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How to Answer 10 Most Common Interview Questions

Success in an interview is nothing but a matter of preparation. Yes, mostly.  

If you want to win in an interview, go through the list of 10 most common interview questions with answers plus 31 bonus interview questions that you may be asked in an interview below.

Each interview question is followed by the strategy you should adopt along with a sample answer, so that you can frame your own response.

To start with, here’s a list of top 10 common interview questions. 

  • 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 five 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 cannot?
  • What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
  • Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
  • Tell us about a time you made a mistake. 
Job interview? Or interrogation? Judging by the response, it may as well be the same thing. 
 
A Monster poll conducted recently across India, the Gulf and South East Asia reveals that fear of being interviewed tops the list of reasons why employees find it hard to change jobs.
 
Candidates dread this stage in the recruitment process primarily because there is no way to predict what they will be asked.


Here are some common difficulties faced by many when it comes to switching jobs: What’s the hardest part of changing your job?


But what if there was a way to foresee the queries? Hiring experts claim there are certain standard questions put to candidates during the interview process.
 
All you have to do is prepare for them to (hopefully!) land the job.
 
Q1: What are your strengths?

With this query, interviewers attempt to assess whether you have the qualities needed for the job. They also want to see how well you understand yourself.

Your strategy: This is your chance to sell yourself. Pick three or four of your strengths that are relevant to the job and illustrate them with examples, if necessary.

Sample answer: If you are interviewing for a marketing job, say something like, “One of my strengths is persuasion. I am a keen observer of people and quick to discern personalities. It helps me understand people and those insights help me convert them to my point of view.” 

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How to tell the interviewer what value you’d bring to the job: Why Should We Hire You?


Q2: What are your weaknesses?

Interviewers want to assess your character with this question. Also, check whether you have any flaws that will hinder the discharge of your duties in case you are hired. It’s also a good way for them to see how you deal with your weaknesses.

Your strategy: Don’t pick any weakness that is a fundamental flaw in your personality as an answer. Instead, choose those that are significant but not enough to lead the interviewers to form a negative opinion of you.

State your weaknesses and proceed to explain how you’ve been working to address them. Or you could choose a weakness that is not directly relevant to the job profile you are interviewing for.

Sample answer: If you are interviewing for the post of an accountant, it is okay to say that your language skills are not very good. Though they do not hamper the discharge of your duties in any significant manner, add that you are working to address this weakness because you realize that good language skills are necessary at work.

How to answer: What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

Q3: Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?

The objective of this question is to assess how serious the candidate is about seeking employment with the company. The interviewer also wants to know how familiar you are with the company’s mission, culture and values and whether you believe you will be a good fit in the organization.

Your strategy: What you say will tell the interviewer how the job fits in with your long-term career plans.

Sample answer: You could answer, “I have wanted to work in this organization for a long time now, so when I heard about a vacancy in your company that fit my profile, I immediately applied for it.

I admire the way you successfully combine commerce with socially responsible business and would love to be a part of an organization that looks at business in a holistic manner.”


Some tips on how to prepare for similar questions before you attend the interview: Got an interview call? Read this before you go


Q4: Where do you see yourself in five years?

The interviewer wants to know about your career goals and where this position figures in it. Hiring a new employee is costly, so he/she wants to be sure you are coming on board for the long haul. Your answer will also tell the interviewer how realistic you are with regard to career prospects.

Your strategy: It is best to answer this question generically without getting into too much detail. Reiterate what the job will do for your career and why you are interested in working with this organization in particular. And of course, don’t be naive enough to say, “In your position!”

Sample answer: “I see myself having grown both with regard to expertise in my field as well as within the company set-up. I picture myself in a leadership role contributing more to the growth of the organization. At the same time, I also see a tremendous growth in my own skills and capabilities,” is a good way to go.

Q5. Why do you want to leave your current company?

The interviewer is certain to ask this question, so prepare for it. The answer will tell him several things about your attitude, career goals, professional values and sense of maturity and judgment.

Your strategy: The best way to tackle this question is to say that you are looking for better opportunities. If you’ve been laid off, tell the truth, and explain how you’ve been unlucky.

It is better to be honest and explain your position than be caught lying about your circumstances.

Sample answer: Try, “I have put in a number of years in my current organization, performed well and risen through the ranks, but I would now like something more challenging. I believe this job will provide me with exactly such an opportunity.”

Q6: Why was there a gap in your employment between [insert date] and [insert date]?

Your strategy: While short gaps in employment may go unnoticed, a gap of two months or more requires an explanation. It’s wise to stick with the truth. If you were fired, you ought to have a good explanation that doesn’t veer very far from the truth, but does not paint you in bad light either.

If you had to leave, you will have to explain why things got so bad that you had to resign without finding another job.

In any case, highlight what you’ve done in the interim like freelancing, consulting or volunteering. This will tell the interviewer that you’ve been productive during this period and broadened your skill-base.

Sample answer: In case you left because of a conflict with your boss, say differences did not allow you to work well together. Don’t forget to add what you realized in hindsight to show how the incident has helped you grow. Never badmouth your boss; act mature and accept the fact that both of you were responsible for the situation spinning out of control.

