The Seven Most Common Interview Questions
How nice would it be to go into an interview already knowing all of the questions you were going to be asked? Unfortunately, most employers won’t give you the interview questions in advance. Today we’re going to break down seven of the most common interview questions that hiring managers ask.
Now, here’s the deal, we don’t recommend memorizing canned answers to these questions. The hiring manager can tell when you’re giving them a script and it comes across as insincere. Instead, use these interview questions as prompts to help you prepare. Keep notes on the topics you’d like to cover and practice talking about your accomplishments. Today we’re focusing on traditional interview questions, and next week we’ll focus on behavioral interview questions.
Tell me about yourself (Why should we hire you for this job)
There are a lot of ways hiring managers ask this question. It’s a great first question because it gives you the chance to focus the interview on the areas you want to highlight. Think about this question like your executive summary. Focus your answer on work history, education, and training or certifications. Assume that the hiring manager or interview panel hasn’t had a lot of time to review your resume, so give them the run down on who you are. Keep your responses professional and avoid providing a lot of personal details.
I got a Bachelors of Science in Accounting and Finance from UCLA and then went on to finish my MBA there as well. Once I graduated, I started my career working in accounts payable at GE. While I was there, I was recruited to participate in an accelerated employee development rotation program where I had the opportunity to rotate through four different organizations as a finance specialist. After the program was finished, I was placed as a manager and received extensive leadership training. I worked at GE for two more years before I moved to Deloitte. I’ve worked at Deloitte for four years and had the opportunity to work in various leadership roles.
Why do you want to work here?
Here’s where doing your research on the company will pay off. Try to avoid the canned responses that applicants tend to give and come up with something creative. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate your passion and talk about how you connect to the brand or company values.
I want to work here because I’m passionate about the outdoors and the environment. I’m an avid cyclist, and I’ve been skiing since I was six years old. Working at this company will allow me to use my technical skills as a developer while also supporting an industry that I love. Additionally one of the things that I appreciate most about this company is their approach to environmental stewardship and sustainability. I’m an active volunteer for the Nature Conservancy, and I want to work at an organization that aligns with my personal values.
What is your biggest strength?
I’ve seen this question go south for a lot of candidates who weren’t prepared. If you haven’t thought about a response to this question, it can catch you off guard. When you’re talking about your strengths, be sure to tailor it to the position you’re interviewing. Hiring managers don’t want to hear that you’re an excellent baker unless it’s connected to the skills you need to do the job.
Another pitfall is balancing humbleness and confidence. You want to avoid coming across as overly confident or arrogant, but still give yourself enough credit to recognize the places you excel. To tackle this question, I recommend focusing on one or two specific strength and selling them well. Provide a brief example that demonstrates your strength as it applies to the position.
I am analytical and enjoy digging into data. Several months ago our team was trying to identify ways to improve our customer satisfaction results. I took the data from our customer surveys and cross-referenced it with the data from our vendors and noticed that the results were lower when customers had opted for a certain component in their product. When I looked deeper, it appeared that this product had a higher number of warranty claims when it came with this component. I took this information to leadership with the recommendation that we switch suppliers for this component. Since making the switch, our customer satisfaction results have increased by 15%.
What is your biggest weakness?
Ok, let’s admit it, everyone hates this interview question. Hiring managers ask it because they’re looking for people who can acknowledge their shortcomings, and find ways to make up for them. Prepare for this question, so you don’t just blurt out the first weakness that comes to mind. Don’t choose a weakness that’s completely unrelated to work, like “I’m a terrible cook.” The other one hiring managers are sick of hearing is the “I’m a perfectionist” weakness. Find a real weakness that isn’t detrimental to the job and talk about what you do to mitigate it.
Coming from a technical background, I have a tendency to get caught up in the details of a project. As a manager, I am aware that I need to trust my team and keep focused on the big picture, so I do a couple of different things to help me from getting too caught up in the small details. First, I’m very open about this with my team, and I ask to bring it to my attention when I get too deep. Second, Anytime I start working on a project I do my best to remind myself to stay out of the weeds. It’s something I am continuously reflecting on and trying to improve.
Why are you looking to leave your current position?
Regardless of how you answer this question do not badmouth your current or past employers. When a candidate badmouths an employer, it’s a huge red flag for hiring managers. Even if you’re in the worst possible job and you’re utterly miserable, think of a different approach. You also don’t want to lie to the hiring manager either. If you don’t have anything nice to say about your previous employer, you can focus the attention on how great the new position is
I’ve been in my current role for just about two years now, and I’ve had the chance to learn a lot about the industry. Since my current company is a small organization, my scope has been broad. Your position offers the opportunity to focus on a specialty within the industry that I find exciting.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hiring managers aren’t expecting you to predict the future here, I promise. This question helps them know that you’re thinking ahead and you have long-term goals. Again, be sure to focus on your professional life and avoid personal details like starting a family or getting married. It’s illegal for companies to use this information in their selection process, so they’d rather not know. Instead, tell them what kind of work you’d like to be doing, what problems you would like to have solved and whether you see yourself moving toward a path towards a technical expert or management.
Five years from now I see myself further developing my career as a subject matter expert. I enjoy the working with people. I want to build more skills as a to grow into a Senior Project Manager role. By then, my plan is to have my Project Manager Certificate, and I would like to have completed the Six Sigma Black Belt certification as well. I feel like I have a strong grasp on project management and I would like to lead some large cross functional projects. Finally, I trust my team and acknowledge that mistakes are a part of the process. By letting go some of the control, they learn and become stronger employees.
Do you have any questions for us?
At this point, the interview is almost over! It’s your turn to ask the questions of the panel. This the most important and most common interview question asked, so don’t get caught empty-handed. Here is where you get to learn about the organizational culture, day to day work and most importantly, build rapport with the hiring managers.
Stay away from questions about money and benefits of the position; the interview isn’t the place to discuss those topics. When you show up at an interview asking about salary, it tells me you’re only interested in compensation. Asking how you did in the interview is another awkward question that makes interviewers uncomfortable. Instead, ask the hiring manager open-ended questions to get them talking. A few of those might be:
- What do you like the most about the company/job/role?
- What do you see as the biggest challenges for this position?
- How do you define success?
- What would you like to see accomplished in the first 90 days?
Thanks for taking the time to read through our tips! If you found this information helpful, we’d love for you to share it with your network. As always, let us know if you have any questions or thoughts. If you’re interested in learning more about our customized resume and interview coaching services, please reach out. Stay tuned for next week’s post about the behavioral and situational interview questions as well.