Job interviews can be stressful, particularly if you aren’t prepared for them or don’t know what to expect. If you’re nervous about an upcoming interview, stay calm by practicing your answers to common interview questions. Here are 5 common questions in interviews and some tips for answering them.
1. What Is Your Greatest Strength/Weakness?
This is one of the most common questions employers ask during job interviews. Employers ask this question to get an idea of areas you excel in as well as which areas you are still growing and learning.
Tips for answering: When you share your greatest strength, try to think in terms of the job. So, for example, if you’re applying for an office assistant position, name a strength that falls in line with that position such as communication or organization.
Additionally, if the employer asks you what your greatest weakness is, don’t just list it and leave it at that. The interviewer wants to know what you have been/plan on doing to improve in that area. So, for example, if your greatest weakness is tardiness, you could say, “I have a tendency to lose track of time and show up late, but I’ve been taking steps to manage my time better. I have been going to bed earlier, and I use my cell phone alarms to help me get places on time.”
2. How Has Your Experience Prepared You for This Job?
If you have prior experience doing the work you’re applying for, then answering this question should be fairly easy. But if you’re brand new to the line of work you’re getting into, you may not have a lot of experience and need to learn while on the job. Not all employers require previous experience, so keep this in mind as you apply and interview.
Tips for answering: If you have previous experience, share that with the interviewer. But if you don’t, try to think of other experience in life that has prepared you for the position. So for example, if you’re applying for a retail job, you could say, “Even though I don’t have experience in retail, I do have experience in customer service. I am also a fast learner and am confident I can learn the ropes fairly quickly.” This shows the manager that, while your experience is lacking, you have a teachable, willing-to-work attitude.
3. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?
This is perhaps one of the more difficult interview questions employers ask. (Who actually knows where they will be or what they’ll be doing 5 years from now?) Once again, though, it’s important to understand the underlying implication of this question. The interviewer just wants to know what your long-term goals are in life and in your career. Try to narrow it down to one or two dreams and explain the steps you’re taking to achieve those goals.
Tips for answering: If you’re having a hard time answering this question, avoid saying, “I’m not sure.” Not having goals/aspirations can be a red flag to employers. Instead, say something like, “The path to this dream is a bit unclear at the moment but I would love to be doing [fill in the blank].”
4. How Do You Handle Stress and Pressure?
Many employers ask this question (or some variation of this question) during job interviews to determine how capable you are of staying calm and getting the job done, even when the stakes are high or there is tension. When tables are full or the deadline is looming or the computer fritzes during an important presentation, will you crack under the pressure or will you keep a level head and figure out a way to keep going? This is a valuable skill in the workplace.
Tips for answering: Don’t just say, “I’m great under pressure.” Elaborate a bit and explain why. And if you don’t handle stress or work well under pressure, you can say something like, “This is something I’m working on.” Regardless of your answer, the best way to answer this question is with a real-life example of a time you handled yourself well under stress/pressure.
5. Why Do You Want This Job?
You might be applying for your dream job. But maybe the job you’re interviewing for is a “stepping stone job” that you plan on doing temporarily until you can do your dream job. This question may sound daunting, but if you think it through and practice a bit ahead of time, it won’t be as intimidating.
Tips for answering: While you should avoid being blunt (e.g. “I want this job because I need money to pay bills”), you should be honest with the interviewer. If you’re looking for experience, networking, or training in this field, it’s okay to say so! The interviewer is simply curious as to why, out of all the jobs you could apply for, you applied for this specific one.