- Data shows that most hiring managers prefer to stick with more traditional questions in job interviews.
- Off-the-wall questions may reveal a job candidate's candidness or some personality traits, but more common questions are better indicators of how suitable they are for the position.
- Candidates should practice their answers to more commonly asked interview questions but be prepared to answer one or two more unusual questions as well.
Some hiring managers like to ask off-the-wall job interview questions, such as "What color crayon would you be?" or "How would your archnemesis describe you?" to see how the job candidate reacts under pressure. However, new research finds that most interviewers would rather ask straightforward questions that apply to relevant work experience and skills than questions that are designed to throw unsuspecting candidates for a loop.
According to a 2019 study conducted by LinkedIn, at least a couple of the questions asked in almost every interview are among the most commonly asked behavioral or accomplishment-based questions overall. It makes sense: While some of those oddball interview questions serve to show a potential employee's willingness to be candid, more traditional questions paint a more complete picture of the candidate's suitability for the position. LinkedIn cited the following traditional interview questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Why should we hire you?
- Why do you want to work here?
- Tell me about a time you showed leadership.
- Tell me about a time you were successful on a team.
- What would your co-workers say about you?
Although job candidates can't predict every question they may be asked during an interview, they are best served by practicing their answers to those that are most commonly asked, said Bill Driscoll, district president for staffing firm Accountemps.
"Knowing your audience is crucial," Driscoll said in a statement. "Learn as much as you can about the company and position by conducting research, reading relevant news and reaching out to your network for insights. To help job seekers appropriately prepare for interviews, the data from both LinkedIn and Accountemps can be used to categorize senior managers' favorite and most commonly asked interview questions and provide insight into what they are trying to learn by asking them.
Company or position
The interviewer has the candidate's resume and cover letter and has likely already scoped out their social media accounts. However, the goal of the interview is to determine how good a fit a person is for a position. In all likelihood, every applicant has relevant experience and could be a strong candidate on paper. These interview questions provide interviewees an opportunity to connect the dots on their resume, explaining, for example, why they chose to attend a specific university or why they left a previous position.
- "Why do you want to work here?"
- "What do you know about this company?"
- "Why are you interested in this position?"
- "What makes you a good fit for this position?"
Just about every resume the interviewer receives should include relevant career experience. The interviewer already has a list of previous jobs and skills, so these questions about job experience allow the job seeker to delve deeper and be ultraspecific. Rather than reiterate the same information the interviewer already has, candidates should use this as an opportunity to state how their previous experience would directly transfer to this new company and how that can benefit the company.
- "What did you like or dislike about your last job?"
- "Tell me about your work experience."
- "Why did you leave your last job?"
Personal attributes or characteristics
These are notoriously some of the most difficult questions for job candidates to answer in interviews because no one is truly comfortable talking about themselves. Interviewers know that as well, but these types of questions can provide valuable insight. This part of an interview is an excellent time for candidates to demonstrate how they stand out from the rest of the candidates. Providing examples of a time they overcame an obstacle at work or came up with a new system or solution the company used will leave a lasting impression on the interviewer.
- "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?"
- "How do you interact with a team?"
- "How do you handle stress at work?"
When asked some of the questions listed here, candidates often spin their answers into how they can benefit the company and help achieve its goals. However, these questions are some of the most valuable an interviewer can ask, because a good fit between the potential new hire and company is just as important – perhaps even more important – than skills. After all, job skills can be taught. Candidates should take special care to not only explain their personal ambitions but also illustrate how the position aligns with their long-term goals.
- "Why did you choose this career?"
- "Where do you see yourself in the future?"
- "What are your hobbies outside of work?
- "Why should we hire you?"
Whether you are currently seeking a new position or you do not intend to go on interviews for quite some time, understanding the reasons these common questions are asked – and being prepared to answer them thoroughly and confidently – will benefit you.
Remember that an interview goes both ways: Job candidates need to be sure the position and company will be good fits for them as well, not just the other way around. As such, don't be afraid to ask questions of your own, to request clarification or to follow up at the end of an interview with additional information if it was relevant to a question asked earlier but didn't come to you in time. Interviewers are human too, and they understand that no one is perfect, especially in stressful situations. Good luck out there.