During a job interview, you’ll be asked several questions designed to identify your skills, qualifications and work experience. These questions can take a number of forms but interviewers generally want to know the same thing, meaning you can prepare your answers.
Fundamentally then, the key to a successful job interview is preparation. If you have an idea of what you’re going to say, you’re more likely to come across as confident, positive and knowledgeable.
In this article, we explore the 9 common job interview questions you may hear, plus some sample answers that you can use during your interview.
What are the 9 most common job interview questions?
The questions listed below represent the most common ‘generic’ questions you’ll likely be asked in an interview. These questions are used across a range of industries and job roles because they offer recruiters the opportunity to determine your personality, experience and ability.
In most interviews, these questions will be asked alongside more technical questions that give the interviewer context about your more specialised skill set.
This is why we suggest having an idea of what you want to say before you get into an interview. This way you won’t be caught off-guard and can provide a satisfactory answer.
Here are the 9 most common job interview questions you might face:
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1. Tell me about you
This is a commonly asked question to kick off a job interview – it breaks the ice and makes sure the employer has an overview of you as a professional.
Most people struggle with this question because they don’t like speaking about themselves but it’s a great opportunity to give an assured, confident answer.
In the majority of cases, the interviewer will be asking this question from a personal standpoint so you may want to cover why you chose this profession, a brief overview of your work history and what motivates you.
Remember – this is basically an opportunity to talk about some of the key points from your CV.
Example: “I chose a career in marketing as I enjoy using social media to engage with new people. During my career so far, I’ve learned a lot about social media as a marketing channel and how it can be used for sales, customer service and brand awareness. I love working on detailed projects, especially larger social media campaigns, that allow me to use my natural creativity and organisation skills. Now, I want to take the step up from my position as a digital marketing executive and explore a specialisation in both organic and paid social media.”
2. What makes you stand out?
When you start applying for roles in more competitive fields or businesses, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd. Depending on the role or business you apply to, you’ll likely be in a pool of candidates who have similar skill sets or experience.
This question is your opportunity to highlight any specific skills you have or any recent achievements that may help you stand out. Using our marketing example, you may want to highlight that you’re particularly organised or have an understanding of tools such as Photoshop. Explain your skill set to the interviewer and how it helps you in your role, backed up by real-life experiences.
Example: “What makes me unique for this role is that I understand how to use graphic design software, as well as digital reporting software, to build and then track the performance of my social media posts. Instead of sending my ideas to a design colleague, I can create branded visuals based on the post I want to go out, execute the post and then provide feedback on how it’s performing – this creates a streamlined and efficient workflow.”
3. Why are you looking to work here?
You’re generally asked this question for two reasons, both equally important. Firstly, the interviewer wants to know if you’ve researched the company and can provide reasoning for applying specific to the business. Secondly, they want to understand your long-term objectives and whether they align with their own.
If a business is building a new team, for example, they’ll want an employee who is committed to assisting this process and isn’t liable to leave in a few months.
Answering this question is as easy as researching the company. Their website and social media should be your first port of call, as it’ll help you establish their values, goals and any business objectives they have.
By demonstrating a willingness to learn more about the company and taking the time to do it, you’ll show initiative and passion. This is particularly important at a time when companies are more interested in building a positive ‘company culture’ than ever before.
Example: “I saw on your website that your social media agency wants to partner with agencies and assist them with their social marketing. I think this is a great idea and something I’ve always wanted to work on, especially for a business that has similar values to my own.”
4. How would colleagues describe you in three words?
This type of question often catches people out and they tend to fall back on generic, ‘safe’ words because they’re panicking.
A great way to answer this question is first and foremost, think about it from the perspective of your colleagues.
Next, you’ll want to think about your best attributes and the words that fit these attributes or your working style.
Where possible, provide evidence of why your friends might use this language. You only need to provide some brief context but it can help an interviewer better understand your thought process and you as a worker.
Example: “Organised, analytical, measured. I know that I’m a very process-driven person and I think this comes across in my work. I’m always looking for ways to streamline my workflow and those around me. In my current role, I integrated a new social media strategy that has helped reduce the workload on the team while still raising engagement by 10%. Our team now has a better idea of why things are going out when they do and how each post fits together.”
5. Why are you leaving your current position?
If you’re leaving an active role for a new one, you’ll definitely hear this question. Most employers ask it because they want to see what to avoid in the future, what impacts your work and importantly, how you treat professional relationships.
The interviewer wants to understand what you’re looking for in a new role, rather than what led to your leaving your last job. From your perspective, you don’t want to be overly negative and unprofessional.
Any answer to this question should ultimately explain why you want to work for a new employer.
Example: “While my digital marketing executive role has helped me develop my skills in certain channels, I don’t have as much room for progression as I’d like. I’d love to run a social media campaign from initial concept through to execution. I think that you’d be able to assist with that, helping me get to grips with the role and build a long-term career in the field.”
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6. What is your main motivation?
The answer to this question generally helps an employer understand how to keep you happy, engaged and on task. This question is an opportunity to demonstrate your general enthusiasm for a position and also highlight your long-term aspirations.
Remember that honesty is usually the best policy. If you’re motivated by money, for example, say so. It’s just important to contextualise how you aim to achieve that while also helping the company meet their goals.
Example: “I’m truly motivated by recognition of being the best. I always aim to be the best as this not only leads to better compensation but helps establish me as a leader in my field. I feel like this also helps the company I work for build success, especially if my individual achievements help a team or company reach a larger objective.”
7. Have you ever had to face conflict at work?
This question is often asked because it determines how well you can maintain a positive, professional demeanour. At the same time, this question helps an interviewer understand your critical thinking skills and how you apply them to professional situations. This is an important question to prepare for but thankfully, once you have an example it works in a multitude of interviews.
How did the situation occur?
What actions did you take?
What was the outcome?
With this approach, you’re not only telling a story about the situation but also demonstrating how you handled the conflict.
Example: “During my time as a marketing executive we once received feedback from a client that was unimpressed with our performance. After speaking to the client, I took the opportunity to build a small presentation deck that explained how we’d change our approach whilst improving performance. My line manager approved the deck and once we’d talked through it with the client, they actually stayed with us.”
8. How do you perform under pressure?
Stress is present in the majority of jobs and can occur when you least expect it. With this question, employers can better understand how you approach stress and how that might impact the overall company culture.
If you can provide an example where you faced stress and responded appropriately, bring this up. It’s a great way to provide some insight into your personality and help people understand you as a person.
Example: “In my last job, we regularly worked to tight deadlines that required being flexible and adaptable. While our original processes resulted in quite a stressful experience, I put together a request for several pieces of software that would streamline our workflow and make it significantly easier.”
9. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Interviewers commonly use this question to end the interview process and understand how serious you are about a long-term role or at least, whether your aspirations match up with their long-term objectives.
This is a great way of understanding how you might support each other whilst also giving more insights into your own work ethic or plans around career development.
If you want to move into management, for example, describe exactly how you want to achieve this.
Example: “In the future, I’d love to become a marketing manager that runs multiple teams. I feel like I have good technical skills to achieve this role but the training programmes you run could help me build transferable skills and experience. This is why your company stood out to me – you aim to promote from within and I like that approach to employee management.”