How to tackle 10 of the most common interview questions

Are you ready to ace an upcoming job interview? One of the best ways to do that is to think about some of your responses ahead of time. While it’s impossible to know every question you’ll be asked during a job interview, there are a number of questions that are commonly asked throughout the number of interview stages.

However, because these questions are so common and seemingly easy to answer, there’s a tendency to not prepare for these types of questions as much as you might for more technical or role-specific questions. But in reality, your answers to these questions deserve just as much preparation, as interviewers use them to better understand your motivations, qualifications, personality, and other characteristics that are useful in determining if you’re the right technical and cultural fit for the job.

With all of this in mind, we pulled together below ten of the most common interview questions, along with tips on how to answer each one for the best results.

1. Tell me about yourself

This question is normally the first asked right out the gate at most interviews. While it may seem simple, many often struggle to answer this question. The best approach is to use a “past, present, and future” formula.

Start by briefly giving background on your experience (past), a brief overview of your current or most recent role (present) — don’t forget to highlight the achievement you’re most proud of! And end with where you’d like to go and why you’ve applied for this job (future). This should take no longer than 60 seconds.

2. Why are you looking for a new job?

While there may be a multitude of reasons why you’re on the job hunt, this is a particularly great opportunity to zero in on talking about your career goals and plans. And remember, even if you’re leaving your current job for some not-so-savoury reasons, this isn’t the time to bash your former employer — stay focused on you, and where you want to end up.

For example, you could say something like “I’m really passionate about providing exceptional customer service, which is why I chose a career in customer success. I’m looking to take on more of an account management role where I can utilize my strong relationship-building responsibilities skills that I’ve been cultivating over the past X number of years.”  

3. Why do you want this job/why do you want to work here?

Even though the truthful answer might be “I just need a job,” that’s not going to cut it! Employers want to hire people who are passionate about the work they do and share their values. Make sure to do some research on the products, services, mission, history, and culture of the workplace. If there’s something that stands out to you, be sure to share it! Overall, try to avoid generic answers. Share your unique perspective on what the company is doing and how your skills and experience would be a great match.

4. What are your greatest strengths?

Interviewers want to understand if your skills and experience will make a good fit for the role, as well as the company and team culture. While many people usually dread this question (because as humans we generally don’t like to “brag” about ourselves or come off as overly confident), this question is another great opportunity to show off why you’re the best choice for the role! 

Even though you probably have a ton of great qualities, this isn’t meant to list off all of them. Rather, take this time to zero in on one to three qualities that are relevant to the job, and back them up by sharing a brief story that helps bring these attributes to life.

5. What are your weaknesses?

This question can be tricky because it’s tough to find the right balance between being honest and self-aware of your flaws, while also not coming off as totally incompetent. However, this question is an excellent opportunity to showcase how you’ve overcome the challenges you’ve experienced professionally.

The best approach for tackling this question is verys similar to its counterpart (what are your greatest strengths?). You don’t want to read off a list of your areas of development, but rather, select one area that you’ve been focused on improving on. If you’re not sure where to start, think about a piece of you’ve received feedback in the past from a coworker or manager — you can leverage this by sharing a story and describing what you did to fix it.

For example, if attention to detail is something you’ve struggled with you can say “I’m more of a big picture person, and sometimes that means I miss the smaller details. These days, I now break my projects down into mini-projects with their own deadlines and review sessions to make sure I’ve captured all the right pieces.”

6. What motivates you?

Typically interviewers will ask this question so that they can get a better understanding if you’re excited about the role and if you’ll be motivated to do a good job. Think about what aspects of your previous jobs energized you — was it meeting with clients and finding solutions to their biggest challenges? Was it collaborating with team members from different areas of the business? Whatever the case may be, always be sure you’re able to weave that into how your motivations fit in with the role you’re interviewing for.

7. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

This question often stumps a lot of folks, and that’s because as humans, we don’t like to admit to our mistakes, for fear of looking incomptent or unqualified. However, part of being human is making mistakes. The important part is that you learn from them!

The key to answering this question is to avoid placing blame on others and focus on where you may have tripped up, what you learned, how you’re working to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

8. How do you manage stress/handle pressure?

The reality is, work can be stressful from time to time. And odds are that if an interviewer is asking this question, then the role comes with a bit of a demanding workload. Your future employer wants to know that you’ll be able to manage your work effectively without burning out.

To answer this question effectively, focus on sharing a strategy or two that you turn to when things get tough. For example, do you meditate for ten minutes a day? Do you take a quick walk to clear your head? Do you communicate how you’re feeling with your manager and team? And as always, if you have a story share to act as a proof point all the better!  

9. How would you coworkers/manager describe you?

This is a great opportunity to touch on some of your strengths that you may not have been able to highlight earlier on in the interview. You can reference feedback from previous performance reviews or reviews from former colleagues on LinkedIn. If you don’t have these, make sure to ask a few trusted peers prior to your interview to get more insight here. 

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Most companies hope that you’ll stick around long term, so this question can help them get a sense if your career path and trajectory is aligned with what they have to offer or their growth plans.

Here you can provide a general idea about the skills you want to develop, the types of roles you would like to be in, and things you would like to have accomplished. While you don’t have to have your entire career plan mapped out, being able to demonstrate that you have intentional and thoughtful career goals that are aligned with the role you’re applying to can show that you’re someone who can stick around with the company long term. 

While it’s impossible to know every question you’ll be asked during a job interview, by preparing for even just these ten common questions above, you can enter future interviews more confidently with a better idea of how to put your best foot forward.

To learn more about conquering the interview process, be sure to get in touch with our expert team of hiring professionals today!

About ML6

ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practice