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Interviews: The Most Common Questions Answered

By David Peterson posted 07-29-2016 13:42


Interviews: The Most Common Questions Answered

By: David Peterson, Managing Partner, Direct Recruiters 

With a job interview coming up, a candidate may begin to prepare by planning their outfit, confirming the time and place, printing out resumes, cover letters, and reference sheets.  More importantly, candidates will start to think about the questions that will be asked and how to answer them.  No matter how many interviews a person has been on, it is likely that the first thing he or she does is type “interview questions” into Google as a refresher on the common questions and the best way to answer.  Odds are, candidates will know how to answer these questions, but why are they being asked and what is the interviewer really trying to find out?

Take a look at these 5 common questions, why interviewers are asking them, and good approaches to giving the best answers possible.           

Tell us about yourself.

              This prompt often happens at the very beginning of the interview.  At first glance it seems self-explanatory why an interviewer would ask this, but normally this question is more important than you might think.  This is the opening for the interviewee to make a great first impression as well as the chance to show how his or her background is relatable to the position.  It is a good idea for candidates to show the interviewer that they are qualified right from the start with a well-thought out answer to this question.   


  • Keep the answer concise so you don’t bore the interviewer
  • Relate your background to the details of the position


  • Don’t get too personal
  • Don’t just list off what is already on your resume

What are your strengths?

              Commonly used to gauge confidence, and again, see how the candidate aligns with the position, interviewers ask this question to identify what they are good at and find out how well they will do in the position.  It is important to think about this question before the interview to make sure to be prepared with strengths indicating high performance in the position.  While one may have many strengths, it is essential to pick the strengths that are most relatable to the job.


  • Provide short examples of your strengths in action with recent accomplishments or positive results
  • Be confident when discussing your talents


  • Don’t pick a strength that is irrelevant to the position
  • Don’t be too vague – be able to elaborate


What are your weaknesses?

              This might be one of the tougher common interview questions.  Even more important than the actual weakness, employers will pay attention to how candidates handle this question.  While it is important to give an actual weakness, candidates also have to tell the interviewer the ways in which they are improving upon it or how the weakness is being overcome.  Try to decide on a weakness that won’t directly ruin the chances at the job, but make sure to be honest. 


  • Try to turn what may be perceived as a negative into a positive
  • Talk about what you are doing to improve


  • Don’t make a claim that you have no weaknesses
  • Don’t talk about weaknesses that will immediately eliminate you from the job opportunity 


Tell about a challenging situation and how you overcame it.

              Most interviewers will ask at least one situational question in an interview.  What they’re really trying to find out is how the interviewee handles stress, working with others, and how problems are solved.  Be prepared with examples of situations with previous experience and make sure to tell how the problem was solved while remaining professional and calm. 


  • State the specific situation, action taken, and the result that came from it
  • Have multiple examples of different situations because this question could vary
  • Exemplify how you came up with a solution in the situations logically


  • Don’t be vague and speak in generalities

It is always smart to prepare for as many different types of questions as possible before going into an interview.  For additional interview tips, take a look at our Candidate Toolkit here:

For over 33 years, Direct Recruiters, Inc. has been recognized as the relationship-focused search firm that assists top-tier organizations with recruiting, acquiring, and retaining high-impact talent for mission-critical positions.

To contact David Peterson, Managing Partner and Director of Plastics & Flexible Packing at DRI:  440-996-0590 or