Top tips for answering job interview questions

by Joey deVilla on March 15, 2017

Ben Affleck’s interview scene in Good Will Hunting.

Once, when asked the dreaded “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question in a job interview, I answered “Standing on a mountain of my defeated enemies.” Now, the interviewer and I knew each other enough for this joke to work, but that was just fortunate circumstance. Should you find yourself in the same situation, here are some articles on answers to the “five years” question:

The “five years” question is a booby trap that’s meant to trip up interviewees. There are others — and here are The Telegraph’s suggested answers to it and seven other “booby trap” interview questions:

  1. What would you say are your biggest weaknesses? (My favorite suggestion: “Remain silent, and pull an index card out of your pocket that says ‘I over-prepare’.”)
  2. How much money do you currently make?
  3. Where would you ideally like to work?
  4. If you were an animal what animal would you be?
  5. I notice there are gaps in your CV, why’s that?
  6. You seem overqualified, and might get bored here. What do you think about that?
  7. Describe yourself in three words.

Here’s Glassdoor’s list of the 50 most common job interview questions, based on their thousands of reviews of interviews. Make sure that you’ve got an answer for most, if not all, of these:

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What are your weaknesses?
  3. Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?
  4. Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
  5. Why do you want to leave your current company?
  6. Why was there a gap in your employment between [insert date] and [insert date]?
  7. What can you offer us that someone else can not?
  8. What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
  9. Are you willing to relocate?
  10. Are you willing to travel?
  11. Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
  12. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
  13. What is your dream job?
  14. How did you hear about this position?
  15. What would you look to accomplish in the first 30 days/60 days/90 days on the job?
  16. Discuss your resume.
  17. Discuss your educational background.
  18. Describe yourself.
  19. Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
  20. Why should we hire you?
  21. Why are you looking for a new job?
  22. Would you work holidays/weekends?
  23. How would you deal with an angry or irate customer?
  24. What are your salary requirements?
  25. Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
  26. Who are our competitors?
  27. What was your biggest failure?
  28. What motivates you?
  29. What’s your availability?
  30. Who’s your mentor?
  31. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
  32. How do you handle pressure?
  33. What is the name of our CEO?
  34. What are your career goals?
  35. What gets you up in the morning?
  36. What would your direct reports say about you?
  37. What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
  38. If I called your boss right now and asked him what is an area that you could improve on, what would he say?
  39. Are you a leader or a follower?
  40. What was the last book you’ve read for fun?
  41. What are your co-worker pet peeves?
  42. What are your hobbies?
  43. What is your favorite website?
  44. What makes you uncomfortable?
  45. What are some of your leadership experiences?
  46. How would you fire someone?
  47. What do you like the most and least about working in this industry?
  48. Would you work 40+ hours a week?
  49. What questions haven’t I asked you?
  50. What questions do you have for me?

There may come a time when an interviewer who doesn’t know what they’re doing — or worse, an interviewer who knows damned well what they’re doing — asks a questions are that are either subtly awkward or downright inappropriate. This Fast Company article shows you what each of these questions is inappropriate, and how to handle them:

  1. “Many of our employees are young and put in 14-hour days. Are you up for that kind of challenge?”
  2. “Congratulations on returning to the workforce. Given your family, will you need a flexible schedule?”
  3. “When did you graduate from college?”
  4. “Where are you from?”
  5. “How can our company get better at recruiting people of color?”
  6. “Can you tell me about your disability and how it has shaped you?”
  7. “Have you worked with women bosses in the past, sir?”
  8. “Our employees must look and carry themselves in a certain way. Would you be able to arrange your financial circumstances to rise to the occasion?”

Don Georgevich of JobInterviewTools.com has a set of useful videos on answering job interview questions, such as this one on top 10 interview questions, including “tell me about yourself”, “why should we hire you?”, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”, “why did you leave your last job?”, and more:

Here’s a Georgevich video that focuses on “tell me about yourself”:

And here’s one about “behavioral” or “identity” questions, which are questions that try to determine your traits, motivations, likes, and dislikes:

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