If you have interviews coming up, this article is for you. You’re going to get the top job interview questions and answers examples, plus do’s and don’ts to get you ready to ace your next interview.
Make sure you’re ready for each of these interview questions by reviewing our notes on what the hiring manager is looking for, the mistakes to avoid, and example answers that will impress the employer.
Let’s get started…
These are the most common job interview questions… with the best ways to answer, word-for-word examples of what to say, and do’s and dont’s to help you avoid mistakes.
Practice and get comfortable with these interview questions, craft responses that sound like the answer examples below, and you’ll give better answers in your interviews.
In the sample answers below, you’ll see that the goal is to show them you’ve done your research and didn’t apply to their company without knowing anything about them.
If you don’t seem like you know anything about them, you’ll come across as desperate – somebody who will take any job they can find. And that’s going to make you unattractive to any good employers out there.
So when they ask, “what do you know about our company?”, your primary goal is to show you’ve done your research or knew about their company before applying. If you do this, you’ll be fine.
Interview answer example 1:
“From what I read, your company is one of the leaders in database and website security for large corporations. I read your list of clients on your website and saw multiple Fortune 500 companies mentioned, including Verizon and IBM. Beyond that, I recently had an informational interview with James from the Marketing team, after messaging him on LinkedIn, and he shared a bit about your company culture; mainly, the emphasis on collaboration and open interaction between different departments and groups. That’s something that sounds exciting to me and that I’m hoping to find in my next job. Can you share more about how you’d describe the company culture here?”
Interview answer example 2:
“I know you’re one of the leaders in contract manufacturing for the pharmaceutical industry. I read two recent news articles as well and saw that you just finalized plans to build a new facility that will double your manufacturing capacity. One of my hopes in my current job search is to find a fast-growing organization that could take full advantage of my past experience in scaling up manufacturing operations, so I was excited to have this interview and learn more about the specific work and challenges you need help with from the person you hire for this role.”
It’s important to show your employer that you do more than the minimum when preparing for something important like an interview, and that you are creative and skilled at finding information.
So that’s what employers want to know about you when they ask this question, and what to consider if you want to give the best answer possible.
However, you don’t need to share every single fact you know. With open-ended interview questions like this, it’s important to be concise and selective in what you share. So pick a couple of areas to discuss that you’re most excited about or found most interesting. That’s the best way to impress and make yourself seem like a good fit.
In fact, it’s important to be concise with all of these questions and answers. Rambling can frustrate an interviewer, so be conscious of this.
When they ask “how did you hear about the position?”, the interviewer just wants to know if you’ve taken the time to research the company and if you have a genuine reason for wanting to talk with them. Mention a product, a mission statement on the website, a reputation for talented employees, or whatever else seems applicable to that specific company. Come up with a great reason. Don’t make it seem like they’re just one company among many. Or that you’re sending your resume out to them for no particular reason other than wanting a job.
This is one of the simplest question and answer scenarios in any interview, but that doesn’t mean it can’t ruin your chances at the job if you answer incorrectly.
Good answer examples:
“I found the position while looking for jobs online”
“I heard about it from a colleague/friend”
“Your company was recommended to me by somebody I worked with in a previous job and had heard good things about your organization”
“I saw the job posted on LinkedIn, and the position seemed interesting so I wanted to learn more”
As you can see from the samples above, there isn’t one “right” way to respond when the interviewer asks this question. But be prepared to give a clear, direct answer, because this is something that employers want to know, and this is one of the most common questions you’ll face.
When they ask “why did you apply for this position?” pick something specific that interested you. If you say you love their products, tell them why. That’s the key to giving a convincing answer to this job interview question.
Stay away from sounding like you’re desperate, or that you want just any job. Yes, if you were laid off it’s okay to say that, but then re-focus the conversation on exactly what you’re looking for in the next opportunity and why you feel their company might have it.
You need to sound like you want the RIGHT job and that you’re being picky. Employers won’t hire you if you don’t demonstrate that you want to work for them in particular.
So it’s best to appear picky and selective in your job search. That means being clear about what you want in your next role.
Also, the best answers will stay away from negatives and complaints. Don’t bad-mouth your current company or boss. Focus on the positives of the job you’re applying for now.
