Ever wished you could know your job interview questions in advance?
Well, you can stop dreaming, because now you can.
Thanks to our complete and definitive list of 100 job interview questions.
They’re all in there, from the more common or generic questions right through to some more unusual and challenging examples.
But that’s not all...
We also explain how to come up with successful answers to the questions!
So what are you waiting for?
Good preparation is essential if you want to ace your interview!
Here’s how we’ve divided up the questions (and answers):
- The 5 most common job interview questions
- Personality: 22 questions regarding your personal traits
- Experience and Abilities: 27 job interview questions and answers
- Future Career: 18 questions about your career plans
- Unconventional: 16 job interview questions you wouldn’t expect
- Brainteasers: 11 non-traditional interview style logical puzzles
- The Final Question
So without further ado, let’s get started!
Top 5 Job Interview Questions (That You Will Definitely Be Asked)
These first five are the most common job interview questions.
They’re generic questions that are applicable to all kinds of job interviews.
It’s basically impossible to go for an interview and not get asked one of these top 5 questions!
Tell me about yourself
Job interviews very often start with this classic question, so it’s a really important one to prepare.
It’s often used by the interviewer to break the ice and is so vague that pretty much any answer works. Almost.
What you need to remember when you answer, is that you’re being asked to talk about yourself from a professional, not a personal, point of view.
So make sure you focus on your education and work experience. Leave out the personal details for now, as you’ll be asked about them later.
To make sure you don’t forget anything important, remember these three key points:
- Start with an overall description of yourself - from a professional point of view
- Make sure you mention all your key work experience
- Finish up by saying why you are interested in this specific position
Describe yourself in 3 words
The instructions are quite simple.
They ask for three words, so don’t reply with two or four.
It’s one of the most common job interview questions, so make sure you’re well prepared for it. Can’t think of three personal qualities?
We can help you with that: here’s our list of 50+ strengths and weaknesses to use in a job interview!
Why should we choose you?
This is a standard question and it requires a standard answer.
Because you’re the best. End of story.
Obviously, though, you can’t say it like that. You need to defend your point of view:
So back up your claims of superiority and convince the interviewer that you really are the perfect candidate.
Focus on these 3 points!
- You can do the job and achieve great results
- You will be an excellent addition to the team who won’t cause any problems
- Your unique mix of skills and experience makes you the best candidate
Before the interview, prepare a mental ‘roadmap’ that will help you structure your answer.
Be brief and focus on your key strengths. That way, the interviewer will remember them more easily!
What are your strengths?
Regardless of whether the interviewer asks you this basic question explicitly or not (although it’s pretty much a nailed-on certainty, as this is a job interview classic), you do need to have an answer ready. You’ve come here to show off your best qualities, so it’s important to be clear about what to focus on!
This question requires more than a few lines of explanation. It could prove to be one of the most important questions of your interview and yet very often, candidates don’t give it the attention it warrants.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, we’ve decided to dedicate a separate article to the ‘tell me about your strengths’ question, containing everything you need to give a convincing answer!
What are your weaknesses?
Don’t underestimate this question: questions about weaknesses - just like those about your strengths - are a key interview component that too often is not dealt with properly.
That’s why we’ve decided to deal with it in greater depth, to make sure that you really nail your answer: read our article on how to answer the interview question about your greatest weakness!
22 Personality-Based Interview Questions You Need to Be Familiar With
What dreams or ambitions do you have?
Recruiters often use abstract questions to figure out what lies beyond what’s written in your resume.
The purpose of this specific question is to get you to talk about an aspect of your life that might otherwise not come up during the interview, given its lack of immediate relevance to your professional life and career.
Don’t be afraid of giving an honest answer. Ambitious but heartfelt dreams are viewed positively, especially if they might help you achieve professional goals.
How do you manage stress?
All jobs provoke a certain amount of stress. Being able to manage it is a real point in your favour.
The best answers are the ones that point to a hobby or some kind of recreational activity. After all, there’s nothing better than a session of yoga to set your mind at ease!
How would you feel if your boss was younger than you?
You could conceivably find yourself in a job where your supervisor was significantly younger than you.
Given such a situation - the interviewer would like to know - would you have problems following their instructions?
If you’ve never been in this sort of situation, you can say so, adding that you would be happy to follow the instructions you are given, regardless of the age of the person giving you them!
I see you’ve included reading as one of your interests. What was the last book you read?
First of all, remember that the sports section of the newspaper doesn’t count!
But joking apart, choose carefully what hobbies you list in your resume and only include things you are genuinely interested in. Bear in mind that one of two outcomes is possible:
Either the interviewer will ask you for more information about the hobby, in an attempt to figure out what aspects of your personality it might reveal.
Or, alternatively, it might just be that the interviewer (who, strange as it may seem, is an actual human being with hobbies and interests) shares the exact same interest. In which case you could find yourself regaling your future boss with tales of a legendary D&D session or that time you trekked through the jungle in South America!
