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Top 100 Common Job Interview Questions

Posted by Rebecca Safier | Jun 3, 2016 5:00:00 PM
 

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Job interviews are a key part of the hiring process. They can also be incredibly nerve-wracking! The best way to calm any pre-interview jitters is to prepare well-crafted responses to the major questions coming your way. 

While you can’t predict exactly what the hiring manager will ask you, you can come up with answers to the most common questions. This guide contains the top 100 questions that hiring managers ask in a job interview.

Before getting to the list, let’s consider why it’s so important to prepare for job interview questions, rather than just winging it.

 

Why Should You Prepare for Job Interview Questions?

Interviews are important; there’s no getting around that. They’re often your first opportunity to communicate directly with a hiring manager and advocate for yourself as the best person for the job. 

While some interviews are more conversational than others, none of them feel like the most natural social dynamic. The interviewer’s going to ask you some open-ended, some specific questions about your skills and experiences, and you should be prepared to answer them in a strategic way. The last thing you want to do is go blank or start rambling about your childhood dog.

To excel in your interview, you should prepare your responses to common interview questions. With enough mock interview practice leading up to the real thing, you can make sure your answers sound natural and leave an excellent impression.

For more on how to answer common interview questions, check out our guide with tips and sample responses! For now, let’s go over how this list of 100 questions is sorted into categories. 

 

How Does This List Work?

No interviewer's going to ask you 100 questions in a row unless they possess King Joffrey levels of cruelty. However, they might sample a few questions from each of the below categories to get a full sense of your skills and experiences. There are five categories of questions in this list: traditional, behavioral, cultural fit, logistical, and curveballs.

 

  • Traditional questions are the ones with which you might already be familiar. They tend to be open-ended and ask about your background, goals, and work style. 

  • Behavioral questions are some of the trickiest, because they ask you to provide specific examples that illustrate an achievement, a learning experience, or even a failure.

  • Cultural fit questions are also common, and they’re particularly important for organizations that place high value in workplace culture. These may feel more personal or creative, but your answers should still be tailored to the organization at hand.

  • Logistical questions tend to focus on your work history, how long you plan to stay, and salary expectations.

  • Curveball questions are the random ones that you might expect during an icebreaker on your first day of summer camp. Don’t dismiss these questions as unimportant, though, as they’re an opportunity to let your personality shine through. Curveball questions can also be another way that the manager gauges cultural fit.

 

You’ll find 99 questions sorted into these five categories. As for the special 100th question? That one’s at the end of the list, and it’s a virtually universal question that every interviewee must be prepared to answer!

Before getting to that final essential question, plus some extra tips on how to prepare, let’s start in with some of the most common traditional job interview questions.

 

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The "tell me about yourself" prompt is an old classic, like apple pie at Thanksgiving. Don't be surprised if your interviewer brings it to the table.

 

Traditional Questions: Who Are You? What Are Your Qualifications for the Job?  

The questions in this category are fairly common interview questions that interviewers have been asking for years. They’re often some of the first questions in an interview that get the conversational ball rolling as the interviewer explores your professional skills, attitudes, and experiences.

Check out the traditional job interview questions below, and then scroll down for some tips on how to prepare for these types of questions.

 

Common Traditional Job Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself.
 
