June 5

7 Job Interview Questions You need to know and how to ace them

Congratulations. You made it to the interview and passed the hardest hurdle of your job-hunt.

Now the real work starts, because job interviews are never easy. But if you prepare ahead of time, you'll feel (and be) much more confident.

Here are the 7 most important interview questions you're likely to be asked in a job interview, and how to answer them. Make sure to download the free Cheatsheet with all questions and a guide so you avoid the traps

But before, I want to share with you why getting to the interview stage is so huge...

Sign Up Below to Receive the Free Interview Prep CheatSheet & Worksheet PDF

With the CheatSheet so you have all the 7 interview questions at hand, know the traps to look out for and a step-by-step way to prepare the best answers (also some suggestions if you are pressured for time, deal with CV gaps or target a next level position). 

7 Job Interview Questions You Need To Know And How To Ace Them

Why the interview can be THE opener for a top job

While every step in your job-hunt is important, especially prepare for the interview. The hiring manager will only invite you if they believe you can be the right candidate for the position. So take a moment to pad yourself on the back as getting your dream-job just became a real a possibility.

Unfortunately, there are countless ways (proven by psychology) how you can shine in the interview (and later case study) and thus many candidates struggle a lot with their interviews. In fact, during the last 10 years I saw so many professionals fail their interview  (even the ones with most impressive backgrounds) just because they got the basics wrong.

Luckily you can easily avoid these traps as most interviews will follow a similar structure: A few questions that are asked in nearly all job interviews.

Getting these questions right can really make the difference how you can get you your dream-job.

Remember: Most candidates use a random approach in preparing for the interview. But if you spend a few hours in preparing for these most 7 important interview questions you can put yourself far ahead of the competition.

So I created this cheat sheet with the 7 most important questions so you get the upper hand in your interview. Let me know your questions or feedback in the comments.  

The Essential Questions

I call them the essentials as for sure the hiring manager will ask them in some or the other form. 

From all the interview questions, make sure you really prepare for them as they will make or break your interview. Or in other words: If the hiring manager sees you struggle with these starter questions you likely won’t even make it to the next questions.

Tell me more about yourself?

When I ask this question it is to open the conversation. 

Also it invites you to talk about yourself and so are comfortable in the interview.

How to answer:

  • Don’t simply summarize your CV (they have in front of them) but have a convincing professional story that connects all the major dots of your work experience and education into a clear story.
  • Ideally, end your answer with Why based on your experience You are now interested in their amazing position.
  • You can also use this to explain some gaps in the CV. This way you address any concerns right from the start. 
  • But make sure you train well before and don’t mention 1-2 two sentences about your gap. 
  • Example: “After my last position in Marketing I really wanted to take to get clear about my future goals before jumping into the next position. So I decided to travel for 12 months and to get very clear why I want to work in amazing position”!

What are your 3 strengths and weaknesses?

You for sure know this question

It can feel quite stupid to answer it as no one is really 100% honest.  Yet it does not help here to underplay your strengths and for sure it will harm you if you can not name any weaknesses:

How to answer:

  • Try to connect your strengths and weaknesses with each other. For example, if you are good at finding the dots you probably are bad at details. This is an elegant way to weaken you weaknesses in an authentic way.
  • Make sure you are not naming killer weaknesses. For example, if you hate rules maybe you should not work in a nuclear power plant. Or make sure you mention how you try work on your shortcomings.
  • Example: I make many small mistakes and thus will describe this weakness: ”I understand this is a weakness and therefore I schedule extra time to review important papers. Also it really helped me to install the ´Prowriting´ plugin that edits my important documents to the highest quality level”

Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?

This question is especially important, if you apply to top jobs or position with a career track.

The hiring manager wants to make sure that it is worth investing into you and that you will not leave for the next better position.

How to answer:

  • Try to find out what the next level position in the company would be in three years. Then fit this to your current goals.
  • You can also mention (but more risky) that you plan to grow fast into this role and take over lots of responsibilities in new projects. But now you don’t know yet what will happen in five years’ as the industry is changing so fast.
  • If possible, try to say that you are on good terms with all your former employers (and bosses) as you strongly believe in mutual trust even once formal employment ends (HR loves to hear this)

The Tricky Questions

The hiring manager normally asks these questions once you are more settled in the interview.

Now they want to see if you have what it takes and if you really stack up to the competition.  So if you get these questions congratulations it probably means that you are doing well!
However, these questions are a bit tricky as they will require you to do the pre-work. A generic answer won´t make it.

But you can truly shine if you prepare well. In fact, acing these questions can be THE booster if you just have an average profile.

Why do you want to work here?

Although it seems harmless, it is one of the classic questions many candidates get wrong!

How to answer:

  • Don’t do what many candidates do: They only name all the reasons why they like the company, their product, the job etc.
  • Yes, this is all important BUT most important is to answer WHY YOU fit to the company/ the position!
  • Frame your answer in a way that builds on your profile and clearly shows that based on your past experience you will provide value for their company.
  • For example, try to mention that you will provide value by doing X and that this excites you as you can take responsibility from day one in their position by doing Z.

Could you tell me what trends/ challenges/ opportunities our industry / your job function will face in the next few years?

Surprisingly many candidates never prepare for this question. 

They somehow focus only at the position, company and job but overlook the bigger picture. But for more advanced, senior or competitive positions your boss wants to make sure you understand the trends that impact your industry. In the end they will pay YOU to come up with a solution in your expertise in your field.