Example answer 1:
“Since beginning my career, I’ve wanted to work for a larger organization in this industry, and I know you’re one of the leaders in this space. I’m very interested in your products/services, especially the mobile applications you’re building recently, so I’d be excited to come here and grow my skills with an organization like yours.”
Example answer 2:
“I’ve heard great things about the work environment here from a few colleagues. And when I saw this job posting, it seemed to match my skills very closely. For example, I saw on the job description that you need somebody who’s an expert in Java programming. This is what I focused on in both of my previous positions, and was even the focus of my academic work before graduating from university. I consider myself an expert in Java and it’s a skill I hope to continue specializing in.”
Now, not everyone is job searching while employed, but if you are – this is one of the most important interview questions and answers to know.
The most important thing when they ask why you are looking to leave your current job is to stay positive and never badmouth.
How do you sound positive? Rather than complaining or talking badly about your current situation, say that you’re looking for more of something.
Is your current boss a jerk? Say that you’re looking for an environment with more leadership you can learn from.
Good sample answer:
“I’m looking for more leadership opportunities. I’ve been at my company for three years and have really enjoyed the experience but I feel in order to take the next step in my career, it’d be helpful to join a larger organization and use what I’ve learned in the past to lead more projects. That’s why this Project Manager role excited me.”
Focus on a specific work-related challenge and talk about how you overcame obstacles, used it as a learning experience, used the resources around you (including people/colleagues if applicable), and ended up with a positive result! That’s how to answer this interview question. Keep it work-related, not personal.
“In my last job, we were facing a tough deadline and my boss was out for the day. Our client was expecting a project to be delivered by 5:00 PM, but we were far behind schedule. I took the lead on the project, delegated tasks to the four other team members in a way that I thought would utilize everyone’s strengths best. And then I re-organized my own personal tasks so I could dedicate my entire day to contributing to this project as well. The project was a success and we delivered the work on-time. I went on to lead more projects after that, and used what I learned to be a better project manager.”
This question is left off of many lists of common job interview questions, yet it’s extremely important and the wrong answer can cost you thousands of dollars.
The best answers to this question follow one rule: DON’T say a specific number or even a narrow salary range that you’re targeting.
Why? You have the least amount of leverage possible at this point in the job interview and job search process. You haven’t finished interviewing with this employer, and they don’t even know if you’re a good fit for the position.
So you can’t command a high salary right now. There’s nothing to gain by answering salary questions so early, and quite a bit to potentially lose.
If you go too low with your desired salary range, it could limit the offer you receive later, even if they would have offered more normally. Or, you could worry them that you’re not at the level they were hoping for!
Meanwhile, if you share a number or range that’s too high, you could scare them off before they get to know you and see your worth! Whereas, after talking with you in a few interviews, they might have been willing to stretch their budget to hire you! I’ve seen this happen frequently as a recruiter.
Therefore, it’s a lose-lose to tell them your salary target before you know they’re interested in hiring you. When you’re preparing what to say in a job interview, especially an early-stage interview, salary goals should not be a part of it!
You can, however, share some basic research you’ve done into broad salary ranges for this type of position in your city.
“Right now I’m focused on finding a job that’s the right fit for my career. Once I’ve done that, I’m willing to consider an offer you feel is fair, but I do not have a specific number in mind yet. My priority in my job search is to find a position that’s a great fit and will allow me to continue learning and becoming more skilled. That said, I did some baseline research into salaries for this type of role here in Seattle and found that the average seems to be in the $50K to $75K range, so if your job is within that range, I think it makes sense to keep talking.”
For more info, here’s a full article on how to answer desired salary on applications and interviews.
If you don’t ask good questions to each person you speak with, you are very unlikely to get hired.
You can ask about the work, the training, the challenges you’d face, the overall direction of the company.
Don’t ask about salary, benefits, time off, or anything that isn’t related to the work. Wait for them to bring it up, or until you know they want to offer you the position.
FYI here are the 105 best questions to ask the interviewer.
“Yes, I have a couple of questions actually. The first thing I wanted to ask: Is this a newly-created position, or did somebody hold this role in the past? And if so, what did that person go on to do after this position?”
