Common interview questions | Job interview questions | Youth Central

What are some of the most commonly asked job interview questions and how should you answer them? Here's what the experts have to say. 

Job interviews often follow a common pattern. Many of the same questions come up again and again.

If you know what those questions are, you can prepare for an interview by coming up with ways to answer them. You could also practise your answers before an interview.

Here are some common job interview questions with some suggestions for ways to answer them.

These are just some questions that might come up. They cover most of the things an interviewer will want to find out about you, though.

For more about interview questions visit these pages:

Tell me about yourself.

This question is often asked at the start of an interview. The interviewer wants to know about your skills and experience. They're interested in things that show you could do the job well.

Here's how you could answer:

  • If you've had other jobs before, talk about what they were and what you did.
  • You could also talk about other experiences, like playing in a sporting team, or volunteering with a community group.
  • Try to relate your experiences to the job you're being interviewed for.

For example, if you're going for a job that involves working with other people you could say, ‘Playing soccer has taught me how to work well with others. We won the premiership last year. It made me realise that if people work together as a team, they can achieve something big.’

Why did you apply for this job?

When an interviewer asks this question, they're not asking about why you're looking for work. They want to know you've thought about what you can bring to this particular job.

Answering this question is a good opportunity to show you've done some research into the business.

Make it clear you know what their business does and what the job involves. To find out more about ways to do some research, visit our What to research before a job interview page.

Here's how you could answer:

  • Start out by saying, ‘Because I think I can really help you to…’
  • Then talk about what you think the job involves.
  • Next, tell them how your experience matches the skills needed for the job.
  • Never say, ‘Because I need the money.’

For example, if you're going for a job in a warehouse you could say, ‘I've done this kind of job before and I have good attention to detail. I know how to carefully check deliveries against the inventory for any mistakes.’

Tell me about a problem you had and how you solved it.

When interviewers ask this question, they want to know how you deal with problems. They also want to know that you're persistent and you can cope with challenges.

Here's how you could answer:

  • Choose a tough situation you've faced in the past.
  • You can use examples from things that have happened in your job, family, school, community or sporting club.
  • Relate your story back to the job you're going for.
  • Show that the skills you used to solve the problem are relevant to the job.

For example, if you're going for a job in retail you could say, ‘I volunteered at a community event and dealt with a difficult person who claimed they were overcharged. I stayed calm, listened to what they said, and tried to solve their problem. When I couldn't, I got the event manager to help.’

What are your strengths?

Interviewers often ask you to talk about your strengths. This means the things you're good at. This is a good chance to sell yourself as the right person for the job.

Here's how you could answer:

  • Choose one or two things you're good at.
  • Talk about how these things will help you do the job well.
  • Use examples from your experience. Show that you can put your strengths into action.
  • Don't lie or exaggerate.

For example, maybe you're persistent. You could say, ‘When I start something, I have to see it all the way through to the end. When I worked as a kitchenhand, I stayed until the kitchen was clean at the end of my shift.’

What are your weaknesses?

After asking you about your strengths, interviewers often ask about your weaknesses. This means the things you're not so good at.

It can be hard to talk about things you aren't good at. The best way to answer is to be positive. This is a chance to show that you know what you need to improve about yourself.

Here's how you could answer:

  • Choose one specific thing you can improve on.
  • Make sure you pick something that's not essential to the job.
  • Talk about what you're doing to improve.

For example, maybe you're not good at public speaking. You could say, ‘Every time I have to speak in a team meeting, I get nervous and I have trouble getting my words out. It's something I'm working on by practising at home.’

What if you don't get these questions?

You mightn't get asked all of these questions, but you'll probably get asked at least one or two of them. Even if you prepare for a question that doesn't get asked, though, your prepared answer can help you with other questions.

For example, if you don't get asked, "Tell me about yourself" you can still keep looking for a chance to talk about how your experience matches the job.

Another thing you could do to prepare is come up with a list of other questions you might be asked, and ways to answer them. Everything you do to prepare for an interview can help you do well on the day.

Finally, at the end of the interview, if you've still got things you want to talk about, you can always politely say something like, ‘Before we finish, can I just add…’