15 common job interview questions and answers

Why is it important to prepare commonly asked interview questions in advance ?

So, you’ve perfected your resume and cover letter, and handed off your application. It might feel like the worst is over, but don’t fall into this trap – the job interview is arguably the most important part of the recruitment process, and they can potentially be high-stress, anxiety driving situations. One of the most important ways to reduce your nerves ahead of the day, stand out from other candidates and make a good impression, is to prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions beforehand.
This period of preparation will allow you to organise your thoughts, steer the conversation towards topics you are comfortable with, improve your argumentation, improvise more skilfully and develop your powers of persuasion. Our article will provide a practical guide to the most commonly asked questions and demonstrate how to answer them most effectively in your job interview.

What are the most common interview questions ?

1. ”Tell me a little bit about yourself…”
This is one of the first questions you are likely to be asked and is a favourite of recruiters. It may appear simple at first, but is in fact more complex than it seems.
It is only an introduction, so beware of falling into the trap of chronologically reciting your resume or cover letter (a *yawn* moment for the recruiter). Only mention the professional and personal experiences which are directly relevant to the post. Regarding your education, concentrate on the specific knowledge you have obtained during your studies and the ways in which this aligns with the job description.

2. ”What do you know about this company/organisation?”
It’s absolutely key to show the recruiter that you’ve done your research ahead of your job interview, about the role, the industry, the company, its values, the services it offers, and its competitors. Not only does it prove your genuine interest, but it shows respect – nothing will seem more arrogant than turning up having no idea about the company you have applied for. Furthermore, your research may even reveal to you whether it is truly a company or industry that you want to work for!

3. ”Why did you decide to apply for this position?”
Through this question, the interviewers want to assess how passionate you are for the position. They are looking to find out the link between your professional skills, your previous experiences, your education, and the job description. Make sure you are clued up on the perimeters of the post, your objectives in the role, and the challenges you will have to overcome.

4. ”Tell me about a situation in which…”
Without doubt, this question requires the STAR method. Simple and effective, this is a technique which will allow you to talk succinctly about your experiences and demonstrate your strengths in action with clear examples. S for Situation, T for Task, A for Action, R for Result. It’s a not-so-secret formula to answering behavioural questions perfectly, every time! STAR will make your answers better structured and more credible, and help you stand out from the crowd.

5. ”Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
This question tests your ability to think critically. Even if you aren’t 100% sure of your response, it’s important to give a thoughtful and ambitious response. To answer this effectively, make sure you understand the scope of opportunity for career progression in the company.

6. ”Why should we hire you?”
This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your ability to persuade, your self-confidence and your enthusiasm. A good idea is to structure your answer into 3 parts: your relevant experiences to the post, the interest you have in the company and the sector, and the strengths and personal skills that might appeal to your future employer.

7. ”What is your philosophy at work?”
Now is the opportunity to talk about the values you prioritise at work and the energy that you will bring to the team. It’s important to focus on giving concrete examples to back your values up, even if they are non-professional ones. For example: “I am inspired by my parents who are fulfilled at work because” … “I admire my friends who have succeeded at” …. “During a summer job I understood that I liked….”.

8. ”Tell me about a professional project you are particularly proud of”
To answer this question, emphasise the facts. Present a project that you’re particularly proud of and give an evaluation of your behavioural, operational, and technical strengths. Here, the recruiter is looking to know if you are a candidate that likes teamwork, knows how to be a driving force, and is capable of managing complex situations.
Don’t try and invent a larger-than-life project, know how to take a task from A to Z, whatever it is, and always try to be convincing: for example, if you were the leader on a group trip and had to face different challenges along the way, that is a fantastic way to illustrate your project management skills.

9. ”How would your colleagues and friends describe you?”
Whilst a bit more ambiguous, this one is simply a variation of a question on your qualities, as it encourages you to talk about your personality. Prepare it well, as you will have to talk about qualities that are palpable in both your personal and professional life – it’s not as simple as it seems. Here’s an example: you could talk about your appetite for risk, your levels of honesty, your independence, your desire to help others.

10. ”Do you have any questions for us?”
Often the final question, this one is easy to forget about. However, asking questions is crucial in order to illustrate your interest in the post and the company. Explore our guide on which questions to ask your recruiter during a job interview.

What are some ‘trick’ questions asked in interviews ?

11. ”What is your greatest weakness?”
In an evaluation of your weaknesses, don’t be tempted to provide “false weaknesses” such “I’m a perfectionist”. Demonstrate you are honest, self-aware, and willing to improve. The key lies in how you frame your weaknesses. For example: you could talk about how you are shy, but that in the past you decided to take theatre or public speaking classes to overcome it.
Feel free to read our article « Talking about your strengths and weaknesses » to learn how to be more impactful.

12. ”How do you explain this long gap in your resume/CV?”
Gap years are more popular in some cultures than others, and more respected. Whatever the reason for the gap in your resume, explain how it was productive and added value to the professional that you are today: for example, you volunteered, took a training course, learnt key transferable skills etc.

13. ”How do you receive criticism?”
You could answer this question by saying that you always interpret criticism as advice on how to improve yourself, and that you never take it personally. Make sure to give examples to back this up.

14. ”What are your salary expectations?”
If you feel stressed or under pressure, you risk asking for lower than you deserve, or saying something which might harm your prospects in future negotiations around renumeration. To aid your research, look on websites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, and go in with an informed idea of the average salaries for your role in the industry in question.

15. ”Are you more of a leader or a follower?”
Despite this type of question being slightly outdated now (recruiters have finally understood that personality is not black and white!) try providing some nuance in your answer by emphasising your flexibility and adaptability. For example: in this circumstance, I worked in my group to make collective decisions (teamwork), but in other circumstances (e.g. an internship with a boss with a strong personality) I recognised it was more beneficial to be flexible and listen.

Right, now you know what the most common interview questions asked by recruiters are, go and ace that job interview! And don’t forget the essentials: once you’ve done the preparation, simply be honest with the recruiter and have confidence in yourself. Good luck!