Interviews: Frequently Asked Questions

Preparation for any interview is a necessary but potentially stressful task. In this section, we will discuss frequently asked interview questions and guide you through coming up with a thoughtful answer. While you will never know exactly what questions you'll be asked in an interview before it happens, preparing responses to common questions will also help you to improvise in the moment.



Standard Tips & Tricks

  • Prepare your answers ahead of time: While you don’t want to sound overly rehearsed and have memorized your answers, making bullet points of what you want to mention for anticipated questions is always a great idea, such as stories about your interests and past extracurricular activities or buzzwords to describe your personality. Personally, we love to practice answering these questions in the mirror.

  • Be as specific as possible: Many interviewers will ask you to provide stories to try to get to know you better. Don’t make up a story because that can unravel quickly! Instead, prep ahead of time, come up with a list of your experiences, and how these experiences can showcase different strengths.

  • Think of some questions for the interviewer: Flipping roles at the end of the interview is a great way to show your interest and curiosity in the role. Make sure your questions are not something that can be easily answered with a quick google search, and avoid questions about pay unless you are far into the job application process. When in doubt, you can always ask questions about the interviewer's experience - everyone loves to talk about themselves! Additionally, always ask when you should expect to hear from them, or what the next step in the process is as a way of showing interest.

  • If your interviewer offers you a beverage, accept the offer. Then, during your interview, if you’re asked a difficult question, you can take a sip of water while thinking of your answer. This gives you a few more seconds to think without letting your interviewer know you need time. It’s also okay to ask your interviewer to repeat the question for the same reason and pause for a moment before jumping into an answer that you are unsure about.

  • Power pose before walking into the interview to boost your confidence. When waiting, sit up straight and be open. Don’t slouch or cross your legs (closing your body). Trying to keep your hands flat and not in fists to avoid having sweaty hands.

  • Make sure you have a strong handshake. Wipe your hands on your pants to get rid of sweat beforehand. During the interview, keep your hands on your lap or under the table. Feel free to use hand gestures as you speak, but too many can be distracting. Just try to act natural!

  • Be polite! While in a waiting room, don’t be on a phone call, eat/chew gum, or stare at your phone. Even if your interviewer cannot see you, the receptionist can, and your goal is to make a good first impression. Instead of being on your phone, subtly review notes or prepare some sentences on what you want to say in your head.

  • Be earlier than on time: 20 minutes early is always better than 5 minutes late. Always account for traffic, bad weather, and getting lost. If you’re worried, go to the place of your interview the day before to make sure you know how to get there, and figure out parking if you plan to drive. Try not to arrive too early (>30 minutes) because your interviewers are likely busy, and you don’t want to give yourself more opportunities to appear anxious for the next half hour or have the receptionist wondering how to accommodate you. You can always arrive at the building early and wait at a coffee shop across the street for 10 minutes.

  • Thank your interviewer: Before the end of the business day (typically 5 PM), email your interviewer. Thank them for their time and mention something interesting you learned from your interview. This further shows how you were engaged and interested.




Common Interview Questions & How to Construct an Answer


1. Tell me about yourself.

  1. This question may be phrased as formally as we have it listed, or your interviewer may indirectly ask this when they tell you to introduce yourself. Either way, it is the most important question in the interview. Spend about 1-2 minutes on this answer. You only make one first impression, so make it count! Check out this article for an in-depth explanation of how to formulate an answer to this super common question!

2. Why do you want to work here/why do you want this role?

  1. This question is designed to gauge your interest in the company. Do your research ahead of time, and find out the company’s mission/culture (depending on the job you are applying for) and the specific requirements of your role. You can look up the company on social media, LinkedIn, their website, recent news articles on Google News, and a general Google search to see what other people have to say. Answer the question by speaking to how your strengths and interests align with the company/the role.

3. What are you passionate about?

  1. Try to pick something that you are genuinely passionate about AND will indirectly help improve the company. If you can’t find a direct connection, try to highlight the qualities used in this passion to show your great personality. For example, if you are passionate about a service project, highlight the leadership, kindness, ambitiousness, etc. that was required.



DO's

  • Talk about your professional experience (this doesn’t have to be prior work jobs but can be camps, workshops, extracurriculars)

  • Indirectly talk about the qualities that make you the perfect candidate by giving examples not name dropping adjectives

  • Give examples/number figures when possible

  • End with telling them why you want the position

DON’Ts

  • Answer this question with lots of details - save some examples for the rest of the interview

  • Tell your whole life story

  • Spend a lot of time talking about your personal life - they will see your personality in other ways

  • Name drop - don’t give a laundry list of adjectives such as “I’m ambitious, motivated, a quick learner, and responsible”

4. What would you say is your biggest weakness?

  1. This is a tough question to answer especially when you want to show yourself in the best light. Don’t try to take a strength and turn it into a weakness such as “I work too hard” or that you’re a “perfectionist.” Our best tips for this is to think of an answer that is accurate but not a deal breaker. Personally, we find the best weaknesses are traits that in certain situations are positives, but in others can be inhibiting. Doing a search on Google on finding a weakness you identify with is a great option. For example, maybe you are too detail-oriented that you can forget the big picture or you jump to conclusions. Remember to always end this answer with a positive, such as how you are trying to improve in the area or how that weakness has taught you something about yourself that makes you a better leader/team member.

5. What’s your favorite book/Can you give me a book recommendation?

  1. The great thing about this type of question is that there is no right or wrong answer. It's not super common, but it's used as a way to judge someone's personality. Answer honestly and explain what you learned from this book or how it made you think differently even if it was just for a second. By no means does your favorite book have to be a super long and heavy classic, it can be a fun novel you have read too. You shouldn’t pick a book you read 10 years ago, and try to stray away from a super common book like “Harry Potter.” The key with this one is honesty. After all you don’t want to lie about reading a book and then unexpectedly have to discuss it with your interviewer!


Questions to Ask your Interviewer


At the end of an interview, many interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them. This is a great way to show your knowledge of the company and the interest you take in it. Here are a few examples of questions you can pose at the end of an interview. Of course, these should be tweaked and specialized depending on what position you are interviewing for.

  1. What’s your favorite part about working at this company?

  2. How can someone be successful in this role?

  3. What do you see as the most challenging part of this job?

  4. What do the day-to-day responsibilities of the role look like?

  5. How would someone in this position best contribute to the team as a whole?

  6. What project are you personally most proud of working on?

  7. What is the culture like?



For information on professional development, check out this article about interview attire and this article about creating a resume.


Photo Credit:

(1) Photo by rawpixel.com via PxHere

(2) Kate Fodera via Shutterstock