Practice answering the most popular questions: Every once in a while an interviewer will ask an unusual question like, “Why are manhole covers round?” but generally they will have a list of questions that are pre-approved by HR, or that they found on Google. Below is a list — in no particular order — of the most frequently asked questions and relevant answers.

Tell me about yourself. In sales, they call your answer the elevator pitch. A good way to think of this is to imagine telling your life story in 30 seconds. There’s no time for details like what your high school mascot was. Just hit the highlights. Examples: where you grew up, why you love the work you do, favorite things to do in your free time.

What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses? Begin with strengths and how they apply to this position. Prepare responses for two weaknesses. This shows you can be introspective and are grappling with your shortcomings. Avoid nonsense answers like: I try too hard, work too hard, or care too much. These are not weaknesses, and interviewers find them amateurish. You won’t fool anybody.

Why would you want to leave your current job? This is an opportunity to discuss your thirst for advancement and wish to accomplish more. Don’t complain about your current employer. This makes you look bad and untrustworthy; after all, you chose to work there.

How do you handle stress or pressure? Talk about coping skills you’ve learned and successful work habits. For example, talk about making to-do lists or planning your days in advance to accomplish everything you’ve scheduled.

Describe a difficult work situation or project and how you overcame the problem. They’re looking for a clear example here. We recommend the STAR method. Situation. Describe the situation in detail. Task. Describe the task you were responsible for. Action. Describe what you did. Result. Explain how it worked out in your favor.

What are your future goals? List some short-term goals as well as a couple of important long-term goals. Consider having one of the goals be about personal development — like a certification or class you’re taking. A long-term goal might be to buy a house or new car. Avoid mentioning vacations you’d like to go on. It might seem as if you’re looking forward to time off before you even start work.

What is your greatest accomplishment? Think of something altruistic (such as charity or community work you’ve done) or something connected to your education (degrees or certifications you’ve earned) or a previous position you excelled at (company awards or recognition) or success in a challenging project. Keep it related to your career and avoid personal items like becoming a parent.

What are your hobbies? Make sure you have hobbies or interests to talk about. This makes you seem more human, and you may find you have something in common with your interviewer.

What was the last book you read? You’ve probably heard this before. On average, CEOs read two books a month while most people read less than one a year. Demonstrating an interest in reading reflects a desire for personal or professional growth and paints you as someone who loves to learn. We used to have this question on our candidate application and there was a time when almost everyone’s answer was 50 Shades of Gray.

What motivates you? Again, relate this question to work. Do you prefer having objectives set for you and managers who support you in aiming for those objectives, or would you rather be closely managed? Are you motivated more by reward or praise for success or, instead, by doing what’s needed to avoid being written up for errors or shortcomings — the old carrot and stick.

What makes you a good leader/manager? Talk about teams or employees you’ve managed and your management style. Are you Authoritative, Persuasive, Coercive, Participative, Collaborative, or Delegative? Whatever your style, why do you choose to manage that way? Give examples of how it works for you.

Come prepared and it will pay off. Email me and I’ll tell you why manhole covers are round. Now let’s get to work!


Ryan has worked in staffing for the last eight years. Two years ago, he took the leap to develop a firm whose mission was to elevate staffing to a professional service that treats our candidates as well as we treat our clients. He is very proud of his team and constantly seeks to celebrate their victories together while quietly learning from their losses. 

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