How to Answer the 15 Most Common Interview Questions: Part 3

Updated: May 10, 2019




In the final installment of our blog series, “How to Answer the 15 Most Common Interview Questions,” let’s talk about five tricky questions that can make or break the interview.

Learn what the interviewer wants to hear, helpful tips to make your answer shine,

and a few examples to bring it all together.


Missed the earlier posts? Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.


1. Why do you want to work for us?


What the Interviewer Wants to Find Out

The interviewer is listening for clues that you care about what they do. Did you take the time to learn about them? The quality of your answer tells them what kind of employee you’ll be.

Will you do the bare minimum? Or be motivated to grow and succeed?


Answer Tips

• The key to nailing this question is research. Start by reading everything you can about the company. Review their website, blog, and social media. Take note of their culture and mission.

What are they all about? Have they had any recent successes? Have they been in the news?

• After your research, what gets you excited about working there? You might admire their reputation or value their products or services (maybe you've used them yourself). Perhaps their company culture matches your personal values. They might have a strong professional development program and promote from within.

• What’s meaningful to you and unique to them? That’s what you want to highlight in your answer.

• Avoid talking about the personal reasons you want to work for them. It might be true that they have great health insurance and their office is close to your home, but those aren’t the kind of reasons that will get an interviewer excited about you as an employee.

• You should also focus on the job itself. Explain how this position fits into your long-term career goals. This reassures the interviewer that it’s a good fit and you’ll stay for a while.


Sample Answer

From the first time I walked into an Anthropologie store, I loved the vibe. It’s more than fashion,

it’s a lifestyle. It’s a unique shopping experience. I went into the Fashion Merchandising program at Philadelphia University with big dreams of working for a company like URBN because you set the standard for a consumer brand. The Merchandising position at your headquarters campus would be a great start to joining the URBN family.


2. Why should we hire you?

What the Interviewer Wants to Find Out

The interviewer already thinks you’re qualified, or you wouldn’t be sitting across from them. With so many equally qualified candidates, they have a tough decision ahead. Make it a no-brainer by giving them confidence that you’ll fit into their team, hit the ground running, and deliver great results.


Answer Tips

• Since this question is often asked near the end of the interview, it’s an opportunity to

summarise your best selling points and leave them with a positive last impression.

• Reinforce your earlier answers about how your skills and experience match with the

job description.

• Highlight anything that makes you stand out from the other candidates – awards,

certifications, personal experience, or classwork.

• Don’t overlook your soft skills. If you have examples to back it up, share skills like

communication, good judgment, initiative, negotiation, or time management.

• Emphasize that you’re a quick learner. If you have experience that would speed up your orientation process, be sure to mention it. It’s expensive to train new employees, so this will be a bonus.

• Be enthusiastic. Even if you don’t have anything extraordinary to share, show your willingness

to learn and motivation to succeed. Hiring managers are evaluating personality as much as qualifications. This has more to do with decision-making than you might imagine.


Sample Answer

I don’t think you’ll find another candidate with more of a personal connection to your mission,

plus the right qualifications. My degree in social work and internship at the Area Agency on Aging have given me excellent case work skills and firsthand experience working with seniors and their caregivers. But more importantly, working at the Alzheimer’s Association would be deeply rewarding because of my grandfather’s diagnosis. I want to be part of the solution for this

terrible disease.


3. How would you describe your personality?


What the Interviewer Wants to Find Out

For this question, the interviewer wants to know if your character traits will help you succeed in the role. For example, if you're extroverted and social, this is ideal for a sales position. The interviewer also wants to find out if your personality would mesh (or clash) with your teammates. You may like to work alone, but your coworkers thrive on close collaboration.


Answer Tips

• Brainstorm your best qualities. Then ask friends, family, coworkers, and fellow students if

they agree. Narrow them down based on feedback.

• Back up your answers with examples. It’s easy to say you’re flexible. Provide a short story to demonstrate. “During my internship, I had to be ready to change projects at any moment. There was a bit of chaos when the CEO resigned unexpectedly, and everyone was scrambling.”

• Focus on personality traits that make you appealing as a candidate for this position. You might be compassionate, organized, calm, creative, consistent, and friendly. Which of these are most relevant for a laboratory technician? Which are most relevant for a customer service representative?

• Be truthful. The hiring manager will be evaluating your personality throughout the interview.

If your answers don’t match with their perceptions, they might question your honesty in other areas of the interview. Plus, if you get the job, you might be miserable!


Sample Answer

Ever since I can remember, people have said they can tell me anything. I come across as warm, approachable, and open-minded. My nursing supervisor in my last clinical experience said that she’s never seen a nursing student with such a respectful bedside manner. Working in an inner-city clinic, I know I’ll be treating all different kinds of people, so I feel my personality will really help me succeed here.


4. What are your salary requirements?


What the Interviewer Wants to Find Out

There are really two aspects to this question. The interviewer wants to know if you’re in the ballpark when it comes to salary expectations. They’re also trying to see how you value yourself. Are you confident enough to ask for what you deserve? Depending on the employer, they might want to take advantage of a candidate with less confidence.


Answer Tips

• Research the average salary for the position in your area. Some helpful sites include:

PayScale.com, Glassdoor.com, and Salary.com. You can also check out the US Bureau of

Labor Statistics.

• Talk to people already in the field, your university’s career center, or your college advisor to

get other perspectives.

• Look at similar positions in another area and see if they include salary. Keep in mind – it has to be in a comparable region. The cost of living has a big impact on salary. The size of the organization is also a factor.

• Once you have a figure in mind, add some padding for negotiation ($1,000 - $2,000).

• Always state that you’re open to negotiation, so you don’t disqualify yourself.

• Make it clear that you did your research – you’re not simply pulling the number out of thin air.

This is important as a new graduate. It shows confidence and initiative.


Sample Answer

Based on what I’ve read about entry-level account manager positions in the San Antonio area,

I’m expecting a salary of about $40,000. Since I interned at your company last summer, I feel that would be fair. However, I’m negotiable and wouldn’t want to be disqualified early in the process.


5. Do you have any questions for us?


What the Interviewer Wants to Find Out

While it may seem like the hiring manager is asking out of politeness, there’s more under the surface. Is the applicant paying attention? Are they already thinking about how they can succeed

in the job? Smart follow-up questions give the interviewer confidence that you’ll be a

motivated employee.


Answer Tips

• Prepare your questions in advance and write them down. The interviewer might answer some of them in the course of the conversation, so have several lined up.

• Ideally, ask three to five questions. That’s enough to show interest. If you ask too many,

you could accidentally annoy the interviewer.

• Be strategic about which questions you ask. Don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking.

We’ve listed three types below.


Sample Answers

Show Your Understanding of Job Description – “I see that I’ll be managing data for all our programs. Can you tell me what data management tool you use and what kind of reports

I’ll need to create?”

Show Your Big Picture Thinking – “Since I’ll be part of the healthcare division, can you share

their objectives for this year and describe how my job supports those objectives?”

Show Your Interpersonal Skills – “How would you describe the management style of my

direct supervisor? I want to make sure we’d work well together.”


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That’s it! You now have the tools, advice and examples to answer the 15 most common interview questions. Hopefully this series has given you more confidence. Your next step is to practice, practice, practice! Good luck.

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