Interviewing

Types of Interview Questions and How To Answer Them

May 24, 2021

During a job interview, you might encounter different types of questions designed to gather certain information. Interview questions determine your qualifications and experience in addition to assessing your personality and work style. Understanding why hiring managers ask certain questions can help you prepare your answers before the interview. In this article, we look at five types of interview questions and provide advice on how to answer them.

Related: How To Prepare for 9 Interview Types

Questions that assess personality

Employers ask these types of interview questions to get to learn more about who the candidate is as a person and an employee. These may include questions that measure whether the candidate is right for the job or if they are a match for company culture.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • How will your strengths add to the role?
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Have you ever changed someone's opinion?
  • Tell me about a time you reversed a negative situation.
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why are you right for this job?
  • What challenges are you looking for in this position?

Related: How To Sell Yourself in an Interview

Questions that demonstrate abilities

Interviewers ask these questions to determine if the applicant's abilities match those required by the position. Questions range from listing skills to providing examples of how skills are used.

  • What skills do you bring to this job?
  • What experience do you bring to the position?
  • How long were you in your last position?
  • What was most rewarding about your last job?
  • What did you like or dislike about your previous job?
  • What were your responsibilities in your last position?
  • What was your biggest accomplishment?
  • What were your starting and finishing salaries?
  • Which systems/software/programs/apps are you familiar with?
  • What does an ideal job mean to you?

Related: Interview Question: "Why Should We Hire You?"

Questions that determine qualifications

These questions are looking for the details of why the candidate is right for the position. The questions may assess credentials as well as how the candidate might have handled job-related situations in the past.

  • What training have you had?
  • What is the highest level of education you've completed?
  • What certifications do you hold?
  • How will your experience benefit this company?
  • Explain how you produced results in your last job.
  • Explain how you found a creative solution to a problem.
  • Explain how you reduced costs at a previous job.
  • What makes you different from the competition?
  • What steps do you take to avoid errors?
  • You are tasked with improving communication, how would you do it?

Related: Interview Question: "What Can You Bring to the Company?"

Questions that predict behavior

Employers ask these questions to get an idea of how applicants have approached job challenges or duties. Employers may ask for specific examples that tell a story of how situations were handled, how conflicts were resolved or how goals were met.

  • How do you handle a challenge?
  • Have you ever made a risky decision?
  • Provide an example of a goal you reached and how you achieved it.
  • Provide an example of when a goal wasn't met and how you handled it.
  • How do you set priorities?
  • How have you handled difficulties with coworkers?
  • What do you do if you have a problem with a coworker?
  • How do you handle deadlines?
  • Tell me how you work under pressure.
  • Do you ever postpone making decisions? Why?

Related: How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

Questions that demonstrate knowledge

These questions may be industry-focused to better determine how well the candidate knows the company. Employers measure understanding of how the company works and how the candidate envisions their role in its mechanisms.

  • What do you think is the biggest issue our industry faces today?
  • If you were to supervise a department, what is the first thing you would do?
  • If you were the hiring manager, what qualities would you look for in a candidate?
  • If you could start a company like ours, what are the first steps you would take?
  • If you had a generous budget, how would you allocate funds?
  • If you could choose someone from the industry as our mentor, who would it be?
  • Imagine this industry in five years. How will it look?
  • What does your future look like in this industry?
  • What could your last company do to be more successful?
  • What tools do you use to complete tasks or delegate responsibilities?

Related: Interview Question: "What Are Your Future Goals?"

Interview questions by type with sample answers

Here are a few common questions along with sample answers to guide you. Interviewers are interested in the content of your answer as well as your ability to provide engaging and complete responses. Researching the company and practicing your answers can help you prepare for the interview.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What experience do you bring to this position?
  • What makes you different from the competition?
  • How have you handled difficulties with coworkers?
  • Imagine this industry in five years. How will it look?

Tell me about yourself

Interviewers ask this question to better understand your personality, work ethic and work style. While it's fine to mention related hobbies or interests, focus your answer on how you fit the role.

Example: "I have been an avid hiker for years, and my previous jobs were in retail sporting goods stores and as a trail guide over the summer. I think I'd be a great fit as a marketing assistant because I understand sporting goods from both consumer and seller points of view."

What experience do you bring to the position?

Employers ask this question to learn how you have accumulated skills and abilities that fit the position or that may not be listed on your resume. Keep your answers relative to the role and discuss how your training or hard skills can help the company improve or earn greater success.

Example: "I have 10 years of experience in personal finance management, and I have assisted many repeat clients to decide on investments and grow their portfolios. As a financial analyst, I routinely consult data charts and economic trends to advise clients on making sound financial decisions. I have also supervised other analysts and provided training so they could effectively help clients meet education or retirement goals. As a financial consultant for your firm, my experience can guide the company and build client trust."

What makes you different from the competition?

Employers ask qualification questions to determine if you meet the requirements of the job. Employers want to know more about your education and training, how your skills are relevant to the job and why they should hire you. Provide an answer that highlights any unique strengths you have that could help you stand out from other candidates.

Example: "I have always been an achiever and strive to learn and grow in my field. After I earned my associate degree in nursing, I sought additional training through certification, and I plan to earn my bachelor's degree within the next four years. I also studied human behavior and social services to be a compassionate advocate for disadvantaged youth."

How have you handled difficulties with coworkers?

Interviewers ask behavioral questions to assess soft skills, such as interpersonal, problem-solving or time management. This question might require an extensive answer that explains a particular situation and how it was resolved.

When the interviewer asks a question that requires you to relate a story, remember the STAR method to help you provide a detailed answer.

  • Situation: Describe the situation and the people involved.
  • Task: Explain the tasks or responsibilities.
  • Action: Describe the actions you took.
  • Result: Explain how the action produced the result.

Example: "I was the team leader for an important project that involved four other team members. One of the team members had trouble meeting deadlines and was delaying the next steps because we had to complete their tasks. As the team leader, I called a meeting to discuss the obstacles that we encountered and to reassess task delegation.

The team member who was missing deadlines explained a personal situation that was distracting from their performance. I decided to give them some time off and reassign some of their tasks. I worked closely with them to meet upcoming deadlines, and we were able to finish the project on time and under budget."

Imagine this industry in five years. How will it look?

Interviewers ask questions that relate to the job industry to assess how knowledgeable you are on changes or how you envision the future of your role. Take some time to reflect on your answer and keep it thoughtful and concise.

Example: "The IT industry is growing so quickly, it's hard to imagine how it will be in the future. If present advancements are an indicator, within the next five years, I expect the development of AI to surpass our current expectations."

Tips to prepare for an interview

Here are some tips you can try to prepare for your next interview:

  • Do your research. Take steps to prepare for the interview by reviewing the job description and researching the company. Prove to the interviewer that you have industry knowledge, understand the company's mission and highlight the skills and experience that match the job requirements.
  • Rehearse your answers. For most interview questions, you can prepare your answers ahead of time. Study interview questions and have a general idea of how you will answer. Focus on the information you want the interviewer to have.
  • Take your time. After you've been asked a question, take a moment to think about your answer. Listen closely to the question to determine whether it seeks a personal, behavioral, abilities, knowledge or qualification answer.

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