After sending out countless cover letters and resumes, you’re starting to line up interviews. If you’re in a full-force job hunt, you may find yourself speaking with multiple companies within a week—all at different stages in the interview process.

No matter how much interviewing experience you may have, each hiring manager deserves to meet with a well-prepared candidate. Coming to your interview prepared not only shows you’re serious about your interest in the position, but that you respect their time.

With this in mind, here are four common interview questions you should start preparing for now if you want to land your next job.

Common Interview Questions to Be Prepared for

1. “Tell Me About Yourself.”

Although technically not a question, it's a common opening line. This prompt roughly translates to, “What’s your story?” and your response can set the tone for the entire interview.

Here’s how you can make your story a best seller:

Consider Your Audience: Research a company in advance to assess their culture and determine which details are most relevant to share.

Create an Outline: Avoid losing your audience by creating an easy-to-follow storyline. Focus on having a beginning, middle, and end. Consider using the template below to get started:

  • Present: Where are you right now?
    • “I’m currently a Business Analyst for…”
    • “I work on…”
    • “I enjoy…”
  • Past: What brought you to this point?
    • “I previously worked as…”
    • “I studied…”
    • “I decided to transition because…”
  • Future: Where are you trying to go?
    • “Now that I have experience in…”
    • “After completing my degree…”
    • “I'm eager to work on…”

Practice, Practice, Practice: The goal is not to memorize a script, but rather to familiarize yourself with your own highlight reel. Play with the order of the template depending on the biggest selling points of your experience. People typically remember the first and last thing they hear, so prioritize accordingly and keep it concise. A 30- to 60-second response is best.

Why Is This Question Important?

It's a foundation for other common job-seeking scenarios, such as explaining why you're leaving your current role, an elevator pitch at a networking event, or as an outline for a cover letter. Think of it as an opening statement that you can repurpose for different situations.

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2. "What Is Your Biggest Strength?"

As tempting as it may be to list every buzzword possible, interviewers will have heard them all. Leave a lasting impression with an anecdotal response that demonstrates the skills they’re looking for in a candidate. For example: “I have been known to work well under a tight schedule. In my current role…” You can also use situations from different points in your career.

Keep in mind the tips from the prompt above and use the S.T.A.R Method to structure your response:

  • Situation: Set the scene
  • Task: Explain your end goal
  • Action: Outline the steps you took to achieve your task
  • Result: Note the result of your action

Why Is This Question Important?

If you’re invited to an interview, whether by phone or in person, it means your resume has already convinced the hiring manager that you meet the baseline requirements for the job. This question is an opportunity for you to “wow” them by demonstrating the kind of value you can bring to their organization. Career changers can leverage specific examples to highlight transferable skills. Use the S.T.A.R. Method for any behavioral questions, also known as “Tell Me of a Time” questions. Typical behavioral questions seek examples of leadership, problem-solving, or growth.

Related: How to Follow up After a Job Interview the Right Way

3. “What Is Your Biggest Weakness?”

Of course, you don’t want to admit to being anything but the perfect candidate. The secret is to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate how you’ve grown in your career.

For instance, you may have struggled with difficult conversations in the past, but have since honed your skills through a negotiations course. Alternatively, if you’ve found it challenging to understand various financial aspects of your job or industry, demonstrate that you’ve built financial skills to address that weakness.

If you can’t think of a weakness, find someone in your support system whom you trust to be honest with you.

Remember to use a direct example following the S.T.A.R. Method and take control of the narrative with the following tips:

  • Keep it work-related
  • Talk about it in a positive light; it's not a weakness, but rather an area of growth
  • Outline the actions steps taken, or currently being taken, to address it

Why Is This Question Important?

Interviewers ask this question to gauge your self-awareness and get a sense of your weaknesses. By doing the work to understand your weaknesses, and explaining how you’ve proactively taken steps to improve yourself, you can be a more attractive candidate.

The answer to this question can proactively address any missing skills or experience on your resume (for example, taking a course to learn business fundamentals). It will also demonstrate your problem-solving skills and build your confidence.

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4. “Do You Have Any Questions for Us?”

This is your opportunity to show interest and determine if the role or company is a good fit. Always have at least one question prepared.

If you can’t think of anything to ask, consider pulling questions from the following categories:

  • Relationship-Building:
    • Ask the interviewers questions about their roles and experience with the company
    • Learn more about how much you would interact with your interviewers on the job
    • Actively listen to what interviewers have to say and ask follow-up questions for clarification
  • Work Culture:
    • Learn more about their approach to work/life balance
    • Inquire about professional development opportunities
    • Confirm what their performance review process is like
    • Consider asking for an office tour
  • The Role:
    • Understand the history of the role and why it's currently vacant
    • Learn who you'll report to and ask about their management styles
    • Study the job posting and highlight any areas you want to discuss in more detail
    • Consider directly asking about any concerns they may have with your application
  • The Process:
    • Inquire about the interview process and how many steps will be involved
    • Confirm a timeline for their decision and determine if you can follow up in the meantime

Why Is This Question Important?

Interviews aren’t just for the hiring manager; they’re for you, too. No matter the outcome of the interview, the more questions you ask, the more you'll learn about the job market for future reference. Think critically about any questions you’d like to ask that can’t be answered on your own with research.

Related: 3 Great Questions to Ask in an Interview

Landing the Job

Preparation is vital to a successful job interview. By practicing your responses to these common interview questions, you can make a positive impression on hiring managers and land the job of your dreams.

As you practice these questions and answers, pay special attention to any areas where you struggle to articulate yourself clearly and effectively. Ask yourself whether it’s due to jitters and limited interviewing practice, or because of a lack of confidence.

If it’s due to a lack of confidence, consider different ways you can become more confident. Completing a business course that’s relevant to your desired career can be an effective means of growing your confidence through education and skill-building.

Are you interested in additional career development advice? Download our free guide on how to advance your career with essential business skills and explore our other articles, including "9 Virtual Interview Tips to Help You Land Your Next Job" and "How to Properly Follow Up After an Interview."

This post was updated on September 11, 2020. It was originally published on April 9, 2019.

Karol V. Gaitán

About the Author

Karol V. Gaitán is HBS Online's former accommodations manager. She is a nationally certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with training and experience in career coaching and academic support. She has worked with more than 500 job seekers and learners at various stages of their journey over the span of her career. She has worked for the State of Rhode Island, Brown University, and General Assembly Boston. When she’s not at work, you might find her digging through a thrift store for a new upcycling project, sharing memes, or eating Buffalo wings.