Job interviews - all of us have been there, and yet they never seem to get any easier (or more pleasant!). There is always some uncertainty around what questions the interviewers will ask, and you can never be sure if you're prepared for everything. But what you can make sure of is to prepare well for the most common interview questions and have your answers top of mind.
An interview is first and foremost a chance for the interviewers to find out if you are suitable for the role, but also a time for you to see if the job would be a good fit for you. Make sure not to bombard them with questions right from the beginning, but give them a chance to get to know you first before you ask your own questions. Put yourself into their shoes and think about the kind of person you would hire for the role. If you've ever interviewed someone else before, you know how it is to sit on the other side of the table.
One advantage of working - and interviewing - from home is that you have your laptop open and can look at your notes while looking at the interviewers in a video interview, so they might not even notice that you're looking at your notes. The guide below will give you an idea of frequently asked interview questions. If you write down some notes for all of those, you should be able to enter your interview with confidence.
1. Prepare a pitch of yourself
No matter which kind of job you're interviewing for, you will certainly be asked to introduce yourself and give a short summary of your experience. Make sure you prepare an answer for these questions:
Who are you? The way in which you introduce yourself depends on the company you're applying to, and their culture. If it's a relaxed company, they might want to hear a bit about your personality, maybe some information on where you grew up or what you were influenced by. If it's a very corporate job interview, keep your introduction short and stick to the most important information.
What is your experience? Summarize your working experience, highlighting especially the experience that you need for this job you're applying to.
Why do you want the job? This should give the interviewers an idea of your motivation - are you applying only for the money, or do you identify with the company's mission and ideals? How would this position make you grow?
Why are you the right candidate for the job? Here you need to make a brief pitch on why the interviewers should pick you over any other candidate. Make sure to give reasons that are specific to you, and make you stand out above other applicants.
What strengths do you bring? You should know your biggest strengths and apply them to this particular job. How will your strengths help you do this job well?
What will be the most difficult for you in the role? What would you have to learn? Here they want to have an honest assessment of the qualities you're lacking for the role. Pretending to be perfect and knowing everything will never be very convincing, so pick a skill you would have to improve to succeed in the role and explain how you would work on improving it.
2. Prepare for soft skill questions
After the interviewers understood your background and motivations, they will want to assess how you behave in certain situations, and understand how you deal with challenges. The questions will most likely be tailored to the job you're interviewing for, so for instance if the job requires a lot of stakeholder management, they might ask for a situation where you had to deal with difficult stakeholders. If the job requires creative thinking, they might ask for a situation where you had to find a creative solution to a problem, and how you managed to think outside the box.
So check the qualities they ask for in the job descriptions, and think about situations in your working life where you showcased those qualities. Here are some example questions:
Tell me about a situation when you had to make a decision based on incomplete information.
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult stakeholder, and how you managed them.
Tell me about an error in judgment you made in the last year or two, what it was and the impact of it.
What are the top strategic issues you’ve had to face in your current role? What decisions did you end up making?
People often say the simplest solution is the best. Tell me about a particular complex problem you solved with a simple solution.
Tell me about an initiative you undertook because you saw that it could benefit the whole company or your customers, but wasn’t within any group’s individual responsibility so nothing was being done. Give an example of a mission or goal you didn’t think was achievable. What was it and how did you help your team try to achieve it. Were you successful in the end?
Tell me about…a time when you asked for feedback and how you put it into practice.
…a time when you set yourself a goal and how you achieved it.
…a time when you gathered diverse perspectives.
…a time when something went wrong, and how you solved it.
…a time when you had to work towards a tight deadline.
…a time when you took responsibility for something that went wrong, and how you handled it.
To help you answer these questions concisely, you can use the STAR-method. It stands for:
Situation: in a summary sentence, briefly describe the starting point and situation.
Task: what was the task that was given to you, or the problem you had to solve?
Action: explain which actions you took to resolve the situation and why.
Result: outline the outcome, the lesson you learned, and potentially your vision for the future.
3. Prepare for questions on the job
The interviewers want to see that you have put thought into your preparation, and want the job out of genuine interest, so they will likely ask you some practical questions on the job. For instance:
What would you find the most fun part about the job, and what would you like the least?
What would be the first thing you do when you start in the role? Or: what would be the first 3 things you do in the first month?
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the person in this role faces?
What do you think makes a great candidate for this role?
What added value would you bring to the team?
4. Prepare thoughtful questions for the interviewers
Lastly, you will be given a few minutes to ask your own questions to find out if the job would be a good fit for you. Needless to say, this is not the time to ask about the salary or other details of the contract, but instead to find out more about the working environment, company atmosphere, and the team you would be working with.
Some questions I like to ask are:
What's the single most important quality you are looking for a person in this role?
Who are the most important stakeholders this person will be working with?
What are the biggest challenges I'd face in the first 90 days, and how will the success be measured?
(To the hiring manager) What are your most important values as a manager? How would your team describe you?
You can find another 13 Non-Conventional Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview in this article.
Is there anything else you prepare for an interview? Have you been asked any other questions you think are important to know the answer to?