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13 Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

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13 Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

You made it (almost)! After networking and sending countless resumes, you’ve finally landed a job interview. Of course, you want to be prepared, so you did what most candidates are recommended to do — you looked up “most common interview questions.”

The key to a successful interview is preparation, so it’s important to look up interview questions so that you can go to the interview with your answers already in mind. This will boost your confidence and increase your chances of a second interview, as well as help you get the job. To help you along, I’ve put together a list of common interview questions and some tips to craft winning answers.

Want to jump to a specific question? I’ve got them linked for you below:

“Tell me about yourself.”

“Why do you want to work for this company?”

“Why are you the best person for this position?”

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

“What’s a professional achievement you are most proud of?”

“How do you handle stress and pressure?”

“Tell me about a time you had conflict with a coworker or colleague, and how did you overcome it?”

“Tell me about a time you failed at work and how did you handle it?”

“Why are you leaving your current job? / Why have you left your most recent position?”

“How do you stay organized?”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

“What are your salary expectations?”

“Do you have any questions for me?”

What are common interview questions?

While every interview is different, most interview questions will focus on:

  • The skills and experience you’d bring to the company
  • Your work ethic and whether you have a growth mindset
  • How you deal with difficult situations
  • How well you’ll fit within the company

HubSpot’s Senior Manager of Content Meg Prater says she looks for empathy, coachability, and growth mindset when interviewing a candidate.

“Has this person demonstrated that they’re a good colleague?” she explained. “Has this person demonstrated that they can constructively give and receive feedback? And does this person actively look for ways to expand their skills and deepen their understanding of their role or industry?”

To prepare, research the company and, if possible, the person who is interviewing you. You’ll also want to re-read the job posting so you can be sure your answers align with the job requirements. For additional information on how to stand out in the interview process, here are some tips from our former manager of campus recruiting Colleen Grant.

Common Interview Questions and Answers

The questions asked during an interview will vary depending on the role you’re up for, however, the following questions are pretty common in interviews and should give you an idea of what to expect.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

My mind would always go blank when asked this question. What should I say? What do you need to know? Who am I? To avoid an existential crisis in the middle of your interview, think of the answer as your elevator pitch.

You don’t want to speak at length about your personal hobbies and passions, but you also don’t want to give a dry runthrough of what’s on your resume. Instead give a pitch that is concise, persuasive, compelling, and explains why you’re the perfect candidate for the job.

Start by speaking a little bit about your current role and include any experiences or wins that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Then provide some background as to how you got there, once again focusing on experiences that correlate to the interview. End the pitch by tying all that information together and explaining why you are perfect for the role.

2. “Why do you want to work for this company?”

This question helps the interviewer determine if you’ve actually done your research on the company. According to LinkedIn, 47% of candidates are rejected because they only have a vague idea of their company and the job role.

To beat the statistics, do your research and find something unique about the company that really interests you. For example, during my interview with HubSpot, I pointed out the company’s one-of-a-kind culture code as a huge motivator for wanting to join.

My answer showed that I did my research beforehand and that I had a genuine interest in being a part of the team. When researching, look for items such as the company’s mission statement or any news articles about recent accomplishments.

3. “Why are you the best person for this position?”

Every candidate thinks they’re the best for the job, but what makes you stand out above the rest? Be prepared to confidently state the experiences and accomplishments you have that prove why you’re perfect for the position.

To prepare your answer, review the qualifications and requirements listed in the job description, and craft your answer so that it aligns with what the interviewer is looking for.

4. “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Focus on one or a few core strengths you possess that are relevant to the role. Back these strengths up with specific examples. For instance, if you’re going to say that you’re a great multi-tasker, bolster your answer by mentioning a time you successfully juggled multiple projects at once. If you’re a self-starter, talk about a time you successfully took on a project or task without having to be asked.

Now, how can you mention a weakness without tarnishing your image as the perfect candidate? Start by choosing a weakness that will not prevent you from succeeding in the role. For example, if it’s a writing job, don’t say you struggle with spelling.

