How to Answer Job Interview Questions

Job interviews are complicated because you never really know what to expect. You’ll almost never get the questions in advance, so crafting the best answers to tough interview questions can be tricky. For some, the inherent uncertainty of job interviews is a genuine source of anxiety.

However, in most cases, the lead up to an interview is more nerve-racking than the interview itself. Many interviews include variations of the same types of questions, making it easier to prepare your answers in advance.

So, what are some common interview questions and what’s the best way to respond to them?

Seven Types of Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

The entire point of a job interview is to assess an applicant’s suitability for a given position, compared to other candidates. It means that you’ll need to know how to answer interview questions effectively. The interviewer will want to learn about your credentials, experiences, skills, character, career aspirations, and competency.

Additionally, many interviewers throw in a few “curveball” questions to keep you on your toes. They want to see how well you adapt and perform without any preparation.

You’ll need to know how to respond to job interview questions in a way that makes you stand out from the competition.

Let’s look at the seven types of questions and answers to see how you can answer job interview questions more effectively:

Questions Related to Credentials

Your resume should provide the interviewer with some basic information about your credentials, but they will likely want to dig a little deeper. They may simply want to verify that the information is accurate, but they might also want more in-depth information about your educational background, degrees, certifications, etc.

In any case, these questions are relatively easy to prepare for, as they only require you to remember the details of your own credentials.

Here are two sample questions and answers on credentials:

Sample Q&A 1:

Q: How long did it take you to finish your degree?

A: I was able to finish my degree in just under 4 years.

Sample Q&A 2:

Q: What is your GPA?

A: My GPA is 3.7.

Questions Related to Experience

“Experience” is a pretty vague term, but here it refers to the time you have spent in different positions and the knowledge you have acquired during that time. Some of your experience may not be from specific jobs, but rather from internships, courses, or even your personal life.

These questions will be likely about your past responsibilities. They will also cover specific situations that were new, challenging, or rewarding.

In short, think about the entirety of your experiences and the elements that you would like to highlight in the interview. Here are two sample questions and answers on experience:

Sample Q&A 1:

Q: What kind of responsibilities did you have in your last job?

A: I managed a team of four. It was our collective responsibility to oversee invoices for the entire department. In addition to managing the team, I also coordinated with other departments to ensure uniformity in our company-wide processes.

Sample Q&A 2:

Q: What has been the most rewarding experience of your career thus far?

A: I think the most rewarding experience of my career so far was my time spent in customer service. I helped ensure that our customers walked away with a positive view of our company. It really made me feel like I was making a difference for people.

Questions Related to Skills

Having reputable credentials is great, but ultimately your employer will want to know if you have the right skills to get the job done. Whether you’re interviewing to be a flight attendant or a systems analyst, you’ll need to show that you have a certain set of skills.

While some interviewers will take your resume at face value, others will ask specific questions to see how you would react in hypothetical situations. Some of them will even test your abilities in the interview.

For example, if you claim to speak French on your resume, they will likely ask you to prove it! In any case, here are two sample questions and answers on skills:

Sample Q&A 1:

Q: Can you multitask?

A: Absolutely. My last job required me to work on several tasks at once and I never had to sacrifice the quality of my work or ask for more time.

Sample Q&A 2:

Q: Do you know how to make a spreadsheet?

A: Yes. I’ve made dozens of spreadsheets before, so I am very familiar with the format.

Questions Related to Character

Organizations usually receive numerous applications with similar credentials, experiences, and skillsets. This means that your personality and behavior in the interview will hold a great importance, since they have the potential to make you stand out from the crowd.

Companies like to hire employees who work well with others, pay attention, learn from their mistakes, and make good choices. As a result, these questions will likely ask you to evaluate yourself. They may also ask how others have evaluated you in the past. Finally, there may be some situational questions to test your ability to make ethical decisions.

Here are two sample questions and answers on character:

Sample Q&A 1:

Q: Do you prefer to work alone or with a team?

A: I prefer to work as part of a team, as it allows for multiple voices to contribute to a task or project. That said, I don’t mind working alone. Sometimes it can be a little more efficient since you don’t need to consult with multiple people.

Sample Q&A 2:

Q: If you encountered two of your coworkers having a loud argument in the hallway, how would you react?

A: I would ask what the issue was about, to see if I could help resolve it. If I couldn’t be of any help, I might recommend that they have their discussion in a more private area.

Questions Related to Aspirations

Some organizations are just looking for a quick, short-term hire, while others want a loyal employee who will stay with the company for the rest of their career.

Many interviewers will also be interested in the plans you have for your personal life. Topics like your future plans for children, marriage, living accommodations, and travel could all come up in an interview. However, your career aspirations will likely be the most important topic.

Here are two sample questions and answers on aspirations:

Sample Q&A 1:

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: I love my field of work, and I wouldn’t mind staying in my current position for the foreseeable future. However, in 5 or possibly 10 years, I might like to take on more responsibilities in the company.

Sample Q&A 2:

Q: Do you have any important goals that you’d like to tell us about?

A: I’d really love to be the head of the department someday. I think I have the right temperament for the job. I just need more experience before I take on a leadership role.

Questions Related to Competency

No one wants to feel incompetent, and no employer wants to hire an incompetent employee. So, most interviewers will likely include questions to ascertain your level of competence.

Naturally, competence is rather vague and subjective. It also varies by job. A person who is competent in one profession could be completely incompetent in another.

As a result, these will probably be highly-specific, situational questions related to the job that you want to get. These are sometimes referred to as behavioral interview questions. Here are two sample questions and answers on competency:

Sample Q&A 1:

Q: This job will require you to be part of a team. What tactics do you use to help facilitate teamwork and finish projects efficiently?

A: I believe that communication is the foundation of good teamwork. I like to keep an open line of communication with every team member so that we can resolve any issues or questions swiftly.

Sample Q&A 2:

Q: In this position, you might be reporting to more than one boss. How would you respond if you are given conflicting information from two or more of your superiors?

A: As soon as I realized that there was a discrepancy, I would approach both of my superiors for clarification on the matter. If a consensus still couldn’t be reached, I would ultimately need to make my own decision on how to proceed.

Curveball Questions

Finally, we have “curveball questions.” In baseball, a curveball is a kind of pitch that changes direction in midair, generally surprising the person trying to hit the ball. As you can imagine, curveball questions are intended to surprise you and test how well you adapt to unexpected situations.

Since they are designed to catch you off guard, it is not easy to prepare for these questions. They are often unrelated to the job or any of the topics listed above. Knowing how to answer job interview questions like these can be tough, but not impossible.

Here are two sample curveball questions and answers:

Sample Q&A 1:

Q: If you could be any animal, what kind of animal would you be?

A: I would definitely be a dolphin. I think they are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.

Sample Q&A 2:

Q: What’s your favorite meal of the day?

A: My favorite meal is breakfast. I like to start every day with a nutritious meal and a cup of coffee.

Practice answering these job interview questions on your own so that you’ll be well-prepared the next time you walk into an interview.

If you’d like to learn more about job interview techniques, visit Magoosh Speaking today!

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy from the University of Georgia. It was during his time in school that he published his first written work. After serving as a casting director in the Atlanta film industry for two years, Matthew acquired TEFL certification and began teaching English abroad. In 2017, Matthew started writing for dozens of different brands across various industries. During this time, Matthew also built an online following through his film blog. If you’d like to learn more about Matthew, you can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn!
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