Interview Questions

Learning Objectives

Identify strategies to answer common interview questions.

For most job candidates, the burning question is, “What will I be asked?” There’s no way to anticipate every single question that may arise during an interview. It’s possible that, no matter how well prepared you are, you may get a question you just didn’t expect. But that’s okay. Do as much preparation as you can—which will build your confidence—and trust that the answers will come.

As you respond to the questions, try to remind yourself that this is not so much “about you” as about the interviewer finding the right fit for this opening. The questions are establishing whether your skills and experiences will meet the needs of this company. That is where your research comes in. You can work to explain your background relative to this new environment. If the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself,” that is not a cue to start with your earliest memory. Instead, focus on the specific knowledge and skills you possess as related to what you know about this position.

The simplest place to start is to have a list of about four to six examples of workplace actions that you are proud of. Think of times you excelled. Then think about how this same story might fit several situations. One story might show initiative, leading others, decision-making, and more. With these stories in mind, when a question comes, pull out the best fit and reword it to match the specific question. Try creating that list now, then use the question banks below to see what fits and what other situations you might need to have mentally ready.

There are all kinds of memorable names for interview techniques. STAR is one such technique that quickly helps you present the stories of your career in a way to demonstrate skills to the interviewer. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Activity, Result. This technique is a way  to showcase your skills in under two minutes by setting the context of when you exercised a skill, describing what was required of you, what you did, and how the situation concluded. Here is a nice summary with examples from the article “Using the Star technique to shine at job interviews: a how-to guide” by Michael Higgins.

There is no substitute for going through as many questions as you can prior to the interview. As you practice on your own, think about your answers. Make notes if that helps.  Say your answers out loud. You can use the tables below to find questions to practice with. Even if you find it painful, record yourself. Then watch the recording and score each response against the STAR technique. Ideally, conduct a practice interview with a friend, a family member, or a colleague.

Type Example Considerations
Goodwill, Greetings and Get Acquainted Tell me about yourself. No more than two minutes. List the highlights of your resume with a brief example, if possible.
Gauging Your Interest Why are you interested in this position? Make this position tops on your interest list, without ever alluding to any other search. Avoid sounding like this job might be any other than a first choice (For example, saying, ”When I happened to see your ad,” makes the job posting sound trivial to you.)
Your Experience and Accomplishments How has your education prepared you for this position? Be confident. Everyone knows you have not done this job yet, but you must sound like you are ready for this job. Avoid the natural hesitation you may feel (“I think I’ll be great” versus “With these skills, I can . . .”).
The Future What would you most like to accomplish if you get this position? There’s no need to over promise or worry, but do demonstrate you have a plan for this job or for life versus just hoping things will work out. Offer some realistic career goals based on some practical skill or education you have.
Challenging What type of people do you have no patience for? We all have weaknesses. Being aware of them is a great skill. Turning them to our advantage is even better. “While I get along well with most people, those who complain rather than try to find a solution can be hard on my patience.”
Situational If you were aware a coworker was falsifying data, what would you do? The employer probably wants to see how you handle difficulties on your own and what logical process you may use to solve problems. Remember to focus on the company’s outcome and expense while not compromising your own standards.
Behavioral Describe a time you worked as part of a team. While all interview responses work well with the STAR technique, this is the type of question best suited to it.
1 100 top job interview questions—be prepared for the interview (from This site provides a comprehensive set of interview questions you might expect to be asked, categorized as basic interview questions, behavioral questions, salary questions, career development questions, and other kinds. Some of the listed questions provide comprehensive answers, too.
2 Interview Questions and Answers (from BigInterview) This site provides text and video answers to the following questions: Tell me about yourself, describe your current position, why are you looking for a new job, what are your strengths, what is your greatest weakness, why do you want to work here, where do you see yourself in five years, why should we hire you, and do you have any questions for me?
3 Ten Tough Interview Questions and Ten Great Answers (from CollegeGrad) This site explores some of the most difficult questions you will face in job interviews. The more open-ended the question, the greater the variation among answers. Once you have become practiced in your interviewing skills, you will find that you can use almost any question as a launching pad for a particular topic or compelling story.

Why Should We Hire You?

From the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business Career Management Office, here is a video featuring representatives from recruiting companies offering advice for answering the question, “Why should we hire you?” As you watch, make mental notes about how you would answer the question in an interview for a job you really want.

You can view the transcript for “‘Why Should We Hire You?’ How to Answer this Interview Question” here (opens in new window).