10 Most Commonly Asked Questions in an Interview (And How to Answer them)

Having conducted numerous interviews, from an 18 year college student, to a 55 year old retired government employee, to a B-School graduate, I can now claim to have some idea about interviews and how one can easily crack them!

Getting ready for a job interview isn’t just about dressing appropriately & being there before time, it’s also about knowing how to respond thoughtfully to the questions which will be shot at you. Most interviewers tend to ask questions which can give them an insight about yourself and make every effort to make it intimidating. But the truth is that they all tend to ask the same questions. So, if you know what these questions are, you can prepare accordingly. Here are ten of the most commonly-asked job interview questions. Don’t be surprised if they come up in your next interview!!

1. “Tell me about yourself.”
This is the ice breaker, they will always ask you this question first. But if the old English saying is be believed, this is the most important question of all!

It is important to understand that your answer doesn’t sound rehearsed. Your answer should be genuine and honest as well as short and sweet. Don’t talk endlessly about every detail of your life - that’s not what potential employers want to know. Focus on your education, work history, recent career experience and any hobbies or accomplishments that reflect a strong character. And remember, never start by introducing yourself, this should be done before the interview begins!

2. “What do you know about this company?”
You should expect this question at every interview. This is why you should always do some research on the company before the interview. Always get answers to the following questions before hand and make sure that your career goals appear alined with the company's vision:

  • Where they have been and where they are going?
  • What are the current issues and who are the major players?
This shows the interviewer that you are actually interested in the company and being employed by them.

3. “Why do you want to work for this company?”
Again, make sure you’ve done your homework and base your response on the knowledge you’ve acquired. Try to relate your answer to your personal interests or career goals and how they aline with the company's long term visions and goals of the particular position you are applying for.

4. “How long do you plan on staying with the company if you’re hired?”
Logically, employers are not supposed to ask this question; still, somehow it finds its way into the conversation. If it does, steer clear of specific answers; being too specific could be potentially dangerous. At the same time, being too vague will not be good either. Try something along the lines of “I’d like it to be a long term employee", or "As long as we both feel that I am doing a good job.”

5. “Are you willing to work overtime?”
You’re on your own here - but be prepared for the question. It’s to your advantage to be honest up front in setting the terms of employment; however, keep in mind that the more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll get the job. Ideally, you should let your interviewer know that while you have preferences or special circumstances, you are willing to be flexible.

6. “Why did you leave your last job?”
It is crucial to be brief, honest, and most importantly, positive. If you left by choice, don't put blame on others or talk bad about the previous employer. Or else, you’ll only make yourself look bad. Instead say you left for a better opportunity. If you were fired, be honest about the reasons and assure the interviewer that the mistakes - if any - will not happen again. Being honest is being confident about yourself.

7. “Why should we hire you?”
This is a half volley - an easy opportunity to show your strengths - so hit it right out of the park. Sound confident rather than cocky. Create your answer by thinking in terms of your abilities and experience. Point out specific ways in which your assets as a candidate will benefit the company.

8. “What is your philosophy/attitude towards work?”
If you get this question, be advised that the interviewer is not looking for a soliloquy. Ask yourself: “Do I have strong feelings about how work should be done?” If so, answer accordingly. If not, keep it short and positive, always showing concern for the good of the organization.

9. “What do you feel this position should pay?”
A loaded and a delicate question. The best way to have success with this question is to not answer it directly. A good tactic is to counter with something like, “That’s a tough question… Can you tell me the range for this position?” In most cases, the interviewer, taken off guard, will tell you. Of course, a better approach would be to do your homework. Find the average salary for the position you’re applying for and answer, “I understand that the range for this job is between $____ and $____. That seems appropriate for the job as I understand it.” Either way, make sure you communicate that while the money is important; getting the job is first priority.

10. “Do you have any questions for me?”
This is one of the most neglected and overlooked questions of the interview. However, this can be a real clincher for you! Come with some prepared questions, such as: “How can I be an asset to the organization? How soon will I be able to be productive? What type of projects will I be involved with?” Remember that a keen or insightful question on your part will tell the employer as much about you as your answers.

To conclude, the key to most of these questions is doing your homework well. However, even the best answers will have no credibility whatsoever unless you are completely honest and sincere with yourself and with your interviewer. And while I can’t promise you’ll get every job using these tips, I hope you will do will in all your interviews and wish you well for them!