How to Answer These 6 Common Interview Questions

How to Answer These 6 Common Interview Questions - Style Nine to Five

It’s a secret they don’t tell you when you’re establishing yourself in the work world: a lot of job interviews ask the exact same questions. Sure, there will also be plenty of questions tailored to the position or company, but there are also many common questions that’ll appear no matter your field or level of experience. Here are six examples.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Aim to give a concise one-or-two sentence professional summary. What work you’ve done in the past, what work you hope to do in the future, with values, skills and accomplishments sprinkled in.

Tailor your answer to the job you’re interviewing for – every detail you give should explain why you’re a good fit for the role. If you’ve always worked in retail but did freelance writing on the side, and now you’re interviewing for a full-time writer position, you’re not going to say you’re coming from a retail environment, you’re going to emphasize your strong writing background.

Example: “I’m a communications major who writes career advice blog posts for my school’s website, which have led to a 50k increase in monthly traffic. My loves of both writing and helping others find their passions have led me to the blog writer role at Style Nine to Five, where my research skills and attention to detail would allow me to thrive.”   

2. “Why do you want to work for our company?”

Any time you answer this question, tap into three things: the company’s values, the job posting’s responsibilities and your own qualifications. More specifically, point out where your values align with the company’s, explain that you’d not only be adept at the job responsibilities, but you’d enjoy them, and, quite simply, state your skills would make you a great fit. Tie those three factors together into one concise answer and you’re all set.

Example: “My dream job was always that one that involved making a difference in the lives of others, and Style Nine to Five gives me the opportunity to do that through my writing and editing talent. This coupled with my communications background and the fact I’ve never missed a deadline will make me an asset to your company.”

3. “What do you know about our company?”

Before a job interview, you need to study up! Learn everything you can about the company – scour the company’s website and social media, as well as articles about them and websites like Glassdoor. Keep a mental highlight reel handy when you go into the interview so you can share the best of what you’ve learned.

You should be touching on the company’s values again, but also more concrete things about the company: when was the company founded? By who? Why? What have their greatest successes been? And, a bonus question, if you’re familiar with the company: how have they touched your life? If you can tie your knowledge of the company in with a brief personal anecdote, you’ll score some points.

Example: “Style Nine to Five is the only fashion job board in Canada, founded in 2010 by Christie Lohr after she struggled to find the right candidates through traditional job boards. It was built on the foundation of a need to uplift and help others in the same industry as Christie, something I’ve always admired. As someone who has landed jobs in the past using tips from the Style Nine to Five blog, I think my desire to pay it forward to others in the same industry would bring me success here!”

4. “What are your strengths and successes?”

When formulating a response to this question, narrow down your potential answers to only strengths and successes you can provide concrete evidence of. Use your strengths to set up your successes: lead in with what you’re good at, and then end your answer with why.

The best way to provide evidence is through metrics. Anyone can say they ran a social media campaign – if you can add on how many purchases, new followers, or website visits your work created, there’s concrete evidence that your campaigns are good quality.

Example: “I am a skilled writer, editor and researcher who has honed these skills as a blog writer for my university. My posts giving career advice have led to an increase in website traffic, with 50k new monthly visitors since I began posting in September, and I have even had 10 students personally reach out to me to tell me my tips have gotten them job offers.”

5. “Why do you want to leave your current job?”

Whatever your answer is, keep it positive. You may want to leave your job due to a toxic environment, or because you simply don’t like it – but don’t say that! Spin your exit in a way that reflects positively on yourself, your employer and the company you’re applying for.

Generally, your answer to this question should look forward in some way. Maybe this new job opportunity will allow for further career growth, is closer to your goals, or you’d like to learn new skills you can’t learn at your current job. Make sure you look motivated to grow as you enter this new position.

Example: “I love my current job, but I think Style Nine to Five will propel me forward in my career journey in a way my current job can’t. Fashion writing is the ultimate goal for me, and writing for Style Nine to Five will challenge me to grow in that area. I’m also ready to take on more responsibility – since you want six articles per month, I’m excited about the prospect of writing more here than I was before.”

Example: “It’s not so much about leaving my current job but about moving towards opportunities that allow me to contribute effectively and continue to develop professionally. I’ve really enjoyed my time at (Company Name), and I’ve gained valuable experience and skills. However, I’m looking for new challenges and opportunities to grow further. I’m particularly excited about the prospect of (specific aspects of the new job or company), as I believe it aligns well with the direction I want to take my career.”

6. “What is your salary expectation?”

Once again, do your research. Look up how much other employees make in this role. Keep in mind your experience level – if you’re just starting out in this field, you can’t expect to make as much as someone who’s been working in it for twenty years.

This is the one question where you can afford to not be too specific. Too low and you’re underselling yourself, too high and the employer may go with someone who pitched lower. You can get away with giving a pay range, or even not saying a number at all. If you do give a range, start higher than your absolute bottom so that you don’t wind up underpaid. Also, promise that there’s room to negotiate – this way, the employer’s assured you can figure out what’ll work for you both!

Example: “My salary range is flexible, but due to my four years of professional writing experience and university education, I expect a salary in the range of $X to $X. I’m happy to discuss what you think would be a fair salary for the position if you think I would make a good fit!”

Research is key to nailing a job interview, and that means researching potential questions, too. You can prepare your ideal answers and do your best to memorize them so that you won’t be stumped when they come up in an interview. Good luck!

Still antsy about your upcoming interview? Book a Style Nine to Five Interview Prep session!

Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.