How do you judge success?
The answer varies depending on who is asking.
Based on what you know about the company culture, you should be able to figure out whether what counts for the company is making a positive impact on the environment, increasing its sales, or becoming a leader in its field.
You can then pick out those of your own personal values that overlap with the company’s values. For example, perhaps you measure success in terms of sales achieved, or a good work-life balance, or the extent to which you reach the goals you set for yourself.
In your opinion, what makes a good boss?
As well as basically being another way of asking you to describe your ideal boss, this question also helps the interviewer figure out what your values are.
Be consistent: if you’ve described yourself as a control freak, you’re unlikely to want a boss who gives his or her employees complete free rein to manage their own work!
How do you spend your free time?
This is a less direct way of asking about your passions, or else of double-checking that what you’ve previously said is true. For instance, what impression do you think you will convey if you say you love hiking, but then confess to spending your weekends crashed out on the sofa?
Try to avoid giving answers that might give the interviewer an inaccurate picture of yourself.
Describe your work style
Do you prefer constantly being faced with fresh challenges, or is a comfortable routine more your style?
Are you the sort of person who likes to manage their own work or do you prefer to receive clear instructions? Highlight a couple of characteristics of your work style that match your idea of what the new job will entail.
Describe a situation in which you used this skill!
This one’s a classic. Interviewers use this question to see if you can back up the claims you made in your CV or cover letter.
You can expect to be asked this if you’ve listed lots of skills and abilities without providing concrete evidence supporting your claims (remember the golden rule, show don’t tell).
A good way of answering is to apply the S.T.A.R. method - Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Start by describing the Situation you found yourself in and then introduce the Task you had to perform. Now you’ve set the scene, you can describe your Actions, focusing on how you used the skill you’ve just been asked about to achieve the Result which, it goes without saying, should be first class!
Do you perform well under stress?
Interviewers usually ask this question if the post you are applying for is genuinely stressful. There’s little to be gained by lying at the interview stage, only to find you are unable to cope once you start the new job. If dealing with stress is not one of your strengths, try to underline what you are doing to improve this aspect of your character!
What’s your favourite book?
When you least expect it, the interviewer may ask you for information about your personal preferences. It might not necessarily be a book - it could be a film, concert or a magazine - but the aim of the question is the same - they’re hoping to bypass the standard answer you prepared beforehand and get an instinctive response that reveals what your interests are.
What role do you play in a team?
Are you a natural leader or do you prefer to blend into the background when action needs taking?
Are you capable of taking decisions by yourself and defending them in a team situation?
This question can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but the key is to refer to real life situations that allow you to clarify your approach in as much detail as possible.
The chances are you will almost certainly have had experience of dealing with a group or team situation, either at work or - if you’ve just graduated - during your studies.
If I asked your friends to describe you, what adjective would they use the most?
In other words, describe yourself as others see you.
The key here is to be consistent and avoid using adjectives that don’t fit in with what you’ve previously said about yourself.
Do you prefer working alone or in a group?
There is no hidden meaning behind this question. The interviewer really wants to know if you prefer to work alone or in a group. It’s easy enough to imagine the reason why.
When you answer, bear in mind the kind of job you are applying for. If you’ll be working alone, then saying that you perform best in a group setting is perhaps not the wisest of moves.
Do you like working in close contact with people?
The aim of this question is to probe your personality a little and find out if it’s a good fit for the position on offer.
Try to be smart: if you’re going to be spending the whole day in front of a computer, don’t say that you need to have a good chat every half hour or so in order to work effectively.
Or, if that’s really how you feel, come out and say it! But then consider perhaps looking for another type of job!
Name a person who inspires you.
Steve Jobs? Marilyn Monroe? Bob Marley?
Whoever it is, you need to be able to explain your choice.
This is the whole point of the question, so make sure that your choice of person allows you to offer some work-related reasons.
Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.
There may of course be some things you really don’t want the interviewer to know about. So don’t answer with the first thing that comes into your head. Instead, take some time to think about your answer.
For starters, rule out anything that isn’t work appropriate. You’re not chatting with your best mate, so try to keep the conversation away from the gutter!
Perhaps try to find a difficult time during your career or studies that you managed to overcome. Tell the interviewer about it and what you learned from it!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
“Alarm clock and coffee”.
It may well be true, but since the interviewer is asking you about what motivates you in your job, this might not be the best response!
Focus on positive thoughts, opportunities to be seized and goals to be achieved!
What’s your favourite quote?
A quote can reveal a lot about who we are, the values we hold and the way we want to live our lives.
There’s only one wrong answer to this question and that’s not answering!
Oprah Winfrey’s favourite: What is your spiritual practice?
The interviewer isn’t asking about religion here, but rather about your inner relationship with yourself.
In other words, they want to know what you do to stay focused and keep yourself centred.
