Most Common Interview Questions and Answers (Reviewed August 2018)

Prior to the interview, divide a piece of paper into three columns, and group your skills under these headings: knowledge-based skills (acquired through experience in education or work, e.g. degrees and certificates, languages, IT skills); transferable skills (what you bring with you to any job, e.g., communication skills, people skills, planning, analytical problem-solving, etc.); and personal traits (qualities that are unique to you, e.g., reliability, flexibility, friendliness, hard-working, good humour, punctuality, collaboration, enthusiasm, trustworthiness, creativity, discipline, patience, respectfulness, determination, dedication, honesty and versatility).

I definitely see myself employed within this company for the next five years and beyond.

I feel as though your company and I share some of the same values, such as _______ and _________. I would really like to take those to a superior level with the help of this company. This is definitely the position I’ve been preparing for and I am excited about the opportunity to work with you for the next five years.

“For example,” he writes, “if you are applying for an accounting position and in five years you know that the position will likely lead you to a Senior Accountant position, tell the interviewer that you see yourself in the role of Senior Accountant (be sure to state the responsibilities of this position and how you plan on executing them as efficiently as possible).”

Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace—and think tank and publishing firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people—has written extensively and widely on the subject of careers, the top 10 interview questions and, in particular, interview preparation. Liz Ryan, author of Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and Career You Deserve, freely admits that the truthful answer for the majority of job-seekers is: “I saw your job ad, I’m qualified for the job, and so I wanted to learn more. I don’t know yet whether or not I want to work here. That’s why I came to the interview — to find out.”

What the Interview Panel is thinking: “How did this candidate get along with their previous employer? Did they leave on good terms or bad? Does this candidate have a definite view about employer/employee relationships, and will that work for us? Does this candidate bad-mouth their previous employer? What does that tell us about this person’s loyalty and respect for business? Might this candidate leave us for the same reasons?”

“There are all sorts of reasons to leave a job,” she writes. “Maybe you want a higher salary, thought the company was in chaos, despised a new manager, or were laid off. Not all of these responses should be shared during a job interview, however. Be honest, but also strategic in your response – avoid any answer that reflects poorly on you.”

“Avoid negativity: Do not speak poorly of managers, colleagues, or the company. You can, however, speak broadly about company goals or mention that you disagree with the direction the business is pursuing. Just don’t get personal in your response. Being negative won’t reflect well upon you. Plus, industries can often be small: You could easily speak negatively of a co-worker only to have that person be your interviewer’s former colleague.”

“ Be honest: You don’t have to tell the whole truth. But you should tell something that reflects the real reason you are leaving. Let’s say you’re frustrated by a lack of opportunities. Lead off by describing some of the things you have been able to accomplish, and then pivot to saying how you no longer have opportunities to learn and develop your skills. Bonus points if you can tie your answer back to why the job you’re applying for is a better fit, and will offer you new, exciting opportunities.”

“Practice: Because you want to be honest – but not overly frank – in responding to this question, it’s a good one to practice ahead of time. That will help you feel comfortable answering. That’s particularly true if you were laid off or fired – this question can be particularly nerve-wracking to answer in that case. But just give a short, clear, and unemotional response.”

The most important advice on this question is that you should never be in a position where you do not have a question to ask your interviewers when invited. Research a couple of questions to ask at job interview. Having a question, or two, is a positive sign, signalling that you have commitment, a healthy curiosity and care about the job you have applied for.

The STAR approach (Situation or Task, Action you took, Results you achieved) approach is useful in a high-pressure situation. But as Ron Fry suggests in his 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions, 25th Anniversary Edition, it’s best to prepare for this by compiling a dossier of information about yourself, with your key strengths, information about your education and employment history, how others would describe you, and your strongest skills,in addition to detailing specific instances where your skills helped you to solve a problem for your business or your employer

“John felt he’d do ok since his resume demonstrated his terrific success on the job. That confidence left him the second after he heard his first interview question, which was: “Tell us about a recent time you worked with a group of culturally diverse people and what you said and did to persuade these people to see your point of view.” He said he did not recover from that one since the words culturally diverse group really stumped him.

“The most difficult questions you’ll encounter in a job interview are the commonly asked behavioral or situational interview questions. The interviewer uses a probing style to ask questions seeking very specific examples. They often start out with, “Tell me about a time …”, or “Describe …”, or “Give me an example …” The interviewer is looking for details of your past abilities and specific work performance. He or she rates each response to determine how well you reacted to these situations in the past, and to predict your future performance with their company. These situational questions are thought-provoking and you should consider your answers carefully. The interviewer likely will take notes on each answer. Your answer must contain specifics: specific details, specific illustrations, about a specific work situation.”

Peggy McKee CEO of Career Confidential, and author of How to Answer Interview Questions: 101 Tough Interview Questions, writes that the interviewers are attempting to find out potentially how you will get along with co-workers; to establish whether your works chime with the impressions they have formed of you during the interview; and also to get a more rounded picture of your personality in order to determine if you will be a good fit for the company culture.

b: Structure Your Sales Pitch – choose 3-4 bullet points that make the strongest argument for you, and set you apart from the competition. Each bullet point will be a selling point with a brief explanation for context. Don’t write a script for rote learning, just use the bullet points, but be brief as you want an answer in the 1-2 minutes range.