Understanding why interviewers ask different questions, and practicing strategies for answering will increase your confidence and chance of success. Being nervous is natural and taking deep breaths will help. If you haven’t prepared or practiced, however, you will likely regret it.
With each question, answer honestly, completely, and concisely. There’s a difference between simply imagining how you might respond and practicing your responses out loud.
Below are examples of questions along with recommended strategies. Please also review types of interviews and check out our mock interview services.
Interviewers want to learn (or verify) information about your credentials, education, interests, etc.
- As always, be honest. Where appropriate, add a brief example to support your response. Practicing with a variety of these questions will help you recognize opportunities to add an example.
- If asked something that has potential to make you defensive, manage your reaction and response.
- Don’t place blame on others.
- Your responses should be no longer than two minutes, so practice being concise.
One of the most popular direct questions is, “Tell me about yourself.” Prepare a tailored response and deliver it conversationally.
- What have you learned about our organization?
- What writing (or other) courses have you taken?
- What are your extra-curricular activities?
- Why did you choose this major?
- Where else are you interviewing?
- I see that you’re a member of, what is your involvement?
Questions that Ask for Your Opinion
Interviewers want your thoughts about your qualifications, weaknesses, the industry, etc. They will notice from your words and delivery whether or not you’re showing confidence, self-awareness, interest, willingness to learn, and other qualities they value.
- Answer confidently, but not arrogantly. Support your opinion with examples, preferably ones relevant to that employer or committee.
- Plan ahead by identifying topics or issues related to the job, organization, and field, and imagine being asked for your opinion on those topics. Practice your responses.
Common “Opinion” Questions
“Why should we hire you?” One of the most important questions in any interview asks for your opinion on why you should be hired or accepted into the program. Tailor this response to the position and include specifics and examples.
“What do you consider to be your biggest strength and biggest weakness?”
Prepare a response, realizing you may need to change it based on the position you’re targeting. Learn more about strength and weakness questions.
- What is your biggest accomplishment?
- Who’s the best/worst supervisor you’ve had and why?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you define success?
- What motivates you?
- What types of challenges energize you?
- What is your ideal work environment?
- What are your thoughts on the challenges facing this industry?
- How do you define diversity?
- Are you a leader or a follower?
Interviewers want to know how you demonstrated a skill in a specific situation to achieve a result. In short, they want to hear “S.T.A.R.,” the situation, the task required in the situation, the action you took, and the result.
- Make a list of skills required for the job or role. Add to that list the career-readiness competencies desired by all organizations. Imagine being asked to describe a time when you performed each of the skills on your list.
- Take time to think of examples that show your best demonstration of the skill. Practice describing your examples using the S.T.A.R. method.
- Your response should take about two minutes. Do not rush through the action and result; those are most important to the interviewer.
Case or Case Study Questions
Interviewers pose hypothetical situations or questions to observe how well you listen, evaluate information, identify necessary questions, and reach a solution. They watch for demonstration of logical thinking, intuition, curiosity, and confidence.
- Listen carefully and take notes. Consider the information you have before asking questions.
- As you work through the problem, offer the interviewer insight into your reasoning process. Tell why you reached your particular conclusion.
- Prior to interviewing, research case questions that might be asked in your field by an employer or professional school committee.
These case study questions vary based on the type of position or professional school you’re pursuing.
Interviewers may ask questions that seem unrelated or less serious than typical questions. They want to observe how you react to something unanticipated. Your approach, more than your response, to this unusual question will give them insight into your fit with their organization.
- Smile to show you appreciate the lightheartedness of the question.
- Take 5 to 10 seconds if needed to think of your response.
- Answer with confidence and enthusiasm; don’t apologize if you think your answer lacks creativity or originality.
- Tell them why you chose your particular answer.
Examples of “Off-the-Wall” Questions
- What fictional character are you most like?
- If you were a household appliance, what would you be?
- If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
- If you were piece of furniture, what would you be?
- Who would play you in a film?
- If time travel were possible, would you go into the past or future?