Well, because Oprah believes that one of the secrets of success is being grounded in your own self and at home with who you truly are.
How do you keep up with [your passion]
An interviewer might ask you this to find out if you really are as passionate as you say you are about a particular topic.
For instance, if you’re looking for work in Digital Marketing and claim to have a great passion for it, but have never heard of Hubspot, Moz, Ahrefs or Backlinko, then perhaps your passion isn’t as strong as you think it is!
What do you do to improve yourself?
Like everybody, you have weaknesses.
But accepting them without doing anything to improve is not a good attitude, which is why not having an answer to this question will not be viewed very positively.
The interviewer wants to know if you are actively and systematically doing anything to rectify or mitigate the weaknesses you are admitting to, what you are doing and the results you are achieving.
Try to emphasize the effort you are putting into it!
The Definitive List of Questions About Your Experience and Skills [27 Questions and Answers]
Tell me about your past experience!
“What, you want me to repeat my resume?” is not an acceptable response, whatever the circumstances.
Unfortunately, it’s been heard one too many times to be a coincidence.
Do you really think they couldn’t be bothered to read your CV?
Well, anything’s possible. But either way, you need to just go ahead and talk about your past experience for them.
It might turn out they know your resume better than you do yourself, but want to hear how your previous experiences come across when removed from the artificial constraints of the CV format.
In any case, it’s an excellent opportunity to add all those little details you weren’t able to include in your perfect resume, so make sure you make the most of it!
What are your greatest achievements?
Put on the spot, you might struggle to think of anything, which is a pity because it would mean wasting an opportunity to make a good impression.
Of course, it’s much easier to remember the most important achievements of your career when you’re not in a pressure situation. Luckily though, you should already have covered this when you wrote your resume.
So cast your mind back and list the achievements you included there. This can serve as a starting point upon which you can then elaborate as much as you like.
Describe a typical working day
This is a generic question that functions as an introduction to your current job. The interviewer wants to find out more about your everyday tasks, how your working day is organized and the challenges you face.
You should start by talking about the aspects of your current job that you think are most relevant for the position you are applying for and then go into more detail.
Avoid giving a rushed or generic answer. If you’ve been asked the question, it’s because they want a detailed response!
Did you work during your studies?
In other words, did you dedicate yourself to the course you were doing or did you manage to combine work and study?
If so, how did you manage to combine the two, and what results did you achieve?
Succeeding in achieving results in two separate areas and pursuing them both at the same time is an important quality and shows great strength of character on your part.
What qualifications do you hold?
Regardless of the type of qualifications you hold, e.g. formal academic qualifications, professional training courses, refresher courses etc., start with the most important before moving on to the rest.
But what if you have no formal qualifications and learned everything you know from experience
in the field?
Well, in that case, move straight on to talking about your direct experience and be sure to make the most of it!
Why do you have a gap in your work history?
You can bet your bottom dollar somebody will ask you this question if they spot a gap in your career.
Make sure you have an answer prepared.
And remember that taking some time out to grow as a person is an added value and not something to be ashamed of.
I see that you have no experience in the field of [field x]
Resist the temptation to reply, ”Well if you’ve noticed, why are you asking?”
There’s little to be gained by acting impulsively. Remember, if the interviewer has mentioned it, there’s presumably a reason.
Let’s look at this step-by-step.
First of all, if they called you for an interview even though you have no direct experience in the field, then either they are incompetent or direct experience isn’t their number one priority.
If they really are incompetent, then you’re better off not working for them.
If the second possibility is true, it means they see you as a potential candidate despite your lack of direct experience.
The aim of this question is essentially to get confirmation that you see things their way. A good answer will therefore acknowledge your lack of experience, while at the same time noting that your key skills are precisely what is required to do the job well!
Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your managers? How did you handle it?
You can’t always be 100% in agreement with the instructions you receive from on high. It’s a fact of life.
But being able to handle this sort of situation in a professional and productive manner is viewed very positively by selectors, because it means you’re not likely to have problems getting on with others and will deal with the challenges that await you with the right attitude.
So when answering, be clear about your actions, recognize your own responsibilities and avoid bad-mouthing your former bosses. There’s no place here for tittle-tattle!
Why did you choose to study [course x]?
This is the sort of question you might get asked if what you studied is quite unusual for the position you are applying for.
For instance, if you studied history and are looking for work in marketing, there’s a good chance you’ll get asked it.
Give an honest answer. It may simply be that you weren’t interested in a job that was more closely connected with your studies, or that you studied a subject because you liked it and then looked for work in another area.
Whatever the reason, the most important thing is being able to defend your choices convincingly. The interviewer is trying to find out if you made a conscious decision or chose at random. If they thought your studies were a bad fit for the position, they wouldn’t have called you for an interview!
Tell me about the last mistake you made!
Answering “I’ve never made a mistake in my whole life” might be overdoing it a wee bit.
