as they relate to this new opportunity]. This role has helped me to [qualify yourself by highlighting the ways your current job has prepared you for this future opportunity]. I plan to grow my career specifically in the areas of [list 1-3 topics of interest]. Your company focuses on [discuss the ways that the company’s activities align with your career goals]. Your mission aligns with my core passions by [give specifics on where these passions align]. It would be an honor to grow my career with [company name].”

QUESTION #2: WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?

THE PURPOSE: The interviewer wants to know, specifically, what will make you good at this job.

THE APPROACH: Dissect the job posting or the need of the company. Tie your strengths into those needs and back your answer with a story example.

Focus on the strengths that will ensure your success in this job. Then, tell the interviewer a brief story about a time when you made a difference in the workplace using these key strengths. Try picking up to 3 related strengths for each new job interview.

AVOID: Cliche responses such as I am an excellent communicator, or I am a hard worker. The interviewer wants to see how you stand out from other candidates.

ANSWER EXAMPLE: “My greatest strengths are in my perceptiveness and ability to be observant of the needs of others. These strengths are part of what makes me an excellent performer in a client-facing role. I understand, from the job description that you seek a Client Manager who brings a heartfelt and empathetic approach to customer engagement. These strengths that I mention align very well with this need.”

TRY IT OUT: “My greatest strengths are [list 1-3 most important skills according to the company’s needs]. These strengths help me to [discuss how these skills ensure peak performance in the workplace]. I can see that [discuss what you believe are the company’s greatest needs]. The skills that I mention will be a great fit [discuss the ways that your greatest strengths will benefit the hiring company].”

QUESTION #3: WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST WEAKNESS?

THE PURPOSE: The interviewer is looking for red flags, gaps in your knowledge, and how you carry yourself on the job.

THE APPROACH: Genuine vulnerability is essential, but be sure to include what you are doing to improve on the weakness.

The interviewer wants you to be honest about your weaknesses and, at the same time, they want to see that you are proactive and dedicated to professional growth. It’s important to maintain a positive tone, show confidence, and display a desire for growth.

Choose a weakness that is not a core skill for the position. Be sure to have an action plan in place for improving on this weakness.

AVOID: Cliche answers such as I work too hard, or I am loyal to a fault. These are ‘false’ weaknesses that candidates use when they are unprepared. Interviewers never appreciate this approach.

ANSWER EXAMPLE: “I believe my biggest area for improvement is in my proficiency with InDesign. I consider myself an intermediate-level user, but that is not as strong as I would like to be, so I'm working on improving. I have watched many YouTube tutorials and recently enrolled in an online course for advanced InDesign. I plan to be much more comfortable, confident, and efficient in my use of the InDesign program by the end of the six-week course."

TRY IT OUT: “I believe my biggest weakness is [X]. I do believe that [lift yourself up a bit by mentioning that you show potential in this area], however, I could be better in this area. To improve, I am [discuss the specific action steps you are taking to improve this weakness]. By [give a dedicated timeline], I plan to [mention the goal you wish to reach when it comes to improving this weakness].”

QUESTION #4: WHY SHOULD WE HIRE YOU?

THE PURPOSE: The interviewer wants to know why you believe you are the best person to meet the company’s needs.

THE APPROACH: When it comes to hiring decisions, a company will choose the person that they believe will help them to solve a significant problem or a pain point.

By clearly discussing how you will solve the hiring company’s most urgent needs, you are positioning yourself as the top choice candidate.

  • Think about your best hard and soft skills

  • Dissect the job description for company pain points and needs

  • Create a connection between these points


In a job interview, you are pitching yourself! The hiring manager should clearly understand how saying yes to you will benefit them. Imagine that the interviewer is asking, If I hire you, what's in it for me?

AVOID: It’s very common for a job seeker to answer Why should we hire you? like this:

“I believe you should hire me because I am passionate about accounting. This job is exactly what I have been looking for, and I will work hard to deliver results for your company.”

Notice how this answer quickly became about the job seekers’ wants and not about the hiring company’s needs or pain points.

ANSWER EXAMPLE: “I see your job posting mentions requiring an accountant with experience in audits and risk management. Having worked as a senior accountant for the past fifteen years, I've confidently developed these skills and more. I am a Certified Accountant and am currently earning a certification in Internal Auditing. Should you choose to hire me, I will work tirelessly, while applying this knowledge and experience, to meet your risk management needs.”

TRY IT OUT: “I understand that you are looking for a [job title] who can [list what you believe the 2-4 most important factors to success in this job]. In my current position, I [give a specific example of these skills in action]. It has been a great experience [discuss how you have grown in these areas recently]. This year, I [mention a related career accomplishment, accolade, or compliment from your employer]. If you choose to hire me, I will [discuss how the company will benefit, should they hire you].”

QUESTION #5: WHY DO YOU WANT THIS JOB?

THE PURPOSE: The interviewer wants to know that you have put effort into getting to know the role, researching their company and that you see a strong match.

THE APPROACH: Recruiters and hiring managers often receive hundreds of applications per job. If you are lucky enough to land an interview, make a significant effort in researching the opportunity.

While your passion and excitement for the job are essential, it's always good to have some hard facts prepared. For instance, saying I have heard great things about your company, and I know I would be an excellent fit for this job, is not very specific. Try to find recent news articles or press releases related to the company's accomplishments. Mention specifically how those accomplishments made an impression on you.

  • Research the company

  • Highlight a unique talking point

  • Show enthusiasm for the company’s growth or recent efforts

  • Discuss how the company’s efforts and success tie to your career goals

  • Mention how you will contribute, should you be hired


If you think you have the right response, ask yourself honestly if the answer can apply to any other company. If the answer is yes, it's time to get more specific.

AVOID: Why do you want this job? is a question often confused with, Why should we hire you? Be sure that you answer these questions distinctly. Focus on your work-related passions, desires, and how the mission of the hiring company aligns with your career goals.

ANSWER EXAMPLE: “I've been longing to get into the tech startup space for quite a while. I have researched the many employer options in our city and chose to apply here because you are disrupting the market through your XYZ offering, which was launched just a few months ago. I have spoken to a couple of your current employees and they mention that the culture here is top-notch, and that comes through very well in your brand story as well. For these reasons and many more, I believe that working here would be an incredible experience as I grow my career in tech.”

TRY IT OUT: “I want this job for many reasons; however, the most personal and compelling are [give one or two reasons why this job is a stand-out opportunity]. I have spent a lot of time researching and getting to know your company and, [discuss your findings with enthusiasm]. This partnership would be mutually beneficial in the sense that [discuss how the findings tie to your career goals]. Should you choose to hire me, I will contribute to [the original highlights you mentioned in the beginning] by [offer details on how you will contribute].”

IN CONCLUSION

These 5 commonly asked interview questions are often the most challenging to answer. The more you prepare and practice these common interview questions, the better you will perform in your interview.

Need more help? MockQuestions has a set of 30 common interview questions with over 200 answers. We provide sample responses for administrative roles, teachers, marketers, sales professionals, managers, and more.