Employers ask, “Why should we hire you” to see how well you understand the role, and to hear your perspective on how your skills can help them.
When you hear interview questions like this, you should be thinking about their role, their needs, and how you’ll help them. How will they benefit if they hire you? What will you improve for them? What will become easier, more efficient, or more profitable?
And show you’ve done your research. Make it clear that you know what this position involves and that you’re ready to perform those exact tasks in your next job.
Example interview answer:
“I read on the job description that you’re looking for someone with experience in ____. I’ve done that for 3 years and can immediately help you accomplish ____”.
If they ask “why do you want this job?” show you’ve done plenty of research to learn about them before coming in to interview. You want to make them feel like you chose them for a reason. This is very similar to the previous question: “Why did you apply for this position?”
Show them that you know what that their job involves (at least as much as you could learn from the job description and company website) and that you’re excited to be interviewing for this position.
The bottom line is: The typical employer looks to hire someone who will want to work for them in particular, not just someone who wants to work any job they can find.
Here’s how to demonstrate that you want to work for them and that you’re a good fit when you answer:
Sample interview answer:
“I’ve been actively searching for jobs since graduating with my Nursing degree. I’m interested in intensive care and emergency medicine and I’ve seen your hospital mentioned as having one of the best ER’s in the region. I thought the job description matched up well with my background, and saw some of my personal strengths mentioned, like multitasking and being able to thrive in a fast-paced environment, so I’d love to begin my career here.”
This is one of the most common interview questions, and it trips a lot of job seekers up because of how open-ended it is.
Here’s what the best answers include, and how to impress when the interviewer asks this question:
First, keep your answer work-related when answering “tell me about yourself“. While technically they’ve left it open to include personal details, it’s not what the typical interviewer is looking for.
And to keep your answer clear and easy to understand, tell your story in chronological order.
Walk them through your background, starting at how you began your career or your current line of work.
If you’re a recent graduate or entry-level candidate, you can discuss your academic work. Why did you choose this field of study? What projects have you done and what have you worked on?
If you have prior work experience, walk the interviewer through your key accomplishments, key career moves you’ve made and why, and end by sharing what you’re looking to do next in your career and why you’re job hunting.
Interview answer example:
“I started my career in Marketing after graduating with a Business degree in 2013. I’ve spent my entire career at Microsoft, receiving two promotions and three awards for outstanding performance. I’m looking to join a smaller company now, and take on more leadership and project management.”
There are a lot of good answers to this interview question. There isn’t just one “right” answer. Here are some guidelines:
If you chose to leave on your own terms, stay positive and focus on what you wanted to gain from the decision, rather than bad-mouthing or focusing on negatives you wanted to avoid.
And if you were fired or laid off, be upfront and clear. You’re not going to make employers want to hire you by being vague or trying to hide something.
If you got fired, show what you’ve learned from the experience, and what you’ve done to make sure this doesn’t happen again. That’s how to spin it into a positive.
“I was hired for a project management role, but over time that changed and I was no longer being given the opportunity to do the work I was interested in. I left to pursue an opportunity that I felt was more aligned with what I’ve chosen to focus on in my career.”
You can also get more ideas for how to answer this on our list of 20 answers for “why did you leave your last job.”
When they ask, “what’s your greatest weakness?” you want to name a real weakness.
I recommend picking something skill-based, not personality-based.
You never want to say you struggle to work with others, or you’re bad at resolving disagreements, or taking direction from a manager, etc. Those things will get you rejected in the interview.
So pick a specific skill, but pick something that won’t severely impact your ability to do this job.
For example, if the job involves data entry with Excel spreadsheets all day, you do not want to say Excel is your weakness. Or that you struggle to pay attention to details.
Finally, end your answer by explaining what you’re doing to overcome or improve your weakness.
Take a look at the do’s and don’ts and the interview answer example below to get a sense of what the best answers will sound like.
Example interview answer:
“I’m not particularly strong in social media marketing. For the first few years of my career, I focused entirely on email marketing. That’s still what I specialize in, which is why I applied for your Email Marketing Manager job. But I’ve realized it’s also helpful to understand the principles of social media marketing because some of the strategies that work there also work well in email. So I’ve started spending a couple of hours per week of my own time to study and learn this new area, which has helped me a lot.”