Be genuine with your answer and choose an actual weakness. This is the time to show your potential employer that you are self-aware and always looking to grow. Maybe you struggle with multi-tasking or asking for help when you need it.

After choosing a weakness, be prepared to explain how you’ve worked to improve. Don’t underestimate your capabilities, but don’t come off as arrogant either.

5. “What’s a professional achievement you are most proud of?”

To prepare for this question, think back to a moment where you achieved amazing results at your previous job. Don’t be shy about your accomplishments, because this is the perfect opportunity to show what the company gains from hiring you. A simple way to approach this question is to use the STAR method: situation, task, action, and results.

Give the interviewer background context by describing the situation and the task you had to complete. For example, “At my last job, I was an account manager and I was responsible for managing several high-profile clients.” Then you would describe what you did (the action) and the result: “In one quarter, I used my SEO knowledge to boost my clients’ web traffic by an average of 25%.

6. “How do you handle stress and pressure?”

Deadline pressures, frustrated clients, and an uptick in responsibilities are common occurrences at most workplaces, so it’s important to show the interviewer you can keep a level head in any situation.

Avoid saying you’ve never or rarely experienced workplace stress. Instead, relate the question to a time you were stressed on the job, then explain how you overcame it or used it to your advantage.

For example, I’m very candid about telling employers that I keep stress balls on hand and that I always take a moment to do deep breathing exercises when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I also approach deadline pressures as a challenge to complete projects faster — and I love a challenge. There’s no shame in experiencing stress, it’s all about how you respond to it.

7. “Tell me about a time you had conflict with a coworker or colleague, and how did you overcome it?”

This question helps to determine your communication, people skills, and self-awareness. When answering this question, avoid bad mouthing the coworker you were in conflict with, instead focus on the heart of the problem and how you resolved it.

Prater told me this is actually her favorite question to ask during interviews:

The answers to this question tell me a lot about the candidate’s ability to problem solve and their self-awareness. Most of us have worked with someone we didn’t quite get along with,” she said. “I love to hear how folks navigated those situations and identified ways to better understand the other person and better themselves.”

Rather than saying, “I had this incredibly rude coworker at my old office,” say “I worked with someone whose communication style was different from mine.” Then, explain how you both reached common ground: “I realized that face-to-face communication was more helpful to us than email communication, since tone can be lost or misconstrued in texts. So, I decided to schedule weekly coffee meetings to ensure we were on the same page about the project.

Quote2

8. “Tell me about a time you failed at work and how did you handle it?”

Yes, you want to convince the interviewer that you’re the best person for the job, but no one is perfect. Your answer should highlight that you can take responsibility for your mistakes and that you won’t put the blame on others.

Perhaps you missed an important deadline at your previous job. You can use that situation as an opportunity to share how you accepted feedback, learned from the issue, and developed a system of organization that keeps you on track with deadlines.

For this question, it’s important to demonstrate self-awareness.

“When all answers focus on outside factors rather than how the candidate handled situations, I get concerned,” Prater said. “Things often happen outside of our control — but tell me what you learned from that situation and how it has informed your actions/work moving forward.”

Quote3

9. “Why are you leaving your current job? / Why have you left your most recent position?”

The most important thing to remember when answering this question is to be honest while avoiding a negative spiral about your current or previous employer. Focus on your excitement for new experiences and the professional goals you’re working toward. Saying you want to face new challenges, be closer to family, or apply your skills to a new field, are all acceptable answers.

If you were laid off from your current job, you can be honest and say your position was eliminated due to a merger, budget cuts, or restructuring. If you were fired, responding with “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is also fine. Of course, the latter will result in the interviewer asking why you were fired. Tell the truth, because you never want to get caught in a lie, and be sure to frame it as a learning experience.

10. “How do you stay organized?”

