101 Most Common Interview Questions with Pass or Fail Answers
August 17, 2016
Rule #1, Don't go in clueless.
There is a lot of advice available to help people prepare to interview or be interviewed, but this is one rule I'm absolutely sure about.
If you're preparing to be interviewed for a job or to interview applicants, you should have some knowledge of common interview questions.
Interviews are a place for an easy win. Because in general, this is part of the hiring process people are just not very good at them.
Learning more about interview questions from both the interviewer and applicant's side can be your secret weapon to being part of a better team, whether you're hiring or being hired.
Below I've got the 10 most common job interview questions, along with red flags to watch out for, and what the good answers look like.
After that, you'll find 91 additional questions, broken down into different types of questions that are popular.
Top 10 Interview Questions that Everyone Should Know
If you're preparing to do a job interview, there's a good chance you're planning to ask the questions below.
But you may be wondering - what am I looking for in an answer?
You'll find that information below.
If you're preparing to go on a job interview, the red flags and answers listed will give you a good idea of how to avoid making serious mistakes with these common questions, and how to answer them in ways that will make a recruiter or hiring manager smile.
So here they are, the top 10 interview questions.
1. What are your strengths?
Red flags: Candidate is unprepared for question or only gives generic answers.
This is the most common job interview question - everybody should be expecting it. If they don't seem prepared, or give a fairly stock answer, it's probably a bad sign.
Good answer: The consensus is to go for quality, not quantity here. Candidates should give a short list of strengths, and back each one up with examples that illustrate the strength. Also, they should explain how these strengths will be useful in the job you’re applying for, and use this question to say something interesting about themselves.
2. What are your weaknesses?
Red flags: This is the peanut butter to the previous question’s jelly. Again, everyone should expect it, so it's a bad sign if someone seems totally unprepared, or gives a stock answer like, "I'm a perfectionist." Also, of course, candidates crazy enough to blurt out some horrible personality trait should go in the red flagged pile.
Good answer: Candidates should talk about a real weakness they've been working on improving. For instance, they're not good at public speaking, but they've been taking a course to help them improve. Or maybe they feel that they're easily distracted when working online, but have installed software that helps them stay on task. Answers like these show a desire for improvement, self awareness and discipline.
3. Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?
Red flags: They don't have a good reason, or provide a generic answer, "I think it represents a great opportunity."
Good answer: One that shows they've done research on the company, and are truly excited about specific things they can do at the job. This not only shows enthusiasm for the work and basic preparation skills, gives you clues about the cultural fit.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
Red flags: A generic or uninspired answer. Also, answers that show that this career/company is just a temporary stop for them.
Good answer: One that shows the candidate has thought about this question, has plans, and that those plans align with the job and a career path that is possible in the company. You want to see that this candidate is a good long term investment.
5. Why do you want to leave your current company?
Red flags: Complaining about or blaming their former job, boss or colleagues. Also, having no good reason.
Good answer: One that focuses on the positives about why the job they're applying for offers them better learning or career opportunities, chances for advancement, aligns more closely to their long term goals, or is a better fit for them.
6. What can you offer us that someone else can not?
Red flags: Going negative - if the candidate starts trash talking other candidates, it's a sure sign of a bad attitude. Also, if they can't provide a solid answer, it may show that they lack thorough knowledge of the skills the job requires, and an understanding of where they fit in.
Good answer: The candidate can name specific skills, abilities or understandings they have that apply directly to the job that other candidates are unlikely to have, or are in short supply.
7. What do you know about our company?
Red flags: They don't know much about the company. If a candidate is serious and enthusiastic, they should have done some basic research.
Good answer: An answer that shows they've really done their homework and know what the company does, any important current events that involve the company, and the work culture.
8. What is your desired salary?
Red flags: Candidates who are unable to answer the question, or give an answer that is far above market. Shows that they have not done research on the market rate, or have unreasonable expectations.
