Top 9 Common Job Interview Questions and Their Best Answers

  1. Why are you leaving your current job?

This question could be a really tempting question especially if you are applying for a new position. This question could tempt you to talk about any negative experience that was associated with your past role.

As tempted as you may be to expel negativity, you still have to be very careful not to go on about how terrible you felt in your previous position, you should rather concentrate on things that make this position the best fit for you.

You should always open doors to discussions that emphasize how the position is a perfect position for you.

Whether you were asked to leave or you willingly resigned, it is important for you to frame your answer in such a way that it casts you in a positive light. Be careful and make sure you avoid “bad mouthing” your previous employer.

  1. Have you ever been forced to resign?

During an interview, it is quite normal for the recruiter to bring up discussions about your previous employment.

One question that the recruiter may likely ask you is if you have ever been forced to resign. The interviewer will likely use your response to the question to know the kind of issue that may likely arise if the company hires you.

The recruiter may also judge your ability to learn from the situation and how much you are able to sincerely account for your actions from your response to the question.

When answering this question, you need to be very careful, these are the mistakes you should avoid:

  • Don’t lie about the situation that led to the resignation in your previous employment.
  • Do your best to avoid being negative about your experience and try not to bad mouth your previous employer.
  • Avoid pushing all the blame of the incident to the organization or the employer. You should try your best to show how some of your actions contributed to the situation.
  • Avoid putting yourself in the state of pity that would make everyone else involved wrong. It gives the recruiter the idea that you would repeat the same action again.

This is what you should rather focus on:

  • Tell the recruiter about what you have learned from the situation, and how the experience has molded you into a better person.
  • Show that you have made an effort to address the action that contributed to you being fired.
  • Always let the interviewer know that you have eliminated any action that may make you face the same situation with a new employer.

Sample Answer

This is an example of an answer that will properly deal with this question:

“I was forced to resign because marketing wasn’t a strong fit for me. My employer was extremely pleased with my customer service and support skills, but over a long period of time, I wasn’t meeting up with my monthly sales goals. I have decided to shift my focus on customer service and support. This position offers me a better opportunity to leverage on my communication skills”.

This question may appear to be one question that you want to avoid. Focusing on the positive angle when answering this question will give you the opportunity to explain that you are the right person for the position.

  1. What do you like least about your job?

This question can seem like a net to trap you because the recruiter looks forward to getting a negative response from you, and if you are not careful, you may likely prevent yourself from getting the job.

It is important for you to understand that the interviewer is trying to know if you are going to be satisfied with the position.

So if you give the interviewer the impression that you were dissatisfied with your previous job, the interviewer may have the impression that you may also be dissatisfied with the position that you applied.

When you are asked this question, try to be honest with your answers and also maintain a positive tone. This is what you should emphasize when you are about to answer this question:

  • Don’t mention something you dislike that is common with the position that you are applying for.
  • Avoid talking about personal issues you have with co-workers in the office.
  • Avoid answers that will make you appear as an incorrigible person.
  • Avoid giving the interviewer the impression that you are difficult to please.
  • Don’t use this question as an opportunity for you to start bad mouthing your previous boss or company.

You should rather look forward to creating an impression that will make the recruiter not scared about you taking up the new position. You can start off your answer by using this approach:

  • Mention what you like about your previous job.
  • Touch on what you did not like and focus on things you like about the task or a particular situation.
  • You can talk about how you were able to manage the situation until you decide to move on in your career.

Sample answers:

Sample Answer 1

“I really liked my previous employer and the talented people in my team. One of the challenges that I faced was working remotely from my location, and it became more challenging for me as the company grew bigger. I was also tired of limiting myself to working alone. Why I am enthusiastic about this job is that it will give me the opportunity to work remotely when the need arises. I look forward to connecting with team members physically and not online”

Sample Answer 2

“I really cannot say I dislike anything about my current job. My company is a start-up that is still in its infantry stage which gives a limited room for advancement. I think I have gotten to the peak of my career in my current organization, and I would like to learn more about technology because the world is becoming technologically based. Regrettably, we don’t work with technology- based tools, in order to advance my career, I’ve decided it is time to move on”

Sample Answer 3

“It is a really great company overall, but my position kept me behind the scenes (I was always in the computer room), with very little interaction with co-workers and customers. I love solving computer or gadget related problems, but I value human relation a lot too, this is why I am really enthusiastic about this job”

When you are answering this question, be careful not to go on negative about your current job and employer. You should rather use the question as an opportunity to tell the interviewer how the job matches your skills and personality.