Employers want to know you can be trusted to stay on top of all of your responsibilities, especially if the role is in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment. Explain your method. Do you use calendars, sticky notes, digital folders, spreadsheets, or organization tools like Trello or Hootsuite?

Prepare a clear and concise answer that shows you’re dependable and will have your new tasks under control.

11. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

It’s important to be honest and specific in your answer. When crafting your answer, make sure you:

  • Keep your expectations realistic for your career
  • Show that you are an ambitious person and that you’ve given a lot of thought to your career path
  • Highlight how the new position aligns with your ambitions

And if you’re not sure what the future holds — that’s okay too. You can tell the hiring manager that you’re still figuring things out, but express that you are confident the position will play an important role in building your future.

12. “What are your salary expectations?”

This question definitely requires research ahead of time. Use sites like PayScale or Glassdoor to find out what similar roles pay, then factor in your experience, skills, education, and cost-of-living. If you choose to answer with a number, give a salary range that is somewhere in the mid-to-high point of what you’re looking for.

You can also flip the question back to the interviewer by saying, “That’s an excellent question — if possible, it would be helpful to learn the range for this role.” You can also delay the salary conversation by saying you’d like to learn more about the role or the rest of the compensation package before discussing pay.

13. “Do you have any questions for me?”

The answer to this question should always be yes. Before the interview, you should have already done your research on the company and the role. That research should be used to help you form questions that will give better insight into the job and team. Questions targeted toward the interviewer are especially helpful.

“I don’t expect a candidate to be an expert on the role or even the company, but I appreciate when a candidate has done some basic research and asks me thoughtful questions that go beyond, ‘What do you like about working at [company name]?’ or ‘What would success look like in this role?’” Prater said. “Those are important questions, but I love when a candidate digs a little deeper as well.”

If you’re working remotely, you may also want to ask the following questions:

  • Would you be working traditional office hours or are there special hours for remote workers?
  • How much of the team is remote?
  • How does the team communicate?
  • What does team building look like for remote staff?

Quote4

Interviews can be nerve wracking, but you’re likely to succeed if you take the time to plan ahead. When you research and form your responses in advance, you’ll be able to approach the interview with confidence. If you’re still nervous, remember they chose to interview you for a reason — they already see your potential.

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Before Deciding Where Your Content Team Reports, Pay Attention to This

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Before Deciding Where Your Content Team Reports, Pay Attention to This

When a brand creates a new content marketing or content strategy team, they often ask, “What function or department should the content team report to?”

My answer? “Yes!”

Now, I’m not trying to be a smart aleck. (Well, I am a little bit, do you even know me?) But seriously, my yes comes from years of helping implement content teams in dozens of businesses. My affirmative response indicates the most important thing isn’t to whom content reports; it’s that content teams report to the business.

When it reports into a function, such as brand, marketing, sales enablement, demand gen, PR/comms, or even (yes, really in one case) finance, the business acknowledges content marketing is a real thing with real responsibilities, power, and capabilities to affect business outcomes.

“What outcomes?” you might ask.

Well, that depends on where content marketing reports.

Now you have the real conundrum.

You can’t figure out where content marketing and content strategy should report without knowing the expected business outcomes, and you can’t know the business outcomes until you know where they’re reporting.

The most important thing isn’t to whom #content reports; it’s that content teams report to the business, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It’s tricky.

Content’s pervasiveness creates the challenge

Content as a strategic function in business affects almost everything. That pervasiveness means nearly any function in the business could “own” content as a strategy.

For example, we recently worked with a company about a year into its enterprise-wide digital transformation strategy. They have a content team, and we were to help them assemble a governance and operational approach for their website content.

When we determined the right operational processes, we got into trouble. A content team leader asked, “What if someone proposed a new AI chatbot as part of this digital transformation for the website? Is it a content project with a technology component or a technology project with a content component?”

The question isn’t semantics. Instead, the answer determines the process for development, the team owning implementation, and the measurement by which it’s deemed successful.