2. What do you consider to be your greatest professional strengths?
 
3. What would you say are your weaknesses?

4. Why do you want this job?

5. Why should we hire you?

6. What would you contribute to this job?

7. If you had a personal mission statement, what would it be?

8. If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?

9. What do you feel makes you unique?

10. What do you find motivating?

11. How do you define and measure success?

12. Where do you see yourself in five years?

13. How does this position fit in with the career path you see for yourself?

14. Would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?

15. What are some of your hobbies?

16. What were some responsibilities in your previous job?

17. What’s your work style like?

18. What were some of your favorite things to do in your last position?

19. What were some of your least favorite things to do in your last job?

20. What would your manager say are your best strengths?

21. What would your manager say are areas that you need to develop more?

22. How do you make decisions?

23. What could you contribute to make this company better?

24. What are you looking for in your next position?

25. What’s your style of management?

26. Can you describe the best boss you ever had?

27. Can you describe the worst boss you ever had?

28. How do you manage your time?

29. What are you looking for regarding career development?

30. What’s a goal you have for self-improvement in the next year?

31. How has your education gotten you ready for your career?

32. If you got this job, what would some of your goals be?

33. How do you keep yourself organized?

34. Do you prefer working in a team or alone?



Tips for Answering Traditional Questions

As you can see, traditional questions tend to ask about your skills and what you would bring to the job. While some of the questions may sound more personal, like “tell me about yourself” or “what makes you unique?” they’re all openers to advocate for your professional qualifications.

Your answers, therefore, should be tailored to the job and organization. A common mistake is to talk only about your own goals and what you’re looking for in a new job. While a hiring manager does want to see your motivations and passions, she's also concerned with making a successful hire. She needs to see not just what you want, but what you could do for her organization.

As you prepare your responses, then, you should consider the job description and what the company seeks. If one of the core competencies, or main skills, of the job is teamwork and collaboration, then you probably shouldn’t start talking about how much you prefer to work alone. You should bring in the core competencies of the job in your responses, albeit in a natural-sounding way.

In addition to tailoring your responses, a second tip for answering these questions is bringing in specific examples. Who doesn’t like to hear a good story? Even if the question doesn’t ask for a specific example, you could often benefit from sharing one, especially if you're someone who tends to drift into vague language. To make your answers more concrete, you could pinpoint particular instances from your past.

The next category, behavioral questions, explicitly asks you to bring in specific examples. Unless you’re a pro at thinking on your feet, these can be some of the most difficult questions to answer on the spot. Luckily, you’ll be prepared with your examples before you walk in the door!

 

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Interviewers ask behavioral questions so that you'll give specific examples of times that you succeeded, handled conflict, or, like this tired corkscrew, went above and beyond the call of duty.

 

Behavioral Questions: How Do You Act on the Job?

As someone who struggles to come up with a specific example when put on the spot, I think behavioral questions are pretty much the worst. At the same time, they’re also super common. Chances are, you’ll get asked a bunch of behavioral questions in your job interview.

Hiring managers don’t just want to hear abstract ideas about your work ethic or skills. They want to hear about specific times when you achieved something, managed conflict, or bounced back after a failure.

One rationale for these questions is that past behavior indicates future behavior. By gaining a sense of what you’ve done in the past, the hiring manager has a clearer vision of how you’ll perform in the future.

The other reason behind these questions is that behavioral questions and answers are simply more interesting. They call for specific stories, and these stories make your candidacy more memorable and colorful. You want to leave a great impression, and intriguing anecdotes are one way to accomplish this.

Below you’ll find some common examples of behavioral questions, followed by some tips for answering them.

 

Common Behavioral Questions

35. Can you describe a time you demonstrated leadership?

36. Can you speak to a time that you had to handle criticism of your work?

37. Tell me about a time when your workload was especially heavy and how you dealt with it.

38. What would you do if you were asked to take on more assignments than you could conceivably finish by the expected deadlines?

39. Can you give me an example of a time you had to follow a policy with which you didn’t agree?

40. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond expectations at work.

41. Have you ever worked on a time when someone was not pulling his weight? What did you do?

42. Have you ever had trouble working with a manager?

43. Can you tell me about a time your boss disagreed with something you did? How did you deal with it?

44. How do you handle difficult customers?

45. How do you deal with stressful situations?

46. Have you ever had to deal with a coworker who put you down at work? What did you do?

47. Can you tell me about a time that you faced a difficult situation with a colleague?

48. Give me an example of a time that you failed.

49. Have you ever had to give someone tough feedback? How did you go about that?

50. Have you ever gone against official policy or directives? Why? What were the results?

51. Can you give me an example of a challenge or conflict you faced at work? Describe how you handled it. 

 

Tips for Answering Behavioral Questions

As you can see, behavioral questions explicitly ask you to give specific examples. Your mission, then? To highlight success stories that show you possess some of the core competencies the interviewer is looking for.

