Business Insider compiled a list of the strangest interview questions that candidates received while interviewing for jobs at some of the nation’s top companies.
While it’s fun to ponder your answers to these questions, your focus in preparing for your interview should be on developing responses to the following 20 common interview questions. These are standard questions asked at companies of all types and to employees at all levels.
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Why are you interested in working for us?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
What can you offer us that someone else can’t?
What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
What is your dream job?
What would you accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days on the job?
Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
Why are you looking for a new job?
Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
Who are our competitors?
What was your biggest failure?
What motivates you?
Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
What are your career goals?
What are some of your leadership experiences?
What questions do you have for me?
We hope you have found this list of questions helpful. Remember the interview is not just an opportunity for an employer to learn about you, but for you to learn about the company and your co-workers.
So be prepared to answer any or all of these common interview questions, but not to the point that you sound overly rehearsed. The interview should be a conversation, that hopefully concludes with you being offered the job of your dreams.
In a job interview, preparing for specific questions is not enough. If you want to make a great impression and stand out from the crowd, we suggest you follow the strategies outlined below.
Adapting these frameworks will put you firmly in control of your job interview and improve your chances of landing your dream job.
Develop Your “Elevator Pitch”
The average hiring manager interviews 8 people for every open role. The number is high enough that they generally have to go back to their notes to remember candidates. The exception is candidates with a strong elevator pitch. This is no more than 15-20 seconds about you, your background, or even your goals which answers the questions why they should hire you.
You should weave this into an early response — before you dive into something more factual. Offering a story or narrative that shows what a strong candidate you are helps you to rise to the top of the list of candidates.
Here’s an example:
Interviewer: Tell me about why you are looking for a new job?
You: I’m an accountant with 5-years of experience at fast-growing SAAS companies and have a passion for building accounting processes at a ground-level before companies really start to scale. I’m looking to move to an earlier-stage company where I can leverage that skillset and my interests, and believe this opportunity would be a great fit.
Read about the Company
No matter how prepared you are to talk about yourself, not knowing the essentials of the company you’re interviewing for conveys a lack of preparation and interest. You can’t show an interviewer how you’ll fit in the company until you know the company.
In this day and age, every company either produces content or promotes the content written about them by third parties (i.e. Techcrunch, Business Insider). Make sure you delve deeply into the company’s website or LinkedIn feed so you can see how they position themselves to their clients.
From this, you’ll be able to know who the leaders of the company are, their revenue model, and near-term strategic objectives. Pick something that grabs your interest and ask your interviewer about it.
The Briefcase Technique
This is an amazing technique that will absolutely set you apart from your competition. The following video provides more info of how and why this method works.
In a nutshell, you show up to an job interview with a written proposal describing what you believe a company’s pressing problem is and how you would go about solving them. Some ideas for this include:
Create a high-level 5-year model
CAC / LTV analysis based on your understanding of the business
Audit readiness roadmap
Map of chart of accounts
Don’t worry if any of these are not perfect, it is the effort and discussion that you want to foster.
Diligence the Job You’re Applying for
Get to know the job you’re applying for intimately before arriving at your job interview. Don’t just read the job description—study it and research every task required of you.
When you interview, framing your responses so that you reveal your significant knowledge about the job gives you a massive advantage.
Use insider information (via informational interviews ideally with someone in a similar position to your interviewer) to make sure you speak their language — if you are interviewing at a highly metrics driven org, then make sure you speak about KPIs that you believe they should be tracking.
Figure out the Company Culture and Position Yourself as a Great Fit for it
When you diligence the company, figure out what the founding/leadership team emphasize. Do they value ideas, numbers, or design? Once you know that, you can position yourself for the position perfectly and speak to it during the interview.
What makes you special? It could be that you’re an idea machine, or a statistical fanatic.
Whatever they emphasize in a job interview, you can prepare to fit it into your responses. For example, when an interviewer asks, “What are your strengths?” skip the clichés and go right into qualities about you that are unique to the job. You’ll make it clear that you’re the perfect fit.
Prepare a Story Behind Every Answer
While you should outline key points you will touch on if asked these questions, you need to be ready for the interviewer to ask a follow-up question like, “What does this strength look like in action?”
Prepare a story that really demonstrates your work or strengths in action. Make it simple, high-level, and relatable. And make sure you have a great punchline speaking to your impact.
Humans relate to stories which are often more memorable than just listing off facts. We’re confident that this strategy will leave an indelible impression far after your interview.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You, and everyone else interviewing for the job, already know many of the questions you’ll be asked. The difference lies in preparation. Preparing unique and position-specific responses will give you the competitive edge over everyone else.
You don’t need to memorize answers, but instead know certain points of reference about yourself that you can apply to different questions.
Make sure to “mock interview” yourself. Video your responses until you’re able to speak comfortably and flexibly—as opposed to rotely regurgitating answers—about your prepared topics. Videoing yourself will feel awkward when you do it, but it will pay off in spades.
Project a Relaxed, Calm, and Positive Demeanor
Your hiring manager or future colleagues will feel more comfortable with you as a potential colleague if you project a relaxed and calm demeanor. Humans are attracted to confident people and a telling sign of that is someone who is relaxed and calm.
If you show fear or anxiety, it appears weak — while interviews are nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing scenarios, take a deep breath and do your best to stay calm and relaxed.
We also recommend that you smile when starting your interview; numerous studies show that smiling not only increases your happiness and confidence, but it also puts the people you’re interacting with at ease. This is mostly due to mirror neurons in the brain that naturally mimic other people’s expressions and emotions.
Pulling this off requires emotional intelligence (EQ), a skill that employers are increasingly looking for in candidates.
Good interviewers have a way of getting to the crux of who you are. They may have an innate sense for reading people, or they might just be really good at asking the right questions. Regardless, it’s essential to approach your interview with honesty.
If you interview as your non-authentic self, you’ll either not get the job when the interviewer sees right through you, or you’ll end up in a job that’s a poor fit. Don’t focus on what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Instead focus on giving an honest and passionate breakdown of what you have to offer.
Bringing It All Together
Let’s face it, interviewing is still tough. It’s hard to show who you really are and what you’re capable of during a quick sit-down chat. These strategies will help you to eliminate nervousness and anything unexpected that might derail an otherwise great job interview.