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5 Common Interview Questions That Can Easily Trip You Up (And How To Answer Them Like A Pro)

These common interview questions can easily trip you up. Here's how to answer them without skipping a beat.It’s an undeniable fact: there are common interview questions you’ll likely encounter in (almost) all of your interviews.

Your answers to these questions can make or break your chances of advancing to the next round of hiring. Needless to say, you want to have just the right answers.

The good news is, you can prepare for your interview in advance. That way, when the hiring manger asks you one (or several) common interview questions, you’ll have a good answer ready to go. This will help ease a little of the interview anxiety we all get and makes a better impression with the interviewer. How’s that for a win-win?

1. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself? 

This seems innocent enough, and is usually the opener interviewers will lead with. Your answer to this question can set the tone for the entire interview. No pressure, right? 

A good rule of thumb is not to get too personal. The interviewer does not want to hear about what you did over the weekend or that your Aunt Gertie just got a new Maltese. You don’t want to go into too much detail about your professional history either. 

Instead, prepare a short pitch about yourself that relates to the job you’re interviewing for. Highlight two or three professional accomplishments that would come in handy for the position you’re hoping to land. Be sure to point out to the interviewer how these past accomplishments position you for success in this role.

2. How did you hear about this position? 

Recruiters and hiring managers are genuinely curious how job applicants learn about open roles at their companies. But, how you found out about an opening can also tell the recruiter how interested you really are in working there. 

For example, if you follow said company on social media and happened to catch a tweet advertising the role, let them know. You’ll score brownie points for actively engaging with the brand on social media and makes it seem like you’d actually enjoy working there. (You don’t follow things on social media you don’t like, right?)

Don’t be shy about name dropping either. If a friend or professional contact gave you a head’s up about the position, say so.

Even if you found the job via traditional means — job boards — that’s okay. Tell the recruiter that, but follow it up with what exactly about that particular job caught your eye in the sea of hundreds of ads. 

3. Why should we hire you?

I’ve always found this to be the most intimidating of the common interview questions. But, if you’re prepared for it in advance, you can toot your own horn and sell yourself to the hiring manager. 

Typically, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for an answer that demonstrates three things: 

  1. You have the know-how to do the job (and do it really well) 
  2. You’d fit right in with the company culture and would make a great coworker 
  3. You’re a better hire than anyone else. Period. 

Go into the job interview with good knowledge of the role you’re interviewing for. The job ad you initially applied for is your friend. Read and re-read the ad and remember specific keywords. (You can learn more about identifying keywords in job ads here.)

To position yourself as the best of the best, remember to highlight specific professional achievements, if you can use keywords from the job ad, even better. 

Think of it like this, job ads are the employer’s way of describing their ideal hire. The more you can mirror the ‘person’ described in the ad, the better your chances of getting hired. Using keywords from the ad in your answers is a surefire way to come across as a perfect fit. 

4. What are your professional strengths? 

A lot of interviewees get this one wrong. Often, they answer with what they think the interviewer wants to hear and not their actual strengths. 

The bottomline: be truthful! Talk about your actual strengths you feel confident in as a professional. 

When possible, highlight those which line up with the job you’re interviewing for. And, get specific. Again, do your homework ahead of time and remember the job ad. What kind of strengths were they looking for in a would-be hire? When applicable, mention those to the interviewer, give specific examples of how you used those strengths professionally before. 

5. Can you tell me what your greatest weaknesses are? 

This is perhaps the most dreaded of the common interview questions. It seems like a trick — Why on earth would you tell the person you’re trying to convince to hire you what you suck at the most?

While it may be tempting to sugar coat your answer, i.e., “my greatest weakness is I’m a perfectionist who can’t walk away from a project until it’s done to my satisfaction,” don’t. 

The interviewer asks you this question to gauge your self awareness and honesty — so bring both to the interview table. 

Give an actual weakness you struggle with. Bonus points if you can follow it up with how you’ve been trying to improve said weakness. For example, let them know you try to do too much at once and it derails your productivity, but that you’ve recently started using the Pomodoro Technique to help you get more done in a day. 

As Zig Zigler once said, “Try to look at your weakness and convert it into strength. That’s success.” It’s true.

So, take a second and think of a legit weakness you have. Then figure out what you can do to turn it into a success, whether it’s trying a new technique or learning a new skill. The interviewer will appreciate both your candor and willingness to self improve. 

Common Interview Questions And How To Answer Them

There you have it — 5 of the most common interview questions you’ll probably get asked on your next interview. These seemingly innocent questions can easily trip you up, if you’re not ready for them.

Remember, the best offense is a great defense. Go into any interview armed with strong answers that set you apart from the compeition. A little homework can go a long way in successful interviewing. You’ve got this! 💪🏻



P.S. This post contains affiliate links. Check out my disclosure statement for more information.

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About Carol St. Amand

Carol St. Amand

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