  1. How would your last boss describe you

When employers ask this question, they simply want to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. The answer you give will help the interviewer understand why your current employer sees you as a great asset to the team.

These are the points you should focus on when answering the question:

  • Relate your answers to why you think you are a good fit for the position
  • You can point out two to three points about how your boss sees your performance
  • Don’t forget to state how you enjoyed working with your boss
  • You can tell a story about your recommendation with your boss

You should also avoid making mistakes like:

  • Bad mouthing your boss to bring out your good traits
  • Don’t spin out negative thought that your boss had about you, even if there are some negative feelings you should also see the positive light of it.
  • Avoid bragging about how well you and your boss went along

Sample Answers

Sample Answer 1

“My last boss would say that I am always proactive and prepared to solve any form of challenge. Nothing really takes me unawares, I am usually prepared to face future challenges. I think that my ability to see a problem beforehand and solve them while they are still at the formative stage is what sets me apart from other employees”.

Sample Answer 2

“My last boss would see me as a problem solver and when I newly started my past position, I was always ready to face challenges and solve problems with ease. I think that my ability to be calm when there is a difficult situation is what really distinguished me from other employees”

Sample Answer 3

“I think my boss would talk about my two most obvious traits which is hard working and result oriented. My boss has always known me as someone that loves things to be done the right way and at the right time. So I was always putting in more hours to make sure that we achieve the desired result in any project. My boss always commended me for that. I also work hard to keep myself up-to-date on current industry trends and technologies by attending meet-ups and workshop to better position myself to face up to any challenge that may arise in the cause of performing my job”

  1. Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it

Most interviewers ask the question because they want to know how you have been able to achieve success and also the things that helped you achieve the success at that particular time.

It is advisable for you to use the STAR method to help you give a more structured answer. Using this method will provide you all the information that the interviewer is looking for.

The STAR method includes the following steps:

Situation: You should start by describing the situation that you wereor the task that you needed to complete. You must describe a specific situation or event.

Task: Describe the goal that you were looking forward to achieving.

Action: Describe the specific action that you took to address the situation. You are also explaining the actions you took to reach your goals.

Result: You must be able to give the result of your actions using specific details. The result is going to be an important part of your response because the interviewer asked about a time that you achieved success. Meaning that there would definitely be a result.

Answering this question, you have to:

  • Make sure the situation you are describing is relevant to the position that you are applying for.
  • Make sure that you are clear and realistic with your responses.

Sample Answers

Sample Answer 1

“In my recent internship program, I set a personal goal to accomplish my objective for my internship which is developing my experience in IT support. I also set a goal to learn the basics of computer programming before the end of my internship program. I worked really closely with the IT and programming team to make sure I develop my skills. At the end of my internship, I had 1- year experience in IT support role and was able to horn my programming skills to intermediate level”.

Sample Answer 2

“This year, I set to push my customer service skills from intermediate to advance. I decided to work closely with the customer service department to learn the core of customer service from experts. I also took professional classes in customer relations management. After working really close with the customer service department for that, I was amazed at how good I have become with my customer service skills that even customers spoke very well of me to my boss”.

  1. Describe some times when you were not very satisfied or pleased with your performance.

When interviewers ask this question, they simply want to understand how you take your work (how much you care about your job) and to what extent do you consider yourself responsible for your success in the role.

Take note of the following before you attempt the question:

  • Make sure the examples you are giving is relevant to the job that you are applying for.
  • Talk about your previous role.
  • Give tangible reasons why you think you were not satisfied.
  • Give an example of what you have learned.
  • State how your learnings have helped you improve.

Sample Answers

Sample Answer 1

“When I got my first job as a marketer and was given a target for the month, I was overwhelmed by what I was supposed to achieve, so I simply went out to get customers the possible way I thought. At the end of the month, I noticed I was the only one in the team that did not meet up with the target. I felt really bad.

I spoke to my boss about it, then he advised me to be more strategic and create a plan before carrying out any action. Working with his advice, I devised a marketing strategy and broke down plans to achieve my goals before I went out. After working with my strategy I become one of the top marketers in my company. I realized that it is very important to plan and that doing too many things at the same time does not guarantee success”.

Sample Answer 2

“At a point in my current job, I discovered that I was used to working in a team and because of that I became too dependent on other team members to get things done. My supervisor talked to me about it, and I started to be more responsible in carrying out my task and I wanted to start working more independently. I worked closely with my supervisor so she could give me personal tasks which she did. After doing more task alone, I develop a better sense of independence carrying out my task. Because I started working independently I developed other skills like advanced Excel skills that I applied to make my work better”.

