If you’re entering the market for the first time, or just looking to make a change, use this guide to prepare for your next interview.
Below is a list of common job interview questions, along with answering techniques that will help you dazzle your prospects, and hopefully, secure the role you want.
1. Could you tell me about yourself and describe your background in brief?
Interviewers like to hear stories about candidates. Make sure your story has a great beginning, a riveting middle, and an end that makes the interviewer root for you to win the job.
Talk about a relevant incident that made you keen on the profession you are pursuing and follow up by discussing your education. In the story, weave together how your academic training and your passion for the subject or industry the company specialises in, combined with your work experience, make you a great fit for the job. If you’ve managed a complex project or worked on an exciting, offbeat design, mention it.
Example: “I come from a small town, where opportunities were limited. Since good schools were a rarity, I started using online learning to stay up to date with the best. That’s where I learned to code and then I went on to get my certification as a computer programmer. After I got my first job as a front-end coder, I continued to invest time in mastering both front- and back-end languages, tools, and frameworks.”
2. How did you hear about this position?
Employers want to know whether you are actively seeking out their company, heard of the role from a recruiter, or were recommended to the position by a current employee. In short, they want to know how you got to them.
If someone recommended you for the position, be sure to say their name. Don’t assume that the interviewer already knows about the referral. You’ll probably want to also follow up with how you know the person who referred you. For example, if you and Steve (who recommended you) worked together previously, or if you met him over coffee at a networking event, mention it to give yourself a little more credibility. If Steve works at the company and suggested that you apply for the job, explain why he thought you’d be the perfect fit.
If you sought out the role yourself, be clear about what caught your eye — extra bonus points if you can align your values with the company and their mission. You want to convince the hiring manager that you chose their company, over all other companies, for a few specific reasons.
Lastly, if you were recruited, explain why you took the bait. Did this role sound like a good fit? Does it align with the direction you want to take your career? Even if you weren’t familiar with the organization prior to being recruited, be enthusiastic about what you’ve learned and honest about why you’re interested in moving forward with the process.
Example: “I learned about the position through LinkedIn as I’ve been following your company’s page for a while now. I’m really passionate about the work you’re doing in X, Y, and Z areas, so I was excited to apply. The required skills match well with the skills I have, and it seems like a great opportunity for me to contribute to your mission, as well as a great next move for my career.”
3. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
The employer wants to know: Do you hold down the fort or crumble under pressure? They want to make sure that you won’t have a meltdown when the pressure becomes intense and deadlines are looming. The ability to stay calm under pressure is a highly prized talent.
Share an instance when you remained calm despite the turmoil. If it’s a skill you’re developing, acknowledge that and include the steps you’re taking to respond better to pressure in the future. For example, you could indicate that you’ve started a mindfulness practice to help you better deal with stress.
Example: “I realise stressful situation are always going to come up, and I definitely have had to learn how to navigate them throughout my career. I think I get better at it with every new experience. While working on a new product launch at my last company, for example, things were not going according to plan with my team. Instead of pointing fingers, my first reaction was to take a step back and figure out some strategies around how we could we solve the problem at hand. Previously, I may have defaulted to panicking in that situation, so being calm and collected was definitely a step forward and helped me approach the situation with more clarity.”
4. Do you prefer working independently or on a team?
Your answer should be informed by the research you’ve done on the company culture and the job in question. Nevertheless, you should expect that most work environments will have some team aspect.
Many positions require you to work collaboratively with other people on a daily basis, while some roles require you to work on your own. When you answer this question, highlight the best traits of your personality and how they fit the job requirements. It could also be in your interest to answer this question by highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of both situations.
Example: “I enjoy a blend of the two. I like having a team to strategize with, get diverse opinions from, and reach out to for feedback. But I am also comfortable taking on assignments that require me to work independently. I find I do some of my best work when I can focus alone in a quiet space, but I really value collaborating with my teammates to come up with the best ideas.”
5. When you’re balancing multiple projects, how do you keep yourself organized?
Employers want to understand how you use your time and energy to stay productive and efficient. They’re also looking to understand if you have your own system for staying on track with the work beyond the company’s schedules and workflow plans. Be sure to emphasize that you adhere to deadlines and take them seriously.
Discuss a specific instance when you stayed on track. Talk about the importance and urgency of the projects you were working on and how you allocated your time accordingly. Explain how you remain organized and focused on the job in front of you.
Example: “I’m used to juggling projects at my current job where I’m often moving between coding one software program to another. I use the timeboxing technique to make sure they’re all on track, allocating time on my calendar for certain tasks. I’ve found it really helps me prioritize what needs to get done first, and it holds me accountable for the more repetitive day-to-day tasks I’m responsible for.”