The ultimate guide to answering common job interview questions + templates

Welcome, English learners, job seekers and aspiring professionals!

If you’re here, chances are you’re preparing for that big job interview and you want to make sure you hit the nail right on the head.

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

This is your no-nonsense guide to mastering the art of the job interview. We’ll delve into the most common interview questions, provide you with concrete sample answers and, as a bonus, equip you with easily customizable templates that fit any job role!

So, buckle up and let’s get started!

1. Tell me about yourself!

“Tell me about yourself” is often one of the first questions in an interview and sets the tone for the conversation. Instead of giving a comprehensive biography, you should focus on a concise and engaging narrative about your career path, your skills and experiences, and why you’re there today.

You might say something like:

“I’m a detail-oriented IT professional with over five years of experience in the field. I started my career as a helpdesk analyst where I honed my problem-solving skills. Later, I transitioned into a role as a network administrator where I was able to deepen my technical skills while also developing leadership abilities. I’m passionate about optimizing systems and processes to improve efficiency and performance. I am excited about this opportunity because it allows me to combine my technical expertise with my passion for innovation.”

Here’s a basic template:

I am a/an [adjective that describes a key professional trait] professional with [number] years of experience in the [industry or profession]. I started my career as a/an [entry-level role] where I [describe a key responsibility or achievement]. Then, I transitioned to a/an [mid-level role] where I [describe a key responsibility or achievement]. I’m passionate about [briefly describe a professional interest]. I am excited about this opportunity because [give a specific reason related to the job or company].

It’s important to mention your achievements and what you bring to the table, but don’t simply recite your resume. The interviewers have that in front of them. What they want to know is how your experiences have shaped you and how they make you a great fit for the role!

2. Why do you want to work here?

When interviewers ask this question, they’re trying to gauge your understanding of the company and the role. They’re interested to know if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity or if you’re just seeking any job. A well-prepared answer demonstrates you’ve done your homework and are seriously interested in the company and role.

Here’s a note of caution: Never suggest that you want the job because it’s convenient (e.g., close to home, nice perks, etc.). This fails to demonstrate genuine interest in the company’s work or the role.

A more appropriate way to answer could be:

“From my research and what I’ve seen so far, your company culture encourages innovation and values employees’ contributions to making a positive impact in the industry. It’s an environment I’ve thrived in previously and one I’d love to be a part of again. Moreover, the role is an exciting challenge that matches my skills and career aspirations. I am particularly drawn to the opportunity to [mention a specific job responsibility or project you are excited to tackle].”

Here’s a simple template:

I’m drawn to your company because of its [mention something specific about the company’s work, culture, or values that you admire]. Additionally, the role aligns well with my skills and experience, especially [mention a specific job responsibility or task]. I am particularly excited about [mention a particular aspect of the role or a project that appeals to you].

It’s crucial that your answer comes across as authentic and well-researched. Spend some time exploring the company’s website and social media pages to get a feel for what they value and their recent accomplishments. Then, tie those specifics back to your own skills, experiences, and passions. By doing so, you communicate to the interviewer not just that you want the job, but that you’ll excel in it!

3. Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses!

The key to successfully answering the “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” question is balance. You want to be honest and self-aware, while also showcasing your skills and areas of improvement in a way that’s relevant to the position.

When discussing your strengths, focus on the abilities and experiences that make you an excellent fit for the job.

For instance, you might say:

“One of my main strengths is my ability to effectively communicate and build relationships with stakeholders. In my previous role as a Business Development Manager, I frequently interacted with clients and vendors. I was able to establish and maintain strong relationships, which played a significant role in securing strategic partnerships and expanding our client base.”

When it comes to weaknesses, the key is to be authentic, but strategic. Don’t choose a weakness that could be a major hindrance in your job. Instead, discuss a real area where you could improve, and talk about the steps you’re taking to address it.

You could say:

“In the past, I’ve struggled with public speaking. I could communicate effectively in one-on-one settings or small groups, but larger audiences made me nervous. I recognized that this was an area I needed to work on, especially for progressing in my career. To improve, I enrolled in a public speaking course and have been seeking opportunities to present in front of larger audiences, including taking the lead in team meetings. I’m still working on it, but I can see progress and I’m determined to continue improving.”