Just as all your answers should be tailored to the job at hand, so too should your examples be chosen based on the job description and organization. If problem-solving is a big part of the prospective job, then choose an example, if possible, that demonstrates your problem-solving skills.

Similarly, if you’re asked to provide a failure, don’t choose a story where you failed because you lack one of the core competencies. If the position wants you to be highly organized, don’t go on and on about your problems with organization. In fact, you could subtly highlight the opposite; maybe there was a time you failed to look at the big picture because you were too concerned with details of organization, and you’ve since learned how to balance the two.

As you know by now, you should tailor your responses, but don’t just tell the interviewer what you think she wants to hear or choose a cop-out answer, like “I work too hard” or “I care too much.” You still want to be authentic and true to yourself.

The best way to ace these behavioral questions is to show up with a few prepared success stories in your mental suitcase. Perhaps you can pack four or five that relate to the most common questions - a time you showed leadership, a challenge you faced, a story about teamwork, an example of problem solving, and an instance of failure.

One final tip about that “describe a time that you failed” prompt - don’t focus too much on failure. Be honest about the failure, but show how you saw it as a learning opportunity. Talk about how you acknowledged, addressed, and grew from your mistake. Your attitude toward setbacks may be just as important as the story you share.

Now that you have a sense of those tricky behavioral questions and how to prepare for them, let’s look at the next major category: questions that aim to gauge your cultural fit.

 

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Maybe your ideal workplace values teamwork, innovation, or indoor climbing walls. Let the interviewer know what draws you to its culture.

 

Cultural Fit Questions: Do You Share Our Values?

Organizational culture has always been important for employees, and today it seems to be even more so. Many private companies, in particular, pay a ton of attention to workplace values and the happiness levels of employees. Good morale and workplace perks can improve individual performance, retention, and teamwork, as well as prevent workplace conflict.

Many hiring managers, therefore, will ask interview questions aimed at gaining a sense of your cultural fit. Check out some of the questions below, and then read on for a few tips on how to prepare for them.

 

Common Cultural Fit Questions

52. What does teamwork mean to you?

53. What three qualities do you look for in a workplace?

54. How would you deal with a coworker you don’t get along with?

55. How well would you say you adapt to change?

56. What are you passionate about?

57. Describe your ideal company culture. What four or five characteristics does it have?

58. Who inspires you and why?

59. What motivates you to come into work everyday?

60. What was it like working at your last company?

61. What are some of your workplace values?

62. Do you prefer a more structured work environment or one where you can be more entrepreneurial?

63. What personality types would you say you work best with?

64. What are some activities you like to do outside of work, and how do they benefit your day-to-day job?

65. What would your friends tell me about you?

  

Tips for Answering Cultural Fit Questions

As you can see, a lot of these cultural fit questions focus on workplace values. They also bring out soft skills, like communication, flexibility, motivation, passion, and outside interests.

While these questions are opportunities to let your personality shine through, don’t forget that you’re in a job interview. You still want to customize your answers to the organization, and the best way to do this is to research its culture online and, if possible, by speaking to its employees. The company website’s a great resource, as well as sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor. If you know any people who work there, definitely reach out and ask them about their experiences.

These cultural fit questions work two ways. The manager wants to see how you’d fit in, but you also want to make sure the culture aligns with your values and work style. Make sure it’s the sort of place you’d like to work and could be successful. Find out about values, and, if you share them, reflect this understanding and alignment in your responses.

 

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Logistical questions might ask about a gap in employment or a career change, such as, "Going from a dog walker to a NASA astronaut seems like a big change. Could you speak on that a bit?"

 

Logistical Questions: Employment History and Salary Expectations

Logistical questions tend to be straightforward. They might ask about details on your resume, your professional goals, or your salary expectations. Some of these questions, especially about salary, may show up later in the hiring process, like in a second interview.