  1. Tell me about a time when you worked under close supervision or extremely loose supervision. (How did you handle that?)      

Most times when interviewers ask this question, they want to know how well you can work in a team, how you relate with a superior and how well you can work independently.

When answering the question, always talk about;

  • What the situation was like.
  • The action you took to handle the situation.
  • What you learned.
  • How you finally handled the situation.

Sample Answers

Sample Answer 1

“In my previous job, I was working under a supervisor that was almost always busy with official duties, so he did not really have the time to supervise my task. It was quite challenging for me as an entry-level staff member with very little experience in Human resources. I decided to ask my colleagues in the same department how they carried out their task and they were always willing to help me through my task. Getting more knowledge from other people helped me work better and deliver result to my supervisor with ease”. (Working under loose supervision)

Sample Answer 2

“In my previous job, I was working as a content developer for the media team, but my line manager’s supervision was too close and almost intense. She watched everything I do and virtually sits by me all day. I felt very uncomfortable with it because it kept me under pressure almost all the time. Over time, I discovered that she did not really trust me to handle projects alone because I was new. I decided I was going to build her trust for the projects I handled. I talked to her about handling a project without supervision, she agreed reluctantly. I did my best to research and perform well in the project. The project was very successful, and since then she really did not need to supervise me with so much intensity”. (Working under close supervision).

  1. Tell me about a time when you went above your duty to do a job.

When interviewers ask this question, they simply want to know how passionate you are about your job. They would also love to know the extent you can go to get your job done. Interviewers also use this question to know how result-oriented you are.

Sometimes interviewers ask this question to see if you are the kind of person that is ready to take challenges and goes over the minimum to ensure that the job is done properly (when necessary).

These are aspects you should focus on when answering this question:

  • Focus on the goal of the question which is going over and beyond to get the job done.
  • Focus on the qualities that you displayed rather than the situation.
  • Focus on understanding what the interviewer means by going above your duties.
  • Understand how you would explain going over and above your duties to the interviewer.

Avoid the following:

  • Avoid exaggerating anything.
  • Don’t be in a haste to answer the question.
  • Avoid giving an example that is not related to the question.

Sample Answers

Sample Answer 1

“For me, I think that going beyond my call of duty is making sure that the right things are done at the right time and not just doing what I am expected to do. A very big company contacted us to get them the invoice for a range of product. The mail was sent to our mailbox. Fortunately, I picked the mail from the mailbox and discovered it was going to be late by Monday and it was already Friday. I took the mail home did my research and forwarded them the invoice even if it was not my duty. The following week we were awarded the multi-million contract”.

Sample Answer 2

“Going beyond my call of duty is going out of my way to make sure that everything works out perfectly. For example, I once worked as a logistics manager, so one day our big client made an order that needs to leave that night, I decided to assist with the packaging even if I was a manger till almost midnight. I did not want the client to lose trust in our vision which is express national delivery. I knew that was the only thing I could do to save the moment”.

  1. Tell me about a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work

Employers understand that no two people are the same, and working together with people there will points of agreement and disagreement. Most times, interviewers ask this question because they want to know how well you can work in a team, and how well you deal with disagreement.

When answering this question, you should focus on:

  • The decision you disagreed upon.
  • Why you disagreed with the decisions.
  • The alternative suggestion that you offered.
  • The result of the disagreement.

You should avoid:

  • Using negative words on people involved in the decision making
  • Avoid being defensive
  • Be careful to not sound opinionated

Sample Answers

Sample Answer 1

“My team members were working on a publication for the company, and my supervisor and other members of the team were keen about setting time targets to help us come up with the publication. I disagreed with that, I know setting a time target puts you on your feet to get the job done, but it also creates a tense environment and team members will work under pressure which will not help them see things from their creative space. I told them that it is better we take our time and come up with something that is worth it at the end of the day. After alot of deliberations, my supervisor and other team members agreed with me and the publication still stood out as one of the best that we have ever done”.

Sample Answer 2

“I was working on a project that needed us to reach out to so many people. My boss instructed me to go out on rallies so that we can create aware of our program. I did not agree with his instruction on going on the street of Lagos for a rally. I advised him that we should run an internet campaign that it is fast, easy and cheaper. He was really impressed with my online campaign suggestion that we carried out and we were able to reach out to the number of people that we wanted to reach ”.