And remember, you’re being evaluated from a professional perspective, so avoid anything personal.
Finally, they have no way of knowing if what you say really was your ‘last’ mistake. So you’re free to pick and choose. Just make sure it’s a good ’un!
How did you rectify your mistake?
Even if you’re not asked this, you ought to volunteer the information!
But what if there was no way of rectifying the situation because the damage done was irreparable?
In this case, you should steer the conversation towards what you learnt from your mistake and what you did to ensure it didn’t happen again!
Why were you fired?
It can happen and hiding it is not going to help. So be frank about the reasons.
But then add what it taught you and how you will bring that new awareness to your new job!
What software can you use?
You’re almost certain to get a question about your IT skills.
Just as for your language skills, if you have a certificate, then mention it. Otherwise, describe your abilities objectively - or at least as objectively as possible!
Have you done any voluntary work?
Dedicating your free time to support a cause you care about is a wonderful thing.
You ought to have it in your CV already, although you may have decided to sacrifice it in favour of other more relevant information.
There’s a chance they may ask you about it anyway, to find out if there are any causes that you are passionate about.
Did you build any long-term friendships at your previous jobs?
This question is an opportunity to back up that sentence on your resume that says “Excellent interpersonal skills” with some tangible evidence.
If you spent ten years working in an office with the same people, but after a couple of months of not working there you no longer had any contact with them, then perhaps your interpersonal skills aren’t quite as good as you thought...
What tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
Sometimes, simply writing “organized” in the list of skills on your resume may not be sufficient. You may actually be asked to explain how you go about organizing your life.
For instance, do you use a paper diary maybe, or an electronic calendar?
Or perhaps you have an app on your phone that you use for making shopping lists and remembering appointments.
Even not using any kind of tool says something about you. Either you have an amazing memory or you’re not quite as organized as you thought.
Why did it take you so long to get your degree?
Maybe there was one exam in particular that you just couldn’t pass.
Or perhaps you loved your subject so much you did each exam twice.
Or maybe, just maybe, you were so busy fighting crime at night like Batman that you didn’t have time to study.
Whatever the reason, try to supply an explanation that is acceptable from a professional perspective. Don’t, for instance, try blaming your absence from class on the curious hold your games console has over you!
How good is your [language x]?
Increasingly, the ability to speak foreign languages is becoming a priority for businesses.
If you have legitimate certificates issued by recognized bodies then these will speak for themselves.
Otherwise, try to be objective when evaluating your own abilities - especially because the next question could quite easily be asked in the language you are claiming to be fluent in!
Aren’t you overqualified for this position?
The reason for asking this question is quite simply the fear that you may not really be interested in the job itself, but simply in finding a job, and that as soon as you find something better, you’ll be off.
Whether this fear is founded or not, if you want the job you are going to have to convince the interviewer of your serious intentions!
What do you think of your last boss?
If we’re talking about a good boss, the question will be easy to answer.
But if the real answer has you muttering expletives, then stop right there.
Remember, it’s you they’re evaluating, not your boss.
If working together was difficult, forget about the mistakes your boss made and emphasize your own ability to reach a compromise on projects or initiatives you didn’t agree with!
Can you name somebody who has had a big impact on your career?
It could be meeting a recruiter who helped you get a clearer perspective on your career or a teacher who directed you towards a field of study you didn’t even know existed.
Sometimes an encounter can impact our lives in a unique way. Asking who and why is one way of finding out something more about you.
Do you bring unfinished work home with you?
In other words, how willing are you to put in overtime?
There may be two reasons for asking this.
Either they’re trying to figure out if you’re able to complete your work in the allotted time and maintain a good work-life balance.
Or else whether you’re prepared to put everything into your work and go above and beyond the call of duty.
If you’ve done your research into the company, you’ll know which of the two is the best fit with the company culture.
But if you’re unsure, a good answer would be to say that your organizational skills enable you to complete all your work in the time available, but that you are also willing to finish work after normal hours if the necessity presents itself, because you understand how important it is that work gets finished.
What’s the most boring job you’ve ever done?
This question is intended to help the interviewer get a better idea of how good a match you are for the work environment at the job you’re applying for.
Clearly, talking about a job that sounds like the one you’re interviewing for may not be the smartest move here!
Which subjects did you like most / least at school / university and why?
If most of your resume is taken up with your studies, then you can expect to get one or two more detailed questions about this aspect of your career.
This doesn’t mean hitting your old textbooks and revising - although you shouldn’t rule out getting the odd ‘technical’ question - but you should at least be able to remember the names of the courses you took!
Richard Branson’s favourite: what didn't you get a chance to include on your resume?
Richard Branson is of the view that CVs are not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to evaluating a candidate. If they were, the British entrepreneur points out, you wouldn't need to waste time on an interview.
Now, the chances are it won’t be Branson himself asking you this question, but it might pop up all the same - so make sure you prepare a good answer!
