No two job interviews are ever the same.
While some questions are almost guaranteed to be asked each and every time, others are tailored to the candidate or asked to deliberately pull you out of your comfort zone.
By considering this list of the 40 most common questions, you’ll be better prepared to give a good account of yourself at your next interview.
To help, we’ve divided them up into different topic areas, from queries about your employment history to questions about the company you hope will be hiring you.
Expect all these areas to be covered during most interviews.
- You (conventional)
- Your employment history
- The job
- The company
- Your future
Questions about you (conventional)
Your interviewers will probably be most interested in asking questions about who you are. After all, they’ve already seen your CV and read your cover letter.
They’ll want to know about your personality and social skills as well as your temperament and ability to work with others.
1/ “Tell us a little about yourself”
This could well be the first question you get.
Try to talk about why you do what you do, what is important to you about your work, and why you think you, in particular, are a good fit for the job (and for the company).
2/ “What motivates you?”
This is your chance to state your values and declare what’s important to you.
It’s a good idea to be totally honest while keeping it relevant to the role, as this is something you want to be compatible with the company’s values.
3/ “What is your biggest weakness?”
This is an interview question classic.
You don't want to say, "I often work too hard," or "I'm a perfectionist." That's both insincere, and lacking self-awareness. Instead, choose a real weakness and tell them how you've used it as an opportunity to learn a new skill or grow professionally.
4/ “What is your greatest strength?”
This is your chance to big yourself up. Try to be clear about one key thing, as the tendency will be to mention a few.
What are you best at that will help you be successful in this particular role? It should be something you’re passionate about doing.
5/ “How do you cope under pressure?”
Of course, you’ll want to say that you cope well under pressure, but to be convincing you should give an example of a pressurized environment or crucial project in which you thrived.
6/ “How do you take criticism?”
Criticism is one thing; feedback is another. Try to draw a distinction here and talk about how important feedback is to your work.
You might also want to say that criticism should not affect you so much if you’re confident in your work.
7/ “What inspires you?”
This should be highly personal and doesn’t have to conform to the job advert. It should help to support your values and explain to the interviewer why you do what you do.
8/ “Tell us about a time when you achieved success at work.”
This is another classic question right out of the interviewer’s handbook.
You should always have your greatest professional achievement at top of mind, and be ready to explain why you think it’s so special.
9/ “Tell us about a time when you experienced failure at work.”
This is the reverse of the former question, but another very popular one.
Try to choose a time when things didn’t go as expected, but you managed to learn a lot. After all, we should always be learning from our mistakes.
10/ “What is your dream job?”
Unless it really is, resist the temptation to just say the job you are interviewing for.
Where do you ultimately want to end up in your career? And why?
Questions about your employment history
Having been on the whole impressed with your CV, now it’s time for your interviewers to address any doubts, questions or uncertainty they might have about your past work.
It’s especially useful to think about these questions ahead of time.
11/ “Why did you leave your last job?”
Let’s face it, the best (and most common) reason to leave a job is to pursue a new opportunity.
To flesh the answer to this question out a bit, think about what was lacking in your past role which you are hoping is remedied in this one.
12/ “Why do you want to leave your current role?”
No job is perfect, and while you’re still doing it there are probably a few reasons you can think of why you feel that way.
Avoid any challenges or grievances and focus here on the bigger picture of your long-term goals and ambitions.
13/ “Can you explain the gap in your employment between [here] and [here]?”
You should always be prepared ahead of time to answer this one. Check your CV and anticipate any reason for the interviewer to ask what you were doing in a given period, perhaps between work and education.
14/ “What led you to study [your degree course]?”
If your education fits pretty well with the job, then talk about what motivated you toward your line of work, not just why you chose the degree course or university.
If it doesn’t, then try to explain how your education fits with your values and abilities, and how it has helped prepare you for professional life.
15/ “Have you had, or do you have, a mentor?”
If the answer is “yes”, then let them know how this benefitted you and how the relationship will help with the job in question.
If you have never had a mentor, suggest that you’d be interested in one if the opportunity arose.
16/ “Have you ever disagreed with your line manager?”
The meaning here tends to be an inquiry about your independence of mind and your willingness to follow orders.
Ideally, you’re good at following others when required but always willing to question things and speak up when you think it’s constructive.
17/ “What would your former colleagues say about you?”
This question gives you a chance to sell yourself as a person. What do you bring to a team and to the wider office culture? Don’t be afraid to reveal something unexpected.
18/ “What responsibilities did you have in your former role?”
Make sure you have a structured overview of your most recent job (or jobs) fresh in your mind.
Sometimes jobs morph into something way beyond your job description. Try to bring clarity to it in your mind before you’re asked to summarize.
19/ “Tell us about a time when you have demonstrated leadership”
You may not be interviewing for a leadership position – and you may not even wish to be a leader in the future – but the ability to inspire others and take charge is highly valued.
