8 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers

Sitting in for a job interview, be it face-to-face or over the phone, is an inevitable part of the recruitment process. Ultimately, you want to show why you are the best candidate for the job.

While there’s no definitive interview questions and answers that would guarantee you to ace every single job interview, here are 8 most common job interview questions and our suggestions on how to answer them.

8 Most Common Job Interview Questions

  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why did you decide to leave your current job?
  • What are your biggest weaknesses?
  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Tell me about the last time you faced a challenge in your job. What happened?
  • Do you have questions for me?

1. Why do you want to work for this company? 

This seemingly useless job interview question to a lot of interviewees actually allows the interviewer to understand your motivation behind applying for the job and how this position will fit into your career goal. After all, they want to find somebody who will fit in and enjoy working in the company. It is also a time for the hiring manager to find out how much you know about the company, the role, and the industry. In other words, this allows interviewers to see firsthand how much research have you done beforehand.

A good answer to this job interview will demonstrate knowledge of the company’s culture, business operations and industry. Instead of simply saying “it’s a great company to work for”, give specific reasons such as your admiration for the key leaders of the company or its marketing campaign and appreciation for the culture or opportunities for professional development.

2. Why did you decide to leave your current job?

This job interview question is almost guaranteed to come up at a job interview. While it is easier at times to explain, like ending a summer internship or a freelance contract, it might involve a more detailed explanation other times. In the case of you making a mid-career switch or deciding to leave a job you had only started a couple of months ago, your interviewer is always going to be interested in your motivations behind that decision.

Your potential employer is most likely to be looking for red flags that would reflect your work ethics, interpersonal skills, professionalism, responsibility and loyalty to the company. Are you changing for the better or are you running away from certain situations or responsibilities that you’ve encountered? The ideal angle to answer this interview question leans towards giving the impression that this job you’re interviewing for provides you with a better opportunity. Perhaps you are satisfied with your current role as an accountant, but this new opportunity offers a chance for you to finally chase after your dream of becoming a marketing talent.

A big NO for this job interview question is bad-mouthing your current company, boss or colleague. This does not mean that you can’t bring up negative aspects of your current job, because in some cases, you simply have to. For example, your company may be  terminating its operation in your country or experiencing a financial crisis that results in the elimination of the entire department. Maintaining open and honest communication with your recruiter is vital!

3. What are your biggest weaknesses?

Nobody is perfect. There must be some sort of weakness that you can address. Be genuine and talk about an actual weakness of yours instead of making up a weakness or a flaw, like I tend to overwork myself, that you thought could easily transform into a strength. Yes, HR professionals can tell the difference. 

Pick your “best” weakness that will not disqualify you from the job and focus on being self-conscious, truthful, and dedicated to improvement. Demonstrate that you are fully aware of areas that you need improvement. Recognise a skill that’s missing and present your willingness to learn and improve by mentioning how you are working on your weaknesses. Hard skills such as technical knowledge of operating certain software or machinery are often the better choices to address during an interview as they are easier to overcome. Try to talk about a skill that isn’t a must for the job (but still relevant) so you wouldn’t get disqualified unless you are actively working on acquiring it.

4. What are your biggest strengths?

You’ve already submitted your resume and cover letter, provided your recruiter links to your LinkedIn profile which showcases your strengths, yet, interviewers simply love asking this question. The hidden question here is “how did you leverage your strengths in your past work experience?”

Provide clear and precise answers. Describe your strengths and give on-point examples to prove them. If your strength is creative thinking, support your answer with an example of you creatively leading a past project or solving a problem. Similar to the previous job interview question, this gives your interviewer a clearer picture of what type of employee you are.

5. Why should we hire you?

Remember, the sole purpose of the interviewer is to find the best fit for the job and the company. The whole point about the interview process is to inform the interviewer why they should hire you instead of one of the many well-qualified candidates out there. In other words, convince and sell the interviewer on why you are the perfect candidate. 

This question can also come in the form of “Why are you the best candidate for this job?” or “Explain why your background and experience would make you a good fit for this job.” The key to answering this question is concision and research. Prepare a concise summary of your top qualities or attributes that target the “required skills and abilities” listed on the job description and the company culture. Convince the interviewer that you can deliver excellent results, fit in the company beautifully and that you possess a combination of skills and experience that add value or be a great addition to the team. 

To give you that extra edge against other candidates, highlight a unique trait. For instance, everyone who is interviewing for a receptionist role will probably have experience in handling phone calls, receiving visitors and answering enquiries. If you happen to have experience in managing social media profiles or knowledge of industry-specific software, it will set you apart from your competitors.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

As one of the most cringe-worthy job interview questions of all time, it can be a tough question to answer when you don’t even have a clue what’s for dinner tonight. The reason behind this job interview question is to find out whether your long-term career goals align with the company or the position you are applying for. This gives them an idea of how long a candidate will remain in the company.

The interviewers aren’t looking for pipe dreams or a detailed plan of moving up the career ladder within the company. What they are really asking is your career goals within this position. Give the interviewer an impression that you are happy with the position as it is and show enthusiasm for developing within the company in a realistic manner. For example, if they are hiring a graduate trainee, highlight how the company’s training program aligns with or helps attain your professional goals. If they are hiring for their expansion across Asia, expressing your willingness to work abroad and keenness of working with a culturally-diverse team will demonstrate that you are content with what the job entails.

7. Tell me about the last time you faced a challenge in your job. What happened?

Everyone has encountered challenges in their workplace. It could be a conflict with a colleague, angry customers, sending a confidential email to the wrong person or an impossible project timeline. It happens to the best of us.

What interviewers are keen to find out from this question is how you solved the problem. If it was your own mistake, admit it. Demonstrate that you can step up, take responsibility, and rectify the situation. Even if the situation was caused by an irresponsible colleague or poor management, try to focus on how you made the best out of the situation and show the interviewer you are a proactive problem solver instead of sitting there sulking and pointing fingers at other people.

8. Do you have questions for me?

Your answer should always be YES. Surprisingly, many candidates’ answer to this question is the opposite. By saying no, you are not only missing out on an opportunity to find out more about the company or the position, but also a chance to show the interviewer how keen or enthusiastic you are about the job. So, before you walk into an interview, be sure to prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewers.

Be mindful of the context when it comes to asking questions to the interviewers. Demonstrate your interest in the company and the job by asking the right questions. Actively listen to the interviewer’s questions throughout the process, did they miss out on something? Asking about the company’s culture, desired attributes, expectations they have for the candidate filling the role or challenges faced by a predecessor can show that you are excited to take up the position or fit in with the company. Certain questions, such as those related to fringe benefits or the number of days of leave, should probably wait for a more appropriate time.

Check out our article Top 5 questions to ask your interviewer to find more suggestions on questions you could ask your interviewer.

Nail your dream job by being preparedーfind more interview tips from Links International’s Career Tips section or learn about industry insights and salary trends with Asia Salary Guide & Market Insights. If you are in search of the next opportunity to advance in your career, Links’ job search page will help you find your ideal job.