You’ve heard all those interview horror stories about crazy and a-bit-too-personal questions, but sometimes the trickiest interview questions can actually be the most common ones! Speaking about yourself can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re afraid of coming across as a boring or unqualified candidate. However, keeping in mind a few key ideas during your interview can make a huge difference in the results. Chances are, you’re guaranteed to be faced with at least one of these questions during your interview, so why not prepare for them to the best of your ability?

Whether you have interviews lined up or are just beginning the job-searching process, it’s never a bad time to start preparing yourself to answer these commonly-asked questions. Here are some ideas to focus on when they come your way:

  • Tell me about yourself.

Sometimes it seems impossible to decipher exactly what the interviewer is looking for when they ask you this question. Do they want to know your life story? Your favorite foods? Your darkest secret? What could you possibly say in this moment to reveal yourself as the exact candidate that the company is looking for?

It may be tempting to talk to the interviewer about your very-personal life story, but they’re really just looking for some insight into your professional experience. Think of this moment as your one opportunity to sell yourself to the company. Why are you perfect for the position, and why do you want it? Introduce yourself according to your previous occupations (i.e. I’m a freelance blogger with “x” experience), and then tell them how you’re trying to expand your professional life with this new opportunity.

  • What are your greatest strengths and weakness?

Even if you really are a perfectionist, that’s definitely not the best strength or weakness to name during an interview. (Honestly, the interviewer has most definitely heard this one more than a few times before). When discussing your greatest strength, focus on a key skill that was listed as “required” in the job description. If you’re going to be working alone in a cubicle, it might not be the best idea to discuss how great you are at working on a team. Also, be sure to use a concrete example of a time when you displayed this strength to solve a problem or make some type of improvement at your last job.

When discussing your greatest weakness, do not – we repeat, do NOT – mention any skill that was in the original job description. However, for the job in which you will be working individually, it would be OK to discuss your difficulties with working with a team. It’s a good idea to end your discussion of your greatest weakness on a positive note. Perhaps you have actually improved your technological skills recently, even though they’re still your biggest weakness. Just make sure not to avoid the question at all costs.

  • Why are you interested in this position/company?

In order to answer this question to the best of your ability, you must conduct research on the position and company to which you’re applying. Familiarize yourself with the company’s mission statement and any newsworthy changes that have taken place recently. Find one thing about the company that you find especially interesting and important, or discuss a past experience you’ve had with the company, brand, or a specific product. Additionally, remember to study the job description that you originally applied for. What part of the position most closely aligns with your prior experience? Is there a portion of the job that will be a learning opportunity for you? All of these are valid discussion points.

  • What are you expecting salary-wise?

This may be one of the trickiest questions that interviewees face, because their responses can have a big impact on the interview. If you name a price that’s too high, the interviewer might decide they can’t afford you. However, if your price is too low, they may think you don’t value your own work – so why should they?

Before your interview, conduct some research to discover the range of salaries for other professionals in your industry with your level of experience. It’s totally fine to share this range with the interviewers, as well as the level of your past salary, as long as you believe it was fair. Also, while it may be risky, sharing another good offer you’ve received from another company might increase the offer from the interviewer, should you receive one.

  • Describe a time you faced a problem at work and how you solved it.

Some job-searchers’ least favorite interview questions begin with “Tell me about a time when…” because they can be super specific and often require quick-thinking. However, the worst thing a candidate can do when responding to this question is think on his or her feet. These questions aren’t hard to prepare for, they just require a little bit of practice! Before your interview, take some time to brainstorm problems you’ve faced in your past jobs, problems that could potentially arise at your new job, and how you would solve them. It requires a bit of memory and imagination, but you’d be surprised how one good example of problem-solving skills could answer a plethora of interview questions.

  • Why are you leaving your current job?

While the best answer to this question obviously depends on your actual experience, there are a few things you should never do when responding to the interviewer. First, even if your prior boss was the worst person in the world, it’s imperative that you never badmouth him or her, or the last company you worked for. The only conclusion the interviewer will come to in that situation is that you will do the same to them after you leave. That being said, one of the best ways to sidestep any negativity in answering this question is to talk about your past company’s lack of opportunity for growth. Then, you can let the interviewer know that you’re very much interested in reaching your greatest potential at your new job.

  • Why should we hire you?

This is your opportunity to take a brief moment and brag about yourself. Similarly to “Tell me about yourself,” this question warrants a not-rehearsed-sounding-elevator pitch about your greatest strengths that coincide with the job description. Also, it’s a good idea to focus on an aspect of yourself that is completely unique. You are your biggest advocate in this moment – don’t let yourself down.

  • Do you have any questions for me?

Your answer to this question should always be “YES!” because you should always have at least two questions prepared to ask at the end of an interview. Be sure to ask open-ended questions, and be sure that they haven’t already been answered. Some topics to explore are: company culture, day-to-day responsibilities, the future of the company, and opportunities for growth in the position. Remember that asking questions demonstrates your interest in the job and shows that you aren’t afraid to take initiative if you have something to say or need clarification.

Feeling prepared for any question that may come your way? Click here to download Rake and let us help you land those interviews you’ve been working towards!

Also published on Medium.