22 Common Interview Questions with Answers

“Why do you want to work for us?” to “How do you manage stress?” and more questions you may be asked in a job interview.
Cara Smith
By Cara Smith 
Edited by Taryn Phaneuf

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Job interviews often cover a lot of ground, from your professional motivations to your preferred style of being managed. These interviews also typically include several behavioral questions, too, in which you’re asked to recount specific experiences from your previous jobs.

They can seem intimidating, but interview questions are a lot less scary when you’ve rehearsed your answers and prepared stories that demonstrate your strength as a candidate.

Below, you’ll find 22 questions commonly asked during job interviews, as well as advice on how to best answer them.

Commonly asked interview questions

In preparing for your interview, set aside a few hours to reflect on how you’d answer each question. Write or type out your answers, then practice answering each question out loud.

Focus on speaking slowly and clearly, and run through your answers several times — that’ll help you eliminate filler words and speak comfortably when you’re talking to the interviewer.

If you’re in a phone interview (which is different from a phone screen), smile while speaking, recommends Robert Half, a human resources consulting firm. Even though the interviewer can’t see you, you’ll sound more enthusiastic and confident.

You can also keep a cheat sheet with key dates, sales figures or other information you want to easily access in a phone interview. Don’t overly rely on them, though, and be prepared to complete the interview without having to visit your notes. If you’re in a video interview, you can still keep a cheat sheet handy — you’ll just need to be especially careful not to rely on it.

Questions about the company, position or your career goals

1. Tell me about yourself.

The hiring manager may start the interview with some variation of this question. They may say, “Tell me about your background,” or “I’ve already seen your resume, but walk me through it.” This question can be used as an icebreaker to get the conversation started; it can also help guide the interviewer to the next relevant question.

In answering this question, aim to clearly communicate the following:

  • Your current role and responsibilities (as well as some recent successes, if possible)

  • How you landed in your current role, and what other jobs you’ve had that prepared you for the next one and the one you’re interviewing for

  • Why you’re interested in the position and company

Part of this question is about letting the interviewer get to know you as a person, too – not just as an employee. So, feel free to talk about your personality, or hobbies you’re passionate about outside the workplace.

2. What are your qualifications for this position?

If you’re asked this question, talk about your hard skills or competencies learned through training or education, says Heather Livingston, a career advisor at University of Phoenix.

Bring up any qualifications you have that were in the job description. Such qualifications might include knowledge of a software, coding language or experience working with a certain type of customer.

Be sure to mention any professional certificates or licenses relevant to the position, too, Livingston says. You can also mention any courses or professional training you’ve completed that relate to the role.

3. Why do you want to work for us?

To effectively answer this question, you’ll need to research the company, Livingston says. Familiarize yourself with its history, mission statement, purpose and leadership.

Mention explicit parts of the company’s mission that you agree with, and how helping the company achieve that mission aligns with your overall career goals.

4. What do you know about the company?

Again, research the company to answer this question. Spend some time on the company’s website and read the “About Us” page. You can also visit the company’s LinkedIn page and see if it’s recently been in the news.

You don’t need to memorize every part of the company’s history, but make sure you’re aware of any major events — such as mergers, acquisitions or product launches — and can speak confidently about the company’s main product or service.

5. What do you see as the biggest challenge coming into this role?

It can be tough to answer questions that require you to admit your vulnerabilities. But employers know that even the best employees struggle with one or more aspects of any job.

“The key is to be honest,” Livingston says.

There’s a fine line between being honest and undermining yourself as a candidate, though. Avoid mentioning challenges that relate to critical components of the job.

For example, if you struggle with time management, and the job requires you to manage multiple deadlines, sharing that struggle might give the hiring manager pause. Similarly, sharing that you aren’t detail oriented might not be a great idea if you’re interviewing for a data-focused role.

On that note: If several key parts of the job sound like significant challenges, do some soul searching and think about whether the job is a good fit for your skillset.

Also, offer solutions to any potential challenges you foresee, Livingston says. If you tell the interviewer you might find a particular software challenging, for example, share your plan for overcoming that challenge.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

By asking this question, your interviewer wants to learn more about your long-term professional goals, and see whether those goals align with the position you’re interviewing for, according to Glassdoor. The interviewer wants to see that you can clearly communicate those goals, too.