What was the last holiday you took?
Maybe you went to a luxury resort?
Or grabbed a tent and set off on an adventure?
Or maybe you went to see that museum you’d been wanting to visit for ages, or a cup final of your favourite sport?
A holiday can say a lot to an interviewer about who you are and what you are looking for!
Tell me how you would deal with a difficult customer who is experiencing a problem!
Sometimes, just to add a dash of reality to proceedings, you may be asked to act out a role-play, with the interviewer in the role of an awkward customer.
Regardless of the specifics, the procedure to follow is always the same:
- Listen carefully to the customer’s request/complaint
- Show you empathize with the customer’s problem
- Take ownership of the customer’s problem
- Propose a solution, as well as alternatives
- Make sure you have resolved the problem and that the customer is happy
- Never lose your cool
18 Questions About Your Career
Why do you want to change jobs?
Talk about the things you didn’t like in your current job. It could be the environment, the hours, the stress or perhaps even the distance from your home.
Based on what you know about the job you’re interviewing for, avoid mentioning things that could potentially come up again in the new position.
And finally, don’t badmouth colleagues or bosses. After all, the interviewer could be a future colleague or boss!
You’ve left four companies in the last two years. Are we going to be the fifth?
Even if the honest answer is “maybe, yes”, you can’t afford to say it!
Reassure the interviewer of your serious intentions by underlining the reasons you resigned from the previous positions. It goes without saying that the reasons you give should not also be characteristics of the vacancy you are applying for.
What do you like about our company?
It may well be the truth. But don’t say it.
Since you’ve done your homework and know how the company likes to be perceived, focus on those elements that you know the company values most.
You could mention its prestigious reputation, the growth it has achieved, the working environment, the company’s mission, or the leadership skills of its managers...
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
The question might be simple, but the answer most definitely isn’t.
Avoid embarrassing answers such as “CEO of this company”!
A bit of reverse thinking comes in handy here. Why do you think they asked you this question?
Do they want to be reassured that you’re not going to change companies or jobs? Or are they perhaps just trying to find out how ambitious you are (or aren’t)?
The best answer is whichever seems most effective based on how the interview is panning out.
Try to figure out if they’re more interested in someone who is going to work their way up the company ladder, or a trusty servant who will stay put in the long-term - and then base your answer on this.
What do you know about our company?
In an ideal world you would have found out all there was to know - including the CEO's favourite flavour of ice cream!
In practice, though, it’s not always that easy. Sometimes you aren’t able to research the company before an interview, or else the information available isn’t as specific as you would like.
A good approach might be to show that you have researched the company - which is an excellent way of demonstrating your interest - but at the same time avoid coming across as a know-all.
Start by volunteering some of the information you have managed to garner about the company. You can then ask the interviewer to provide you with details on more specific aspects of the company...piece of cake!
What are your salary requirements?
We couldn’t very well put together one hundred job interview questions and not have a money one now, could we?
But how to answer?
Some people say you should do whatever you can to avoid being the one to give the first number - turning the question around, trying to buy time, pretending to faint, etc.
Others recommend not giving a figure but rather a wide range, so that you have room to manoeuvre later on.
The reason people don’t agree on this is that there isn’t a right answer. You need to decide what works best in your specific case.
But whatever approach you use, there’s one thing you mustn’t get wrong. Don’t go in unprepared. Do you homework and make sure you know what you are worth based on your experience in the role!
If we’re sitting here a year from now, celebrating your first year in the job, what successes would we be remembering?
What’s it to be? Thrashing the competition? Achieving an increase in sales? Or perhaps even a squeaky clean reputation?
Try to work out what the company’s primary expectation of you is and give an answer that is aligned with that expectation!
How did you learn about the vacancy?
The road to an interview is not always as straightforward as you might think. The interviewer is well aware of this and is trying to work out here, for future reference, which communication channels worked in your case.
But they are also trying to find out if you were told about the vacancy by somebody else - and by whom - or if you were perhaps actively looking for work. If the latter is true, the interviewer may ask if you are currently involved in other selection processes!
Have you had other job interviews?
This isn’t an easy one to answer, especially because it can be hard to work out where it’s coming from.
They may be asking in order to find out if they have competition from other companies, or if you are looking for work in other sectors, or perhaps simply because they want you to tell them that they are the only company you’re interested in.
Usually it’s best to maintain the illusion that you only tackle one job application at a time, but if you really are involved in more than one selection process, then you could play this card to your advantage to negotiate for better conditions!
What would you do in the first 30 days in your new job?
You’re being asked here how you will integrate into the new work environment and how long it will be before you are up-and-running and productive.
A good answer is to say that to start your career at the company in the best possible way - and to ensure that you make a positive impact - you will need a few days to integrate, build a rapport with your new colleagues and get to know your new duties.
How long will it take you to make an effective contribution?
