10 Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn some of the more common interview questions, how to answer them, and how to prepare so you’re ready to impress the interviewer.

[Featured Image] Job candidate, wearing a brown sweater, sitting in a conference room, preparing for an interview, going over common interview questions.

When you land an interview, you’re probably excited and wondering about the most common interview questions. To prepare for your interview and make a great first impression, explore this list of 10 common interview questions and plan your responses to them. 

1. Tell me about yourself. 

This warm-up question is your chance to make an impactful first impression. Be prepared to describe yourself in a few sentences. You can mention: 

  • Your past experiences and how they relate to the current job

  • How your most recent job is tied to this new opportunity

  • Two of your strengths

  • One personal attribute, like a hobby or an interest

The majority of this response leans on your past work experience, with a small dash of your personal life added at the end of the response. Keep your answer to two to four minutes.

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

The answer to this interview question should include specifics about the company, so you’ll need to do some pre-interview research. If, for example, the company is known for its collaborative culture, you could point out successes you’ve had whilst collaborating with a team. 

Look for company-specific information on their website and social channels. Pay attention to the company’s mission statement, values, and the ‘About us’ section. Explore employee-specific posts on social media to learn about the company’s culture or outreach programmes. Combine this information with relatable skills to show your preparedness and enthusiasm for the company. 

3. Why are you leaving your current role?

When asked about leaving a previous job, be honest but positive. Even if you left a job under trying circumstances, keep your response short and upbeat. Here are some suggestions:

  • I’m looking for a company that better aligns with my values. 

  • I’m excited to find a company where I can grow my career. 

  • I’ve decided to go down a different career path.

  • My position was downsized, but I’m looking forward to a new opportunity. 

  • I’m excited to explore a culture in line with my personality. 

  • I’m ready to take on a new challenge with an innovative company. 

  • I’ve aspired to work for this company and seized the chance to apply.

4. What is your biggest weakness?

When it comes to identifying weaknesses, think about some conflicts you’ve had to overcome. Maybe it’s difficult for you to take criticism, collaborate, or make public presentations. Take these challenges and frame them with a solution. For instance, you learned to take feedback to better a project, collaborate to elevate a product’s offerings, or use presentations as a way to build your confidence. 

5. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Your greatest achievement should be something specific, like bringing a new video game to a saturated market despite a lack of resources. Discuss a work-related triumph as a way to humbly mention your achievements instead of listing awards or accolades. This achievement should also fall in line with the company’s mission, goals, or the position’s objectives.

6. Tell me about a difficult situation you’ve faced and how you handled it. 

This question is really asking about your character during moments of stress. Think of a time when you faced an impossible deadline, had to choose sides, or navigated interoffice turmoil. Explain the problem, how you stayed calm, and focus on the solution that produced a resolution. 

7. Give an example of how you’ve exceeded your role requirements. 

While you might be tempted to mention the extra hours you put in or the additional tasks you take on, it’s best to showcase your skills with a story. Talk about the innovative methods you deployed to revive a stalled project or roles you filled when your team was downsized.   

8. What are your salary expectations?

Salary talks can be sensitive, but they’re necessary. Research a competitive salary before you go into your interview so you don’t aim too high or low. You can use tools like a Salary Calculator or Salary Comparison and Estimator to get baseline compensation. Remember to mention years of experience or specific certifications that enhance your value.   

9. Where do you see yourself five years from now? 

Another common interview question looks at your five-year plan. You should promote your commitment to the company while looking towards growth opportunities.  

More specifically, you can craft a response that explores your:

  • Position-related goals

  • Potential experiences within the company over the next five years

  • Possible certifications, skills, or achievements you might obtain

  • Aspirations for growth within the role 

10. Do you have any questions for us? 

Typically, this is the last question of the interview, and it might be tempting to say, 'No. I’m all set.' However, this question allows you to show your interest in the position. Some questions you could ask include:

  • What are the day-to-day tasks involved in this role?

  • How do you evaluate the progress of this role? 

  • What ongoing educational or training opportunities could I pursue in this role?

  • Where do you see the company in five years?

  • How would you describe the company culture?

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How to prepare for an interview

Before your interview, you should do a few things in preparation. To make a great first impression, you should research the company, practise your responses to common interview questions, and run through a practice interview. For more specific tips, take a look at this pre-interview checklist:  

Research the company.

Start your research on the company website. Look over the company mission statement, values, and company history. Next, check Google News for any articles that include the company. Comb through the company’s social accounts, paying particular attention to the product- or employee-related posts. Also, read the LinkedIn profiles of the company’s key players and, if possible, the profile of your hiring manager. 

Understand company work culture.

Take some time to learn about the company culture by looking at employee photos on social media and checking out the company's news coverage. You might see team-building events on its Facebook Page or news coverage of a recent fundraiser, which can help you understand the culture. You can also check for employee testimonials on business rating platforms like Glassdoor.

Prepare your answers.

Take some time to review the most common interview questions and practise your answers. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, so write down a few bullet points for each question and talk through them a little differently each time. 

Practise the interview.

Ask a friend or family member to role-play with you. Go through the standard interview questions, and practise your greeting and exit. Wear the outfit and shoes you plan to wear during the practice to ensure you’re comfortable.

Ask for feedback. 

Ask your mock interviewer to give you feedback. Maybe you slouched in the chair, nervously bounced your knees, or got stuck on a particular interview question. The person helping you can give you some tips to improve your interview skills.  

Next steps 

In addition to role-playing, you might consider taking an online class or two to improve your interview skills. Prepare for a successful job search with the Interviewing and Resume Writing in English Specialisation from the University of Maryland. Learn at your own pace and practise your interviewing skills with other job seekers from around the globe. 

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