Also with ever-increasing change they want to know if you can adapt fast to new innovations/ challenges/ market trends.

How to answer:

  • Pretty simple, study the trends in your market and have 2-3 trends you know and can discuss.
  • One simple way to prepare  for this is to find 1) an industry challenge, 2) a technology  or society trend & 3) a new opportunity for your position. 
  • For example: you want to work for BMW as a social media junior manager: 1) electric car manufacturers competing with traditional car manufacturers, 2) there are new a new AI based solutions to create marketing content targeted to consumer preferences, 3)  to be successful as manager you should know how to  use new AI technologies so you to create great social media campaigns for environmental sensitive car buyers.

PRO TIP: How to impress your future boss

Naming the trends or challenges for your industry also works very well if they ask you for a question at the end (see below). You would ask them how they see the future of the industry considering an important trend you just found.

Example you interview for sales position for a training company: 

"Considering that there are more AI avatars able to teach content on demand with personalized content to users how do you think your sales focus will move that is now targeting in-person corporate trading?"

The Underestimated Questions

These questions normally come at the end. They seem very easy BUT be careful. Once you answered the tricky questions well YOU MUST stay focused and professional to answer them. I saw several candidates that had a great interview but then messed it all up because the underestimated the last questions. 

We then reconsider them as a candidate or they lost $$ of their salary in the later negotiation.

How much do you want to earn?

Some sneaky HR person may ask you this in the first half of your interview. 

They often do this to see how you react under stress. 

CAREFUL: Don't underestimate the first salary talk!

Be very careful not to screw this question up as it can cost your several thousand (sometimes tens of thousands) Euros of your yearly salary!

How to answer:

  • Try not to answer but to defer salary talks until AFTER you got job offer!
  • For example: “I understand this is an important question and I would expect a compensation that is market competitive considering this role, my experience and the industry. However, I would prefer to talk about compensation details until I got to know more about the role and responsibilities.”
  • Sometimes though they ask you to see if there is a fit in the first place (imagine they can only pay €30k but you expect €50k, better for both of you to stop right now). 
  • So if they insist mention beforehand that is really a very rough indication as you would tell them a number once you know about the role. Try to get a rather broad range (NOT in the final negotiation where you need to be specific).
  • For example: “In all honesty this is just a rough indication of my salary expectations as this would depend on the specifics of the position, the responsibilities that I look forward to learn more about during our interview. However as your company is XYZ I would expect something market competitive. Meaning for someone with my X background working in Y important position(s) I would expect roughly between 120 – 140k EUR. Again this is just a rough indication and I would like to discuss the details such as Bonuses or working conditions at a later stage”.
  • This allows you to increase or decrease your salary once things move ahead. If you aimed too low you can always say that “my first indication was without a Bonus that I would expect”.

Bonus: The Impossible Question

How many marmalade glasses are produced every year in France?

Especially for prestigious jobs your hiring managers wants to see how you think and structure your answer for a tough problem.

There is no right answer and the only way to shine here is to walk them through each step of your reasoning. Also make sure to ask clarifying questions (e.g. "do you mean marmalade glasses for a specific brand, last year, all sizes, per household etc")

Another example questions could be (I got this one):

"You know the London Underground is at the brink of collapse with passengers, while new safety measures  will require even more space per passenger. Tell me a way to increase the passenger volume while keeping everyone safe in times in Covid. Remember that is is the oldest system in the world with very limited space for new lines!"

Do you have any questions?

YES. You always have questions.

Asking the right questions at the end will not only show you know their company well but can also give you a last chance to show your future boss you are an expert in you industry.

If anything your future boss will remember these smart questions when they make their decission and thus it can turn a mediocre impression into a great one.

In fact I was once interviewing for a Chief Human Resource Officer position at a global Consultancy.

While I did not get the job, years later the managing partner invited me to propose a 10k workshop because of "he remembered the very interesting discussion we had at the end of our interview".

How to answer:

  • Start with an easy question e.g. “What are the next steps in the recruitment process”.
  • Then follow up with 1-2 smart question. I recommend something about the corporate culture -  HR wants to hear you read their HR report. Also use this to find out if you actually would like working there...
  • For example: “I saw this amazing women network at Global Bank could you tell me more about how to get involved as a junior manager”
  • Then ask a smart question about the position or industry. Your question should clearly show that you understand the trends affecting your industry and that you truly care about how you can create value for your boss in the future. 
  • For example: “I saw that your recent expansion in Singapore was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the new XX law that require banks like YOUR company to do YY. However from what I see, a substantial responsibility of this position would would require me to partner with local providers in Malaysia who have been previously served by the Singapore office. Could you tell me if  you already foresee that someone in this position spends a considerable amount of time re-building relations with the Singapore office? How would that be if I cannot physically travel there."
    (Note: I have no idea about Singapore laws and this answer is completely made up for illustration purposes)

Conclusion: Acing the 7 most important interview questions can be The Way to get a top job if you have a ´normal profile´

I hope you see that it is pretty simple to prepare well for you interview. 

Yet the interview is not easy as you must make sure you prepare your responses in a way that shows the hiring manager:

 “Yes I want this candidate, maybe they don’t have the best credentials but they really know what it takes to work here, understand out industry and from the previous work it will be easy to give them work they will do well from day one”

Let me know me answer you questions or help you with custom advise in the comments!

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