How To Ace The 9 Most Common Interview Questions

Estimated reading time ~ 5 min
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Let’s admit it – we’ve all laid awake the night before an interview frantically trying to read the employer’s mind. With the number of job applicants who are actively seeking on the rise, being prepared to answer these questions has never been more important. You’ve taken the first step and landed the initial meeting, but now what?

You can put your mind-reading skills to the test all you want, but there’s no way to know exactly what will be asked. However, there are a few common questions to think about that can help you better prepare.

1. Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s difficult to think about where you want to be in five years when you’re currently trying to figure out where you want to be right now, but it’s important for interviewers to understand where you want to take your career. Explain what your plans to contribute to the company would be if you were to land the role.

Focusing on your efforts to improve yourself over the next five years is a good way to show employers that you’re ready to grow with them. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to further your education? How would you implement a plan to be successful?

2. If you were the CEO, how would you start your day?

Odd, yes, but this is not a trick question. Whether you’re applying to an entry-level role or an executive position, this question is more about the interviewer gaging your thought process. It’s not about a right or wrong. “It’s about thinking a response out loud, coming to a conclusion, and showing how you think critically and solve problems,” says HR expert Susan Underwood. “A good response would be something like: “Well, for every CEO, it will be different, but depending on what’s most important to business, the bottom-line or what’s going on that day, that’s likely what the CEO should be checking first, so it will likely vary by day. For me, I would check what is of highest priority first at that given time and respond accordingly.”

3. What are your weaknesses?

As much as we want to seem perfect when we walk into that conference room, employers know that it’s just not possible. It’s difficult to be put in such a vulnerable position with this question when the process of interviewing already has your nerves in knots. Here’s the most important key to answering this question: Always be honest.

Honestly recognizing a fault and showing what steps you’ve taken to improve upon this weakness demonstrates that you have the ability to look at yourself in a critical manner, fix your mistakes, and move forward. Employers will see beyond the weakness you’ve mentioned and see the important steps you’re taking to better yourself.

4. How would you handle a crisis at work?

It’s easy to get bogged down by this question, wondering what the scenario is and whether you would be required to put on your Olivia Pope white hat to save the day. But this question is often presented by interviewers who want to get a sense of your personality and how you resolve challenges, especially if the company or field you’re seeking to work in is high-pressure.

The key, according to Underwood, is to “know how to juggle multiple tasks and find what needs the most attention first and address it.” Walk through a few problem-solving steps that you have taken in your current role and expound upon those. Remember, “the worst thing you can do is give a one word response or say ‘I don’t know.’”

5. What are your strengths?

This is a common question that can be asked in many different ways. Being prepared with a list of strengths that you want to discuss can have you prepared to answer many forms of “What are your strengths?” Making this list is most productive when you’re aware of what strengths will best fit with this position. I’m sure you’re a speed demon when it comes to texting, but if you’re applying for a heavy machinery position, then it isn’t worth bringing your texting game into the interview.

Once you have an idea of what skills will be beneficial to this position, find strong action verbs to best describe yourself. Give specific examples to show how these strengths have contributed to the growth and well-being of previous companies or how you would implement them in this position.

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

Proceed with caution! Don’t blurt out the first negative comment about your current manager who you think has it out for you. It’s always a good rule to stay positive in an interview, even if you want to tell your current boss to take this job and shove it. What are some reasons for leaving your current job that show you’re motivated, goal oriented, and interested in bettering yourself?

7. Would your work holidays and weekends?

Again, tread lightly with this one. Often times, we are so eager to get a job that we’ll commit to anything, but be sure you can deliver on your promises. Conversely, this question should not deter you from the role. Just because a recruiter or hiring manager asks you whether you would work holidays and weekends, does not mean you’ll spend every Saturday night in your cubicle. Use this question as an opportunity to show that you’re a team player, willing to fill in when needed, but also dig into what would require employees to work on holidays and weekends. Don’t be afraid to be honest if you prefer to not work on certain days for religious reasons, or if you would work holidays but from home. This is the perfect time to dig into the role’s requirements and manager’s expectations.

8. If you were a fruit, what kind would you be and why?

Instead of trying to impress with this kind of unexpected question by saying “Rambutan or Dragonfruit,” just keep it simple. Choose something that you can provide an explanation for without dying of laughter. Something like: “A pineapple because I am unique, always stand out and I’m sweet on the inside.” If you’re stumped as to why the hiring manager even posed the question, Underwood offers insight.

“[Glassdoor] hears from a variety of employers that challenging interview questions can help them learn more about a job candidate, and in some cases, help them sort through a great candidate versus a good candidate. For instance, if you have three final candidates for a job and all of them are great on paper, how they answer and respond to a tough or challenging question can give the interviewer some added perspective into how they solve unexpected problems, which arise in almost any job at any employer.”

9. Why do you want this job?

This is a question where you can show off just how much prep work you put into this interview. Researching a company, job description, and employer will help you be able to authentically answer this question. Wanting to join a company because of attributes that weren’t specifically stated by the employer will show motivation.

Just because you’ve done your research doesn’t mean you need to be overly crafty with this response. Just be honest! Does this feel like the right step in advancing your career? Do the company’s goals and values match yours? Is there a specific connection you have to the position or company?

Think of positive reasons that will demonstrate why you feel this is a right fit for you and, in turn, why they should feel you’re right for the job.

This article is by Heather Huhman and originally appeared on Glassdoor. It is reposted here with permission.

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