There are three big reasons interviewers ask “where do you see yourself in 5 years?“:
So, pick a work-related goal of where you’d like to be five years from now, and make sure it’s slightly challenging or ambitious-sounding.
You don’t want to say, “I see myself in the same position five years from now.”
And make sure to share a goal that is related to the type of job you’re interviewing for. You want to sound like the experience you’ll gain in this job fits your long-term goals.
Otherwise, they’re going to be scared to hire you. Why would they offer you the job if it doesn’t fit the goals you described to them? You’d be unsatisfied, bored, and would probably quit within the first year. No company wants this.
Example interview answer:
“I’m glad you asked. In five years I see myself taking on more responsibilities, either through management or higher-level individual contributions. I’m not sure which path will make sense to pursue, but I know my goal right now is to build a strong foundation and gain valuable experience so that I’ll have a successful future in this industry.”
This is one of the most common interview questions in many fields, from retail to corporate positions, and is intended to find out if you’re able to learn from mistakes and bounce back when things don’t go your way.
Employers want to see if you can own up to your mistakes, be accountable, and also learn and improve from the experience. That last piece is key if you want to give a good answer to this question.
When you answer, “tell me a time when you failed”… here are the most important do’s and don’ts to follow:
Sample interview answer:
“In my most recent position, I had recently been promoted to Supervisor and was managing the department by myself right before the close of business. An employee was acting out and I confronted him in front of everybody. It made the situation worse and caused a lot of distraction for everyone on the floor. I failed to lead properly in this situation, and spoke to my manager the next day to discuss what I could have done better. We both agreed that I should have handled this in-private with the employee, by asking them to step inside my office with me. If I had done this instead of reacting the way I did, the situation would have turned out much better. From that point onward, I am always conscious of whether a discussion with a team member should occur in public or behind closed doors, and it made me a better leader.”
This is another one of the most common interview questions you’ll hear.
You may also hear this phrased as a behavioral interview question, like, “Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision? How did you handle it and what did you decide?”
With any of these decision-making job interview questions, hiring managers want to know that you’ve made good decisions in the past and are comfortable making a tough decision under pressure. Demonstrate this, and they’ll feel more confident that you’ll be able to make good decisions in your next job, too… while working for them.
So to show the hiring manager that you’re the right fit, prepare to explain how you organize and structure your decisions. The best answers will show that you’re calm and follow a logical system when you make important decisions.
Answer sample 1:
“Just last week I had a situation that describes my process pretty well. One of our largest clients was having an issue with our latest software update and I had to decide between doing a fresh install on their system or trying to troubleshoot. The fresh install would come with downtime, but it was a known variable. Whereas, if we took troubleshooting steps, it could resolve the problem eventually, but the company would be working with multiple software bugs and issues for an unknown period. I spoke to our representative from their company, and also spoke to the Account Manager within our firm who had originally brought this client on, since he had the closest relationship with the firm. The company didn’t express a preference and told us that we should decide what’s best. However, the Account Manager I spoke with said that this company is typically risk-averse and doesn’t like uncertainty. They want to know how bad the “damage” will be whenever a problem arises. Based on this information, I felt the best way to resolve the situation was to do a complete reinstall of the software, causing 30 minutes of downtime, but solving the problem that day. I also spoke to our billing team to provide a special discount to help offset the lost revenue our software caused, which the company appreciated and thanked me for.”
Answer sample 2:
“I typically list out all available options and then weigh the pros and cons and expected outcomes of each. If other teams or people are impacted by the decision, I’ll ask for their thoughts, too. Sometimes a peer will point out a pro or con that I hadn’t seen, so I find it helpful to talk to others when appropriate. After this, I’ll choose the course of action that I feel is most likely to bring about the best outcome. I also weigh the risks of each possible decision. If one decision has a good potential outcome but comes with too much risk for the company, then it may not be the right choice. Would you like me to give an example? Or did that answer your question…”
If you have interviews coming up and don’t want to leave anything to chance, I’ve created a new guide where you can copy my exact step-by-step method for getting job offers. You can get more details here.
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