The most common interview questions and how to answer them

What are the most common interview questions?

According to Indeed these are the most common interview questions. This may differ slightly between sources but if you have been to enough interviews, you will be familiar with these.

But how do you answer them to give the answer that the interviewer is looking to hear?

Tell me about yourself. …

How would you describe yourself? …

What makes you unique? …

Why do you want to work here? …

What motivates you? …

How do you handle stress? …

Why are you leaving your current job? …

What are your goals for the future?

Tell me about yourself?

Let’s work through the list. What is the interviewer looking to garner from this question? It is simple. They want to get to know you.

Some people would say be yourself, but this is basically the same as saying roll the dice on what they want to hear. My advice would be in the lead up to the interview you are probably going to get a minute, at least to try and gauge the person or persons interviewing you. What you want to do is try to mirror what you think they are like, so you sound like the kind of person they can relate to.

This doesn’t mean be somebody else. Instead, try to be the version of you that they can compare to themselves. A trick is if they use a common phrase or type of descriptive word, try to mirror this by using it in your own answers. For example, if they say something is ‘super exciting’, then you describe something as ‘super exciting’. If they used the word ‘task’ when you would normally describe it as ‘work’, rephrase your answers to say task instead.

Finally, try to find common ground. Pay attention to their visual cues, such as smiling or looking interested in the conversation and then try to engage them to see if they feel the same way. It’s rapport building and its half the battle.

How would you describe yourself?

In a similar fashion to above, try to find common ground. If you have a shared interest, you probably want to emphasize this a little more when describing yourself. Try not to waffle on for ever though. You want them engaged, not bored.

You want to sound credible but not arrogant. And you want to come across as someone that they can again, relate to.

What makes you unique?

I would recommend one of two approaches here. If you know they have a sense of humour, I would take a moment and say something that is comically self depreciating. For example, if you support a football club or team that is down on its luck, then “Well I support **** for my sins to start with”. If it gets a little chuckle, you know you’ve worked it nicely.

The second route is if it is more of a serious question then I’d think of an unusual hobby, travel destination or activity that is interesting but not unsuitable to be spoken about. Maybe you’re a part of a Judo club where you train people in the community on Saturday evenings.

This question is about seeing whether you are interesting. They wouldn’t ask it if they wanted you to be boring though.

Why do you want to work here?

This is a tester question to see what you know about them and if you have done some homework. It is also about massaging their ego subtly.

You should have done 10 minutes on them and aligned what you want in your career to what they can offer. Add in perhaps something unique or interesting about them and their achievements that make them stand out. This is one you should prepare for, so thinking about it on the spot would not be a great look.

What motivates you?

Try to avoid the clichés of “I love jumping out bed and running into work to help people”. This needs to be an answer about an element of the job that you enjoy. In a sales job, you would talk about the buzz of sales.

In a customer service job, the satisfaction of helping people etc. Think about what they want someone to say and then back it up with a credible sounding reason why that’s important to you personally.

How do you handle stress?

If they are asking you this question, then it means the job will come with stress. It is likely that people have left because the job got too difficult, and couldn’t handle it. If you are comfortable with stress then fine, but if you are not then thinking about whether that job is for you and ask yourself why you’re interviewing for it in the first place.

How to answer it is to do two things. The first is to be calm about your answer and to describe yourself as someone who is level-headed and doesn’t get carried away when things go well, but also takes knocks in a chilled out way. Describe yourself as more of an optimist. They will simply want their minds put at ease rather than some sophisticated answer.

Why are you leaving your current job?

NEVER criticise your current/ex employer, and/or play the victim card. Even if you feel that is what happened just do not do it. Your answer should be respectful about your current employer but what you want now they cannot offer, and all good things come to an end.

Then describe what it is that is important and what you want from your next role as long as it isn’t about basic salary. Otherwise, you will just sound like someone susceptible to a counter off or a leaver as soon as another company offers you a little more.

Companies disapprove of a job hopper unless they are desperate in need.

What are your goals for the future?

This should align with your reasons for leaving, everything needs to make sense. Your goals are something to consider beforehand. Not just before the interview, but before leaving your job in the first place.

The goals you describe need to sound realistic but not too ambitious where the person hiring may feel threatened by you. For example, “I am ambitious. I want your job” could be seen as arrogant.

More generic and relatable examples are best. “I want to progress into management or the next level from where I am”. Or “I want to buy a house or be able to enjoy the work I do”.

It is easy to get carried away but generally airing on the side of caution ticks the box of growth and benefits the employer, without you being a potentially difficult employee.

Making sure you are a strong communicator in your interviews is vital. You can read our previous blog on why and how to be a good communicator here.

We have more similar content on our Youtube channel.

Find out how we can help you.

Get in touch with us today.

Find out how we can help you.

Get in touch with us today.