The meaning of the question is clear - you’re essentially being asked how long it will take for you to get up to speed.
It’s best to keep things generic timewise, while assuring the interviewer that you will quickly integrate into the company’s work environment and organizational culture.
Are you the right person for the job and if so why?
Obviously you feel you are the best person for the job, but explaining why isn’t that simple.
Think about the analysis you made of the common ground between you and the company when you prepared your resume and cover letter.
Briefly sum up how you are a fit for the profile they are looking for and emphasize as much as possible your uniqueness, i.e the added value that only you can bring to the company. This could relate to your special abilities, your vast experience or your innovative attitude!
Why did you apply for this job?
What they want to find out from you here is what interested you in the position.
It could be the company’s mission, the way the position suits your career progression or the work environment, for example.
Just don’t take too long thinking about it. You shouldn’t need more than a few seconds to come up with the reasons why you’re interviewing for the position!
What do you expect your duties to be?
Another way of asking this question is “What do you know about the job you’ll be doing”?
Essentially, you’re being asked if you’ve done your homework, i.e. did you read the ad properly and make an effort to understand the duties and responsibilities of the job you’ve applied for?
Don’t worry if you feel unable to provide precise answers. Job ads aren’t always put together that well and are often too brief or generic.
Very often, the specific duties of a position can’t be effectively explained in a job ad anyway, so go ahead and run through the key points indicated in the vacancy. You can expect the interviewer to furnish any additional details you might need.
Are you willing to travel?
There’s no hidden meaning here. The interviewer genuinely wants to know if you’re prepared to travel for work.
But before you answer, ask what is meant by travel!
In some cases, it might simply mean (frequent or not so frequent) day trips, while for other positions it could mean travelling abroad for a number of days.
Later it will be much harder to change your mind, so rather than giving a hasty response, ask questions!
Are you willing to relocate?
There are essentially two possible reasons you’re being asked this question:
Either the interview is with a company that is located a long way from your home, or else the company is thinking of transferring you - or perhaps its own offices - to another location, at some stage.
In both cases, this will impact on your personal life, so make sure you are able to give the interviewer an informed and considered answer to the question.
What are your professional aspirations?
Here you’re being asked about your career plans and your short and long-term goals - as well as about what you intend to do to achieve them.
Show the interviewer how the new position is perfectly consistent with your plans and focus on that, without going into too much detail with regard to the future.
You don’t want to be giving the impression that you’ve already planned your exit, too!
What do you know about our market situation?
We’re talking competitors, market leaders and key clients here.
If doing your homework on the company is mandatory, then finding out about its market situation is the next logical step.
The importance of this information may vary based on the position you are applying for, but either way, it’s added value, so do some research on this too, if you possibly can!
16 Unconventional Questions You’ll Wish You Had Known Sooner
Persuade me to eat your favourite dish, containing an ingredient I dislike!
Now, of course, it might just be that you and the interviewer have the same favourite dish.
But we’re not really talking about culinary preferences here.
What is really on the menu is your ability to understand and solve a problem using the resources you have at your disposal.
As with many other similar questions, what the interviewer is interested in here is how you approach the problem, i.e. do you attempt to hide the ingredient, resign yourself to not including it, or try to understand why the interviewer dislikes the ingredient and get around the problem that way?
How would you fire one of your employees?
Dismissals are a natural part of any business.
They may be asking this because they want to evaluate your managerial skills and find out if you can do your duty, when necessary, in a way that does not damage the company.
Basically, you don’t want to come across as incapable of dismissing an employee, but neither should you present yourself as trigger-happy:
Try instead to occupy the middle ground, i.e. by saying that you are up to performing this unpleasant task when necessary.
Your answer should start with the process leading up to a termination.
Say you would make sure you had tried all the alternatives and that, once dismissal had proved unavoidable, you would follow these four steps:
- Consult with Human Resources with regard to company procedure in such cases
- Inform the employee, attempting to strike a balance: neither too compassionate, nor too harsh
- Go over the employee’s performance with him or her, looking at both what went well and what went badly
- Clear up any doubts, leaving no unfinished business, but do not negotiate the decision
If you could meet a character from a film, who would would it be?
Perhaps a vodka martini - shaken, not stirred - with James Bond, or maybe breakfast at Tiffany’s with Holly Golightly?
There are no wrong answers. The important thing is being able to give some convincing reasons for your choice.
Draw a picture of something that represents you!
Yep, this sort of question is not unheard of.
But what sort of answer is required?
As is often the case, the key here is what led you to a certain choice - or object in this case.
So basically, you can choose whatever you like as long as you can defend your choice convincingly!
If you won 10 million in the lottery how would you spend it?
At first glance, this question sounds completely unrelated to work.
And in fact it is.
What it is related to is your personality. Interviewers use hypothetical situations like these as a way of ‘unshackling’ your thinking.
