Home > Interview questions > 5 Common Interview Questions for All Careers

5 Common Interview Questions for All Careers

student at interview

The Great Reshuffle continues: Millions of Americans leave their jobs each month, creating a flood of new opportunities, resulting in employers competing for top talent. However, this cycle barely makes job hunting easier for job seekers. It’s still crucial to stand out in the interviewing process, especially if you’re new to the industry or applying for a position at a high-profile company. If you’re looking for a new opportunity, this guide will help you prepare for the most common interview questions. Here’s what you can expect interviewers to ask, no matter the job you’re applying for.

Most Common Interview Questions—and How to Answer Them

Interview questions vary greatly depending on the industry, company culture, and role expectations. However, there are some that you can expect to hear in almost every interview. It’s wise to be prepared for them and know what an interviewer wants to hear in response. Here are five common interview questions you want to be ready for.

1. Tell Me About Yourself.

Often, this is the first thing an interviewer will ask. This question breaks the ice and allows the interviewer to get to know you. You can use your answer to show that you have the qualities and experiences required for the role.

A good strategy is to structure your answer as follows: present, past, and future.

You can start by talking about your current school or position. Include details about why you chose to study or work there. Add any accomplishments you think are appropriate to demonstrate your quantifiable achievements. (Learn what top skills employers are looking for on resumes.)

Next, talk about your past work experience relevant to the job. If you’re new to the industry or looking for your first job, you can instead explain how you’ve become passionate about this particular career field.

Finally, transition into what you want to do in the future and how you can be an asset to the company.

2. What Are Your Biggest Strengths?

Talking about strengths can trip up a lot of people. You want to show you’re a good fit, but you don’t want to appear arrogant. You can find the right balance by thinking strategically.

Remember, interviewers want to know whether your strengths align with the role’s responsibilities and the company’s needs. The key is to showcase positive qualities relevant to the position and use examples to support your answer.

Review the job posting and identify a few hard and soft skills most pertinent to the position. Then, think about how you can prove you’re good at those skills.

or example, say you’re applying for a position that requires meeting deadlines. You could talk about an experience where you used your strong time management skills to help your team finish a project on time.

Using an actual example can significantly strengthen your answer. It also gives you a chance to talk about how well you work with others.

3. What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses?

As challenging as discussing your strengths, doing the opposite may seem even trickier. When you’re trying to market yourself, how do you talk about your weaknesses without jeopardizing your prospects of getting the job?

“Don’t try to be clever here, and try to position a strength as a weakness,” says Alan Edwards, writer and coach at Undercover Recruiter. “For example, don’t say you’re too much of a perfectionist or that you tend to work too hard and demand too much of yourself. Interviewers can see right through it.”

Instead, use this question to show that you’re self-aware. Talk about the areas you need to work on and the steps you’re taking to improve.

Say, for example, you get frustrated when projects you’re a part of become delayed. You can recognize that tendency and say that instead of harboring frustration, you try to stay proactive, offer help to avoid delays, and frequently communicate about expectations.

4. Why Do You Want This Job?

Interviewers want to see if you’re applying for the right reasons. Companies look for passionate and excited people as they are likely to produce great results and stay for the long haul. 

As with the other questions, tailor your answers to the specific position and company. Think about how the company matches what you’re looking for.

First, think about the reasons why you like the job. Does it align with your career goals? Does it allow you to do something you’re passionate about? Tell the interviewer to demonstrate genuine enthusiasm.

Next, you want to mention why you want to work at that company. If you’re using its products and services, don’t be afraid to appear a fan. Or, identify the company’s core values that resonate with you and talk about them. These details will also show you’ve done your research. (Forage offers free virtual work experiences that help you better understand what it’s like to work in roles at some of the nation’s top companies.)

5. What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Talking about salary expectations is never easy or comfortable in interviews. The best way to prepare is to research the expected salary range for the position. Websites like PayScale, Glassdoor and Fishbowl may have the information you need. Reaching out to your connections in similar positions through LinkedIn is also helpful.

“You can refer to that research when you answer, but it’s equally fine to pick a specific number in the middle of the range,” Edwards says. “Follow your answer up by saying something like, ‘Compensation isn’t the only factor I’m considering in a new job, though. I’m looking forward to learning more about the company and the role.”

Keep your experience, skills, and education in mind when deciding on a salary range for yourself.

“An experienced applicant should ask for a salary on the higher end of that range and less experienced applicants on the lower,” says Archie Payne, president of CalTek Staffing.

The Bottom Line

Practicing and preparing to answer common questions is the best way to make sure you’re ready to ace your interview. And don’t forget to come up with smart questions of your own: You’re also determining whether the position is the right fit for you, so feel free to interview the company right back.

Got turned down after a job interview? Here are some ways to ask the interviewer for feedback.

Image Credit: Tim Gouw