While the best interviews feel more like a conversation than a one-sided question and answer session, at their root they’re made up of questions that hiring managers will ask and the answers you will give. If you want to decode the types of questions you’ll be asked in every interview to get to the root of what employers are searching for, this guide can help.
Overall, there are five categories that interview questions fall into, with a few purposes and areas of interest covered within each. They are as follows:
1. What have you done? Every interview will contain questions about what you’ve done for a variety of reasons. These questions help hiring managers understand the details of the experience laid out briefly on your resume, your journey as a professional, and what you’ve accomplished throughout your career. If you highlight your strengths and show how much you’ve already grown as a professional, they’ll be interested in hearing more and may extend a job offer at the end of it all.
2. What can you do? When you’re asked these questions, they’ll focus less on your past work and more on your future. Are there latent skills you haven’t been able to use in your current position? Have you been learning any programming languages or cutting-edge technologies in your free time? Are you the type of person who, when faced with a problem you can’t solve, gives up and runs to the boss or learns something new in order to figure it out? These questions will help the hiring managers understand what kind of value you can add to their organization and what you’re capable of, even if you haven’t yet reached your full potential.
3. Do you belong? These questions are often more personality or value oriented and serve many purposes. The first purpose is to establish a connection between yourself and the hiring manager, this will help you relax during the interview and show your true personality (which they want to see, obviously!) The second purpose is to see if you’re the kind of person who fits well within their established company culture. If this organization loves to hire people with a competitive spirit, they may ask you questions about the sports you’ve played or awards you’ve received. If this company values a fun sense of humor, they may ask an off-the-wall question like, “who would win in a battle, Spiderman or King Kong?” Whatever their company culture is, they’ll tailor questions to see if your values and personality align with them. This is why it’s so helpful to research as much about the company and its culture ahead of time, and ask them to describe their culture during your interview.
4. Are you a reliable, smart hire? Although almost every question could fall into this category in one way or another, it’s best to think of these questions as the ones that determine whether or not they can trust what you’re saying. For example, when asked, “what are your strengths?” and “what are your weaknesses?” answers that embellish or exaggerate accomplishments while bypassing shortcomings may raise a few red flags. Any questions about past failures or mistakes will also fall into this category. If you answer honestly, focusing on how you overcame past failures and mistakes or how you plan to improve on your shortcomings, you will be seen as trustworthy and reliable.
5. Where are you going? The final category that interview questions fall into is all about your goals, the direction you’re heading in, and if those goals align with the position. Questions like, “who inspires you?” or, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” are some of the more common ones you’ll hear. Basically, hiring managers are trying to figure out what motivates you, if your goals align with their company, and if you’re striving towards adding value rather than staying stagnant.
While you never know exactly what questions you’ll be asked in an interview, every question will fall into one of these 5 categories. If you manage to effectively let employers know what you’ve done, what you can do, how much you belong, that you’re a smart and reliable hire, and that you’re going in the same positive direction they are, you’ll absolutely land the job.