How to Answer Common Job Interview Questions

Several common job interview questions have been known to trip up even the most prepared job seekers. These job interview questions include: What is your greatest weakness? Why should I hire you? This article shows some ways to respond to these and other common questions.

What is your most memorable accomplishment?

  • Relate an accomplishment directly to the job for which you’re interviewing.

  • Give details about the accomplishment, as if you’re telling a story.

  • Describe results.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? How does this position fit with your long-term career objectives?

  • Say you hope your hard work has moved you appropriately forward on your career track.

  • Describe short-term, achievable goals and discuss how they will help you reach your long-term goals.

  • Explain how the position you want will help you to reach your goals.

  • Strive to look ambitious, but not too much so that you threaten the hiring manager.

What is your greatest strength?

  • Anticipate and prepare to discuss up to five strengths, such as

    Skill in managing your work schedule

    Willingness to do extra

    Ability to learn quickly

    Proactivity in solving problems

    Team-building

    Leadership

    Cool-headed temperament under pressure

  • Discuss only strengths related to the position you want.

  • Use specific examples to illustrate. Include statistics and testimonials.

What is your greatest weakness?

  • Because of the corrective action you took, you were able to transform a starting point of failure into a success story of strength.

    Two examples follow:

    • I didn’t always know what I was doing — right or wrong — when I took my first managerial position. So I took online classes in managerial techniques, read management books, and paid attention to how managers whom I admired operated. As a result, I give careful thought to the quality of guidance that I give my direct reports before launching a project. I’m not yet perfect and may never be — I’m my own toughest critic — but, as the record shows, my leadership has improved dramatically in motivating the productivity achievements of my teams.

    • Not being a natural techie, I was underperforming when I first worked with X word processing software. So I took a class in that software program at a community college on my own time and now I’m the best administrative assistant in my office.

  • Balance a weakness with a compensating strength.

    Two examples follow:

    • I’m not a global thinker. But, being detail-minded, I’m a topnotch staffer to an executive who is a big-picture guy.

    • I don’t pretend to be a gifted trial lawyer. But I’ll stack my legal research and business structure skills up against any other lawyer in town.

Would you rather work with others or alone? How about teams?

  • Discuss your adaptability and flexibility in working with others or alone, as a leader or a follower.

  • Give concrete examples.

  • Mention the importance of every team member’s contribution.

What is your definition of success? Of failure?

  • Show that your success is balanced between your professional and personal lives.

  • Relate success to the position you want.

  • If you have to talk about failure, do so positively. Show how you turned a failure into a success or discuss how and what you learned from the failure.

  • Demonstrate that you’re a happy person who thinks the world is more good than bad.

How do you handle stressful situations?

  • Give examples of how you’ve dealt with job stress.

  • Discuss what you do to relax, refresh, and refill.

  • Give positive illustrations of how job stress makes you work harder or more efficiently.

Is there anything else I should know about you?

  • Discuss any selling points the interview failed to uncover and relate those selling points to the job you want.

  • Repeat the selling points you’ve already discussed and remind the interviewer why you’re the best candidate for the job.

Why should I hire you?

Your basic answer to this question should relate the work that you’ve done to the work you’re going to do. It covers your unique combination of specific skills, knowledge (including education and training), and experience.

  • Prepare at least three key reasons that show how you’re better than the other candidates.

  • Use specific examples to illustrate your reasons.

  • Tell something unusual or unique about you that will make the interviewer remember you.

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