Common Interview Questions and Answers

Common Interview Questions and Answers

Question: Tell me about yourself.

From a very early age, I’ve been a problem solver. I was that kid who would take apart anything so I could see how it worked—and then try to put it back together.

As you can imagine, it drove my parents nuts. But even though I tortured my family at times, the tinkering trait has served me well in my career.

After graduating from Purdue, I was recruited into a field technician job and got paid to take apart broken packaging equipment. It was like living the dream.

That job also made me realize I’m really good with difficult customers, and that’s what helped me land my current account manager role.

While I love my job and have been successful in it, it has moved me away from the manufacturing floor. Now, the reason I’m so interested in this position is that it seems to provide a really great blend of one-on-one work with clients and hands-on problem-solving.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He gave a vivid image of his childhood home and told a memorable story about it.
  • He picked two prominent required skills from the job description, problem-solving and customer service, and built this interesting narrative around it.
  • He showed how his career successfully evolved before he was even asked about that.

Question: What is your greatest strength?

What I bring to the team is a strong record in relationship building.

I’m happiest when I’m engaging and strategizing about how we can help one another. I find that in sales, some people can be overly transactional. I think my superpower is in establishing more meaningful connections.

I’ve gotten strong feedback in the past. One client said I was the best business development person he’d ever met.

These types of connections have turned into big sales wins. For example, last year, I doubled my client base and outperformed my peers by 40%. And it’s probably relevant to share that I started in that role without any contacts in the field.

Today, there isn’t a Fortune 100 company that doesn’t know about the product I sold last.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She was specific and shared real numbers.
  • She stayed relevant. The experience and the story all came together and she supported it all with numbers.

Question: What is your greatest weakness?

I get excited when people on my team brainstorm about big new ideas. I sometimes get so caught up in the moment that I volunteer to do too much. I know this can be a distraction in ways that put me at risk of not getting work done properly or missing deadlines.

I’ve been reflecting on why this happens. As I’ve become more conscious of this pattern, I’m working on ways to contain the negative aspects of my eagerness.

One way that I do this is to still go to brainstorming meetings but to be more careful about offering to do the next steps—or limit it to one project that my boss supports.

Fortunately, though, the job we’re discussing seems well-suited for people like me, people that bring a lot of enthusiasm to the job and are ready to keep getting better and better at the follow-through.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He shared a story about how a weakness would negatively impact his work and stress him out.
  • He turned his self-awareness into a plan to help him manage that weakness so he would be successful in the future.
  • He shared specific details, which made the story feel relatable.

Question: Why should we hire you?

I’ve got both the experience and target audience rapport that you’re looking for.

I’ve built two corporate training programs from scratch and developed the kind of interactive video programs that you’re looking to create.

When employees fill out feedback forms, they speak highly of the professionalism and clarity that they’ve encountered.

Here’s a quick example.

A close friend of mine on your marketing team says that this company is a great cultural fit given my background and values. I have an insatiable level of curiosity and tend to do lots of research on any topic that I’m less than an expert in. And I know your values include constant learning. That really resonates with my passion.

I’m just eager to become part of a fast-growing, mission-oriented organization like yours.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He spoke about his core strengths in a way that related to the job requirements.
  • He used favorable feedback from some of his previous coworkers, and their positive observations were helpful.
  • He talked about why he was a good cultural fit for the organization.

 

Question: Why do you want to work here?

The first thing that prompted me to apply is your commitment to service. I’ve been a customer for five years since I first bought a house. We had a big storm that damaged my roof last year, and I was impressed by how caring and prompt your customer service representatives were as I worked through it.

I’m also excited about your upcoming merger. I can see how this is going to set you apart in the insurance industry. I’d love to help you through the process of integrating the two companies. Having supported a merger three years ago, I know what an intricate and stressful process that can be. I have a few specific ideas on how I might ease the transition.

Lastly, I applied because I see this as an opportunity for me to broaden my financial services experience. This seems to be a natural fit based on my understanding of regulated industries.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He has done his homework and sees an opportunity to help this company through a challenging and exciting transition.
  • He made it about them first and then wove in some of his own personal career goals.

 

Question: Tell me about a time you showed leadership.