Here’s a template that you can use:

One strength I bring to the table is [mention a strength]. This was particularly apparent when I was a/an [previous job title], where I [give an example of how you demonstrated this strength].

Conversely, a weakness I am conscious of is [mention a weakness]. I realized this when [describe a situation where this weakness was evident]. To address this, I’ve been [mention strategies or steps you’ve taken to improve this weakness].

4. Why are you leaving your current job?

An interviewer posing this question wants a slice of your mindset. Are you after greener pastures with a fatter paycheck? Or maybe seeking a different career trajectory than your previous job? Are you hunting for a role that could bloom into a long-term career, or is this just another stepping stone for you?

We do understand that this can be an especially difficult question, especially if you have been fired, laid off, or you have resigned. But don’t worry, you can use these answers below and modify it to suit your situation!

a. If you were fired

In some unfortunate cases, you might find that your skills and expertise do not perfectly align with the expectations or needs of your employer. This mismatch may result in termination. If this happened to you, an ideal response would be:

“While I brought a unique skill set to my previous position at [Company], it became clear over time that the role required someone with a different set of experiences. My employer and I agreed that it would be in both our interests for me to pursue opportunities that better matched my professional background.”

This response exhibits professionalism and maturity, and it reframes the situation as a mutual agreement rather than an abrupt firing.

b. If you were laid off

Companies go through ups and downs, and layoffs are sometimes unavoidable. If you’ve been laid off due to a company-wide decision, here’s a potential response:

“Unfortunately, due to some organizational changes and a shift in strategic priorities, my position as [Your Position] was made redundant. While it was a difficult situation, it allowed me to reassess my career goals and focus on the direction I wanted to take. This role aligns perfectly with those goals because…”

In this answer, you display an understanding that sometimes uncontrollable organizational changes occur. It shows resilience, positivity, and a forward-thinking attitude.

c. If you resigned 

Resignation often comes with the pursuit of better opportunities or need for change. If you voluntarily left your job, you might say:

“I immensely valued my time at [Company], where I learned a lot and made significant contributions. However, I felt it was time for a new challenge and to broaden my horizons. This is why I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity at your company, as I believe it aligns perfectly with my future career goals.”

This answer highlights your ambition and willingness to embrace new challenges, which are attractive traits to most employers. It also transitions well into why you’re interested in the new position, wrapping up your response on a positive note.

5. Tell me about a problem you encountered at work and how you dealt with it!

When addressing a question about dealing with problems or conflicts, it’s often useful to use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your response. Here’s an example:

a. Situation:

“In my previous role as a Supply Chain Analyst, our team noticed that we were experiencing significant delays in our procurement process, resulting in slowed production and increased costs.”

b. Task:

“As part of my responsibilities, I was tasked with identifying bottlenecks in our processes and proposing solutions to streamline our operations.”

c. Action:

“I initiated a comprehensive review of the current procurement process, tracking each step to identify where delays were occurring. It turned out the main issue was a manual approval process that took far longer than necessary. To address this, I proposed a digital, automated approval process that would cut down on unnecessary paperwork and speed up the overall process. I coordinated with the IT department to implement this new system.”

d. Result:

“Within 3 months of implementing the new digital approval process, our procurement timeline improved significantly, resulting in a 20% increase in efficiency. This, in turn, had a positive effect on our production speed and cost management.”

6. What are your salary expectations?

When discussing salary expectations, it’s important to demonstrate that you’ve done your research and you understand the market rate for the job. But remember, a job isn’t just about salary, there are other factors to consider such as professional growth, work-life balance, company culture, and benefits. Here’s how you can tackle this question:

“I understand that a variety of factors go into determining a salary, such as the level of experience, the cost of living in the area, and the complexity of the tasks involved. I’ve done some research, and based on the industry standard and my qualifications, I’d expect a salary in the range of XXX-XXX  Rupiah per year. However, I’m open to discussing this figure based on the total compensation package and the opportunities for growth and advancement that your company provides.”

