You should think hard about how you can differentiate yourself from others -- every step of the way during the interview. Be memorable in a positive way even when answering these "boring questions." And, to be well-prepared to give smart answers to behavioral interview questions, read my article Smart Strategies to Answer to Behavioral Interview Questions
How To Respond: Take the “middle road” as you answer these questions: you don’t want to appear overly cocky or full of yourself, but neither do you want to be self-deprecating or “hide your light under a bushel.” The best tone to use is one of quiet confidence. If you are asked a “trick” question about your weaknesses or mistakes you have made in the past, own up to a minor failing but then explain how you learned to remediate the issue.
You can start by reviewing the top 50 popular interview questions asked by employers, as well as the sample answers for each question on the list. Click through to the Best Answers links to get tips on what information you should include in your response - as well as what details to leave out. You can expect to hear at least one - and likely more - of these questions during your next job interview.
Example: “Earlier in my career I noticed that because I was so enthusiastic about my work, I had a tendency to say ‘yes’ when I should have been saying ‘no.’ At one point I ended up so overwhelmed by my workload, taking on so many projects, that I was working evenings and weekends. It was stressful, and that stress affected my production quality. I realized this was counterproductive, so I started using workload management tools to set better expectations for myself and my teammates.”
Tip: Like the previous question, hiring managers often include this question to make sure you understand the role and give you an opportunity to highlight your relevant skills. In addition to thoroughly reading the job description, it can be helpful to compare the role requirements against your skills and experience. Choose a few things you particularly enjoy or excel at, and focus on those in your answer.
Example: “In my last role, I managed all social media content. I noticed other brands were experimenting with videos and seeing great engagement from their customers, so I asked my boss if we could do a low-budget test. She agreed, so I produced a video cheaply in-house that drove double the engagement we normally saw on our social channels. It also drove conversions, with 30% of viewers visiting to our website within a week of seeing the video.”
Well, seriously, you might get asked brainteaser questions like these, especially in quantitative jobs. But remember that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want an exact number—he wants to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you, and that you can set into motion a systematic and logical way to respond. So, just take a deep breath, and start thinking through the math. (Yes, it’s OK to ask for a pen and paper!)
Example: “While I enjoyed my time learning and growing in my last job, there was a lack of opportunity in the way I wanted to progress in my career. I deeply enjoy being challenged and getting better at what I do, which I understand is a top priority for managers at your organization. That’s why I’m excited to continue having conversations about this opportunity.”
Tip: It’s easy to get hung up on figuring out your single most impressive accomplishment. Instead, think of a few achievements that showcase your work ethic and values. If you can, pick examples that also tie back to the job you’re applying for. The STAR method is a great tool to ensure you highlight not only your role but how you drove business results.
This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you'll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your past employers. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you're eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you than your current or last position. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally OK answer.
As a cyber security specialist, my greatest strength is my intellectual curiosity. I enjoy researching the latest technology trends so that our critical information technology systems remain uncompromised. Not only do I do this by reading the latest issues of cyber security journals, I also convinced my employer to fund my participation in quarterly information technology conferences. This has allowed me to build a network of peer resources—many of whom are leaders in the field—that I can call upon for strategies when new threats arise to our systems.
I’m someone who likes stability. My goal is to find a job that I can hold long term with a local company, becoming a valued employee as I gradually advance to positions of increasing authority and responsibility. I’m extremely interested in the teller job here at First Financial Credit Union because of your internal training program. My long-term goal is to eventually become a branch manager after I’ve proven my competencies in customer service and team leadership.
Keep your response short and focused. You want your answer to be brief. Select one or two specific qualities from the list you created to emphasize in your “sales pitch.” If you aren’t sure how to decide which to include, take another look at the job description and use your analytical skills to determine which qualifications would add the greatest business value.
What Interview Questions to Ask an Interviewee?
Again, companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. (And if you don't? You probably should apply elsewhere.) First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem"), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you guys are doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).
"Choose an answer that shows that you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals," says McKee. A great approach is to talk through your go-to stress-reduction tactics (making the world's greatest to-do list, stopping to take 10 deep breaths), and then share an example of a stressful situation you navigated with ease.