Young man in a job interview

25 Common Interview Questions (and How To Answer Them)

Work History Interview Questions

1. Can you tell me about yourself?

The vast majority of interviews begin with a vague question that could be answered a myriad of ways. Remember, you’re auditioning for a role, so pretend this is your movie trailer. Don’t deliver your life story. Instead, give a quick snapshot that provides specific highlights of your education and career which make you a desirable candidate for the job. The key is to be poised, confident, and cover the points that are likely to be most important to the interviewer. Therefore, your response to this question will vary depending on each interviewer, job, and company.

2. How does your experience make you right for this job? Why should I hire you?

This is your chance to shine. Again, be specific. Mention big achievements in your past jobs that apply to the new role. Discuss how your skills and experience can benefit the company and make an impact in the short- and long-term. Review the job description in great detail before the interview and be sure to speak to the responsibilities and requirements stated within that description. Provide examples that demonstrate how you can fill those responsibilities better than anyone else.

3. Why are you looking for a new job? Why did you leave your previous job?

It’s important to put a positive spin on your reasons for leaving your previous job. What do you like about the company or job that you’re applying for? Use those as the basis for your positive response. For example, if you’re interviewing with a larger company than you worked with previously, you can mention that you’re interested in advancing in your career and a larger company offers the growth opportunities that you’re looking for.

4. Could you explain the gap in your resume?

These days, many people have gaps in their resumes. If you have one, it’s likely you’ll be asked about it. If you were laid off, be honest about it. A quick reference check to your previous employer will reveal the truth about your employment history, so explain that you were a victim of the economic downturn (or whatever your personal situation was), and that you used your time to re-evaluate your career goals, seek additional training and educational opportunities, and find a job with a company that you planned to stay with for a long time. This shows the interviewer that you weren’t just taking an extended vacation during the gap in your resume, and that you’re not planning on quitting shortly after you’re hired.

5. Can you describe a typical day in your previous job?

Depending on the position you’re applying for, this question could serve multiple purposes from the interviewer’s perspective. He might want to learn if your previous position was tactical or strategic. He also might try to determine if you’re a leader, a team player, an independent worker, or used to being micro-managed. Describe your day by highlighting tasks, projects, and interactions with colleagues that match the type of work you’d be doing if the interviewer hired you.

6. Could you describe a situation where you achieved great success in your previous job?

Have a detailed story ready for this question and really toot your own horn when the interviewer asks it. Be sure to choose an achievement that is directly applicable to the job you’re interviewing for, and provide specifics by quantifying your success.

7. What did you like and dislike about your previous job?

As always, cater your response to the company and job you’re interviewing for. With that in mind, mention positive things about your previous position that will be part of the new job and mention negative things about your previous position that won’t be part of the new job. For example, if you’re applying for a customer service job and you worked nights but the role you’re interviewing for offers daytime hours, that’s a great thing to discuss as something you didn’t like about your previous job.

8. Have you ever worked with a difficult boss? What made it difficult? Can you describe your perfect boss?

An interviewer could ask you one or more of these questions, so be prepared to answer all of them. Spin negative experiences with previous bosses into personal learning experiences. Describe the difficult boss as “challenging” but also share something positive that you learned from working with that person. When describing your perfect boss, be sure to mention attributes that your supervisor in the job you’re interviewing for would have. For example, if the job description calls for a person who can work independently, mention that you prefer not to be micro-managed.

9. Can you give me five words that your previous boss would use to describe you?

Think of the job description for the position you’re interviewing for and be sure to reiterate some of the adjectives used within that description when you answer this question. Don’t ramble. If you’re asked to give five words, provide exactly that, and make sure they’re highly relevant to the open position. The person who wrote the job description included buzzwords that are meaningful to him. Use them to describe yourself!

10. Can you give me five words you’d use to describe your work style?

This question could also be phrased as, “How would you describe your work style?” Basically, the interviewer wants to get a better understanding of what you’re like to work with in order to determine if you’re a good fit for the organization. He wants to know if you’re a leader, a team player, innovative, organized, productive, and so on. Again, use words from the job description to describe your work style, so it’s clear to the interviewer that you’re a great match for the job and the company.

11. What is your greatest strength?

This question is asked in most interviews, and you should be able to knock it out of the park with a well-prepared answer. Read the job description and find a quality that you possess which is required for the person who gets the job. When this question comes up, you can say this quality is your greatest strength. Be sure to provide an example from your work history to demonstrate that you actually possess that quality.

12. What is your biggest weakness?

This is another question that is asked in most interviews, and it’s easy to have a stock answer ready to go. Just turn one of your weaknesses into a positive. It’s even better if that weakness is unrelated to the position you’re applying for. If the hiring company offers opportunities to grow in your areas of weakness, mention that you’re aware of the training opportunities and can’t wait to take advantage of them. For example, the company might offer technical training, leadership training, networking groups, and so on.

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Join the Discussion

  • http://twitter.com/smarter_au Laura

    Wow Susan, this is great!
    I only learned in recent years that it’s okay to say “can I come back to that question later?” if you’re struggling to think of an answer to an interview question. Such an empowering response to have up your sleeve if you need time to think something through.

    • Susan Gunelius

      Laura, I’m glad to hear the article is useful to you!

      • Guest

        can u please help me to my interview?

  • Alin

    Thanks Susan from Moldova

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