How To Answer 7 of The Most Common Job Interview Questions

How To Answer 7 of The Most Common Job Interview Questions

Source: This article was originally published on CNBC.
Written by: Courtney Connley, CNBC Make It

Prepping for an interview can be nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time.

On the one hand, it’s your time to show a potential employer everything you bring to the table. On the other hand, clumsy or incomplete answers could easily hinder your chances of being hired. While it’s impossible to predict every question that a hiring manager will ask you, there are a few common interview questions that are almost guaranteed to come up, and here is just what you should say.

7 of the most common interview questions every job seeker will almost definitely encounter:

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Ten years ago, I was gearing up to speak at a leadership conference in Toronto, Canada, as part of an international book tour. There were 5,000 people in the audience. When asked to discuss yourself in an interview, employers are looking for two key things in your answer: maturity and authenticity. That’s why, you shouldn’t be afraid to show who you really are, but you should also tell your story with the job in mind. The interviewer, usually your future boss, wants to know the parts of your life story that relate to you doing well in the open job. And because a company’s culture can be essential to its success, employers also want to see if you fit in culturally.


2. “What are your salary requirements?”

As I walked out on the stage, I looked at the audience and thought, I just can’t do this. I’ve got nothing left. I heard myself asking for a chair, and when it arrived, I sat down in the middle of the stage. Rather than delivering my carefully-crafted speech,  I just started to speak from my heart. I told the crowd, I was supposed to talk to you today about work-life balance, but here’s the truth: I’ve kind of lost mine. Talking about your salary requirements with a potential employer can be difficult. If you undersell yourself, you run the risk of being underpaid and undervalued from day one. But, if you oversell yourself, you could price yourself right out of a job offer. To effectively answer this question, you should follow three simple steps:

  1. Do your research
  2. Determine how much leverage you have
  3. Come up with an appropriate salary range

Don’t blurt out what you think you’re worth, or what you think they want to hear. Instead, show your diligence and maturity — it’s as easy as one, two, three.

3. “Tell me about a mistake you made.”

This advice is not a license to wing your next public speaking engagement. Your presentation still needs great content, data, and stories. But keep in mind that people don’t respond to slides or concepts or polished delivery—they respond to people. They respond to real people.


Being asked to discuss your past mistakes in an interview may throw you for a loop. But, many hiring managers ask this question because they’re trying to figure out if you own your mistakes, or if you’re the kind of jerk who passes blame around.

Interviewers are also trying to figure out how well you react when things don’t go as planned. That’s why, it’s important to pick the right mistake that’s big enough to show you’ve got the bumps and bruises of real experience, but small enough to convey you are generally highly competent. But, even with the right mistake in mind, you want to be sure not to ruin your chances of landing the job by focusing on the negative aspect for too long. Spend the majority of your answer to this question on the aftermath of your mistake, what you learned, the ways you changed and how you grew.

4. “Do you have any questions?”

As an interview comes to an end, it’s almost guaranteed that a hiring manager will ask, do you have any questions? Your answer can either hurt or improve your chances of landing the job. Rather than responding with a simple answer like, what would a typical day look like for me? You should use this opportunity to shine and ask questions that show you’ve been listening and that you know how to think big. A good example is asking something like, “I just read an interesting article about how your competitors are using artificial intelligence. How are you thinking about that development?” This type of answer will show a potential employer that you are thinking ahead about the company and how it operates.

5. “Describe yourself in three words.”

Describing yourself in three words can be a real challenge when you’re trying to prove to a hiring manager that you’re a well-rounded candidate. But, regardless of how hard this question may seem, interviewers love to ask it in order to evaluate if you’re authentic and self-aware. To deliver the perfect answer, you want to offer a response that describes how your mind works, demonstrates your character and reveals something interesting about you.

6. “What are your greatest strengths?”

Discussing your strengths in an interview may sound easy, this common interview question is one that many people still get wrong. When preparing your answer, you should always make sure that your response passes what she refers to as the “A.R.S.I. test.” This means, is your response accurate, relevant, specific and interesting? Let a piece of you shine through, let your humanity shine through.

7. “What’s your current salary?”

Asking about a candidate’s current salary is banned in some states, but it’s still legal in others, which is why you should always be prepared to deliver a proper response to this question. People are going to tell you that you should game this conversation, or that you should dodge this question by talking about ranges. That is no way to start a relationship. Instead, you should follow a two-step process when discussing your current salary with a potential employer. The first step is to do your research so that you know your market value. The second step is to disclose your current salary and then make the case for how much you think you should be paid. In the end, if your potential employer games you in this conversation, it’s a warning sign. Whether you’re speaking to an audience of 5,000 or five, take down the wall and open a door, the audience will walk right in.

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator, and public speaker. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams, and help their organizations win.

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