11 Common English Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Searching for jobs is extremely stressful, but you know what’s even more stressful?

Having to do your interview in another language.

But it doesn’t have to be if you prepare yourself for this opportunity that could really change your life, forever!

Here are 11 interview questions in English that they will likely ask, along with answers to help you succeed.

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English Job Interview Questions 

There’s some great news when it comes to job interviews. It’s not all doom and gloom (bad). Most recruiters these days ask the interviewees  (you) the same basic questions.

So with a little preparation, you can speak very well at your interview, even if you don’t have a very advanced level of English.

1. Greetings and introducing yourself

Sure, there are a lot of casual ways to greet others in English—but which one do you use at a job interview?

Always start with “Hello” or “Good morning.”

Try saying “How are you doing this morning?” instead of just “How are you?” The small differences make English very natural, just like the English that native speakers use.

When someone asks you how you are, be honest!

For example: 

“I’m great! I’m at an interview for a company I admire,” or “I’m a little nervous. I’m at an interview for my dream job.”

This honesty and personality will connect with the interviewer. After all, they’re human too and they’re excited to learn about you.

In the video below, you’ll learn everything you need to know before your big interview in English:

2. Tell me about yourself

After greeting, shaking hands and introducing yourself, the next thing that interviewers are probably going to ask you to do is to talk about yourself.

Now, this might seem easy for you – you’ve practiced it in your English class so much, but they don’t want to hear every single detail. Avoid saying something like: I was born in Beijing. I love playing on the computer and surfing the net. or I have two sisters. 

They don’t want to know everything about you. They want to know about you and your career growth; they want to know about you related to the job you’re applying for.

Also, make sure you don’t use any informal slang or make any basic grammar mistakes.

For example:

I’ve been working as a junior chef at a small Italian restaurant for 2 years and my duties included assisting the head chef and preparing salads. I have always been interested in food and cooking which was why I chose to follow this career path. I studied at ******* college, where I gained my first-level cooking diploma.

3. What are your strengths?

When your interviewer asks you this question, they want to know all your positive qualities. These positive qualities need to relate to what they want and are looking for.

So before you head into your interview, make sure you do your research as to what kind of person suits this job, especially if you’re a newbie  (new to something) and entering the workforce for the first time.

Interviewers have many ways to ask about your strengths. They’re what make you a great employee. An interviewer wants to know what is best about you. They’ll ask about strengths with questions like:

Suited for means “right,” “matched,” “a good fit” or “suitable for.”

Bring to the table means what benefits, skills or value will you bring to the company?

An asset is something valuable. This question is really asking “How will you benefit this company?” or “How will you make this company more valuable?”

Treat this question as a chance to advertise yourself – you are the product, now market yourself. The thing to remember here is not to just list a number of adjectives (anyone can do this). Instead, use examples to support your point.

For example, you could answer with any of the following:

To be punctual (to be on time)

I’m a punctual person. I always arrive early and complete my work on time. My previous job had a lot of deadlines and I made sure that I was organized and adhered to all my jobs.

A deadline is the time when you must finish something by and to adhere to means to respect something.

To be a team player (to work well with others)

I consider myself to be a team player. I like to work with other people and I find that it’s much easier to achieve something when everyone works together and communicates well.

To be ambitious (to have goals)

I’m ambitious. I have always set goals for myself and it motivates me to work hard. I have achieved my goals so far with my training, education and work experience and now I am looking for ways to improve myself and grow.

To take initiative (to do something without having to be told to do it)

When I work, I always take initiative. If I see something that needs doing, I don’t wait for instruction, I do it. I believe that to get anywhere in life, you need this quality.

To be proactive (to take action to prevent problems or grab opportunities)

I’m proactive. When I think about things, I do them. I like to see results and it’s important in this industry to be proactive and responsible for your own actions.

To keep your cool (To stay calm in all kinds of situations)

I think it’s really important to be able to stay calm when you’re working as a reporter. It can get really stressful, but one of my greatest qualities is that I can keep my cool and I don’t allow the pressure to get to me, which helps me achieve all my goals and remain focused.

