It’s a fact. Many employers ask some standard questions at interview, no matter what level or type of position. The key is to nail how to answer them.
Your answers will vary depending on who you are, your education, skills, experience, and capabilities.
Our expert recruiters have listed the 22 top interview questions (by category) and drafted a short answer to each, to inspire your thinking. How would you answer these important questions?
Tell me about yourself.
I’m a proactive self-starter who learns quickly and works well in fast-paced environments. I chose this position since your company’s values match my values. I’m flexible, proud of my work and a productive team player. Career wise, one of my big achievements was to win Employee of the Year. On a personal front, I volunteer with a local sports team.
What motivates you?
This is your opportunity to talk about content that isn’t in your resume, such as your personality or something you’re passionate about. You can also share your greatest career achievement but stay concise and relevant.
Although money is important, it’s best to answer this question on what makes you satisfied at work. Therefore, think about personal drivers like recognition, company culture, ability to help people, or opportunity to develop your skills.
Several factors motivate me. Helping people achieve is one factor, including in environments demanding compliance with policies and legislation. On a personal level, I’m motivated by developing new skills and leveraging these to support organisations to meet business goals.
What is your salary expectation?
It’s important to know the salary range being offered before interview. Refer to the job advertisement so you’re clear on experience required, especially if you’re looking to secure the higher salary range. Never back a prospective employer into a corner with salary. Leave the door open for negotiation.
I understand the salary range is $60,000 to $65,000. My experience in this industry spans 10 years and I’ve continually met stringent KPIs, tight deadlines and budgets. I’m happy to discuss the salary range.
What do you do in your current role?
Briefly summarise your current role, duties and how you contribute to your organisation’s success. If your current position isn’t directly related to what you’re applying for, focus on transferrable skills.
I’m a leader of a high-performing team working on a multi-faceted, $20-million project. The project is designed to take the organisation to great heights in a new service line area.
Transferrable skills: More important than ever
What are your strongest attributes?
Focus on attributes relevant to the position and give examples. Decide on 2 strengths before the interview and tie these to the job specifications.
I work in ICT, an environment demanding the ability to think strategically while implementing with precision, against strict budgets and to tight deadlines. I was attracted to this position because it demands these skills.
What’s your long-term goal?
Directly relate this answer to the job you’re applying for. Mention how you want to progress within the organisation, to show your motivation. Don’t, however, leave the impression that you’ll jump ship as soon as something else comes along. Longevity is important to employers. If your employer states they’re looking for an expert who will stay awhile, and you’re happy with this prospect, say so.
I want to join an organisation that offers opportunities for employees to grow within and progress in ways that support business goals. This could be within one team or across departments.
What are you looking for in your next role?
Relate this answer to your skills, what you’re interested in and what you like in an employer. Examples could be flexibility, training and growth opportunities. Avoid stating that you’re looking for something the company isn’t offering.
I want a role that allows me to take advantage of my skills, flexibility and ability to think laterally. I’m eager to seize new training opportunities that will support me to be an even stronger team player.
What would your manager say about you?
Answer by focusing on your suitability for the role. Talk about soft skills and attributes that aren’t on your resume. Base your answer around feedback you’ve received during performance reviews. Cover topics like attention to detail and work ethic.
My manager, in performance reviews, has pinpointed my strong work ethic and my best-practice communication skills. My manager also gives my attention to detail a big tick, since the organisation I work for is required by law to meet policies and procedures to the letter.
Care about the difference between soft and hard skills
Are you interviewing for other positions?
Interviewers ask this question for different reasons. They might be testing how serious you are about looking for a new opportunity. They might want to know if they’re competing with other organisations. If you have other interviews lined up, tell the interviewer you’re considering options, but don’t name specific companies or the number of applications you have in the market.
Not at this stage. but I’m looking for a rewarding position.
Yes, I have other interviews lined up and will consider options, but this position is highly attractive to me.
Do you have any questions?
This is usually the last question in an interview and it’s your chance to show how interested you are in the job. Research the company, especially through its website, and have 2 questions ready to ask, connected to what the company does. This shows you’ve taken the time to research, are keen and prepared. You can even ask about next steps in the hiring process.
What are your plans for growing your product in new areas?
What are the next steps in the hiring process?
Why are you interested in this position?
Tell the interviewer you believe the company will be a good cultural fit and why. Connect what they do and the position to your skills and interests. Research the role and the team beforehand so your answer is detailed and targeted.
The job description is a great fit for my soft and hard skills, and my personality. I loved, when researching your company on your website, how you give back to community and are driven by cultural fit and soft skills, not just hard technical skills.
What do you know about our company?
The last thing you want is to pull a blank on this question. Explore the company’s website, social media presence and LinkedIn profile. Find out as much as you can to show respect and genuine interest.
Your company has great values, which I admire, such as the aim to service clients with compassion and care. Your main mission is to help clients facing major challenges, to gain access to the right services at the right time, and that includes supporting them with complete and accurate information. This aligns with my personal values, career values and my experience.
Why should we hire you?
This is your chance to highlight your skills and experience relevant to the position. Review the job description and prepare examples of how you connect. Mention your personality, attitude and ability to work well with team members and management. Tell the interviewer about strengths you’ll bring to the table.
