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How to Answer Most Common Interview Questions (with Examples of The Right and Wrong Answers!)


A white board written common interview questions with examples of right and wrong answers, and the url www.youthfinancialfreedom.com at the bottom end of the image
Most Common Interview Questions

After putting in a lot of effort, and sending out applications, you've secured an interview. This is a big step forward. Congratulations!


Now, if the thought of sitting in that interview chair makes your palms sweaty, you're not alone. Walking into an interview can feel like stepping into an unknown maze. In this guide, I am going to break down the interview process, giving you a solid prep plan, including the top eleven most common interview questions. 


Here is what this article will cover

 

Tips on How to Prepare for an Interview:


Do Your Homework on the Company: 

Before anything else, make sure you know who you’re talking to. A quick deep dive into the company’s history, culture, and recent news can make a world of difference. Trust me, being able to casually reference the company’s latest product launch or initiative will score you major points.


Know Your Resume Inside and Out: 

Be ready to talk about anything and everything on your resume. Got a gap year? Prepare a story. Led a project at your last job? Be ready to brag a little. Remember, your resume got you in the door; now's your chance to bring it to life.


Practice Those Most Common Interview Questions: 

Some questions come up so often that they’re practically a given. "Tell me about yourself," "Where do you see yourself in five years?"—you know the drill. Having solid, authentic answers ready, and prepared in advance will help you remain calm and collected during the interview.


Master the STAR Technique: 

When they ask you to tell them about a time you overcame a challenge, the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is your best friend. It’s akin to storytelling with a purpose, showing off your problem-solving skills and how you shine under pressure.


Dress the Part: 

You don’t have to go full-on formal, but dressing a notch above the company’s daily dress code can show you’re serious (and respect the occasion). When in doubt, a clean, smart outfit is the way to go.


Prepare your questions:

When the tables turn and they ask if you have questions, hit them with thoughtful ones. Ask about the team you'll be working with, how success is measured, or the company’s future plans. It shows you’re thinking long-term.


Practice Makes Perfect: 

Seriously, practice. Out loud. To your mirror, your cat, or a willing friend. The more you practice your answers (and questions), the smoother you'll sound on the big day.


Know What’s Trending in the News:

Stay informed about current events, especially those related to the industry you're applying to. This knowledge can help you connect your interview conversations to broader trends and show your engagement with the field.


Be Aware in the Interview Area:

Pay attention to your surroundings and interactions even before the formal interview starts. Sometimes, employers observe candidates’ behavior in the waiting area to gauge their professionalism and how they might fit into the company culture.


The Top 11 Most common interview questions.


1. Tell me about yourself.

This is a chance to give a concise overview of your professional journey, focusing on aspects that are relevant to the position you're applying for. It's important to keep your answer brief and professional; employers are interested in understanding the part of your background that makes you valuable to them, rather than personal details like hobbies or relationships.


Wrong Answer Example:

"Well, I am a 22-year-old ambitious lady with a degree in computer science. I've always been a huge fan of video games, which got me into coding. I spend most of my weekends gaming or hanging out with my friends. I chose Computer Science because I figured it would be cool to create my games someday. Oh, and I also like to travel and take photos. Yeah, that's a bit about me."


Why It's Wrong:

This answer focuses too much on personal hobbies and interests that are not directly relevant to the job. It lacks professionalism and doesn't provide the interviewer with useful insights into the candidate's qualifications or how they could contribute to the company.


Correct Answer Example:

"I recently graduated with a degree in Computer Science, focusing on software development. My interest in the field was initially sparked by my passion for technology and problem-solving. During my studies, I undertook a project where I developed a mobile application designed to help users manage their time more effectively, which honed my skills in Java and user experience design. I also completed an internship with Tech Innovations Inc., where I was part of a team that improved the security features of their flagship product. This experience taught me the importance of creating secure and efficient software, skills I'm eager to apply in a professional setting to contribute to your company's success."


Why It's Correct:

This answer is focused and professional. It gives a clear overview of the candidate's educational background, specific skills, and experiences that are relevant to the job they're interviewing for. It demonstrates the candidate's passion for their field and their potential value to the employer without veering off into unrelated personal interests.


2. One word to describe yourself.

This question tests your self-awareness and ability to succinctly capture your essence.  Reflect on the job's requirements and think about the qualities crucial for success in that role. Identify a trait you possess that aligns with these qualities.


Wrong Example: "Hardworking."

Explanation: While "hardworking" is a positive trait, it's quite generic and doesn't provide much insight into your specific qualities or how they relate to the job. It's also a common answer that many candidates might give, so it doesn't help you stand out.

 

Correct Example: "Innovative."

