Written by Emilie Brunet on October 26, 2023
Interviews can feel like an overwhelmingly confusing process — mostly because there is usually very little consistency company-to-company.
Sometimes you have to go through 12 interviews with people of varying levels in the company, fill out assessments, record video interviews, and more. And then other times you hop on a 20-minute phone call with the founder and you’re hired.
While unbelievably inconsistent in terms of format, there is usually a certain amount of consistency in questions being asked.
So while we can’t prepare you for the 14 rounds of interviews, we can prepare you for some of the most basic questions that are asked in almost every interview.
Before we get into the questions themselves, let’s talk about some basic guidelines that you want to consider when prepping your answers.
Alright armed with these guidelines, let’s get into how to answer the most common interview questions.
Almost every interview will start with a version of this question.
Also called the elevator's pitch, the "tell me about yourself" answer is like giving a pitch to someone in an elevator. How would you present yourself in just a few minutes?
This question is the best and most important opportunity that you’ll have to speak about yourself, have someone to get to know you and set the tone for the rest of the interview. It’s really important to answer this question in a way that demonstrates that you are genuine, friendly, and enthusiastic about the work.
It’s really important that you don’t learn your answer by heart because it will feel very robotic. However, you can definitely draft a few bullet points to help you remember the main things you want to say.
A common set-up to answering this question is the Present, Past and Future approach.
Most interviews have some variation of this question, whether it’s “Where are your biggest areas of improvement?” or “What opportunities do you have to work on?”
This can feel like a scary question because the concern is that you’ll say something that will automatically remove you as a possible candidate. But in reality, everyone has things that they need to improve on and no one is perfect.
This question has layers and is often asked to understand not just what your weaknesses are but:
To prepare for this question, break it into a few steps:
Step 1. Take the time to write out a list of about 3-5 of your weaknesses at work. Are you bad at time management? Receiving feedback? Delegating? Communicating? Team-work? Emotional Regulation? You won’t have to share them all, but starting to deeply understand yourself is important to answering this question genuinely.
Step 2. Note what you’ve done to work on your weaknesses. Have you taken a course? Have you developed a system? Have you improved in some way?
Step 3. Review the job description and the company values again. Notice what the job requires and if there is an overlap between your weaknesses and any of the job requirements. Then, notice if your weaknesses can be seen as strengths in regards to any of the job requirements.
Step 4. Take the approach of either A) Turning your weaknesses into strengths, B) Highlighting how you’ve worked on your weakness or C) Demonstrating how your weakness won’t hinder the work
This Hubspot article shows that in action in 12 different examples.
Everyone hates this question. Because the vast majority of the time the most honest answer is, “Because I need money to survive.”
And, I get it. But stating the obvious won’t get you hired.
There are definitely some “dream companies” that people hope to work at. But let’s not ignore that fact that the vast majority of the time, especially in a hiring freeze, a lot of people are just throwing their hat in the ring for any position in the hopes they land an interview.
So if that’s the case for you and you get invited for an interview at a company that you don’t actually inherently care about, then here’s how to prepare for that interview in a way that answers the question while still remaining genuine.
Ask yourself this:
Leaning into the answers to some of those questions can help guide you in your response and allow you to answer the question without having to say some bullsh*t like “I just really care about [insert the most obscenely random product that this company makes like plastic containers or fertilizer].”
Are there other interview questions that you’d like some guidance on?
I'm the People & Culture Manager at Journey Education. I have always had a passion for writing, organization and finding creative solutions. I aim to be personable, empathetic and compassionate and believe that kindness can go along way in both business and life.
Having worked and organized with anti-capitalist, feminist and queer organizations, I strongly believe that EVERYONE deserves, not just a living wage, but a thriving wage and that it should be the priority of every business to create an inclusive, caring and diverse work environment that doesn't just ensures the work happens, but allows people to be people while the work is happening!
My approach to everything I do reflects my training in trauma-informed practices, active listening and harm reduction as well as my interest in understand the way people work, behave and exist as their full human self. I want to create safer spaces for people to explore, create and excel in a supportive environment - whether that's in life or at work.