10 Common Interview Questions with Pass or Fail Answers

Interview Tips

For behavioral interview questions, always try to use the STAR method for your answer. The STAR method is a structured response that discusses the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.

1. If you were leading a team, what strategies would you use to get your team motivated?

Interviewers like to ask this question to give them insight into your leadership style and your depth of interpersonal skills. If you are interviewing for a position that calls for supervision over other staff, be ready to answer a question along these lines. If the job for which you’re interviewing has the potential to work into a managerial position, get ready to address a question of this nature. While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, the answer you give will let the employer know how well-versed you are on current team motivational strategies. This could be a good point to highlight any expertise or experience you’ve had with team building in the past.

2. Give me an example of how you handle failure.

Don’t answer this question by flatly stating that you’ve never failed at anything; any interviewer worth their salary will know better. This question gives you the opportunity to let a potential employer know how good you are at maintaining your composure under stress. It is a way for the potential employer to gauge your overall attitude, your energy level and how you maintain focus in the face of failure. Interviewers are also looking for how you accept responsibility for your actions with this question. They are not interested in hearing how everything was the fault of one former co-worker or supervisor; most consider failure a team effort with everyone sharing in the responsibility on some level.

3. Describe to me how your efforts impacted the bottom line of your last employer.

With this question, the interviewer is looking for an indication of the value you may bring to the company if you’re hired. Remember that the purpose of most businesses is making money, whether that’s done through revenue generation or a reduction in expenses or costs. Some businesses may consider other things as their bottom line, for example, hospitals or doctors. Know what constitutes the bottom line for the employer with whom you’re interviewing. Prepare an answer that includes some measurable success you directly helped accomplish in your last position, such as increased sales or decreased fuel costs. If any awards came along because of your accomplishment, don’t hesitate to mention them.

4. Tell me about a difficult situation you faced in your last job and what you did to resolve it.

This is one of the more common behavior-centered questions that interviewers ask. Be sure you have an achievement story ready to answer this one. You’ll want to focus on a story where you dealt successfully with a meaningful problem, not something superficial like lack of paper clips. Prepare to discuss an example that highlights your problem-solving abilities, especially those skills that could be beneficial in the position for which you’re interviewing. Be concise and as specific as possible in relating your story; don’t disparage former co-workers, bosses or customers, and don’t ramble. If the problem resolution was a team effort, make certain you give credit where credit is due.

5. Give me examples of how you’ve handled situations at work that make you angry.

Interviewers who ask you to discuss situations that make you angry at work are trying to determine your possible reaction to stressful events in the workplace. They have an interest in knowing how you may deal with your personal emotions while on the job. Be ready to discuss situations that made you angry. Your discussion should include details on how you were able to overcome the personal emotions without letting them affect your professionalism or job performance. You’ll need to give a detailed description of the situation without making negative comments about former co-workers or bosses.

6. Tell me something about yourself that you wouldn’t want your employer to know.

Should this question come up, the thing to remember is that you’re not talking to a friend over a casual lunch; you’re talking to a potential supervisor. Don’t let this question put you off your game; don’t blurt out the first thing that comes into your mind. Interviewers who ask this question are looking for an example of something in your life experience that had a positive impact on you; something that possibly changed you for the better. Your answer to this question should reflect your ability to adapt to events around you, to learn and to grow. It also gives insight into your ability to be flexible. Consider offering examples from your younger years, when most of us make plenty of understandable, and even humorous, mistakes. Don’t go so far back as your first-grade experiences, but something from your high school years is not out of the realm of possibility.

7. What have you learned from your mistakes at your former job?

Again, don’t bother denying you’ve ever made a mistake. No interviewer is going to believe that, especially if you have an episode of termination in your work history. It is generally best to approach this question from a positive point of view, placing emphasis on what you learned from the mistake(s) you choose to discuss. This question gives the interviewer insight into whether you have what it takes to do a job well. Be honest in your answer, but remember to focus on the positive side. Mistakes should be learning opportunities; make certain the interviewer knows you realize this and are willing to take corrective action when mistakes are made.

8. How do you acclimate to a team when you start a new job?

Mention things you do to learn skills quickly, such as shadowing employees and additional training. Consider touching on cultural acclimation and how you assimilate to a new team. Mention how important it is to get to know your co-workers and how you do so. Talk about how you will go above and beyond to learn quickly and ramp up during your on-boarding.

9. What motivates you at work?

The purpose of this question is to give the employer a sense of what type of employee you would be. Be honest when responding to this question but keep in mind the importance of who you’re talking to; if a weekly paycheck is your only motivation, it probably isn’t a good idea to be that honest. Keep in mind what abilities, attributes and skills you possess that will be the most beneficial on the job and try to frame your answer around these points. Avoid overused cliches such as, “I live for my work” or “My career is my life.” Most employers would rather have employees who have a balance in their professional and personal lives.

10. If you were to compare yourself to someone else, who would most reflect the way you see yourself?

Interviewers often ask this question to give them a better understanding of how you view yourself. It is usually best to go with a modest approach here and not declare you are the reincarnation of iconic heroes of business, politics, sports or entertainment. Approach this question by mentioning an individual or two who has been a personal inspiration to you, such as a mentor, teacher, parent or other family member. Be prepared to explain why each was an inspiration and how they impacted your life. Keep your descriptions of yourself on a strictly professional level.