I have extensive experience in driving new projects to completion and have just finished a one-year project that exceeded expectations by 25 per cent. This saved the company I work for more than $1 million in wasted processes and production schedules. I’m hugely motivated but reliable and willing to adapt quickly in environments where change is constant, going that extra mile to achieve goals.
Behavioural questions are popular. Many companies use them to determine how you behaved in a situation instead of how you say you would behave. This indicates whether you can fulfill the position duties. Answer using the STARR technique.
Situation—I worked in a fast-paced organisation with little time to reflect. In this environment, managers weren’t updated on policies, which was affecting organisational efficiency.
Task—I examined communications channels to determine how we could solve the problem or if a new solution could be developed.
Action—I initiated a monthly email newsletter for managers. I took responsibility for developing stories, writing articles and coordinating production.
Result—The newsletter enhanced communications, improved policy understanding and increased efficiency.
Reflection—I reflected on feedback and listed actions to improve my performance.
Tell me about a time when you worked under pressure?
Provide examples of stressful work situations where you relied on problem-solving skills to cut through and get the job done.
A colleague was off work with a major illness. I had to take over her heavy workload which involved managing demanding clients with high expectations. I leveraged my stakeholder relationship and communication strengths to establish trust and rapport with these clients to keep projects moving. This involved some weekend and after-hours work but I’m the type of person who does what it takes for client satisfaction.
Have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker? If so, how?
Provide an example of a challenging situation you had with a co-worker and how you handled it. If you’ve never faced such a conflict in a workplace, describe how you would deal with one if you had to.
I had a co-worker who was a gossiper. He used to come to my desk regularly, interrupt my work and chat away, about my manager and some of my team members. I was uncomfortable with the continual gossip so told him, in a professional and calm way, that my workload was heavy and demanded my total attention and that I would appreciate it if he didn’t interrupt me with non-work matters.
Tell me about how an idea you had was implemented?
This question determines your ability to make process improvements. In an ever-changing workforce, organisations are looking for proactive staff who introduce better processes and procedures, to gain efficiencies. Have an example up your sleeve.
I’m in communications and our team produces a flagship magazine quarterly. One issue we faced was multiple sets of content change, which was time-consuming and expensive because our graphic designer had to implement up to 6 versions of some articles. I developed clear procedures for authors, explaining ways they could improve content before it entered production. This enhanced operations dramatically and enabled us to only have 2 versions of most articles go to the graphic design, saving time and money. This also managed the risk of missing our distribution schedule.
Do you work well in a team?
Don’t be vague or limit your response by simply saying you work well with people. Employers want to know if you’re a good cultural fit and how. Describe your ability to listen to, communicate and work as an effective team member. Provide an example of a team project where your ability to work well with colleagues led to a positive outcome.
I’ve had 10 years working on large and medium-sized teams on multi-faceted projects in this sector. I’m a productive team player who recently was promoted to team leader because of my demonstrated ability to triage priorities and drive deadlines without compromise. The project we’re working on has a large budget of $5 million and is currently ahead of schedule by 3 months.
Do you prefer to communicate orally or in writing? Why?
Think about what the position requires. If verbal communication is a big part of the job, emphasise your ability to communicate face-to-face. If the job involves writing, give examples of your skills in this area.
I’m skilled at both oral and written communications and tailor depending on the requirements of the position and the task at hand. I adapt my approach and language to audiences to build common understanding. One of my strengths is appreciating that some stakeholders prefer face-to-face dealings, other more formal written communications, and some quick and accurate emails.
What management style would you work with the best?
A great answer is that you work well with managers who are clear on what’s required, willing to provide constructive feedback and prepared to let you know when how you’re performing. Be positive. Don’t focus on what you don’t like about management.
I work well with managers who are clear on what’s required, willing to provide constructive feedback and prepared to let me know how I’m performing.
What’s your management style?
If you’re interviewing for a managerial position, explain how you successfully manage teams and quickly adapt your style to suit individuals and situations. Describe how you apply different management styles depending on circumstances. Provide examples.
I’m a compassionate but strong manager who adapts my style to suit team members and continually changing situations. One example is the current program I’m rolling out with a diverse team. Some team members prefer to work independently and without ongoing supervision, so I’ve set up methods to suit them. A few on the team, however, need more detailed supervision and prefer to meet regularly so I’ve also established systems to keep them motivated and happy.
Why are you leaving your current role? Why did you leave your previous position?
Give a short, sharp answer. People leave jobs for various reasons, including redundancy, company closure, lack of professional growth, or even a move to a new place. Perhaps you’ve just finished a degree and are ready to start the next chapter of your career. Stay positive and don’t speak negatively about a previous manager or organisation. This will only reflect badly on you.
My role has been made redundant, after 15 years.
My partner has finished their degree and has secured a position in Melbourne.
I love my job and the organisation I work for and have been loyal to them for over a decade. For my career development, however, it’s time for me to seek a new role that will take advantage of my skills and experience while introducing me to fresh opportunities.
What are your weaknesses?
Only mention weaknesses that aren’t crucial to the position. If you’re applying for a reception position, for example, being weak with numerical skills likely won’t affect your chances. With this answer, you can also describe small flaws you’re working on. Always turn negative into positive by showing you’re aware of your weaknesses and are working to overcome them.
I love people and customer service which is why I perform well as a receptionist and junior admin support person. The role doesn’t require strong numerical skills or data management skills which is perfect because these aren’t major strengths of mine at this stage.