Remember, it’s often better to provide a range rather than a specific number. This gives you and the employer some flexibility to negotiate.

Also, be sure to research typical salaries for the position you are applying for. Websites like Glassdoor can provide some insight, as can professional networks or contacts in the same industry.

7. Out of all the candidates, why should we hire you?

Navigating this question requires a mixture of confidence, authenticity, and a deep understanding of what you bring to the table. The interviewer is keen to understand why you are the best fit for the role and how you can contribute to their organization’s success.

Here’s a sample answer:

“Based on our discussions and the job requirements, it seems clear that you are looking for a Digital Marketing Specialist adept at devising and executing strategic marketing campaigns to drive user acquisition and boost brand visibility. In my most recent role at X company, I was instrumental in planning and implementing a multi-channel marketing campaign that led to a 40% increase in user base and a 30% rise in sales over six months. Moreover, my background in graphic design and content creation complements my digital marketing skills, allowing me to create visually appealing and compelling content. As someone who thrives in fast-paced, dynamic environments, I am particularly excited about the chance to bring my skill set to your dynamic team and contribute to its growth story.”

And here’s a template you can use:

Given our discussions and the job requirements, you’re looking for someone who can [mention key job requirements]. In my last role at [previous company], I [provide specific examples of how you met similar requirements or achieved similar goals]. Additionally, my experience in [mention any additional relevant experience or skills] enables me to [explain how this helps you in the potential job]. I’m particularly excited about this opportunity because [mention what you find exciting about the job or company].

8. Can you explain why you changed career paths?

Shifting career paths is common in today’s dynamic job market. Reasons can vary from seeking personal growth, pursuing a passion, needing new challenges, or finding a better work-life balance. Regardless of the reason, it’s essential to assure the interviewer that you’re committed, enthusiastic, and ready to bring value to the role you’re interviewing for!

Here’s a sample answer:

“In my role as a software engineer, I found myself consistently drawn to the project management aspects of our work. I particularly enjoyed strategizing, planning, and seeing a project progress from an idea to reality. As much as I valued my technical skills, I felt that my strength and passion truly lay in leading and coordinating projects. I decided to pursue a project management certification to equip myself for this new path. This career change allows me to leverage my technical background while focusing on what I enjoy and excel at, which is guiding a project to successful completion. I believe this combination of experience and passion will be beneficial in the role I’m applying for.”

And here’s a template you can follow:

In my role as a [Current/Previous Position], I found myself drawn to [New Aspect of the job you enjoyed/Interest/Skill]. I particularly enjoyed [Further explanation about what you enjoyed]. Even though I valued my skills as a [Current/Previous Position], I realized that my passion and strengths truly lay in [New Career Path]. To facilitate my transition, I [Specific action(s) you took to prepare for the new career path]. This change allows me to leverage my [specific skills or experiences from previous career] while focusing on what I love and excel at, which is [Specific skills or qualities relevant to new career]. I believe this combination of experience and passion will be beneficial in the role of [The role you’re applying for].

9. Do you work well with others?

When an interviewer asks if you work well with other people, what they’re really trying to gauge is your ability to collaborate and interact effectively with a team. Whether it’s exchanging ideas, solving problems together, or just getting along with diverse personalities, being a team player is a valuable asset in any professional setting.

Now let’s dive into an example response:

“Absolutely! While I have no problem working independently, I find my creativity truly flourishes when I have the opportunity to brainstorm with colleagues, exploring different viewpoints and solutions.”

10. Do you have any questions for us?

This is an opportunity to show your interest in the role, the company culture, and to find out if this role aligns with your career goals. Below is an outline on how you can answer:

This is your moment to turn the tables and put the interviewer on the spot! As much as they’re interviewing you for the role, remember that you’re also assessing them and the company. Make sure to come prepared with a list of thoughtful questions to gain insight into the organization and role that may not be easily found on their website.

To give you some ideas, people often ask about the day-to-day responsibilities for that particular role, the company’s work culture, how the company evaluates the company’s success, and what professional development or learning opportunities are offered in the company.

The best questions come from active listening during the interview!

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