Explanation: I choose 'innovative' because it reflects my approach to problem-solving. For example, during my internship at Tech Innovations Inc., I proposed and implemented a new software feature that significantly improved user engagement. This experience showcases my ability to think creatively and find innovative solutions, qualities that I believe will be valuable in this role.


Sample Descriptive Words:

Versatile

Analytical

Successful

Motivated

Strategic

Valuable

Tenacious

Determined

Productive

 

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Interviewers ask about your strengths and weaknesses to assess your self-awareness, honesty, and ability to reflect on your professional skills and areas for improvement. When discussing strengths, it's important to highlight those that are relevant to the job you're applying for, showcasing how they align with the role's requirements.


For weaknesses, focus on the ones that you're actively working to improve. Discussing the steps you're taking or have taken to address these weaknesses demonstrates your commitment to personal and professional growth. Choose a strength that would be particularly valuable for the role you're interviewing for, showing that you have the qualities necessary to excel in that position.


Wrong Example: 

"I'm really good at multitasking and I always take on more than I can handle because I like to stay busy. As for weaknesses, I'm a perfectionist and sometimes spend too much time on details."


Explanation: While multitasking can be seen as a strength, saying you take on more than you can handle might indicate poor time management or an inability to prioritize. Additionally, claiming to be a perfectionist can come across as insincere or as if you're avoiding a real weakness. It's better to provide a genuine weakness and demonstrate how you're actively working to improve it, as in the correct example.

 

Correct Example:

 "My main strength is my analytical ability; I enjoy diving deep into data to uncover insights that can drive strategies. As for a weakness, I've found public speaking challenging, so I've joined a local Toastmasters club to become more comfortable and effective at it."

 

4. Why do you want to work here?

Employers want to see that you’re genuinely interested in their company and understand their values and goals.


Wrong Example:

 "I want to work here because I heard you take care of your employees and offer competitive salaries. That sounds good to me."


Explanation: This answer is superficial and lacks depth. It doesn't provide any specific reasons or examples of why the candidate is interested in the company beyond basic benefits. It's important to demonstrate a genuine interest in the company's values and goals, rather than just focusing on perks.


Correct Example: 

I am excited about the opportunity to work here because I deeply value the company's commitment to employee well-being and its reputation for offering competitive salaries. I believe that a supportive work environment and fair compensation are crucial for both personal satisfaction and professional growth. Additionally, I am impressed by the company's dedication to innovation and sustainability, which align with my values. I am eager to contribute my skills and experience to help further the company's mission and success

 

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This question gauges your ambition and commitment. Show that you have realistic expectations and aspirations that align with the company's trajectory.


Wrong Example:

"I plan to move on to a higher-paying job or possibly start my own business."


Explanation: This answer suggests a lack of commitment to the company and its long-term goals. It's important to show that you are interested in growing within the company and contributing to its success, rather than viewing the job as a temporary stepping stone


Correct Example: 

"In five years, I see myself as a key contributor to the team, having taken on challenging projects and maybe even leading my own. I'm particularly interested in growing within a company that values continuous learning and development, like yours."

 

6. Can you describe a difficult work situation and how you handled it?

This question assesses your problem-solving and resilience. Your response should hence highlight your adaptability, problem-solving skills, and resilience, showcasing your ability to tackle future challenges.


The Key is in the Marketing. Remember, this question allows you to market your skills. The situation you choose might not directly relate to the job, but the skills you showcase are what matter. They demonstrate your capacity to handle similar challenges in the role.


Structuring your Answer

  • Selecting the Challenge: Opt for a scenario that requires significant skill, emphasizing qualities relevant to the job.

  • Describing Your Approach: Show how you identified and assessed the problem, reflecting your analytical and decision-making skills.

  • Detailing Your Actions: Describe the innovative or strategic steps you took, highlighting your initiative and creativity.

  • Outlining the Outcome: Share the positive results, using quantifiable achievements to underscore your effectiveness.

  • Reflecting on the Experience: End with the lessons learned, demonstrating your capacity for growth.

 

Wrong Example: 

"Once, a printer ran out of ink right before a presentation. I panicked for a moment but quickly found a spare ink cartridge and replaced it. The presentation went smoothly, and everyone was impressed by my quick thinking."


Explanation: While this situation may have been a minor inconvenience, it doesn't demonstrate a significant challenge or your ability to handle complex or high-pressure situations. Employers are looking for examples that showcase your problem-solving skills and resilience in challenging work environments.


Correct Example:

Early in my career, a key vendor dropped out mid-project, jeopardizing the launch of a new product.

Approach: I quickly sought alternative vendors to avoid delays, prioritizing efficient solutions over negotiations with the original vendor.

Action: Secured a new vendor within 48 hours, ensuring the project remained on track without compromising the timeline or budget.