They’re also interested in getting a sense of your values. If your interview is with an NGO that fights world hunger, then saying you would buy yourself a Ferrari might not be the best answer!
If you started a company, what would its 3 key values be?
The question might sound odd, but the aim is to find out the values that matter most to you in an actual work situation.
If your interview is with a company that has a well-defined company culture, it might be an idea to draw inspiration from those values...
...but don’t be too obvious about it. Repeating them word for word isn’t going to do you any favours!
If you had to choose 3 items to take into a desert, what would they be?
The interviewers are trying to get you outside your comfort zone and see if you can think on your feet.
Does it matter what you choose? Well, yes and no.
Obviously, if you choose to take a mobile phone charger, a DVD and a muffin with you and then can’t back up these choices with solid arguments, then the selector might begin to doubt your ability to think logically.
But provided you choose items whose presence can be logically justified - and assuming you do manage to justify them! - then you’ll be fine.
Would you rather be “perfect but late” or “good but on time”?
Of course “perfect and on time” would be ideal, but you’re not allowed to have that.
Given the choice, your answer should almost always be the second, ”good but on time”.
Companies very rarely view an inability to observe deadlines positively, even where it means attaining perfection!
Sell me this pen.
The evening before your interview, watch “The Wolf of Wall Street” and you’ll find out how it’s done!
If somebody wrote your biography, what would the title be?
As you’ve probably already guessed, you’d be wasting your time looking for a ‘right’ answer.
Here, the interviewer might just as well have asked you to describe yourself in a few words.
Focus on giving an acceptable answer and maybe even throw in a touch of humour!
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
This is a fairly typical example of the sort of questions that are designed to challenge you to think outside the box. Sometimes, candidates are asked which Hogwarts’ house they would be in, but the superhero version would seem to be the favourite.
So what about the answer?
Basically, anything that you can justify and that is socially acceptable is fine. So it’s probably best to avoid asking for powers more readily associated with a supervillain!
I’m an alien who knows nothing about life on earth. Tell me how to [do something simple]
Think you can give clear and complete instructions to somebody whose perspective may be very different from your own?
Whatever you’re asked to explain - e.g. make a sandwich, a cup of tea or send an email - what the interviewer is interested in establishing is how good you are at seeing things from another’s point of view and explaining them in a clear and simple fashion.
If you were a company, what would your motto be?
Fancy yourself as a “Going beyond expectations” sort of company? That’ll do nicely.
Or maybe “Putting the customer first, no matter what” is more your style? That’s fine too!
Basically, any answer is ok here, as long as it isn’t in bad taste!
Tell me a story!
Not everyone will get this sort of question. But if you’re applying for a job as Communications Manager, you need to show you have a flair for telling a story.
So choose one that you like and know well, take a deep breath and take it away!
If you were an animal, what would you be?
Your answer should be an animal that represents a skill or characteristic of yours that you feel would be useful in a work context.
So by all means, go for an ant for its work ethic, a wolf for its ability to work in a pack, er sorry, team, or a lion for its strength.
Just steer clear of snakes, sloths and skunks and you should be fine!
If you could start a company, what would it do?
Imagine Jeff Bezos turned up at your door and gave you 40,000 dollars to open a new business.
What would you do? Open a surfboard shop, or maybe a publishing house? Or perhaps a cake-making business is more your style?
This question, rather than having any specific practical purpose (sorry, no 40,000 dollars!), is more a way of sidestepping the usual clichés about dreams and ambitions and perhaps also seeing whether how much entrepreneurial spirit you have.
11 Brainteasers You’ve Never Heard Before (Non-Traditional Interview Style Logical Puzzles)
A snail is climbing a lamppost. It climbs 4 metres every day, but slides back 3 metres each night. How long will it take to reach the top of the lamppost, which is 7 metres high?
It’s a trick question. Since the snail moves up one metre a day, you’d be forgiven for answering 7 days.
But you’d be wrong!
Our gastropod friend will in fact reach the top by the fourth day!
Do your thinking out loud and don’t worry about giving a wrong answer. For the interviewer it’s a good opportunity to see how you deal with mistakes!
The report you’re working on is due in two hours’ time, but that’s not going to be enough to complete it. What do you do?
The impossible deadline question is a fairly common one. What you’re being tested on is how you deal with a problem that has no solution.
In fact, no matter what schemes you might dream up - getting help from colleagues, questioning the deadline, switching time zones, even going back in time - the interviewer will refuse to change the original premise, which is that you quite simply will not complete the report in time, as it is too long.
So what do you do?
The approach is obviously more important than the answer here, so don’t be discouraged. Ask questions, think out loud and try to look at the problem from a different perspective!
Elon Musk’s favourite: You’re standing on the surface of the earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?
There are two answers to this question:
We’ll start with the short answer.
You’re at the North Pole, or somewhere close to the South Pole.
And what about the long answer?
Since the earth is approximately spherical in shape, if you start from the North Pole and follow the instructions, you’ll walk in a triangle back to your point of departure.
