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The 4 Most Common Job Interview Questions (And What Your Interviewer Actually Wants To Hear)

You’ve submitted your resume, which was well-received, and now you’ve landed an interview. Congratulations! Below are some common interview questions that are seemingly simple. However, based on my experiences interviewing people, most people get these wrong. So I’m here to share with you what your interviewer actually wants to hear.

1. Tell me about yourself.

Although this question is open-ended, the point of this question isn’t for you to share your life saga or aspects of your life that are not relevant to the job to which you’ve applied.

Instead, what your interviewer wants to hear is a succinct response that describes how your previous experiences have led you to apply for this particular job and how you think your previous experiences are relevant to this particular job.

2. What are your weaknesses?  

Although this question is very straightforward, the point of this question isn’t to find out what your weaknesses are. Instead, it is to understand the steps that you’ve taken to address your weaknesses.

Example 1 (Weak response): My weakness is that I’m not good at speaking in front of large groups of people.

Example 2 (Strong response): My weakness is that I’m not good at speaking in front of large groups of people. However, I’ve been working on this by taking public speaking classes so that I can overcome my fear.

Also, people’s go-to response to this question tends to be perfectionism. Perfectionism isn’t considered to be a weakness unless you can elaborate on your response like the second example above where you share how you’re addressing your perfectionistic tendencies to create better outcomes in a work environment.

3. Tell me about a challenge that you’ve experienced at work and how you handled it.

Although this is a two-pronged question, your interviewer is more concerned about the second half of the question. When you describe the challenge, do your best to be as objective and neutral as possible rather than blaming the other person or portraying yourself as a victim. Also, make sure that in your response, you focus more on sharing steps that you took to resolve the situation so that you come off as being someone who is mature and professional enough to handle whatever situation comes your way.

4. Do you have any questions for me?

The answer to this question must always be yes, unless you’ve had a very robust interview where your interviewer and you have covered every single aspect of the job and company. Chances of this happening are very unlikely!

As such, please be prepared to ask your interviewer a few questions to show that you are curious and excited to work for the company. Of course, it is better to ask follow-up questions based on what your interviewer has shared with you. However, if needed, some tried and tested questions include the following:

  • What are some of the challenges that you/your team are facing?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Can you provide some examples of the projects that I could potentially be working on?

Some general interviewing tips to keep in mind:

  • Always try to reframe negative experiences into positive ones. This is especially true if your interviewer asks about your weaknesses, challenges, and failures. They care less about where you’ve fallen short. Instead, they care more about how you’ve handled and learned from your experiences.
  • Always provide an example to back up your answers. For example, if the interviewer is asking, “What are your strengths?” it’s not enough to say I have a strong work ethic. Show me how you have a strong work ethic by providing examples.
  • When you’re preparing for interviews, it’s helpful to write out your responses in bullet point format so you have an idea of how you want to answer. Because your responses are in bullet points (rather than in sentences), when you deliver them, they’ll also sound more natural (vs. stilted and rehearsed.)

Even with all these suggestions, what is most important is for you to be yourself. If you’re trying too hard to act a certain way or deliver an answer because it’s what you think the interviewer wants to hear, chances are the job isn’t a good fit for you. If you need to act like someone you’re not during the interview, you’ll probably need to maintain that façade on the job and you won’t be happy doing so. While it’s important to exude positivity and professionalism during an interview, above all, it’s important to be authentically you.

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