Interview Prep

How to Prepare for Common Interview Questions

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I’ve seen lots of websites that list common job interview questions and recommend what they consider the best answer for each one. Is it worth my time to study those sites before I start my job search?

A: You’re right that there are tons of sites and books available that list the most commonly asked interview questions. And yes, reviewing them and preparing your responses is good practice for an interview.  Think about how you’d answer questions like these:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you looking for a new job at this time?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Why should we hire you for this job?
  • What questions do you have for me?

You may also be asked questions about your strengths and weaknesses and about your ability to handle specific situations.

Although it’s relatively easy to predict at least some of the questions you’ll be asked in an interview, I recommend you steer clear of advice that promises the “best answers.” That’s because there isn’t a single best answer to good interview questions. The only person who knows exactly what they want to hear is the person sitting in front of you in the interview.

The answer you give depends on the job requirements and your strengths, skills, knowledge, and abilities. Most important, your success in an interview depends on how well you can “sell” your ability to do the job.

There isn’t a single best answer to good interview questions. The only person who knows exactly what they want to hear is the person sitting in front of you in the interview.

Rather than spending time looking at what other people think are the best answers to interview questions, ask a trusted friend or colleague to role-play with you. Have your partner ask some of the most frequently asked interview questions so you can practice your answers. He or she can give you feedback on how your answers come across. Practice will help you be prepare, but no matter how much you practice, you may still be hit with a question that you didn’t expect.

I used to work with someone who liked to ask applicants what their favorite kind of cookie was.  When I asked why, he said he thought it helped to illustrate the candidate’s creativity. How can you prepare for a question like that?

The truth is that you can’t. But if you expect the unexpected, it’s less likely to throw you off in the moment. And you’ll feel better prepared if you take the time to review commonly asked questions and come up with answers that reflect your skills and strengths.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR,The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and the latest book—The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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