At the South Pole, it’s a little more complicated. First, find a circle with a circumference of one mile centred around the South Pole, then start your trip at one mile north of that path.
The mile south will take you to the circle, while the mile west will take you around the entire circumference. Finally, the mile north will take you back to your starting point.
If you’re feeling confused, this video contains the explanation.
If a pencil and an eraser cost $1.10 and the pencil costs a dollar more than the eraser, how much does the eraser cost?
10 cents, right?
Well, actually, no, stop right there!
Think about it.
If it was that easy, they wouldn’t have asked you. So 10 cents is probably the wrong answer.
In actual fact, the right answer is 5 cents ($1.05 + $0.05 = $1.10)!
How many times a day do the hour and minute hands of a clock overlap?
This question demonstrates the importance of wearing a wristwatch to interviews!
Although of course there may not be time to sit there and count the overlaps one by one! In any case, the answer is 22. And if you don’t believe us...count ‘em!
You’re in a room with 3 switches, each of which turns on an oven in the room above. How do you work out which switch turns on which oven, by only making one trip upstairs?
With logic puzzles like this, the best thing to do is to ask questions and think out loud.
If you keep quiet, the interviewer won’t be able to tell if you’re heading in the right direction or are completely at sea. And either way, they won’t be able to help you.
In this case, you need to think about what happens when an oven is turned on: that’s right, it heats up.
This means you can figure out which switch operates which oven by flipping two switches for a short while and then turning one back off. When you go upstairs, you’ll find one oven off and cold (the switch you didn’t touch), one oven off and warm (the switch you turned on and then back off), and finally, one oven on and hot (the switch you left on).
A birthday cake needs cutting into eight identical pieces with only three cuts. How would you do it?
First off, you may be wondering who in their right mind would buy a knife that self-destructs after being used three times.
And frankly, you’d have a point. But this is neither the time nor the place to nitpick!
Instead, let’s accept the premise at face value. It’s fairly obvious how to begin: two cuts across the top at right angles to each other will give you four identical pieces.
But then what?
With your last cut, you slice the cake in two horizontally, thus giving you eight pieces. At which point, the knife will have fulfilled its purpose in life and is free to self-destruct!
You wake up to find 1000 emails in your inbox, but only have time to read 100 of them. What do you do?
Of course, you could just switch off your phone, laptop and brain and go back to sleep. That way, when you wake up, you wouldn’t even have time to read a single one. Problem solved!
But there’s one small hitch. You might also no longer have a job.
So what’s the answer? Reading one in ten maybe? Hmm, a bit too hit-and-miss for comfort.
What you need to do is prioritize, perhaps by selecting emails from addresses you know are important, searching for keywords in the subject line, or only reading replies to active conversations.
You’re in a dark room in which there are 50 black socks and 50 white socks. What’s the fewest socks you need to take to get a matching pair?
Well, let’s see...half the total, plus 1, so 51, right?
Nice try, but it’s the wrong answer. If you took 51 socks, you’d definitely have a matching pair, but it’s not the lowest possible number!
Let’s think about it logically: you take a first sock, which can be one of two colours.
You then take a second sock, which can be the same colour as before or a different colour.
But when you take the third sock, it simply must form a pair with one of the two previous socks. So the answer is 3!
There are 3 boxes: one contains only apples, one only oranges, while the third contains apples and oranges. However, there’s been a mix up and none of the boxes are labelled correctly. By choosing just one box to open and - without looking inside - taking out one piece of fruit, you should be able to label all of the boxes correctly. How is this possible?
This one is slightly more complicated than the others, but not impossible.
The key here is deciding which box to open. If you open the box labelled “mixed fruit”, the box must logically contain only fruit of the type you took out, since we know that the label is wrong.
If you pull out an apple, then the box only contains apples. Which means the box labelled “only oranges” must contain the mixed fruit and the final box only oranges. If, on the other hand, you pull out an orange, you can follow the same process to get the answer.
How many golf balls can fit into a school bus?
This question, which helped kickstart the trend for brainteasers in job interviews, especially for positions in IT, is one of the “curveballs” that shot to prominence after it was revealed Google used them in its interviews.
The question in itself is absurd and doesn’t have a ‘right answer’. Instead, what the interviewer (who has no more idea than you how many golf balls will fit into a school bus) is looking for, is sound, logical reasoning.
So do what you’re asked to do. But don’t just blurt out the first number that comes into your head: think out loud, explain your working, use pen and paper and attempt a serious answer.
The Final Question!
Have you got any questions for me?
The answer here simply has to be yes.
Now, it’s true that people say that there is no such thing as a stupid question.
But in the heat of the moment, you may just be in danger of proving the proverb wrong!
Which is why you should prepare yourself by reading our 17 top questions to ask at a job interview!
And don't forget to write a thank you letter after the job interview!