Good answer: A number or range that falls within the market rate and matches their level of mastery of skills required to do the job.
9. Tell me about yourself.
Red flags: Candidates who ramble on about themselves without regard for information that will actually help the interviewer make a decision, or candidates who actually provide information showing they are unfit for the job.
Good answer: An answer that gives the interviewer a glimpse of the candidate's personality, without veering away from providing information that relates to the job. Answers should be positive, and not generic.
10. Why do you want this job?
Red flags: No solid answer, answers that don't align with what the job actually offers, or uninspired answers that show your position is just another of the many jobs they're applying for.
Good answer: The candidate has clear reasons for wanting the job that show enthusiasm for the work and the position, and knowledge about the company and job.
12 of the Best Brainteaser Questions
Brainteaser questions have become popular for interviews in recent years, as word has gotten out that top tech companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and IBM have used this type of question at one time or another.
Companies like Google aren't using these questions so much any more, but many companies, are, and it may be good to prepare for them. The key to these isn't so much getting the exact answer, as it is showing how you would come up with an answer.
Here's a sample of 12 of the best and most difficult.
1. How many street lights are there in New York City?
2. How many gas stations are there in the United States?
3. How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
4. How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
5. Why are manhole covers round?
6. How many times a day does a clock's hands overlap?
7. How would you test a calculator?
8. Describe the internet to someone who just woke up from a 30-year coma.
9. How much does the Starbucks in Times Square bring in, in annual revenue?
10. You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
11. What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? ;)
12. How many golf balls are there in Florida?
11 Questions to Ask when Emotional Intelligence Matters
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has come into vogue as a good trait to hire for.
EQ is the ability to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, to recognize other people's emotions and your own, and to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately.
EQ is considered essential to help teams function well. Here are some of the top questions for help you get an idea of how candidates perceive their emotions and those of others.
1. If you started a company today, what would its top values be?
2. Who inspires you? Why?
3. How could you create more balance in your life?
4. What makes you angry?
5. How do you have fun?
6. How good are you at asking for help?
7. How did you deal with a bad day?
8. What's something you're really proud of? Why?
9. Tell me about a time when your mood altered your performance (positively or negatively).
10. Has there ever been a time when you felt you needed to change your behavior at work? How did you do it?
11. Did you create friendships that lasted while working at a previous job?
11 Questions to Verify Experience and Credentials
Sometimes people want a job a little too bad - and they may fudge their credentials and experience a bit.
If you've run into this problem, are worried about it, or have credentials and experience that are absolutely essential, you may need to ask a few verification questions.
If you are a candidate, you should review your resume and make sure you know all the key points, and that nothing has been misconstrued.
1. What grades did you get in college?
2. What were your responsibilities when you worked in job x?
3. How many people were on your team at your last job?
4. What will your previous manager/supervisor say when I ask where you needed to improve?
5. What was your beginning and ending salary at job x?
6. What were your beginning and ending titles at job x?
7. Are you eligible for rehire at job x?
8. What tools are necessary for performing job x?
9. Describe to me how you would perform [x typical job task].
10. What was the focus of your thesis?
11. When did you leave company x?
17 Behavioral Interview Questions
Behavioral interviews where popularized by industrial psychologists in the 1970s, and have been used at big companies like AT&T. The idea behind them is that past responses to situations are the best predictor of how candidates will respond in the future.
