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 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 top interview questions you should be ready to answer, with word-for-word examples for each answer along with do’s and dont’s.
Practice and get comfortable with these questions and answer examples before your interview and you’ll feel more confident, while giving much better answers.
1. What do you know about our company?
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.
“From what I read, your company is one of the leaders in providing security software to other businesses. I read the list of clients on your website. Do you mostly serve Fortune 500 clients? I saw a couple big Fortune 500 companies mentioned on the list, including ___ and ___.”
“You’re one of the largest investment banks in the US. Your headquarters is in Raleigh, NC, and you have 25,000 employees worldwide based on what I read on your website.”
2. How did you hear about the position?
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.
“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”
3. Why did you apply for this position?
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 for 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. Companies want the best performers, and the best performers are picky in their job hunt. Stay away from negatives and complaints too. Don’t bad-mouth your current company or boss. Focus on the positives of the company you’re interviewing with.
“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.”
“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 university. I consider myself an expert in Java and it’s a skill I hope to continue specializing in.”
4. Why are you looking to leave your current company?
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.
“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.”
5. Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced and how you handled it
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 5PM, 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.”
6. How much money are you looking to earn?
Unfortunately this question is left off of many lists of job interview questions and answers examples. But it’s extremely important, and the wrong answer here can cost you thousands of dollars in the negotiation later on.
DON’T say a number. Why? you have the least amount of leverage possible at this point, assuming you’re early in the interview process. You haven’t finished interviewing with them, they don’t know if you’re any good or if they even want to hire you. So you can’t command a high salary right now. If you go too low with your price, they’ll hold you to it later. Go too high? You’ll scare them off before they even know what you’re worth!
It’s a lose-lose. Don’t do it. So remember… 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!
“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, and my priority is to find a position that’s a great fit for me.”
7. Do you have any questions for us?
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?”
8. Why should we hire you?
Try to talk about them and how you’ll help them. What will be better for them if they hire you? What will you improve for them?
And show you’ve done your research. Make it clear that you know what this position involves, and you’re ready to perform the tasks.
“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 ____”.
9. Why do you want to work here?
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.
“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.”
10. Tell me about yourself
This is one of the most popular interview question and answer examples people look for, because it’s extremely common to hear AND difficult to answer. Here’s how to handle it:
Keep it professional when answering the question of “tell me about yourself“. You don’t need to share personal details.
To answer, walk them through your background, starting at how you began your career or your current line of work. Take them through key accomplishments, key career moves you’ve made, and end by sharing what you’re looking to do next in your career and why you’re job hunting.
“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.”
11. Why did you leave your last job?
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.”
12. What is your greatest weakness?
When they ask, “what’s your greatest weakness?” , you want to name a real weakness.
I highly recommend picking something skill-based, not personality-based.
You never want to say you struggle working 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 paying 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 your answer might sound like.
“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 hours a week of my own time studying and learning this new area, and it’s helped me a lot.”
13. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
There are three big reasons interviewers love to ask “where do you see yourself in 5 years?“:
So, pick a work-related goal of where you’d like to be 5 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 5 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.
So to recap…
“I’m glad you asked. In 5 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.”
14. Tell Me About a Time You Failed
This is a common interview question that employers ask to see if you’re able to learn from mistakes and bounce back when things don’t go your way.
They always want to see if you can own-up to it and be accountable and actually admit to your failures.
So when you answer, “tell me a time when you failed”… here are the most important do’s and don’ts to follow:
“In my most recent position, I had recently been promoted to Supervisor, and was managing the department on my own right before the department closed. 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 every employee 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 differently. 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.”
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