Ace 11 common interview questions

Career Advice
JC Cornell

By JC Cornell
May 23, 2019

Updated
November 29, 2023

0 min read

It would be amazing if you knew exactly what interview questions a hiring manager was going to ask you.  

While you can’t read minds, fortunately, there are certain interview questions that come up over and over again.

You’ve probably experienced them all in one shape or another. Yet these interview questions often trip us up if we aren’t prepared for them.

While canned answers aren’t recommended, we advise you to practise answering common interview questions.

Get comfortable with your replies. Hiring managers are interested in your responses. These interview questions are always logical, but they can be quite revealing about your experience and personality.


1. Tell me a little about yourself?

Your interviewer should already know quite a bit about you. They aren’t looking for you to read them your resume. Instead, they are looking for a summary of your experience that shows your excellent fit for the position.

Start with your current position and then provide important highlights from your other roles. Try including insights into your personality, but your extracurricular activities shouldn’t be the entire focus. Think of this question as your 1-minute elevator pitch.


2. What interests you about this job?

This question is about gauging if you have read and understood the job description and how excited you are about the job.

Talk about specific tasks or responsibilities you are most interested in. Go deeper and discuss the opportunities the role or company would offer you to further develop your skills.

Talk about how this role will help you achieve the career goals you have been working towards.

To help you be prepared for this question, make sure to re-read the job description the night before your interview. Be prepared.


3. What do you know about our company?

The ability to answer this question may actually set you apart from other applicants.  It is one of the questions that candidates most often are unprepared for.

You never want to walk into an interview without first having researched the company to your fullest ability. Look and read every page of their website.

Find out if they have a parent company or even subsidiary companies. Look at their social media posts. If you know anyone who works there, reach out and get their inside opinion. Do a Google search.

Now you can talk to leadership changes, product launches, growth of the business in a new sector, or even the charitable events they participate in. Research is King.


4. Tell me about a work conflict/difficult work situation and how you solved it?

This is always a dreaded question and is challenging for two reasons. It can expose a potential weakness you would rather not reveal and requires you to tell a situational story that people can understand.

It may sound like common sense but choose a difficult situation that had a happy outcome – preferably one you were responsible for.

Think of a conflict between members on a project where you mediated and found a solution. Or a time when you and your boss disagreed on approaching a difficult client, you worked together to find the best solution, and the client benefited from your collaboration.

Whatever situation you choose to discuss, highlight your positive traits like leadership, teamwork, or conflict resolution. Don’t make disparaging remarks about anyone else involved in the situation. It only makes you look childish.


5. What are your biggest strengths?

While your resume should showcase all of your strengths, this is your opportunity to highlight them even further. Don’t try to guess what answer your interviewer is looking for – this will likely backfire on you.

Provide a clear, precise, informational answer. Instead of saying you are a mathematical wiz kid, provide a few examples that actually prove that you are one. If you can choose a specific strength that is relevant to the role, showcase it.

But your strengths can also be simple and relevant to every role. Don’t just claim to have certain attributes – use examples to show that you actually possess them.


6. What are your biggest weaknesses?

By biggest weakness, we don’t mean a theoretical weakness that can magically be a strength. Please avoid “My biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist and will always work extra hours to make sure a project is done 100% correctly before I go home.”

Instead, choose an actual weakness that you are aware of and are working to improve. Share how this weakness can impact your work, as well as the steps you have already put into place to overcome it.

No one is perfect. The ability to be self-reflective is important; it demonstrates your ability to grow.


7. Why are you leaving your current role?

If you are leaving for a more senior role, or to find a job with a shorter commute, by all means, be honest. If you are leaving because you have been fired, laid off, or because of a toxic work environment, this question becomes more complicated.

Even so, honesty is still the best policy – you never know if your interviewer will follow up with your previous company.

Never bad mouth your former boss or coworkers. Be straightforward and speak on a positive note explaining what you have learned and how you are making efforts to avoid this type of situation in the future.

Make sure to turn the conversation around to the opportunity at hand. Always remain professional.


8. Are you planning to have children?

Questions centred around gender, family status, nationality, religion, and age are often illegal – yet they still get asked. It is not always with malicious intent; sometimes, the interviewer could be just trying to make a friendly conversation.

That being said, if you are asked anything about your personal life (or any inappropriate interview questions), you should always tie it back to the job at hand.

For this particular question, try turning it around by saying, “I am not there yet but very interested in career paths at your company. Can you tell me more about that?”


9. What are your salary expectations?

Interviewers ask this question to see if your expectations are in line with the range they pay for this role. You never want to over or undervalue your salary expectations, but they should line up with market value for your role.

Research the typical salary range for the position and speak specifically to that. Make sure to compare a couple of different resources before coming up with a number.

Remember that this is only an initial conversation. Nothing is set in stone. Make sure you give the impression that you know your worth. Try saying, “The average salary for a candidate with my experience in this role is generally between X and Y.

I would be flexible depending on other benefits offered. Can you tell me what you want to pay for this position?” And always allow room for negotiation.


10. How many ping pong balls could fit in a Boeing 747?

If you were an animal, what would you be? Can you program a VHS machine? Why are manhole covers round? How would you describe yellow to a blind person?

These types of random brain teasers often come up in interviews. The interviewer isn’t even necessarily looking for a correct answer but rather insight into your reasoning ability. The goal is to get you thinking, to see how quickly and creatively you can answer.

While these types of interview questions may not seem logical to you, they are often a personality gauge. If you have trouble thinking on the spot, give yourself some extra time by starting your response with “That’s an interesting question. I would have to say…”


11. Do you have any questions for us?

Too many people hear this question and breathe a sigh of relief that the interview is over. They want to rush to shake hands and say goodbye. This is the worst possible move you can make.

This is a prime opportunity to interview your interviewer. A generic “No” can make you seem disinterested.

Instead, show your excitement for a role by asking insightful questions that give you a fuller idea of the role and company.

Have a list of questions ready so you can discuss them. Here are a few examples of questions you can ask:

  • Why is this position available? What did the previous employee in this role go on to do/Why did they leave?
  • What is the supervisor's management style?
  • What will other managers I interact with but won’t report to expect from me in my role?
  • How would you describe the office culture? Does it vary greatly between different departments?
  • What can you tell me about the role that isn’t in the job description?
  • What are the biggest challenges of this role?
  • What’s the most important thing I should accomplish/master in my first three months?
  • How will you measure my success in this role?
  • Where do you see this role going in the next two years?
  • Are there any examples of a career path beginning with this position?
  • What is the biggest problem or obstacle the company is working to overcome right now?
  • What will be the next steps in this interview process, and what does that timeline look like?
  • If I am extended a job offer, how soon would you be expecting me to start?
  • Are there any additional questions I can answer for you?

These are just a few of the challenging interview questions you may be asked in your career.

If you are prepared to answer any interview questions about the company, your skills, or your career, then you will be able to answer just about any question thrown at you. Be honest, be thoughtful, be prepared.

Remember that your interviewers want you to succeed just as much as you do. Their interview questions aren’t about tricking or sabotaging you. They hope to find the best match for their open roles – and hope you will be it!


Want more advice from our experts on interview questions?

Apply to our open roles if you are ready to take the next step in your career.

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