If you’re applying for a job, the most stressful part of the process is also one of the most promising: the interview. Whether you’re being interviewed on the phone or in-person, there’s always the possibility that your anxiety will get the best of you. And while we can never predict exactly how things will go down, some careful prep goes a long way. Thankfully, as most anybody who’s been through the wringer can attest, there are some interview questions you are almost guaranteed to hear, which means you can plan some responses accordingly.
Check out our shortlist of some of the most common and vital interview questions and answers worth preparing for below.
1. What’s your greatest professional strength?
Definitely prepare for this question and plan a response with three or four talking points. If possible you want to fire off a quick response that will feature some abstract qualities backed up by explicit experience. For example, you might say, “I’ve developed a really strong set of communication skills after working as a liaison between two different departments,” or, “I’ve learned how to work independently with little direction after a few years working as a self-employed contractor in this field.”
2. What do you think will be the hardest part of this job for you?
Especially when the tough questions pop up you should have some sort of answer planned out. If the interviewer is asking you to reveal your own weakness you’re actually in good shape and have an opportunity to do a little polite humble-bragging. In this case you might respond: “I’ve never worked at a company this small so I think I’ll have to adjust to working more directly with clients, but thankfully I’ve been doing the same kind of work in a corporate setting so I should be able to learn quickly.”
3. What has been the highlight of your professional career up to this point?
This is another easy one to prepare for. Even abstract accomplishments are worth mentioning, though if you have a demonstrable achievement—maybe you were salesman of the year or had an article featured in an esteemed publication—this is where you can let it fly.
4. Why are you looking for a new job?
There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m looking for a change,” but if you can, try to shape your answer around wanting to be challenged by trying something new. If you leveled out of your last job, you could say, “I was promoted twice in four years at my previous company and realized that in order to keep growing professionally I’d have to work elsewhere.”
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
You can say, “I’d love to be working in the same capacity I am currently, though perhaps with an opportunity to work as a lead on larger projects. I think this company would be a great fit for me in that regard.”
6. If I asked your last supervisor about your performance, what do you think she would say?
You can say, “I think she’d commend my work at the company. I spent two years working directly under her and was able to accomplish a lot of things that were new to the organization.” If things didn’t end on a positive note at your most recent job, then chances are you probably won’t mention the position on your application in the first place. However, if it was a position in which you did learn important skills, consider acknowledging that you weren’t a good fit but that you nonetheless acquired the skills necessary for the potential job.
7. What’s been the biggest struggle of your professional career?
This is a great question and one of the best opportunities you’ll get to open up professionally. Be truthful, but also try to focus on a challenge that you were able to overcome, and something that was purely professional. (So, maybe don’t mention that time you had to deal with a months-long interpersonal conflict in the office.)
8. Why should we hire you?
You can basically rehash or extend your answer to the “What are your greatest strengths?” questions here, and tailor the response a bit more closely to the company directly.
9. What would you change about this company?
Tread carefully, but bring your answer full circle by explaining how you could help bring about this change.
10. Do you have any questions for me?
Yes. The answer is always yes. In fact, if there’s a single answer you want to plan out, make it this one. Do your research on the company and dive even deeper into the specifics of the department you’d be placed in, if possible. You might ask, “What’s a normal day in this position look like?” Or, “What would your expectations be for this role over the next six months?” The point is you want to sound interested enough to follow-up and learn more about the ins and outs of the job. Even if the rest of the interview quelled your curiosity, keep a few token questions in the pocket so you’re not left blank when this question comes up.
If you keep these questions in mind and spend some time preparing thoughtful answers for each, there’s no reason you can’t ace your next interview.