Here are a number of other words that can help you answer this question:

Word or PhraseMeaning
Focused (Adj)To concentrate well
Confident (Adj)Not shy
Problem solver (N)Someone who can find answers to problems easily
Team building skills (N)The ability to take the lead and be the leader of the group
Negotiate (V)
To work to get a better deal that is favorable to you
To have a good work ethic (V)To work hard, follow the rules and respect your duties of the job

Remember: It’s really important that you give good, solid answers and back them up with evidence. Otherwise, it’s just going to sound like you’ve memorized what you’re saying.

Some companies won’t directly ask you what your strengths are. They could ask the same thing, but using different words, such as:

  • Why do you think we should hire you?
  • Why do you think you’re the best person for this job?
  • What can you offer us?
  • What makes you a good fit for our company?

Watching sample interview videos is a great way to get comfortable with the process and get an idea of the type of questions to expect.

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4. What are your weaknesses?

What? I don’t have any weaknesses! Of course you do—no one’s perfect.

Everyone has weaknesses, but what they’re checking for here is how you try to fix your weaknesses. They also want to know how self-aware you are (how much you know about yourself).

Interviewers can ask you about your weaknesses in different ways, such as:

The word opportunities means that you need to improve in these areas. You have the opportunity to get better. This is not a typical use of the word, but it’s a business term you should know.

A trick here is to turn those weaker qualities into positive qualities. Always begin with frequency. Your weaknesses occur “sometimes,” “occasionally” or “at times.” You should use these words to show that your weaknesses aren’t happening and causing problems all the time. This lessens the severity (harshness, impact, seriousness) of your weakness.

For example, your weakness is that you spend too much time on projects which makes you work slower. Turn that into a positive by saying:

I sometimes am slower in completing my tasks compared to others because I really want to get things right. I will double or sometimes triple check documents and files to make sure everything is accurate.

Accurate means correct.

Another great trick is to talk about a weakness (like being disorganized) and mention some methods that you’re using to help overcome this:

I have created a time management system, which allows me to list all my duties and organize my deadlines so I have a clearer idea of what I need to do. 

A time management system refers to a set of strategies, tools, and techniques to help people effectively plan, organize, and prioritize their tasks and activities within a given timeframe.

5. Why did you leave your last job?

If you’re applying for your first job, this question is not for you. However, if you’ve worked before, the interviewer wants to find out why you left your old job.

Did you leave because you were fired (your old boss asked you to leave for doing something wrong)? Did you quit or resign  (choose to stop working)? Or were you laid off (dismissed from the job) because you were made redundant  (no longer needed)?

If you chose to leave your old job, avoid saying anything negative about your old workplace or boss (even if this is true). The person or people interviewing you will just look at you in a negative way. You can say the following:

6. What were your responsibilities in your previous position?

Your interviewers will want to hear what you’ve actually done in the past. This is the most accurate way to understand what you can do in the future.

Possible interview question:

What were your responsibilities in your previous position? How did you tackle them?

Your previous position refers to your most recent work experience (or the job you held before the interview). Your responsibilities (also called job tasks or duties) were the kind of work you needed to do there.

Tackling your responsibilities refers to how you did your job. How did you manage your work? How did you handle daily tasks?

Possible answer:

I was a sales associate in charge of the Northeast region. My responsibilities included meeting a sales quota every 4 months. I tackled my sales quota by setting small goals every month, learning about the product and building relationships in the local communities. I met my sales quota two months early.

Not every question is so straightforward. Interviewers want to surprise you. They want to make you think and see if you’re good at solving problems. Other questions about your past might ask about your feelings. They might want to know when you felt the most proud or most disappointed at work.

Sample question:

When were you most disappointed at work? How did you feel? What did you do?

A good way to answer this question is to use this common formula: PAR. P for problem, A for action, R for result.

What was the problem?

My colleague resigned and I was given all of her responsibilities, in addition to my existing work. I felt overwhelmed.

Common problems or challenges are: working within tight deadlines, (very limited time to complete work) and working with limited resources (the resources might be time, money and/or staff).

What was the action?

I combined related responsibilities so I could complete them all together. I understood the job duties for this position, so I also assisted in hiring and training an appropriate replacement.

What was the result?

I developed an effective replacement team member. She was even promoted within the year.

PAR takes a negative situation, when you were most disappointed, and turns it into a challenge that you conquered (mastered). This shows that you can solve problems and be successful with responsibilities. 

7. Tell us about your education

Here they want to know everything you’ve studied related to the job. For example, your training and further education  (e.g. university, polytechnic, college). You don’t need to tell them everything you’ve done since elementary school, just the important things.

