Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what potential employers were going to ask you in a job interview? Well prepared and confident, you could then knock hiring managers dead, wowing them with your wit, experience, and charm.

The thing is, we already know what they’re going to ask you. Sure, every job interview has its own rhythms and quirks, its job-specific questions and themes, but there are a fairly standard set of questions that hiring managers almost always lean on (let’s face it, they’re not always the most industrious people around). By preparing yourself, you can feel more relaxed whenever these questions are fired in your direction.

And on that note…

Here are the five most common interview questions, and how you can answer them like a boss:

Tell me about yourself?

Just about every job interview starts with an ice breaker that is meant to get you talking. It’s a chance for you to introduce yourself. The thing is, it’s not really about you. It’s about your candidacy. Yes, they want to know if your personality is a good fit for their company, but more than anything, they want to know that you can handle the job.

Your answer, therefore, should focus on your professional experience and interests, and anything that shows you are the right candidate for the role. It’s not, however, the time to recite your CV. Think of it as a quick recap of who you are in a professional sense – an elevator pitch of your career. Yeah, it might be interesting if your hobbies include leathercraft and Brazilian martial arts, but this isn’t relevant here.

Example of what you should say:

I’m a web-obsessed SEO Manager with 10 years of experience managing all aspects of digital marketing – from paid ads to microsites – for companies of all sizes. 

Example of what you shouldn’t say:

I’m Youtube vlogger, and that’s all I really care about. I’m really looking for laid-back full-time work that will let me focus on my channel on the side.

Or this:

Why are you interested in this job?

Are you passionate about working for this company or are you just desperate for a job (any job!)? The answer might be the latter, but this isn’t what most employers want to hear. They want to know that you’re really interested in their industry and company. They want to see that you’ve done your research, that you know about them and the role. This not only shows that you’re interested in the role, it also speaks volumes about your professionalism and preparation.

Example of what you should say:

I’ve been interested in working for Tesla ever since the Roadster was released. I’m very passionate about technology and innovation, and this role would let me align my passions with my work experience, for a company that I really believe in.

Example of what you shouldn’t say:

Because I need the money.

What would you say are your greatest strengths?

This seems like an easy question – you know what you’re good at right? But be careful. Read the job posting carefully, and make sure whatever you say matches up with the way they’ve described the position. Are they looking for team players with leadership skills? You might want to talk about your communication skills and ease with public speaking (just make sure you tell the truth). If you’re worried about coming across as cocky or arrogant, put the words in someone else’s mouth by telling them what people have said about you in the past. Another good tip is to use clear, measurable achievements to back up you what you say – just make sure to have a relatable anecdote ready.

Example of what you should say:

I’ve been told that I’m a good communicator, and in fact, at my current company, I lead a weekly meeting where I present objectives and achievements to the entire company.

Example of what you shouldn’t say:

How much time do you have? I mean really, I’m awesome at just about everything.

What do you think are your biggest weaknesses? 

If you overshare here, you could potentially turn off an employer. On the other hand, if you say “I have no weaknesses, I’m perfect,” they’ll think you’re a liar or completely lacking in self-awareness. So, what do you do?

Think of an actual weakness, but go with something that isn’t an essential requirement for the job. Explain how you became aware of it and are working on improving upon it. This shows that you are reflective, willing to learn, and striving to get better. Humour, albeit appropriate humour, can go a long way here.

Example of what you should say:

I think I’m often too hard on myself. It’s something I’m working on.

Example of what you shouldn’t say:

I’m a workaholic and a perfectionist.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Job hopping is the new normal and most employers recognize that people, especially young, ambitious people, are always looking for opportunities. You don’t, therefore, have to pretend that you’ll still be there in five years’ time. Instead, tie in a dream job – ideally one at that company you can work towards – with your passions, interests, and experience. This shows employers that you’re ambitious, driven, and looking for professional growth.

Example of what you should say:

I see myself in an editor position. By that point I’ll have been working in journalism for over 15 years, and I think I’ll be ready to move into a more strategic position, where I can use my experience to lead a team.

Every interview is a bit different, but if you master these questions, you’ll be prepared to knock these cornerstone questions out of the park…and sometimes, a few great answers is all you need to convince a hiring manager you’re the one.

See what jobs are available now.


See also:

10 signs you should consider making a move for your career
What you need to earn to buy a house in every major Canadian city
What Canada’s new mortgage lending rules mean for home buyers


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