Recently there was a situation where my manager needed to take medical leave and was unable to come into work for a few weeks. This coincided with a major deadline that he was leading. I knew that if this project wasn’t completed on time, we were at risk of losing a major client.

I looked to my right and my left, and there wasn’t anyone else who could own the project, so I jumped in with both feet and took the initiative.

I went through the files and developed a schedule detailing what needed to be completed, and I worked with my coworkers to ensure they were on board too.

In the end, we were able to complete the project by the deadline. The client was pleased and stayed on as a loyal customer to the company. When my boss came back, he gave me an end-of-quarter bonus because he was impressed I was able to rally everyone to complete the project.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She shared details that make it easy to visualize what was happening.
  • She described how she got her coworkers onboard and met the deadline to keep her loyal client.

 

 

Question: Tell me about a time you were successful on a team.

I was asked to work on a high-profile project that included collaborating with a new team and tons of people across a larger organization.

We were spread out across the globe, which meant timezones were tricky and we could never meet face-to-face. Communication was starting to get confusing, and people were losing important details.

It became apparent that this project was going to fail if we didn’t have a new strategy, so I met with various team members and engaged them in a process where we designed and implemented a communication system that would work a lot better.

We then did weekly check-ins; designed a protocol to share relevant updates so we’d stay on track; developed a detailed outline of goals and milestones, and led the meetings.

In the end, the team made massive progress. We completed the project on time, and it was praised extensively by the client. The team thanked me for helping to course-correct. We also continue to use these tools, and they are what makes our team so much more efficient at what we do.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She started off by discussing a specific situation and the issues involved with having to work on a global team.
  • She talked about the specific action steps she took like implementing a new work process.
  • She described the positive results and teamwork skills she demonstrated along the way.

 

Question: What would your co-workers say about you?

I think my coworkers would tell you that I’m the one you turn to when it’s time to make sure everyone stays motivated and on track to pull off big, high-profile projects.

In one of my LinkedIn recommendations, my supervisor refers to me as the “Human Glue”, which is something I’m proud of. She gave me that nickname after we went through a complex ERP implementation. It was one of those stressful time-critical projects that required the team to come together and make things happen in a short amount of time.

I kept the crew going, sometimes through the long evening and weekend hours, and inspired them to bring their absolute best to the project every day.

I think that they also appreciated the pizza and donuts I brought in too.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He shared something specifically related to the job.
  • He pointed the interviewer to a supervisor’s favorable LinkedIn recommendation.
  • He shared a bit of humor.

 

Question: Why do you want to leave your current role?

I’m eager to find a new opportunity and grow.

As you can see, I’ve been doing the same kind of work for two and a half years, and I’m starting to stagnate. My company doesn’t have a role open for the next step up, unfortunately. So, I’m excited about the opportunity of becoming a sales manager at your company.

The new role will let me use the skills I’ve developed in my current role like making cold calls; hooking in new clients with pithy-but-inspiring opening lines; following up with carefully crafted emails; listening to their pain points; and then offering up solutions that can solve their problems.

I’m eager to make a fresh start, and I want to use my cold calling and listening skills to help craft an even better solution with the product I’d be working on in this new role.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She was positive and talked about her excitement about the new role. She did say she started to stagnate in her current role though, so she should tweak that language a bit to make it more favorable to them.
  • She talked about using her current skills to gain new skills and experiences as a sales manager.
  • She framed this in the context of the new role and the new job she’s applying for. She should make it even more about how excited she is about the products—and selling them—for the company she’s applying to.

 

Question: Describe your most challenging project.

In my current role, I was in charge of leading a major marketing campaign for a new product launching nationwide.

The project was challenging both because of how large it was and because it involved constant communication with at least seven teams inside my company. Even though I tried to share the same information with everyone, it was clear that not everyone was on the same page.

Partway through, I discovered that some of the teams were not on schedule with their assigned tasks. The implications were significant, and a delay to the campaign would negatively impact our revenue goals.

I identified the root causes of the delays and set up a plan of action to address them. I planned in-depth one-on-one meetings with the team leaders to help re-inspire them. We talked about the goals and set ambitious targets for getting these last items across the finish line. I then organized and led status-update calls for the larger team and implemented a public dashboard to keep everyone accountable.

