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Common Interview Questions & How to Answer Them

Read LaSalle's tips on how to interview and questions you are sure to face in today's job market.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

  • Don’t tell your entire life story
  • Include information of relevant skills and experience that would make you a good fit for this position
  • Give a professional snapshot of your experience, skills, talents and qualifications
  • Don’t go into your personal life unless it directly relates to the position you’re seeking

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths – mention skills that are relevant to the position and give good examples of your strengths in action.

  • Previous experience in a certain job function
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Your leadership skills
  • Your positive attitude

Weaknesses – be honest and show how you are working to overcome this weakness, or show how the weakness can also be a strength

  • Lose sight of the big picture
  • Perfectionist – don’t say this unless you can explain how it hinders you
  • Pleaser rather than creator

What do you know about this company?

  • Your answer should prove you have conducted thorough research on the company
  • Talk about their lines of business and their customers
  • Be aware of the company’s press mentions, awards and community involvement
  • Try to be as specific as possible (i.e. “I was impressed with your company’s growth figures last quarter…”)
  • Mention the company’s vision, mission, goals and position in the market

What interests you about this position?

  • Demonstrate you have researched the position and company thoroughly
  • Mention keywords from the job description and show how you have the skills to meet the expectations and help reach their goals
  • Talk about your desire for a challenging position, wanting to take on responsibility, etc.

Tell me about your greatest achievement

  • This should be a work goal, not a personal goal
  • Make sure it demonstrates specific, relevant skills that will help you succeed in the position for which you are applying
  • This is also a chance to show the interviewer what kind of environment you work best in. For instance, if your proudest moments involved receiving an award, you may need some kind of recognition as a motivator in the workplace. On the other hand, if your proudest achievement is centered on fulfilling personal goals (like running a marathon, for example), you have different motivators

Tell me about a recent challenge you faced and how you dealt with it

  • Do NOT talk about a total catastrophe or a personal clash with a co-worker. Instead, tell a story about a professional challenge that you resolved successfully
  • Skills you should demonstrate you have:
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Initiative
    • Flexibility
    • Adaptability
  • Examples:
    • Pulling off a big project on a limited budget
    • Meeting a tough deadline
    • Assuming extra responsibility when plans fell through
    • Conflict resolution with a customer

Why should we hire you?

  • Your answer needs to set you apart from others so make sure you stand out from the crowd
  • Convey that you are focused and dedicated to your career
  • Highlight Your Skills – make sure you link your talents, qualifications and skills to the duties and responsibilities of the job description
  • Mention Corporate Culture – show that you are not only qualified, but touch on aspects of your personality and character that make you a good fit for the corporate culture as well
  • Don’t Sound Cocky – be confident, but don’t come across as overly arrogant

List five words to describe yourself

  • When choosing words to describe yourself, touch on your work ethic and professional life as well as your personality and character. After you provide a characteristic, give an example that demonstrates it. Anyone can say he or she is hardworking, but if you provide a specific example of a time where your hard work paid off, you will make a bigger impression on the interviewer
  • Work Ethic/Professional Life:
    • Hardworking
    • Independent
    • Motivated
    • Attentive
    • Punctual
    • Flexible
    • Driven
    • Ambitious
    • Diligent
    • Organized
    • Goal-oriented
    • Committed
    • Curious
  • Personality/Character:
    • Dependable
    • Outgoing
    • Friendly
    • Positive
    • Energetic
    • Honest
    • Open-minded
    • Creative
    • Cheerful
    • Passionate
    • Patient

Describe a time you failed

  • The interviewer is not trying to find your faults; he or she is trying to see how you react when things don’t go according to plan
  • Admit Your Faults
    • Keep in mind that everyone has failed, so don’t be ashamed or embarrassed, but rather speak honestly and admit a time you experienced failure. If you are unwilling or unable to admit fault, you will come across as arrogant and may even seem like a liar
  • Show What You Learned
    • The main thing to highlight is to show that you learned from the experience. Failure is a great opportunity to discover something about yourself, learn a better or more effective way to do something, and avoid making the same mistake again. Show the interviewer that you are capable of personal reflection and can learn from your mistakes. After all, no one is perfect, so handling failure and progressing because of it is what you really need to convey to the interviewer
  • Show How You’ve Changed
    • After showing that you can learn from your mistakes, show that you are also capable of changing your actions because of this learning experience. Describe ways in which you have acted differently because of this failure to prove that you are not the type of person who will make the same mistake over and over. If your failure is a result of poor time management, say something like, “Ever since, I have always given myself a strict agenda to make sure I finish tasks on time” or if your failure is a result of poor communication, say something like, “Now, I always make sure everyone on my team is on the same page by scheduling regular meetings to coordinate our efforts.”

Tell me about a time you had to deal with a conflict on the job

  • Everyone has conflicts at work; so again, this is a time to show how you overcome adversity
  • Show how you approach conflicts and search for solutions
  • Show how you fixed the problem
  • Highlight your flexibility and ability to adapt to make things right

Why did you leave your last job?

  • Do NOT bash your last boss or complain about the company. Talking negatively about management, co-workers, or the organization will make you look bad
  • Make sure you put a positive spin on the reason you left. For instance, talk about leaving to find more opportunity, a more challenging job, or to pursue a lifelong passion you’ve always had

What has disappointed you about a job?

  • Again, don’t speak negatively
  • Stay positive – not enough of a challenge, no room for growth, not enough responsibility, not enough team collaboration, not enough opportunity for creativity

What characteristics should a boss have? Describe your best supervisor

  • Knowledgeable, fair, loyal to subordinates, good communicator, holds high standards, pushes his/her employees, driven, goal-oriented, understanding, available

What motivates you?

  • Being rewarded for great work
  • Recognition for a job well done
  • Personal satisfaction in knowing your hardwork paid off
  • Helping company achieve goals
  • Solving problems
  • Promoting positive change
  • Being a leader
  • Taking on challenges
  • Being creative
  • Contributing to an industry you feel is important

Where do you hope to be in five years?

  • Keep this answer brief and relevant. Do not talk about anything unrelated to your professional life (i.e., personal goals, plans for travel, etc.)
  • This is a chance to show commitment and loyalty to the company. Say you hope to be working for the same company but taking on bigger projects and more responsibility. While a lot can happen in five years, say you are ambitious, motivated and open to new and exciting opportunities for growth. Being enthusiastic and passionate about embarking on a career path with long-term goals is all the employer wants to hear

What is your dream job?

  • “Last night I dreamed I was offered this job…”
  • This can be a tricky question. If you say the job you are applying for, it may seem like you’re lying and you could lose credibility. If you say some other job, you do not look dedicated to the position you are applying for. Keep your answer generic and talk about wanting a challenging job, working with great people and being excited to come in to work

Do you prefer to work alone or in a team?

  • The key here is to demonstrate balance, but skew your response to the demands of the particular position you are applying for
  • For instance, if you are applying for an IT job where you will have long stretches of time with little interaction, show that you are willing and able to work with little supervision. However, don’t come across as completely antisocial – make sure you highlight your ability to collaborate when necessary
  • If you are applying for a sales or marketing role, you need to emphasize your ability to collaborate with others and brainstorm in groups. Show that you have a bubbly, outgoing personality and enjoy working with others, but also mention that you can work independently and deliver without the group. Remember – it’s all about balance