You’ll want to tell them about any of the following if you have them:

  • Degrees: 3-4 year qualification from university/college
  • Diploma: A short-term qualification (e.g. 1 year) from a college/university/polytechnic
  • Certificate: A piece of paper showing your participation in a course

Make sure you take all the necessary documents with you, as they may need proof!

If they ask you the question: tell us about your scholastic record, they want to know what kind of grades you received.

8. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

Here, they’re asking about your goals. Again, it’s related to your career, not your personal life. So if having a family is on the list, don’t mention it.

Be careful what you say here. You need to be ambitious, but not too ambitious as those interviewing you may see you as a threat  (competition).

You can mention: By then I will have… or I would like to have…

9. What kind of salary do you expect?

Here, they’re asking you about how much money you would expect to earn from the job. Be reasonable. Make sure you do your research on the internet about what the average salary is.

Don’t say I don’t know, it makes you sound unsure. Be confident and name your price without selling yourself too short  (going for less) or going too high.

The truth of the matter is, they already have a salary in mind, but this is their way of checking if you know the industry and if you’re aware of your own skills.

10. Answering tough questions

As stated, interviewers want to surprise you. They want to see how you think. They want to know that you can solve problems, especially in stressful situations (such as an interview).

Lately, top companies are asking seemingly impossible questions such as “How many windows are there in Manhattan?” or “How many oranges are there in California?”

Step 1: Think out loud.
Step 2: Make a few assumptions and guesses.
Step 3: Answer.

Take for instance the first question:

“How many windows are there in Manhattan?” How can we answer this?

Step 1: Think out loud.

I would start by guessing how many windows are in each building.

Step 2: Make a few assumptions and guesses.

Assuming that the average building in Manhattan has 80 windows…Supposing that the average city block has 10 buildings…Let’s say that there are 1000 square blocks in Manhattan…That means there are 1000 x 10 x 80 windows.

Step 3: Answer.

There are 800,000 windows in Manhattan.

Your assumptions are almost guaranteed to be wrong. That’s okay. That’s also why we have step 1. Tell your interviewer what you’re thinking about. Let them hear your assumptions. This way your interviewer can see that you’re intelligent, thoughtful and can solve problems.

Refer to this Forbes or The New York Times article for perfect examples how to answer these questions and more. 

11. Do you have any questions for me/us?

Yes, you do! This is how an interviewer will usually finish the interview. They’re not just being polite—they want you to speak.

Remember, they’re still judging you as you answer this question. So don’t ask anything that will make you sound silly, such as what kind of work does your company do? Or how much vacation time do I get each year?

You want to find out more, and if you don’t ask any questions, then they may view this as you being not very interested in the job. Ask questions like:

  • What is the next step? This is a way of asking what’s next in the interview process. They will tell you how many days it will take to make their decision and will inform you if you need to come back for a second interview.

As Jon Youshaei, a contributor at Forbes, says that you should use this time to ask questions and share something about yourself. I love this example he provides:

Weak question: “Will this job provide opportunities to work in foreign countries?”

Strong question: “I’m passionate about languages and I studied Arabic in college. Will this job give me opportunities to work with markets in the Middle East?”

Rather than simply asking a question, you’re also sharing your interests and strengths at the same time.

How to Act Confident in an Interview 

Using English as a second language can be terrifying, particularly in an interview.

Why?

An interview is about more than language.

You need to know English well, yes. But you also need to use good body language. Act confident. Sure, you may be less confident in business English than in your native language. However, your ability to laugh about mistakes is positive. If you become nervous about making mistakes, then this will be more negative.

You’ll also feel more confident if you research the company and research the industry.

Applying for a finance position at Bank of America? Learn about the bank. Then learn about the current state of the financial industry in America and internationally.

You can easily learn about the company with the following resources:

  • Financial statements — Formal reports of a company’s finances.
  • Press releases — Official statements that share the latest news affecting the company.
  • Earnings calls — Public calls discussing finances within a specific period.

Your interviewer might ask you specific questions about the company. Researching the above information will help you answer these questions. Those are a few good ways to boost your confidence for your interview. Remember that practice makes perfect, so be sure to practice your answers. 

 

Job interviews don’t have to be scary. Remember first impressions count, think before you speak and give awesome answers to win that job.

Good luck!

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