In the end, we did meet the marketing campaign deadlines and the product launch was a hit. The company hit its revenue goals and everyone on the sales team received a well-deserved bonus.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She told us about the potential for serious negative consequences.
  • She described concrete action steps she took to overcome this challenge.
  • She shared the positive results of her actions.

 

Question: Tell me about something you’ve accomplished that you are proud of.

When I first joined the company, I noticed that the existing monthly budgeting process was quite time-consuming and inefficient because it was highly manual.

There were errors and inaccuracies, and I took the initiative to implement a new budgeting template to automate the process and make it simpler.

I developed automated calculations using Excel and fill-in-the-blank lines for departments to submit their numbers. Then I designed and led a training for all relevant staff. The new system made it easier for the departments to provide their budgets in an error-free way.

Overall, we had 25% fewer errors in the next cycle of budgets and my team became 30% more efficient. My manager gave me a very strong review for the quarter and noted that she appreciated my initiative to automate and make the process a lot less cumbersome.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She started off by discussing the situation she inherited when she joined the company.
  • She described the action steps she took to improve the situation.
  • She quantified the positive results and relayed how impactful this was for her and her team.

 

Question: Can you explain your employment gap?

Yes, so a few years ago I was working in Seattle as a global finance manager. I loved my job and got to travel all over the world.

My dad, who lives in Michigan, was diagnosed with dementia that same year, and my mom was having a hard time giving him the level of care he needed. I decided to put my career on pause and go help them.

I not only got to spend quality time with my parents and sister, but I was able to get their finances in order so that when it was time for him to enter a care home, they were in a great spot to afford it.

He’s doing really well at the facility, so now I can refocus on my career.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He told the truth; he left work to care for a family member.
  • He delivered it with confidence and was unapologetic about the gap.
  • He showcased the positive by explaining his action plan to keep his finance skills sharp.

 

Question: What are your salary expectations?

I’ve been doing some research on the market for the role of Sales Analyst.

What I found from LinkedIn’s salary tool is that here in Chicago, base pay for these jobs tends to run between $61,000 and $71,000. Half the companies pay bonuses as well.

Given the global impact of your company, and the fact that candidates with Master’s degrees, like me, are being recruited most heavily, I think we should be looking toward the top end of that range.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She started off by giving a salary range instead of a specific number.
  • She brought neutral research to the table, which establishes her as someone who’s trustworthy, bold, and grounded.
  • She did a credible job of showing why she should be at that higher range, which made her come across as confident and steady.

 

Question: What do you like to do outside of work?

A lot of my spare time lately has been dedicated to teaching myself how to shoot and edit instructional videos.

I’ve been a garage-sale shopper for several years, and I sell my finds on eBay to pay down my student loan debt. So far I’ve raised $11,000. People who find out that I do this often have a lot of questions about how to get started, how to find the best stuff, and how to market items on eBay.

So I’ve decided to put a few tutorials up on YouTube. That way people can learn through the videos—and I gain a new creative skill.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He came off as resourceful, financially responsible, and willing to share his talents with others.
  • He focused on how his interest helps with self-improvement.
  • He made sure all his comments were appropriate.

 

Question: Tell me about a time you had to manage conflicting priorities.

I was asked at the last minute to help with a major project. The deadline was just a few days away and the project had gotten derailed.

As I was working on this first urgent project, I was approached by two different clients with pressing requests as well. These conflicting priorities overwhelmed me at first.

Then I came up with a plan to prioritize the tasks I was given based on their level of importance. I determined which clients were the most critical to our business and who needed deliverables with the quickest turnaround.

I ranked the assignments and figured out how long it would take me to finish them. Then I checked in with my coworkers, clients, and manager to see if the timeline made sense to them. We added an additional team member, stayed in the office late for a few nights, and aligned with the clients on the new timeline.

In the end, I was able to complete everything on time. Each client, manager, and co-worker was satisfied with my work and were happy that I communicated my revised timeline so there weren’t any surprises at the end of the project.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She explained the many conflicts happening in this particular week at work.
  • She described how she tackled the process and showed what steps she took to get everyone on board with the new timeline.
  • She ranked the assignments based on who the clients were and what they expected. The outcome was positive and the clients were happy.

 

Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In the first two or three years, I plan to immerse myself in the position by leveraging my strong Excel knowledge to develop automated reports and processes. The goal would be to improve efficiencies and reduce time spent on manual tasks.