Before the interview, write out your short- and long-term career goals, recommends Michael Page, an employment agency. Then, practice talking about those goals. You should also get comfortable describing where you’re currently at in your career, as well as how your professional goals relate to the position and organization, per Michael Page.

If you don’t know exactly where you want to be in five years, that’s OK. Your interviewer is also looking for you to show why you’re excited about the job. So, you can also answer this question by describing what you’d like to learn over the next few years, as you’re still discerning what you’d ultimately like to focus on. Mention also what value you can bring as you’re learning.

7. Why should we hire you?

This can be a tricky question to answer; you want to sell yourself, but don’t want to appear too cocky or entitled. Write and practice an elevator pitch for yourself as a candidate, Jennifer Preston, an HR consultant, told U.S. News and World Report.

Highlight your work experience that most closely aligns with the role and your strongest skills related to the job. Talk about the job objectives you’re most excited to accomplish, and tell the interviewer how you’d achieve those goals.

You can also mention the little things that distinguish you from other candidates, too — whether that’s your passion for building relationships or your long-term career goals that make you a good fit for the company.

Behavioral questions

8. Tell me about a tough decision you’ve had to make in the past.

Behavioral questions are designed to predict a candidate’s future job performance, according to the Journal of Business Research. So, for this and the remaining behavioral questions, answer with a workplace anecdote that illustrates how you behave in certain situations.

Think about difficult decisions you’ve made on the job. Have you ever been asked to mislead a customer? Has a manager ever acted inappropriately, leaving you to decide whether to report them? Share a story that shows your integrity, work ethic or another quality that makes you a desirable employee.

9. Tell me about a time you failed.

This question isn’t meant to highlight your failures or mistakes. Instead, it’s a chance for the interviewer to see whether you learn from your mistakes, Livingston says.

“Failure is how we learn. And good employers, good bosses and good managers know this,” Livingston says. “Nobody's perfect.”

Don’t be the candidate whose biggest failure is that they care too much. Be honest and candid, and talk about a genuine error you made on the job.

Avoid dwelling on the mistake itself — or the panic and consequences that followed — and instead emphasize the insights you gained, and how you grew from the experience, per the Harvard Business Review.

10. Tell me about a time you didn’t get along with a coworker or colleague.

The interviewer knows that nobody gets along with every person they encounter. They’re trying to see if you’re able to work with people you don’t particularly like, Livington says.

Don’t spend too much time explaining why you disliked a particular colleague. Focus on how you were able to put your differences aside and accomplish the task at hand.

11. Tell me about a time you had to work under pressure or stress.

Can you handle the heat, or do you collapse under pressure? That’s what the interviewer is trying to determine.

Talk about a time when you worked under tight deadlines or external stress. Specifically list the ways you handled that stress, whether it was by staying organized, building small mental health breaks into your day or eating well and getting plenty of sleep during busy weeks.

12. Tell me about a time when you took initiative.

Finally, an opportunity for a positive story! Share an instance in which you proactively completed a task or contributed to a project — ideally, without being instructed by your manager — that benefited your employer or made things easier for your team.

Work style questions

13. Do you prefer working on a team or alone?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. But given that most jobs involve some form of collaboration, your answer should make it clear that you’re able to work on teams, according to the Harvard Business Review.

You can also list the instances in which you prefer working alone or collaboratively, recommends the Harvard Business Review. For example, you could say that you love brainstorming ideas and developing sales pitches with your colleagues, but enjoy the freedom to work independently when on a deadline or during certain chunks of the day.

14. How do you manage stress to avoid burnout?

The interviewer isn’t looking for a specific method of stress management; they’re just making sure you know how to handle stress and won’t crumble under tight deadlines.

Share a work experience that illustrates how you effectively manage stress, recommends the Harvard Business Review. Feel free to get specific: If you utilize tools like meditation, journaling or morning runs to manage day-to-day stresses, say that.

15. How would people you’ve worked with describe you?

To effectively answer this question, first consider the qualities that might make someone successful in the role you’re interviewing for.

If the job requires a lot of collaboration, for example, say that your coworkers would describe you as communicative, accountable and a team player. If the job involves number-crunching, you could say that your colleagues would call you detail-oriented and conscientious. Think of past experiences you can mention that illustrate those qualities in action.

