Resignation numbers have remained abnormally high in the U.S. between July 2023 and September 2023, with millions of people quitting their jobs — which also means there are millions of new openings up for grabs. If you’re entering the market for the first time, or just looking to make a change, use this guide to prepare for your next interview.
Below is a list of 10 common job interview questions, along with answering techniques that will help you dazzle your prospects, and hopefully, secure the role you want.
1. Could you tell me about yourself and describe your background in brief?
Interviewers like to hear stories about candidates. Make sure your story has a great beginning, a riveting middle, and an end that makes the interviewer root for you to win the job.
Talk about a relevant incident that made you keen on the profession you are pursuing and follow up by discussing your education. In the story, weave together how your academic training and your passion for the subject or industry the company specializes in, combined with your work experience, make you a great fit for the job. If you’ve managed a complex project or worked on an exciting, offbeat design, mention it.
2. How did you hear about this position?
Employers want to know whether you are actively seeking out their company, heard of the role from a recruiter, or were recommended to the position by a current employee. In short, they want to know how you got to them.
If someone recommended you for the position, be sure to say their name. Don’t assume that the interviewer already knows about the referral. You’ll probably want to also follow up with how you know the person who referred you. For example, if you and Steve (who recommended you) worked together previously, or if you met him over coffee at a networking event, mention it to give yourself a little more credibility. If Steve works at the company and suggested that you apply for the job, explain why he thought you’d be the perfect fit.
3. What type of work environment do you prefer?
Be sure to do your homework on the organization and its culture before the interview. Your research will save you here. Your preferred environment should closely align to the company’s workplace culture (and if it doesn’t, it may not be the right fit for you). For example, you may find on the company’s website that they have a flat organizational structure or that they prioritize collaboration and autonomy. Those are key words you can mention in your answer to this question.
If the interviewer tells you something about the company that you didn’t uncover in your research, like, “Our culture appears buttoned-up from the outside, but in reality, it’s a really laid-back community with little competition among employees,” try to describe an experience you’ve had that dovetails with that. Your goal is to share how your work ethic matches that of the organization’s.
4. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
The employer wants to know: Do you hold down the fort or crumble under pressure? They want to make sure that you won’t have a meltdown when the pressure becomes intense and deadlines are looming. The ability to stay calm under pressure is a highly prized talent.
Share an instance when you remained calm despite the turmoil. If it’s a skill you’re developing, acknowledge that and include the steps you’re taking to respond better to pressure in the future. For example, you could indicate that you’ve started a mindfulness practice to help you better deal with stress.
5. Do you prefer working independently or on a team?
Your answer should be informed by the research you’ve done on the company culture and the job in question. Nevertheless, you should expect that most work environments will have some team aspect.
Many positions require you to work collaboratively with other people on a daily basis, while some roles require you to work on your own. When you answer this question, highlight the best traits of your personality and how they fit the job requirements. It could also be in your interest to answer this question by highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of both situations.
6. What are your salary expectations?
Before you walk in for your first interview, you should already know what the salary is for the position you’re applying to. Check out websites such as Glassdoor, Fishbowl, or Vault.com for salary information. You could also ask people in the field by reaching out to your community on LinkedIn.
Employers will always ask this question because every position is budgeted, and they want to ensure your expectations are consistent with that budget before moving forward.
Remember that it’s often better to discuss a salary range rather than a specific number during the interview and leaving room for negotiation. It’s also better to err on the side of caution and quote a slightly higher number as it’s easier to negotiate downward than upward. As a general rule of thumb, I advise not bringing up the questions about salary until your interviewer does or bringing it up too early in the process.
7. Are you applying for other jobs?
Interviewers want to know if you’re genuinely interested in this position or if it’s just one of your many options. Simply, they want to know if you’re their top choice. Honesty is the best policy. If you’re applying for other jobs, say so. You don’t have to necessarily say where you’re applying unless you have another offer. But they might want to know where in the hiring process you are with other companies. You can also mention that you’re actively looking for offers if your interviewer asks.