20/ “Tell us about your [former/current] employer”
Most likely your interviewer will never have heard of your past employers. Even if they have, they probably won’t know how they function on the inside.
Demonstrate your ability to understand the objectives and priorities of a company as a whole.
Questions about the role
You’ll always get the chance to show you’ve read the job description, so make sure you’re prepared. (Especially if you’re applying for a lot of similar jobs at the same time.)
21/ “What attracted you to this position?”
Focus here on what you, in particular, can offer in terms of skills and interests. It’s a good idea to keep in mind what the job advert stated as the overall purpose or function of the role.
22/ “How did you hear about this role?”
This is a common question, so try to remember ahead of time and weave your answer in to how you are plugged in to the industry, and how you’ve been searching for jobs up to now.
23/ “If you got the job, what would your first month look like?”
Depending on your experience, and how specific the job advert was initially, identify the top priorities of the role as you see them, and how you would start out addressing those.
Don’t worry, you needn’t go into too much detail. The question is designed to test your understanding of the role.
24/ “What are your salary expectations?”
This will typically come at the end of the interview. You should come prepared to answer it, in case you are caught off guard. (Of course, you may prefer to say you’d like to wait for an offer before committing to a figure).
25/ “What are you looking for in a new job?”
This question may have an important bearing on the job if you were to get it, so think carefully. Talk about what is most important to you, both in terms of your work and your day-to-day experience in the workplace.
This is a chance for you to state your hopes for what the job can do for you. Your potential employers should be very interested to know what motivates you.
26/ “Tell us about your management style”
Interviewers often like to get a clear sense of how you work. With a well-prepared answer to this question, you are also indicating how much you think about and reflect on your methods.
Give examples of when you think your management skills have led to successful outcomes, or have been acknowledged by your team.
27/ “What experience do you have that is relevant for this position?”
Start with the experience that you think best demonstrates that you know what it takes to succeed in the role.
Keep in mind what was listed on the job advert, and try to cover all the key bits of experience your interviewers might be looking for.
28/ “What skills do you have that will help you be successful?”
Focus on what you do best, but of course, refer to the skills listed as “essential” on the job advert. If possible, try and touch on a range of other relevant things as well.
You won’t be the only candidate for the job, so it’s best to emphasize what you can do better than most (and what you enjoy doing).
29/ “Tell us about your working methods”
This will depend entirely on the job in question, and your level of experience, but interviewers are often looking for you to show that you have a systematic and well-defined approach to work.
It’s a good sign if you can explain and walk them through your process (without getting into unnecessary detail).
30/ “How well do you function as part of a team?”
It’s vital for your interviewers that you prove a good fit for the team. This question offers you the chance to show how you are an inveterate team player, so give examples of working successfully with others.
Questions about the company
Most interviewers will expect you to have done some research on the company itself, especially as far as it relates to your prospective role.
Be ready to field questions, but don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers – demonstrating you’ve done your research is what’s needed here.
31/ “What attracted you to a position at [this company]?”
It’s best to be honest. If the company’s mission, values, or reputation had a positive effect and led you to apply, then that’s a good thing. But there’s nothing wrong with simply being attracted to the job itself.
32/ “Why should we hire you?”
This question is most often posed from the perspective of the company. You should answer it by thinking about how compatible your values and interests are with the company’s values and stated purpose.
33/ “What can you offer us that no other candidate can?”
You should focus here on what you do best, and what stands out most from your CV. If you have a suspicion that you’re different from the typical candidates for such a role, try to make this into a strength.
34/ “Who are our biggest competitors?”
Background research should help you get past this one. You don’t need to reel off a list – even one will do if it’s a major player.
35/ “What do you know about this industry?”
If you have experience in the industry, point to it and show that you understand the priorities of companies in the sector. If not, show eagerness to engage and demonstrate you’ve done some research.
Questions about your future
If you’re serious about making the job you’re interviewing for the next step on your career path, you should know how it fits into the bigger picture.
Expect to get some questions about your long-term goals.
36/ “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
This is a classic interview question and seeks to determine how a job fits within your overall career ambitions and objectives. Think about how the job in question could set you up to achieve your longer-term targets.
37/ “What are your goals and ambitions?”
An alternative to the “where do you see yourself in X years?” option, this question may also be asked in addition to it. Make sure to position what you say about your future aims in the context of the job you’re applying for.
38/ “How will this job contribute to your professional development?”
If the job involves something new for you, focus on how it will enhance your skill set. If you’re building on skills and experience already acquired, talk about where you’d like this to take you in the long-term.
39/ “How long do you anticipate staying in the role?”
It’s best to give a generous over-estimate. No one wants to hear that you don’t want to stick around for long. Think of the best case scenario for how the position might work out.
40/ “Are you planning to start a family?”
This question may very well be illegal. If you are asked about your personal plans though, it might not be very helpful to cite the law. Be ready to deflect from any topic you don’t think it’s right to be asked about, offering simple, predictable answers and little detail.