You can also use this question to highlight a few of your unique characteristics that aren’t directly tied to the role. Knowing that your coworkers would describe you as personable or funny, for example, can paint a more well-rounded picture of you as an employee.

16. What kind of management style works well for you?

Like many of these questions, you’ll want to answer honestly while keeping things relatively broad. Make it clear that you can work effectively under any manager, according to multiple career experts.

For example, instead of saying, “I prefer to work under managers with a hands-off leadership style, and can’t work well if my boss is always looking over my shoulder,” you could say, “While I prefer a hands-off managerial style, I’ve worked well with plenty of supervisors who prefer frequent check-ins and close collaboration.”

17. What are you passionate about? What motivates you?

Are you externally motivated by rewards, growth opportunities or bonuses? Or are you intrinsically motivated by doing work you believe in? Reflect on what motivates you in the workplace and honestly answer the question. You want your employer to understand what motivates you, according to BetterUp, a behavioral career coaching company.

To kickstart your reflecting, here are some potential motivators:

  • Promotions and leadership opportunities.

  • Contributing to a team.

  • Solving problems for customers and clients.

  • Learning new things.

  • Developing certain professional skills.

  • Making a difference.

“You can be passionate about things in your personal life, but whatever this answer is should show relevance to how it will enhance your success at this position in this company,” Livingston says.

18. What is your experience with remote work?

This question may not be relevant to you, depending on the job you’re interviewing for. But if you’re interviewing for a remote role, the employer may want to know if you can effectively manage your time and responsibilities.

Describe your experience with remote work — or lack of experience, if you’ve never worked from home — and make it clear that you can perform the job’s functions without reporting to an office or workplace.

Logistical questions

19. Are you currently employed, and why are you thinking about leaving your current job (or why did you leave your previous job)?

This can feel like a tricky question to answer. The key is to answer honestly without getting into too much detail. Saying that you’re looking for a job that better aligns with your goals, values and growth plans is typically a safe bet, Livingston says. Be prepared to talk about those goals and values, as the interviewer may ask follow-up questions about them.

Don’t badmouth anyone from your previous employer, though. It’s an unprofessional look. If you quit your job (or are planning to leave) because you don’t get along with your manager or another coworker, keep things broad, Livingston says.

“Say something very general to the effect of having different values and different goals,” Livingston says. “That way, you’re not saying something bad about the previous employer or manager. You never want to do that.”

20. Are you interviewing with other companies?

Most candidates in the job market are applying for and interviewing with multiple companies. If you’re interviewing with other companies, you should feel comfortable sharing that, Livingston says. You don’t need to mention which companies or roles you’re interviewing for, though.

Also, be sure to emphasize your excitement for the role you’re discussing with the interviewer. You can say something like, “At this time, I am interviewing for other positions, but this is the role that best aligns with my interests and career goals.”

21. What salary range are you looking for?

There are a few ways you can answer this question.

First, you can provide an ideal salary range. To avoid giving a range that’s unrealistically high (or lower than you could get), research salaries for similar positions in your industry and city. Then, provide a salary range with around $10,000 of wiggle room, Livingston says. If your ideal salary is $75,000, tell the interviewer you're looking for compensation between $75,000 and $85,000.

If you’d like to buy some time before sharing an ideal salary, another option is telling the interviewer that you’d like more information on the role, according to U.S. News & World Report.

You could say something like this: “Until I learn more about the job and its responsibilities, I’d rather not decide on a fair salary range. Could we discuss compensation at a later date, perhaps after I’ve spoken with other members of the team?”

When you do share an ideal salary range, ask for more money than you’re currently making. Changing jobs is often an effective way to significantly increase your salary.

Half of the American workers who switched jobs between April 2021 and March 2022 saw their wages increase 9.7%, according to a July 2022 Pew Research Center report. Meanwhile, the median worker who stayed in their job over that same period saw their wages fall 1.7%.

22. When can you start working?

Ideally, you want to give your interviewer a firm date. But if you’d have to submit a two weeks’ notice at your current job, simply tell the interviewer that.

Say that, out of respect for your employer, you’d like to help transition your responsibilities and complete any outstanding tasks before your departure. In most cases, the new employer will be fine with figuring out a start date later in the interview process.

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