In a standard job interview, you’ll be asked a number of questions that aim to explore your skills, experience and working style. While these questions can vary in their wording, they generally want to achieve the same thing, meaning that you can pre-prepare.
Fundamentally then, the foundation of any successful job interview is proper preparation. If you can go into the interview with answers already in mind, you’re more likely to give a positive impression to the employer.
But what questions will you be asked? In this article, we explore the 9 most common job interview questions and offer sample answers you can use in your next interview.
9 Common Job Interview Questions
The questions you see below represent some of the most common ‘generic’ interview questions. They’re used in a range of industries and job roles because they allow a recruiter to gauge your experience, personality and ability to handle challenges in a professional setting.
While the structure of an interview often varies from role to role, you’ll most likely have some of these questions sprinkled amongst other more technical or skill-based questions.
This is why we suggest having an idea of what you want to say before going into the interview – this way you won’t be surprised if the conversation suddenly explores motivation or conflict resolution mid-interview.
Here are the 9 most common job interview questions you might face:
1. Tell Us About Yourself
This is one of the most commonly asked questions at the start of a job interview, as it breaks the ice while also (hopefully) giving the employer the information they need.
People often struggle with this question as they don’t like speaking about themselves but it’s essential that you give a confident first impression.
While some employers may genuinely want to know about your personal life, it’s more likely that they’re asking this question from a professional standpoint.
Remember that this is basically an opportunity to talk about some of the key points from your CV or cover letter.
Provide a concise overview of your last role, roles you’ve had in the past that were relevant, why you joined the field or what interests you about the industry. You might even run through some of your top achievements.
Example: “In my previous role as a digital marketing executive, I learned a lot about how social media can completely transform a marketing campaign. I also found out that I really enjoy building out a social media campaign – doing the necessary organising, researching and scheduling that makes use of my natural creativity and organisational skills. Although I enjoy my job, I think I’m ready to step up as a specialist and start finding new challenges.”
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2. What Makes You Unique?
As you start to apply for more competitive roles, it becomes increasingly important that you stand out from the crowd. You’ll most likely be applying for roles where every candidate has extremely similar skill sets or experience, which means you need something unique.
This is your opportunity to think about the skills – both hard and soft skills – that you have that others may not. Are you particularly organised? Do you have clear examples of this skill in action? Bring this up in the job interview.
Achievements are another way to truly stand out. If you have examples of times when you were directly responsible for a major success, this is the time to bring it up.
Example: “What makes me unique for this marketing role is that I have experience working in sales. I understand exactly what salespeople are looking for in a lead and the information that gives us the edge. This previous experience has helped me develop confidence in public speaking and pitching, which I’m able to take into a marketing role within an agency.”
3. Why Do You Want to Work Here?
Many inexperienced workers often hear this question and think ‘I need a job to get paid’. That’s not what the employer is getting at. This question is often asked for two reasons: 1. The employer wants to see if you’ve taken the initiative to research the company. 2. They want to understand your wider motivations and how that aligns with their long-term plan.
You can easily prepare for this question by researching the company – look at their website and social media – to establish what their values and goals are.
By demonstrating this willingness to learn more about a company and taking the time to actually do it, you’re instantly showing dedication, initiative and passion. At a time when businesses are more focused on ‘company culture’ than ever before, properly researching a company shows that you’re flexible enough to join and progress the culture.
Example: “I noticed on your Instagram that your agency is looking to partner with charities, providing marketing to raise awareness about key issues. This aligns with my own values and I’d love to work for a business that operates on this basis.”
4. How Would You Describe Yourself?
This is a question you might face instead of ‘what are you strengths and weaknesses?’ but both often catch people out – especially if you’re approaching it from the perspective of your friends or family.
Consider your key attributes and what you think accurately describes you or your working style. Once you have those attributes in mind, think about examples of when you applied them and how that led to success.
If you can provide an example of what you’re saying – with context – it’s easier for the recruiter or employer to get a feel for what you’re putting across.
Example: “I’m a very process-driven person and organisation is my strong suit. In my last role I realised that the workflows we were using meant proper prioritisation was low and some tasks were being missed. I helped implement a project management tool that allowed us to create a more effective, organised workflow and increased productivity, whilst reducing missed tasks by 30%.”
5. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Role?
This is a common question if you’re already working in a current role and applying somewhere else, as it allows an employer to see what impacts your work and how you operate on a professional level.
From the interviewer’s perspective, they want to gauge what you’re looking for in a new role rather than how your current employer has failed. From your perspective, you should be looking to remain professional, avoid being overly negative and explain how what you want to achieve with your new employer.
Example: “While my current role has helped me develop my skills in social media marketing, there isn’t much room to choose or progress my own projects. I’d love to be a head of social that can design and dictate how marketing campaigns unfold, which I feel is a career path that your business can facilitate. I think that you’d be able to help me build the foundations for a long-term career and I can help you expand your marketing offering.”
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6. What is Your Main Motivation?
This common interview question helps an employer understand what will keep you engaged when you’re at work. At this point in the interview, you can demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position whilst also highlighting your aspirations and how the company can assist that.
Just remember to be honest. While it’s perfectly fair to say you’re motivated by salary, it’s important to contextualise how you aim to achieve that – especially in terms of personal development and assisting the company in meeting their goals.
Example: “I’m really motivated by being the best at what I do. This is because being the best not only leads to success for the company but can also help me earn higher salaries and provide better career opportunities. With this in mind, I’m always looking to learn more about my immediate role as well as how I can impact other elements of marketing.”
7. Have You Ever Had to Face Conflict at Work?
This is a common interview question because it measures your ability to maintain a calm, professional demeanour and demonstrate critical thinking skills. This is probably the most important question to prepare for as you definitely need to provide a clear example and address how you approached it:
- How did the situation occur?
- What actions did you take?
- What was the outcome?
With this approach, you can break down a scenario, provide important context and demonstrate how you handled the situation.
Example: “During my time as a marketing executive, we received some feedback on the phone from a client that was unhappy with the results we were delivering. After placating the client, I took the opportunity to create a small presentation that explained how we could change our approach and potentially improve the performance of the campaign. After running it past my line manager, we sent it over and managed to retain the client, who actually saw a 10% increase in performance immediately.
8. How Do You Perform Under Pressure?
Stress is a factor in every job and industry, meaning it can occur to anyone when we least expect it. This also means that employers are always looking to understand how an employee may deal with stress and how their work ethic will fit in with the overall company culture.
If you can demonstrate an ability to handle stress in a positive way with an experience or a story, your employer will have context and better understand you as a person.
Example: “In my last role, we often had to work to tight deadlines and adapt quickly due to the nature of social media. I found it useful to use two key pieces of software; a social media management tool and a project management tool. This allowed me to be adaptable and agile, meaning even larger projects were completed on time and to a high standard.
9. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
Often one of the last questions you’ll answer, this gives an employer an opportunity to see how serious you are about a long-term role and what you want to achieve. While you’re not expected to stay in the same job role for five years, the company wants to see how your plans align with their goals and how you might support one another.
If you want to be a manager, for example, explain this to the interviewer and give them an idea of how you’d like to reach that point.
Example: “Going forward, I want to be a marketing manager in charge of multiple teams. I feel I have a solid foundation of skills that can help me get there but I need the transferable skills that assist a management role. Your company stood out to me because you focus on hiring from within and provide exceptional training for current employees.”