1. Tell me about a time you faced a conflict while working as part of a team.
2. Talk about a goal you set for yourself. What did you do to make sure you met the goal?
3. Give an example of a time when you had to work with someone with a very different personality from yours.
4. Talk about an instance where you wish you’d handled a situation differently with a team member.
5. What’s the most difficult problem you have had to solve?
6. Give an example of how you handled a situation where you needed information from a colleague who wasn’t responsive.
7. Talk about a time when you had problems building a relationship with a key team member. What did you do?
8. Tell me about an instance when it was important to make a great impression on a client. What did you do?
9. Tell me about a situation where you had to work with a difficult client.
10. Tell me about a situation where you disappointed a client, and how you tried to fix it.
11. Talk about a time when you had to strategize to meet all your obligations.
12. Talk about a time when you failed at something. How did you react?
13. Talk about a time you took on a leadership role.
14. Tell me about a long-term project you oversaw. How did you keep it focused and on schedule?
15. Talk about a time when you were under a lot of stress. What caused it, and how did you manage?
16. Do you prefer to work alone or with others?
17. Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed by the amount of work on your agenda. How did you handle it?
13 Situational Interview Questions
Situational interviews are similar to behavioral interview questions - but they are focused on the future, and ask hypothetical questions, whereas behavioral interview questions look at the past.
The advantage is that employers can put all candidates in the same hypothetical situations, and compare their answers.
1. What would you do if you made a strong recommendation in a meeting, but your colleagues decided against it?
2. How you would handle it if your team resisted a new idea or policy you introduced?
3. How would you handle it if the priorities for a project you were working on were suddenly changed?
4. What would you do if the work of an employee you managed didn't meet expectations?
5. What would you do if an important task was not up to standard, but the deadline to complete it had passed?
6. What steps would you take to make an important decision on the job?
7. How would you handle a colleague you were unable to form a positive relationship with?
8. What would you do if you disagreed with the way a manager wanted you to handle a problem?
9. What would you do if you were assigned to work with a difficult client?
10. What would you do if you worked hard on a solution to a problem, and your solution was criticized by your team?
11. How would you handle working closely with a colleague who was very different from you?
12. You're working on a key project that you can't complete, because you're waiting on work from a colleague. What do you do?
13. You realize that an early mistake in a project is going to put you behind deadline. What do you do?
15 Questions that Test Communication Skills
For most jobs, communication skills are important. It's hard to work as a team if people aren't communicating well.
At some jobs, like customer service or sales, communication skills are an absolute essential.
These questions are meant to help gauge a candidate's ability to communicate.
1. How do you prefer to build rapport with others?
2. How would you go about simplifying a complex issue in order to explain it to a client or colleague?
3. How would you go about persuading someone to see things your way at work?
4. How would you go about explaining a complex idea/problem to a client who was already frustrated?
5. What would you do if you there was a breakdown in communication at work?
6. Talk about a successful presentation you gave and why you think it did well.
7. How would you explain a complicated technical problem to a colleague with less technical understanding?
8. Do you prefer written or verbal communication?
9. Describe a time when you had to be careful talking about sensitive information. How did you do it?
10. What would you do if you misunderstood an important communication on the job?
11. Talk about a time when you made a point that you knew your colleagues would be resistant to.
12. Is it more important to be a good listener or a good communicator?
13. Tell me about a time you had to relay bad news to a client or colleague.
14. Rate your communication skills on a scale of 1 to 10. Give examples of experiences that demonstrate the rating is accurate.
15. How have you handled working under someone you felt was not good at communicating?
12 Stress Interview Questions
Some jobs require employees to work under stress, and some interviewers just like to see how applicants handle stressful questions.
There are many questions designed for putting the interviewee into an awkward situation, or throwing them off, to see how they do under stress. Here are some samples.
1. How do you feel this interview is going?
2. How would you handle undeserved criticism from a superior?
3. How many other jobs are you applying for?
4. What would you do if you saw a colleague stealing supplies or equipment?
5. What did you do when you had a boss you didn’t get along with?
6. What would you do if a colleague took credit for your idea, and got a promotion?
7. Was the stress of your previous job too much for you?
8. What would you do if a colleague admitted to lying on their resume to get the job?
9. What would you do if a customer verbally insulted you in front of co-workers?
10. What would you change about the design of a baseball hat?
11. Why were you fired from your previous job?
12. How successful do you think you've been so far?