Knowing where a #content project is assigned determines its development process, implementation owner, and success metric, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It’s not just a technology challenge, either. The company also wanted to create new brand content guidelines for the website. Is that a content team project informed by the brand team or a brand project in consultation with the content team?

Given content’s pervasiveness, you can argue it is part of any meaningful communications initiative the business takes on. But sales’ needs are different from marketing’s, and HR’s requirements are different from the demand-gen team’s. However, to achieve consistency in content and communication, it doesn’t make sense to let each function determine its content strategy.

To achieve the balance between an enterprise-wide content strategy and the unique needs of every function in the business, the leaders and practitioners must decide to whom content reports. Again, the agreement is important, not the where or what of the agreement.

3 key attributes to identify in the decision-making process

As you and the leadership ponder how to balance the enterprise content strategy and where it should sit, consider these three key attributes that play an essential role in success.

1. Develop a content operations backbone

I don’t care if you have two people and one blog and a website or a team of 50 who operate on 35 content platforms across multiple channels. A content operations infrastructure creates consistent success across your digital content experiences. Content operations is an enterprise-recognized set of integrated and shared systems (meaning technologies), standards, guidelines, playbooks, and processes to ensure reliable, consistent, scalable, and measurable content across the business.

Content operations acts as the backbone – the foundation – to ensure the content is created, managed, activated, and measured the same way across whatever audience and whichever channel the brand presents to.

2. Connect with the audience across platforms

You can no longer expect to create one optimal experience that makes up for a bunch of sub-optimal ones.No matter your size, it’s not good enough to have your blog subscribers separate from your marketing automation database and all that separated from your CRM system. This goes for all of your audiences – from new employees to external parties such as analysts, journalists, partners, vendors, etc.

In this approach, the goal is to engage, build, and develop relationships with audiences. Thus, connecting audience behavior with insights on how to communicate better is not a siloed functional need; it is an enterprise need.

3. Build an accountability framework

This attribute in one word? Standards (and a team to keep them.) In a truly fascinating way, one of the earliest activities in building a content strategy makes the biggest impact on larger businesses: Come to terms with what words around content strategy and marketing mean. What is a campaign? What is the difference between a campaign and an initiative? What is an e-book? What is an article vs. a blog post? How long should a white paper take to write? Most businesses assume these things or create meanings based on contextual needs.

At a recent client, one group expected the content team to produce white papers within a week of the request. Another group expected them to be delivered in six weeks at double the length that the other group thought.

An accountability framework – and its ongoing evolution – presents clear ownership and coordination of content standards (roles, responsibilities, processes, types) across the enterprise. This model should not detail the definitions and standards but identify how they will enforce them.

Start your content decisions by deciding together

Where should you begin?

Well, just like in the beginning, my answer is yes. Independent of where you start, the critical point happens in the deciding of the elements. To be clear, these are institutional decisions, not simply “what you think.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what you believe the definitions, roles, or processes should be if the other parts of the organization don’t know, believe, or care.

A great first step is to create that accountability framework and make people care about its existence. At first, it might create a language of content that everybody in your business understands. When someone says, “I’d like to do a campaign,” or, “I think we should write a white paper,” everyone understands what that means and what it takes to do it. Then, the benefits of an accountability framework will start to become clear.

It makes the case for a team assigned to lead this consistency easier. And that enables the team to connect those experiences and audiences in a way that makes sense for everyone.

In the end, you have found determining the where, how, and what of a content strategy implementation isn’t the most important. The act of deciding is.

It’s a strange combination. In isolation, the reason for deciding seems straightforward. So why wouldn’t anybody want a clear definition of what a campaign is or a single source of the truth when it comes to the tone of your content?

But stacked together, those decisions feel like they are bigger than the content team and really should involve the entire enterprise. (Spoiler alert: They do.)

If you want any desired consequence, you had better decide on all the things that would help create it.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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