If you’re looking for the magic bullet to acing an interview, you’re going to be let down. The secret to a successful interview isn’t really a secret at all — it just takes practice. Of course, you want to make sure that you’re practicing the right thing.
To that end, we’ve rounded up a few of the most common interview questions you’re likely to come across, as well as some tips on how to answer them. If you’re doubling down on your job hunt in the New Year, take note — honing your responses to these nine questions will get you that much closer to scoring your dream gig.
1. Describe yourself.
This classic interview question might seem annoyingly vague, but there’s actually a fairly specific answer that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for: why you’re a good fit for the job. Describe where you’ve worked, what you’ve done, what you’ve most enjoyed and how your work style has made that all possible. Finally, show a little personality — mention a few favorite hobbies or interests. Who knows? Your mutual love of cross stitching might make all the difference.
[Related: 50 Most Common Interview Questions]
2. Discuss your resume.
Your resume was designed to be quickly scanned, not read aloud, so when asked to discuss it, make sure you don’t recite it verbatim or repeat too much of the exact phrasing. Instead, let the various bullet points illustrate a story of how you got to where you are right now. If you have any gaps or unrelated experiences in your resume, resist the urge to gloss over it and instead share why that situation occurred and how it contributed to your overall journey.
3. Why are you looking for a new job?
Venting about your work frustrations can be cathartic, but in a job interview, it’s destructive. Badmouthing your current employer isn’t a good look, no matter how difficult it’s been lately. The key to answering this question is telling the truth, but softening the edges — if you think the CEO’s incompetent, for example, you might want to say that you and management have conflicting views about where the company should be headed. It’s all about striking a balance between being honest and being polite.
4. Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?
Note: “Because I need money” and “You guys are just so cool!” are not acceptable responses to this question. Interviewers are looking for a deeper answer than that — ideally something that speaks to their core mission, product/service or values. Before walking into any interview, do some research on the company beforehand and figure out which of those aspects appeals to you the most, then be prepared to talk about it. And if none of them do? You may want to rethink whether or not you want to interview there in the first place.
5. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
This is another question where balancing honesty with good judgment is key. Don’t share a silly mistake like missing the first ten minutes of a morning meeting because you slept through your alarm clock. Talk about a time when you made the wrong call, but it served as a learning moment for you and ultimately led to growth. Employers don’t expect you to be flawless, but they do want you to learn from your mistakes.
6. What would you look to accomplish in the first 30 days/60 days/90 days on the job?
Demonstrating a thorough understanding of the scope and responsibilities of the role is key for this question. Look through the description on the job post you saw when you first applied, and break those objectives down into the three key phases of the first 90 days of your job: the learning stage (days 1-30), the value-adding stage (days 31-60) and the transformation stage (days 61-90).
7. Why should we hire you?
Sure, you’re hardworking, talented and a quick learner — but so is everybody else in the final stages of consideration. Avoid general adjectives like this and highlight specific reasons that you, above all other candidates, are the right fit. Do you have a useful and in-demand skill that most others don’t? Can you offer a unique perspective based on your background? Whatever sets you apart, don’t be afraid to flaunt it.
[Related: 7 Things To Never Do In An Interview]
8. What are your salary requirements?
A question like this is often the first step of the salary negotiation process, so you don’t want to sell yourself short — but you also don’t want to scare a potential employer off with an exorbitant figure. A good rule of thumb is to determine your market value beforehand (try Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth™ salary estimator) then offer a range between that figure and several thousand above it
9. What questions do you have for me?
While this question signals that you’re near the end, you’re not in the clear just yet. Employers want thoughtful and curious people working for them, and a “Nothing right now!” indicates the exact opposite. Memorize a few go-to questions about work-life balance, the workplace environment and the company mission, but feel free to throw in some improvised ones based on the information you learn in the interview as well. Then, breathe — you just rocked your interview!