Outcome: The product launched successfully, exceeding sales forecasts by 20% in the first quarter.

Reflection: This taught me the value of swift decision-making, effective communication, and staying calm under pressure, proving that direct confrontation with challenges can foster personal and team growth

 

 

7. What is your greatest professional achievement?

 This allows you to showcase a high point in your career and what you can bring to the table.


Wrong Example:

"I once won a cooking competition in my neighborhood. It was a great personal achievement for me."


Explanation: While winning a cooking competition is a notable personal achievement, it may not directly relate to the job you're applying for or demonstrate skills relevant to the role. It's important to choose an achievement that showcases your professional skills and qualities that would be valuable in the position.

 

Correct Example: 

"My greatest achievement was when I increased my department's efficiency by 20% by implementing a new project management tool. It not only saved time but also improved team morale because everyone felt more organized and less stressed."

 

8. How do you handle stress and pressure?

Employers want to know you can manage challenges without becoming overwhelmed.


Wrong Example:

 "I usually just try to avoid stressful situations altogether. I usually find that if I ignore them, they usually go away on their own. Plus I get along well with anyone"


Explanation: This answer demonstrates a lack of a proactive approach to handling stress and pressure, which are common in most jobs. Employers are looking for candidates who can effectively manage and cope with stress, not avoid it.


Correct Example:

 "I handle stress by breaking down tasks into manageable steps and prioritizing them. I also make sure to communicate openly with my team about workload and deadlines, which helps alleviate pressure and foster a supportive work environment."

 

9. Why should we hire you?

This is your chance to summarize why you’re the best fit for the role, highlighting your skills, experience, and how they align with the company's needs.


Wrong Example: 

"I believe I would be a great addition to your team and would bring a lot of value."


Explanation: This answer is vague and doesn't provide any specific reasons or examples of why you are a good fit for the role. It's important to be specific and highlight your skills, experience, and achievements that make you the best candidate for the job.

 

Correct Example:

 "You should hire me because my experience in digital marketing combined with my passion for data-driven strategies aligns perfectly with the goals of this position. I'm committed to not just meeting but exceeding your expectations by bringing fresh ideas and a dedication to results."


10. What are your salary expectations?

The employer wants to know if your salary expectations align with their budget for the position.


Wrong Example: 

"I expect to be paid $100,000 per year."


Explanation: This answer is too direct and does not take into account the company's budget or the market rate for the position. It's important to be flexible and open to negotiation when discussing salary expectations.

 

Correct Example:

"Based on my research and understanding of the role and its responsibilities, I would expect a salary in the range of $X to $Y. However, I’m open to discussing this further based on the total compensation package and growth opportunities."


11. Do you have any questions for us?

This shows your interest in the role and company. It’s also your chance to learn more and determine if it’s the right fit for you.


Wrong Example:

"No, I think you've covered everything."


Explanation: This answer may give the impression that you are not genuinely interested in the role or company. It's important to ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate your enthusiasm and desire to learn more about the position and how you can contribute to the organization.


Correct Example

"Yes, I’m curious about what the team's biggest challenges have been this year and how this role is expected to help address them. Additionally, could you share more about the company’s plans for growth and how this department contributes to those objectives?"

 

Bonus Question- Can you explain the gap in your resume

At some point in our careers, many of us face the daunting task of explaining an employment gap during an interview. How you address this can significantly influence the interviewer's perception and your chances of landing the job.


Strategy for Answering

Be Honest: Start by briefly explaining the reason for the gap.

Focus on Growth: Emphasize what you learned or how you've grown during this period.

Connect to the Job: Conclude by relating these learnings or experiences to the job you're applying for.


Example:

Imagine you're interviewing for a finance position after a one-year employment gap. Here's how you might structure your response:


"I took a break from my professional career last year to support a family member's health needs. During this period, I also focused on further developing my financial analysis skills. I completed an online certification in advanced financial modeling and volunteered as a financial advisor for a local non-profit, helping them streamline their budget. This experience not only honed my analytical skills but also deepened my understanding of practical budget management. I believe these enhanced skills and experiences will be particularly valuable in the finance role at your company, allowing me to contribute effectively from the start."

 

Congratulations! You've now mastered the art of answering some of the most common and tricky interview questions. Remember, the key is to be genuine, confident, and well-prepared. Ensure to highlight your strengths, address your weaknesses, and demonstrate your passion for the role and company, and you'll be sure to leave a lasting impression on your interviewer.


Don't forget to continue honing your skills and staying updated on industry trends. And if you found this guide helpful, be sure to share it with your friends and colleagues. For more tips and insights on achieving career success and financial freedom, subscribe to our blog.


Good luck with your interview!

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