You should be prepared to discuss them, though, just in case. Below are some common questions that fall into this logistical category.

 

Common Logistical Questions

66. You worked at your last company for a long time. Will it be difficult moving to a new firm?

67. Why have you changed jobs so often over the past few years?

68. If you got this job, how long would you plan to stay with us?

69. What did you earn at your last job?

70. What are your salary expectations?

71. Why do you have a gap in your job history?

72. Why do you think you can lead a team without any previous managerial experience?

73. Why do you want to join our company?

74. Why do you want to move from an academic field to the business world (or vice versa)?

75. Why should we give you the job over other applicants?

76. Would you jump ship if you received another offer?

77. What other companies are you applying to?

78. Why did you freelance for a long period of time?

79. What caused you to leave your last position?

80. Why do you want to leave your current position?

81. Why did you take a job that seems unrelated to your career path?

 

 

Tips for Answering Logistical Questions

While you may have already talked about your skills and experiences, these logistical questions will get you talking specifically about your professional history. Be prepared to speak on your last job, its responsibilities, and your reasons for applying elsewhere.

If you have any gaps in employment or are making a career change, you should also be ready to speak on that. As for salary, interviewers may save this question for later in the hiring process, like a second interview. You shouldn’t be dishonest about what you’ve made in the past, but you may decline to share by saying that the two jobs are so different, you don’t feel your last salary applies to the current situation.

If you’re just not sure, do some research on the company website and sites like Payscale and Glassdoor to see what you could expect from a comparable position. I’ve found these sites sometimes have such a big range it’s hard to be sure, but you can look at the available information and then decide what's a reasonable range for you.

Again, as you should in all your responses, make sure to communicate your enthusiasm for the position and commitment to the organization should you be hired.

Finally, let’s consider the fifth category of questions, the curveballs.

 

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Don't get thrown by random questions, like, "If you were a vacation, would you be a camping trip, a group tour, or a luxury spa?" Actually, maybe that one's from a Buzzfeed quiz.

 

Curveball Questions: The Odd and Unexpected

We've reached the quirky curveball questions. Like they sound, these questions run the gambit of total randomness. They tend to be odd and imaginative, and are mainly asked to gain a sense of your personality and ability to think on your feet. Of course, if you've already prepared for the right ones, then you won’t have to think on your feet!

Some questions aim to root out your entrepreneurial qualities or vision. Others seek to see how you self-reflect and make decisions. Others, well - it’s hard to say what some of these are getting at. That’s why I decided to call them curveballs!

Check out some potential curveball questions below, along with ten real-life examples that interviewers from big companies, like Dropbox and Trader Joe’s have asked prospective employees. Then check out some tips on how to prepare for the unexpected!

 

Potential Curveball Questions

82. If you could live your life over again from the beginning, what’s one thing that you would change?

83. If you could be an animal, which one would you be and why?

84. If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently?

85. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

86. What’s one new thing you taught yourself in the last year?

87. What would the name of your app be?

88. You have two minutes. Teach me something.

89. Why do people climb mountains?

90. From Space Exploration Technologies: When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why? 

91. From Whole Foods Market: Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?

92. From Dropbox: If you’re the CEO, what are the first three things you check about the business when you wake up?

93. From Urban Outfitters: What would the name of your debut album be?

94. From J.W. Business Acquisitions: How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?

95. From Hubspot: If I gave you $40,000 to start a business, what would you start?

96. From Trader Joe’s: What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?

97. From Boston Consulting Group: If you were a brand, what would be your motto?

98. From Delta Air Lines: How many basketballs would fit in this room?

99. From Uniqlo: If you had $2,000, how would you double it in 24 hours?

Source of questions 90-99: Glassdoor.com

 

Tips for Answering Curveballs

Is it possible to prepare for the unpredictable? Sure, to some extent. While you may not know exactly what questions you’ll get asked, you can hone your skills of thinking on your feet.