Within two to three years after that I see myself using that experience to help other departments develop similar efficiencies.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She broke it down into two-to-three-year chunks.
  • She explained what she could give in relation to her Excel skills rather than what she planned to get from the company.
  • She avoided mentioning any job titles she hoped for in the future.

 

Question: Describe your leadership style.

For me, good leadership is about finding the best analytical approach while still caring about the people on the team.

Last year, I took charge of a digital marketing campaign that wasn’t getting any traction. I realized our team members didn’t know what was expected.

We worked together to build new metrics. I gave more responsibilities to our most engaged team member and helped another one find a different job where he could be more effective.

Within three months, we were hitting our numbers and morale was vastly better. When we were ready to expand, five internal candidates asked if they could join our team.

I love building productive, successful teams, and it sounds as if there would be great opportunities to do that in the job we’re talking about.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She talked about what her overall philosophy was and how she was an effective leader.
  • She shared an example of something that was a challenge, what she did to solve it, how she brought the team along, and the results that she captured from it.
  • She wrapped it up with how it connected back to the organization.

 

Question: Tell me about a time you failed or made a mistake.

In my first job, my manager asked me to develop several forms of tracking projects. I said “yes” because I wanted to do everything my manager asked me to do.

But as I started working on the project, I realized I didn’t understand the overall goal. And the project ended up creating templates that didn’t meet my manager’s expectations.

My manager was disappointed in me. She told me that if I had asked some clarifying questions, I would’ve gotten to a better work product. I admitted to my manager that I had made a mistake and learned that it doesn’t make you look stupid if you ask clarifying questions.

I learned that it’s better to speak up quickly. That’s how I’ve handled those situations ever since.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She owned her mistake, going straight to the point and describing a situation with the right level of detail.
  • She reflected on what she did wrong—not asking clarifying questions—and how that negatively impacted her work.
  • She talked about what she learned from the experience.

 

Question: Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult person.

My boss assigned me to a big project that entailed working across multiple teams. I had to collect and analyze data that would help her make an informed decision about a new service we were introducing to our customers.

One of these individuals I needed to collect data from had a bit of a difficult personality. He was late to provide the data, and when he did provide it, it was incomplete or inaccurate.

Without getting the right information from him I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete my assignment. After I asked a few times, he agreed to have coffee with me so we could talk about the situation and I could get a better sense of what his challenges were.

I asked what I could do to help make the request easier for him. He shared that he was overwhelmed, as he had multiple competing deadlines, and that there were errors and delays with all the data.

We brainstormed ways that I could break down my request into more bite-size chunks so he could squeeze in the request in between bigger projects.

I then customized each of my requests in a way that would work with his schedule. He appreciated how much I was able to tailor my request to meet his needs. And ultimately, he helped me complete my assignments on time.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She described a tough situation and the difficulties that she experienced with this person.
  • She explained the action steps she took and its positive outcome.
  • She took the time to understand this individual’s issues, which is a crucial skill you need when working with others.

 

Question: Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone.

The day before a major management review, I was told we only had ten minutes to present our project. We had originally been promised fifteen.

Most of our team members agreed to shorten their remarks. One person refused to make changes. I suggested that we sit down over coffee and talk about it. I started by listening, letting him explain how hard he’d worked.

I realized the issue wasn’t about the length of his speech but more about him being recognized for doing a thorough job and getting his presentation together. He was proud of his work.

So, we talked about another way of recognizing his efforts acknowledging him in our team newsletter. When we wrapped up that part of the conversation, he volunteered to shorten his part of his speech.

By treating his contributions with respect, I guided him to a better outcome.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He created an alternate path that supported this coworker’s goal without wrecking the entire project.
  • He summed it up well at the end showing how he can be persuasive without dominating the conversation.

 

Question: Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone.

My team was given a new goal: to sell our product to a new customer segment that we hadn’t served in the past.

The group had strong opinions about the approach we should take. In spite of their voices, I had concerns about their strategy; I thought it may fail as it didn’t align with the client’s core needs. But I was in the minority and when I spoke up I wasn’t heard. I needed to find another way to make the case for my teammates.

