How To Answer The 4 Most Common Interview Questions Confidently

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Woman nailing her interview

You need to stand out in the pack of applicants and shine at the interview. It can be stressful — even unnerving — but it doesn't have to be with preparation and confidence. You can use the job posting as a guide to what's valuable to an employer so you can anticipate the most common interview questions.

Some questions come out of left field, but other questions are expected. One of these will be some variation of "Tell me about yourself" with an implication of "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. But, many interviewees stumble through their answers or try to bluff and hope to paint themselves as the picture-perfect confident candidate.

Successful interviewees learn to be confident and can answer based on why the questions are being asked.

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How to answer four common interview questions confidently

1. "What are your greatest strengths?"

Also known as: "Why should we hire you?"

What the interviewer is looking for in your response: Objectivity, self-confidence, and humility.



First, outline your best 3 qualities. Such as problem-solving, adaptability, and leadership skills. Then, share situations with you where you demonstrated strength and how it contributed to the outcome. Be sure the strengths you choose are vital to the job and highly respected by the organization. The best way to know is by researching the company's values and carefully reviewing the job posting.

What is the description telling you is essential to the job? Look for keywords throughout the posting, especially in the qualifications section. If you have trouble talking about your strengths for fear of being boastful, reconsider your perspective. You’re there to get the job and compete against possibly two hundred other people who want the job. Don't sell yourself short. You can be humble and factual at the same time.

Some people feel more comfortable saying, "My employees and clients tell me that empathy is my greatest strength. I understand their problems and support their development, like when…" Keep your answer short and sweet, confident yet humble, and on target with the company's needs, and you will impress the interviewer time after time.

applicant waits for recruiters question during interview

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2. "What are your biggest weaknesses?"

What the interviewer is looking for in your response: Self-awareness, honesty, and learning agility.



You might be tempted to sidestep the issue or lighten your nervous mood to jokingly state, "I don’t have any," but I'd advise against that. Denial lies, or inappropriate attempts at humor will get you nowhere. And, while the interviewer is looking for a forthright answer, there is no reason to get too personal and share what your partner thinks is your weakness or what your narcissistic boss told you. Say positive so you don't sabotage yourself with big reveals, please!

The same goes for bringing up anything directly related to the job requirements. If the job posting specifies the need to take calculated risks and aggressively grow sales, and these are not your strongest suits, you probably shouldn't say these are your weaknesses. Reconsider if this role is for you!

Remember, you’re trying to get the job while being candid. So, avoid clichés like "I'm a perfectionist" or "I work too much." Alternatively, demonstrate your self-awareness by talking about when you realized you needed to improve something, what you did differently, what you learned, and what the impact was on your performance.

For example: "I have a bias for action, and I've learned I can save myself some work by thinking through a problem more upfront or by bringing in someone who is naturally more cautious. I'd sit down with a colleague to bounce ideas off before diving into the project. They pose some great questions, and I go down a different path that works well. I've learned the importance of collaboration and now take every opportunity to balance my strengths with others."

woman in foreground with three men talking in the background.

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As scary as 'the weakness question' can be, the great thing about it is that it has the potential to show your biggest strengths through the sharing of your weaknesses. Take this opportunity to demonstrate what you've been able to overcome and grow your career with your conscious and deliberate action.

3. Variations on the most common questions

  • What has been your biggest disappointment or failure?
  • What would your boss/previous boss say are your weaknesses?
  • What would you have to work hard to succeed in this job?

When you're reflecting on these inquiries, show yourself some love. You're human. You've made mistakes and have things you're not as good at — just like everyone else. And since I don't believe in weaknesses, as an interviewer myself, instead, I ask the next question: 

4. What have you been focusing on for your personal development? and why is it important?

Get ready for that question, too.

No amount of charisma will do it when it comes to interviewing a good interviewer. You can't wing these questions, so anticipate and plan. To be fully prepared, write your responses to these questions in advance.



If you're coming up empty, try these tactics:

  • Go through your old performance reviews, e-mails, or any other feedback from your current or previous managers, peers, and clients. Look for themes and make some notes on situations.
  • Ask your colleagues, mentors, or anyone else — even friends and family in this case — for feedback on what you do well and what skills you could sharpen. You'd be surprised what insights this can trigger!
  • Take a psychometric test. Many instruments can give valid and reliable feedback about your personality traits, values, interests, and skills. You'll walk away with a greater awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. And you'll likely get confirmation the job is a good match for you to develop yourself and your career further.

Practice makes perfect, and to increase your comfort with answering these challenge questions, practice saying them aloud. That way, if you get nervous during the interview, you'll be more easily able to recall your thoughts. Better yet, do a mock interview with a trusted friend, mentor, or coach.

Regardless of ability or preparation, being in an interview can trigger panic in many people. If you get anxious during the interview, slow down and take a deep breath or sip some water (always have a bottle of water with you). It will buy you time and calm you down. It's better to take some space to get ready to give your finest answer than to rush it and flub it.

woman smiling while making a video call

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Preparation, relevancy, confidence, and authenticity win the day when it comes to bringing your best self to the interview.

If you connect your strengths to what the organization needs, you'll stand out from the crowd. Then, if you show your values line up with the company's, and the interviewer can picture you in action in their open position in their company, you'll be much closer to getting the job offer you want.

RELATED: What To Say When Someone Says, 'Tell Me About Yourself' In A Job Interview

Lisa Petsinis is an ICF-credentialed career and life coach who works with women who want to show up fully for their lives and build lasting life skills – like confidence and resilience – that will help them achieve their career and life goals.