Improv actors, for example, don’t just get up on stage and see what happens. They keep their imaginations active and flexible with improv activities. You might similarly try a rapid-fire question and answer practice session to see what you come up with. You should find that your answers come easier and more creative the more you warm up.

As with all your other answers, you might be able to tailor your responses to the job. For instance, if you get asked about what kind of animal you would be, you could choose one that’s associated with leadership, like a lion, cleverness, like a monkey, or strong work ethic, like an ant, depending on what the job's looking for.

At the same time, try not to overthink these too much. They’re more lighthearted and chances to reveal your personality and sense of humor. And if you find your mind totally goes blank, you could try to buy a little extra time with the old trick of, “That’s a great question. I’ll have to think about that for a second...”

Now that you’ve read over 99 common interview questions in the five major categories, let’s take a look at the final question that almost every interviewer asks at the end of your meeting.

 

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Even if your interviewer doesn't ask you any of the previous 99 questions, you can be pretty sure that she'll ask you this next one!

 

Final Crucial Job Interview Question

Finally, you’ve made it to the end of the list and have seen 99 of the most common traditional, behavioral, cultural fit, logistical, and curveball questions that might come your way in the job interview. But we promised you 100 questions, and saved the nearly universal question for last.

This question is an absolute must for your interview preparation. Almost every interviewer asks it, and there’s definitely a way that you can answer it wrong. Here it is:

 

100. Do you have any questions for me? 



Tips for the Final Question

This final question’s not a particularly hard one, but it is very important. The biggest mistake you could make here is to say, “Nope!” The answer to this question should always be yes, and you should have at least two thoughtful questions to ask your interviewer.

You may be sick of reading about how your answers should be tailored to the job and organization at hand, so I’ll just say it one last time: your questions should be tailored to the job and organization at hand (sorry).

Your questions are one more opportunity to show your interest and enthusiasm. You can show that you’ve researched the organization and have a strong understanding of its culture and mission. Don’t ask questions that can be easily answered with a Google search. Similarly, don’t ask ones that you just talked about ten minutes before.

What you already know about the company can inform your questions, though, as it shows you’ve done some digging. You might say, "I saw on your website that one of your long-term goals is xxx. Could you tell me about some of the specific steps you’ll be taking in the next few months to work toward this?"

You could ask about a typical day in the office, what your team members would be like, or what qualities the company values most in its employees. For more suggestions on questions to ask at the end of your interview, check out this question and answer guide.

So there you have it, one hundred of the most common questions that get asked in job interviews. In closing, let’s go over the key pieces of advice to remember as you prepare to rock your job interview.

 

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Here's one piece of advice: Do your preparation before you get to the interview!

 

Preparing for Interview Questions: Final Words of Advice

Interviews can be an intimidating hurdle in the hiring process, but believe it or not, they can also be exciting! They’re your opportunity to speak with your next potential manager and teammate, learn more about an organization, and show that you’re the best person for the job.

With enough preparation, you can give succinct, thoughtful responses to any interview question. While you may not be able to completely eliminate all the unknowns, you can definitely reduce them considerably. As you consider how you would answer the above questions, make sure you keep these four main guidelines in mind.

 

Research the Job, Organization, and Your Interviewer

In order to give a good interview, you must be knowledgeable about the job you’re applying for and the organization you wish to join. This knowledge will help you prepare tailored responses and present yourself as the best candidate for the job. 

You should thoroughly read the job description and learn about the organization from its website. You might read about it in news articles or reach out to current or former employees for their views. Once you have a clearer understanding of the job and workplace culture, you can start to analyze your own skillset to see how it matches up. This process of deconstructing the job description is an important step in customizing your answers, as you'll read below.

Beyond researching the job and company, you should see also seek to learn more about your interviewer. You might track the person down on LinkedIn or via a bio on the company's website. You might discover a shared interest or personal connection that could spark conversation, whether you bring it up explicitly or not.  