I set up a focus group with a potential client so my team could understand the challenges and priorities of the people we aimed to serve. The great news was they saw that our planned product wouldn’t meet these needs, but if we made some slight adjustments to the service, we could deliver something of real value. The team rallied behind this and got on board.

We were ultimately successful in bringing this client onboard—and ten more!

Why this answer worked well:

  • She shared a succinct example of a time when her opinion was in the minority.
  • She came up with a creative way to change her team’s perspective.
  • She used this new strategy and described how well it worked.

 

Question: Tell me about a time you created a goal and achieved it.

In my line of work, most top performers have MBAs.

I couldn’t afford to step out of the workforce for two years to earn one. But I promised myself to do everything possible to earn an MBA within three years while working full-time.

I found a top-rated online program and started setting my alarm clock for 5:30 a.m. I set goals of two hours of study time in the morning and evening and made detailed to-do lists to manage both my study schedule and my other work responsibilities. It was incredibly hard, but I persisted and managed every minute of my day—and achieved my goal.

Why this answer worked well:

  • He chose a goal that’s clear, ambitious, and relevant to his career.
  • He described specific actions he took to achieve his objectives.
  • He made it clear that he accomplished his goal.

Question: Tell me about a time you surpassed people’s expectations.

As a young professional, I was given a small event to manage for my company’s senior executives.

We originally expected about 50 attendees, but then the CEO decided to participate too. Suddenly, the event became much bigger with 400 people attending. We had to organize buses, food, scripted content, speeches, and the program itself.

I stepped up and designed carefully crafted messaging documents for each stakeholder; had weekly check-ins with each group, and ran volunteer training sessions to be sure that all the logistics ran smoothly.

I learned the importance of careful planning and constant practice; two habits that paid off on many projects since then. The event is now considered the most successful of our division. My boss praised my work for going far beyond what she expected when the project was first assigned.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She painted a picture of how she approached a new problem.
  • She explained how she adjusted throughout to meet challenges as they arose.
  • She described the successful outcome and its implications for her job.

Question: Tell me about a time you had to handle pressure.

I was working on my company’s big quarterly project update when two team members left unexpectedly and we were short-handed with three weeks to go.

I convened an urgent strategy session where we identified all the projects they were involved in and mapped out our action plan. We shared the most important tasks within the team and got them all done in time.

We canceled two optional features that could wait a quarter, and we reached out to a former intern who was able to deliver 15 hours of remote work in the last weekend sprint before the deadline.

We were able to complete the project without a delay and delivered on all the essential deliverables by being creative, strategic, and very focused.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She described herself as a friendly leader who got to work addressing the challenge for the entire team.
  • She took us through a strategy where she focused on the most important elements and deprioritized the rest.
  • She was creative and resourceful by finding an unexpected ally to help her through this challenge.

Question: Tell me about a time you had to learn something quickly.

When I started in my role, I thought I was quite good at Excel. I had told my employer that I knew how to calculate complex formulas, but I quickly discovered that my experience was well behind that of my peers.

I didn’t want my boss to know that I was trailing in my capabilities just as I stepped into the new role, so I came up with a plan to teach myself everything I was missing.

Every day after work, I watched at least an hour of Khan Academy videos. I also found practice worksheets online that allowed me to test myself and be sure I was mastering the content.

Within three weeks, I was nearly as fast and fluent as my colleagues at work, and my boss never knew I had come in behind.

Why this answer worked well:

  • She showed initiative by going above and beyond after work to catch up to her peers.
  • She was specific in what she didn’t know and then told a clear and concise story about what she needed to do to change the situation.
  • She described how with focus and hard work she was able to catch up rather quickly.

Question: Do you have any questions for me?

I do have a few questions. Thanks for asking.

We talked a bit about your plans to invest in training opportunities for your current employees, especially those who will be managing the company’s transition to a centralized billing system.

I think that this is a great plan, and I’d love to support the curriculum development.

Now, will most of the training modules be designed by this team? And will they be delivered in person, via webinar, or a video format? Or will you be using a hybrid approach?

Why this answer worked well:

  • She showed that she had been paying attention to the conversation.
  • She wanted to delve a bit further into a topic that they’ve just discussed.
  • She conveyed a lot of enthusiasm about supporting what sounds like a priority project for that organization.

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