How to Answer the Most Common Job Interview Questions Like a Boss

how to answer common interview questionsPhoto: Harper and Harley

So you’ve got on your most professional outfit, your hair is neat, and your resume makes you seem like a genius, now what? Next, you have to tackle the job interview.

Job interviews can be stressful–particularly if you’re not properly prepared–which is exactly why you should set aside some time ahead of the meeting to practice responses to the most common interview questions. Ahead, we’ve got you covered with five of the most regularly asked interview questions, and how to answer them like a boss.

1. “Tell me about yourself.” 

This open-ended question is a common quip that your potential boss–or human resources manager–could ask first. You want to respond in about two minutes to quickly give the interviewer a good feeling about who you are as a person and about your experience. Now is not the time to go on a rant, or come across as arrogant. Chat about some of your professional highlights, and how your experience matches that of the company you’re applying to.

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2. “What are your weaknesses?”

Yep, this is a tough one to answer–but there’s no avoiding it. Common (and cliché) responses often sound like, “I work too hard,” or “I’m a perfectionist.” Unless this really, honestly is the case, you’re better off just telling the truth. Don’t dwell too much on your weakness, but rather put a positive spin on a flaw by also highlighting how you’re working to overcome it. Take this question as an opportunity to prove that you’re a great problem solver.

3. “Why do you want this job?” 

Even if the job comes with a great salary package and amazing benefits, we suggest not listing these as your biggest motivators. Ahead of the interview, spend time checking out the company’s website, press coverage, and social media pages to get a solid idea about the company’s culture and vision. Focus on how the company’s vision aligns with your professional goals and on what you can offer the company, not just what the company can offer you.

4. “What are your salary expectations?”

If you feel like it’s too early to discuss salary, it’s acceptable not to answer this question straight off the bat in your first interview, but deflect the question. Instead, ask the interviewer for more details about the responsibilities of the role, and explain that you are happy to negotiate a fair offer at a later stage. When you do decide to talk numbers, it could be helpful to give a salary bracket, rather than a fixed number.

5. “Why did you leave your last job?” 

So your last boss was an A-grade idiot–that doesn’t mean you should bring that up to a new potential employer. Highlighting bad blood between you and your past boss just makes you look like a disgruntled, potentially difficult, employee. Simply explaining that you were looking for a bigger, new challenge–and reiterating why this potential job is so appealing–is all you need to do.

If you were fired, go with something that frames the termination as a mutual decision: “After speaking with management about the direction of the company it became clear that my goals [insert specifics] couldn’t be achieved at [insert former employer.]”

Above all else, remember to smile, make eye contact, and follow-up with a thank you email after the interview.

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