I have a friend who learned that his next interviewer grew up on a military base in Georgia. When he interviewed, my friend used a bunch of military-related metaphors when describing his ideal management style. Apparently, his interviewer loved it, and my friend got the job.

You don't want to creep out your interviewer by repeating her LinkedIn profile back to her, but you might discover a shared interest and work it into the conversation. In addition to showing your enthusiasm for the job and organization, making a personal connection with your interviewer can never hurt! 

 

Collect Your Success Stories

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Show, don't tell"? It means that you should give specific, illustrative examples and avoid vague, abstract language. It's a good rule for improving your writing, and it's a good rule for improving your interview answers, too. 

Anyone can talk about how detail-oriented they are, but only people who actually possess this quality can share specific examples. Not only will anecdotes prove what you say about yourself, but they'll also be more memorable to the interviewer.

As you read above, behavioral questions are all the rage these days. Interviewers want to get beyond the basics and dig into your past behaviors and experiences. They want to learn about how you've met a challenge, handled conflict, or interacted with your team in the past to get a clearer vision of how you'll behave in the new role. 

To answer these questions, you should be prepared with a few tried-and-true "success stories" from your past. These may come from your past job, or, if you're new to the workforce, from your education or perhaps volunteer work. 

You should be prepared to speak on some common themes, such as a time that you showed leadership, solved a problem, collaborated with your peers, faced a challenge, handled stress and pressure, or resolved conflict. As for the questions that ask about conflict or failure, try to choose an example that you learned. Frame it less as a failure and more as an opportunity for growth and improvement.

Consider the context of your examples, like what led up to them and what the ramifications were. The interviewer may very well ask follow-up questions, so you should prepare to speak at length about your stories. This brings us to the next point, preparing for follow-up questions.

 

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The interviewer may be happy to follow your lead once the conversation gets flowing. Prepare for follow-up questions on your responses.

 

Prepare for Follow-Up Questions

An interview's not an interrogation. Most interviews aren't just going to shoot one question at you after another with nothing more than a nod in response to your answers. While the questions are important, the interviewer is also seeking to have a conversation and get to know you in a relatively brief period of time.

Just as you can expect from any conversation, you'll probably get follow-up questions based on your responses. Your interviewer might ask you to give some more detail or provide some more context. If you talked about a challenge at work, the interviewer might ask what situations you think led up to that challenge or what changes in procedure you've made since. 

Once you've prepared your responses, consider what the interviewer might ask as a follow-up. What details could you elaborate on? How could your response branch into a related, but distinct direction? Just as you don't want to sound too rehearsed, you don't want your responses to be so tightly structured that you can't add additional ideas and details. If you find you have little to say about one of your success stories, then consider choosing one with a bit more substance.

 

Customize All of Your Answers

As you read in the tips above, you can try to customize just about every one of your responses to the job at hand. Focus on your skills as they relate to the job description.

In other words, what you say should not just be about you. It should also very much be about them.

In most circumstances, the interviewer wants to make sure her next new hire possesses certain core competencies. Figure out what those core competencies are, and then reflect them in your responses. On the flip side, you might leave out other skills that aren't relevant. Highlight the ones that are most important in this particular context.

Even if you don't have direct experience, you can show that you have skills that would transfer well to the role. By highlighting your transferable skills, you can show that you'd be successful in the new role, with or without previous experience.

This idea of tailoring your answers to the job and organization is pretty much the fundamental overriding principle of all your interview prep. Aim to be knowledgeable, specific, and prepared to speak at length about what makes you the best person for the job!

 

What’s Next?

We’ve picked out the top interview questions to help you prepare your best answers. Check out this guide with tips and sample answers to the most common job interview questions.

What else can you do to rock your job interview? Check out this guide with tips for acing your interview, from picking out your power outfit to following up with a personalized message.

Are you on the job hunt? This guide will help you write an excellent cover letter with a step-by-step template and six free cover letter samples.



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Rebecca Safier
About the Author

Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.



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