Q7: What can you offer us that someone else cannot?

This is an extension of the earlier question on your strengths. If the interviewer has already asked you about your strengths, then asking this question means he/she would like an answer that is more specific to your job. A variant of this question could be, “Why should we hire you?” The answer will help the interviewer compare what you bring to the table vis-a-vis the others.

Your strategy: Prepare for this by referring closely to the job description. List out your other strengths and connect them to the requirements mentioned in the job advert.

Sample answer: You could say, “I have already mentioned my strengths, but if you were to ask me about something unique which I bring, I would say it’s my attention to detail. Though it can be annoying for others, this trait of mine has saved several situations from turning into disasters in the past.”


Here’s more on making a great impression at your interview: How to win over your interviewer and get the job


Q8: What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?

This is a variant of the weakness question. If the interviewer has asked you this question in addition to the one on weakness, it means he/she wants to know what others think of you.

Your strategy: Try and recollect your performance reviews, mention what they said, and talk about the steps you’ve taken to address those weaknesses. Keep it real, but refrain from mentioning any serious flaw that could jeopardize your chances of making it through the interview round.

Sample answer: “Amongst the feedback I received, I was told that I wasn’t assertive enough. Though I was performing well at my job and meeting targets, my boss once told me that I would do even better if I was more assertive at the workplace,” is a good way to position a weakness in a constructive manner.


How you answer these questions is as important as the answers themselves. Get insight on body language here: Non-verbal Communication: Escape the Pitfalls


Q9: Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.

The answer to this question will tell the interviewer what drives you, your professional values, suitability for the job and how you can make yourself useful to the organization.

Your strategy: It is best to stick to a professional example. Provide numbers where possible — this is a language that interviewers love and understand.

Sample answer: Go with, “I am extremely proud of the time we worked on a project with XXX company. The selection was a gruelling process, but we managed to land the deal. The company needed services that were of the highest standards and I am proud to say that we surpassed their expectations. In fact, we succeeded in converting them into our regular clients. As project leader, I was extremely proud of this achievement.”

Q10: Tell us about a time you made a mistake.

This is amongst the toughest questions because you are being asked to cite a specific instance of failure. It is a behavior-based question that will give the interviewer insight into your personality and the kind of mistakes you are prone to making. It will reveal how you handle failure and whether you are capable of learning from it.

Your strategy: Again, be candid but refrain from citing an ugly truth. Be sure to talk about what you learned from the experience.

Sample answer: “While working for one of my previous employers, there was something I required from another department. Instead of speaking to the department head, I told a member of the team who was my friend. I expected him to go and tell his boss about it, but he didn’t. As a result, the goods weren’t delivered and we missed our target date. There was a great deal of confusion over the episode but thankfully it was all sorted out. From that day on, in all professional matters, I make it a point to communicate directly with the department head,” is a good response.


There are some questions even you could ask your potential employer: 6 questions to ask at the end of your job interview



31 Bonus Interview Questions
As promised, here’s a list of 31 bonus interview questions that you can prepare for besides the common interview questions listed above.
  1. List five words that describe your character.
  2. What are you looking for in terms of career development?
  3. Have you ever missed a deadline?
  4. What kind of goals would you have in mind if you got this job?
  5. How do you handle working with people who annoy you?
  6. What is your greatest professional failure, and what did you learn from it?
  7. How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
  8. Was your work ever criticized? How did you handle it?
  9. Give me an example of a time that you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.
  10. Team Handling: Have you ever been on a team where someone was not pulling their own weight? How did you deal with it?
  11. What is your ideal work environment?
  12. If you found out your company was doing something against the law, like fraud, what would you do?
  13. If your supervisor asked you to do something you disagreed with, what would you do?
  14. Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
  15. What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
  16. Describe how you would handle a situation if you were required to finish multiple tasks by the end of the day, and there was no conceivable way that you could finish them.
  17. If you were interviewing someone for this position, what traits would you look for?
  18. Give an example of how out-of-the-box thinking helped you come up with a solution to a difficult problem.
  19. Are you more effective working in a group or alone?
  20. What do you think of your previous boss?
  21. What is your ultimate career goal?
  22. What will you do if you don’t get this job?
  23. What do co-workers say about you?
  24. What’s the last book you read?
  25. What are your hobbies?
  26. Are you willing to work overtime—say, nights and weekends?
  27. What kind of personality do you work best with and why?
  28. Do you prefer verbal or written communication?
  29. What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
  30. What do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
  31. Do you have any questions for me?
Conclusion
 
It’s difficult to determine what questions you’ll be asked in an interview. But you can check with others who may have interviewed/already work with the organization to gauge what your interviewer could want to know. Or cross-reference the job ad with your resume and work out a possible list of questions.  
 
The one thing you can be certain of is that if you go in prepared, you are sure to impress an interviewer. If you are looking for an exhaustive list common interview questions, here are top 100 interview questions to help you succeed in a job interview.
 
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