Job Interview Questions

Interviewers may ask very simple questions, or they may get creative. It’s best to be prepared for both. Remember to always include concrete examples with your answers. It's also important to have questions for the interviewer and to know what not to ask.

The information below is divided into the following sections:

Interview Questions
Case Interviews
Questions for the Interviewer
Questions Not To Ask
Handling Inappropriate Questions


Interview Questions

The first four questions are the most important. If you are able to answer these, you will be able to answer most others well.

  • Why should I hire you?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Describe a relevant accomplishment of which you are proud.
  • Describe the worst boss you've ever had.
  • What are your long-range and short-range goals and objectives?
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now? Ten years from now?
  • What do you really want to do in life?
  • How do you plan to achieve your career goals?
  • What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
  • What do you expect to be earning in five years?
  • Why did you choose this career?
  • How well do you work with people? Do you prefer working alone or in teams?
  • How would you evaluate your ability to deal with conflict?
  • What’s more important to you—the work itself or how much you’re paid for doing it?
  • How would a good friend describe you?
  • Describe the best job you’ve ever had.
  • What would your last boss say about your work performance?
  • What motivates you to go the extra mile on a project or job?
  • What makes you qualified for this position?
  • What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in this career?
  • How do you determine or evaluate success?
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in a company like ours?
  • In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
  • Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?
  • What qualities should a successful manager possess?
  • Do you consider yourself a leader?
  • What are the attributes of a good leader?
  • Which is more important: creativity or efficiency? Why?
  • What’s the most recent book you’ve read?
  • Describe the relationship that should exist between an employee and supervisor.
  • What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
  • If you were hiring a job-seeker for this position, what qualities would you look for?
  • Do you have plans for continued study? An advanced degree?
  • In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • What's one of the hardest decisions you've ever had to make?
  • How well do you adapt to new situations?
  • Why did you decide to seek a position in this company?
  • What can you tell us about our company?
  • What interests you about our products?
  • What do you know about our competitors?
  • What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
  • Are you seeking employment in a company of a certain size? Why?
  • What are your expectations regarding promotions and salary increases?
  • What criteria are you using to evaluate the company for which you hope to work?
  • Do you have a geographic preference? Why?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Are you willing to travel for the job?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • What have you accomplished that shows your initiative and willingness to work?

The following links have more information on interview questions:
Quintessential Careers


Case Interviews

Case interview are primarily used for business consulting or investment banking jobs. The questions are meant for you to show how you think about problems and their solutions and how you perform under stress.

Sample Questions:

  • How many new houses were built in Chicago last year?
  • You have two empty jugs. One holds three gallons, the other holds five. How do you get exactly 4 gallons of water from the tap?
  • You are consulting for one of the largest supermarket chains in the country. This chain is considering opening its own bank branches in its supermarket locations. What is your advice?
  • How many golf balls were lost in England this year?

The content of the solutions may not matter—the goal is to have you problem-solve out loud. Be willing to ask the interviewers for clarification (which they may or not give). State your assumptions, and then proceed to solve the problem in front of the interviewers.

This kind of interview demands preparation. If you are interested in consulting or banking jobs, read about case interviews, and then practice them alone, with friends, and at Career Services with an advisor.

The following links provide more information on case interviews:
Quintessential Careers


Questions for the Interviewer

At some point in an interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Be prepared with at least five. Your first questions should demonstrate a knowledge of the company and industry that goes beyond their other applicants (Hint: read the company website!). Good questions indicate your desire and interest in the job. Employers know that the most interested candidate will likely provide the best work. Your research on your employer's company will help you to develop company-specific questions. Some other possible questions include:

  • What are the qualifications of individuals who have excelled in this position or a similar position?
  • What type of person are you seeking?
  • Can I progress at my own pace or is there a structured training program?
  • What would a normal working day be like?
  • How would you describe your company culture?
  • Can I expect to be closely supervised, or will you expect me to work independently?
  • What will be the measurement of my success in this position?
  • What happened to the last person in this position?
  • What are typical projects and assignments?
  • How soon could I expect to be advanced to the next level in the career path?
  • How much travel is normally expected?
  • Will I be expected to meet certain deadlines? How frequent are they?
  • How often are performance reviews given?
  • How much decision-making authority is given after one year?
  • Does the company provide any professional development or educational benefits?
  • What are the next steps in the hiring process?
  • What’s the most important thing I can do to help within the first 90 days of my employment?
  • Do you have any questions or concerns about my ability to perform this job?
  • What do you see in me? What are my strongest assets and possible weaknesses? Do you have any concerns that I need to clear up in order to be the top candidate?

The following links provide more information on questions you should ask your interviewer, and why:
Quintessential Careers


Questions NOT to Ask

They say there are no stupid questions, but in a job interview, there are certainly inappropriate questions. The following are a few examples.

  • What does this company do? (Do your research ahead of time.)
  • How much money does the company make? (Unless you are an accountant, this is not your business).
  • If I get this job, when can I take time for vacation? (Wait until you receive a job offer to mention prior commitments.)
  • Can I change my schedule if I get the job? (If you need to figure out the logistics of your work schedule, do not mention it during the interview.)
  • How many sick days am I allowed? (Again, wait until you receive a job offer.)
  • Will I have to work overtime? (Display an eager and consistent willingness to work. Period).

For more questions that you should never ask, and what employers think about you when you do, see these links:


Handling Inappropriate Questions

Interviewers are legally barred from asking questions about your religion, color, race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, childcare arrangements, or other family plans. These questions are always inappropriate for the employer to ask, because they are unrelated to the job qualifications sought in the job position description. Nevertheless an interviewer might ask questions about your personal life or other issues that are not job related. Handling these questions can pose a personal dilemma. Know that there are no strict guidelines to follow in dealing with these questions and many times the interviewers are unaware that the questions are inappropriate.

If you feel uncomfortable about a question, consider the following:

  • Does the question relate to your professional self and your ability to do the job?
  • How badly do I really want this job?
  • Do I really want to work for an organization that asks inappropriate questions?
  • Does the interviewer realize that this question is inappropriate?

Based on how you answer these questions, you have several options for how to respond:

  • Politely ask the interviewer what relevance the question has to the position or why the question is being asked (the Career Services favorite).
  • Re-direct the conversation towards a discussion of your skills and abilities as they relate to the position.
  • Answer the question with or without regret.
  • Refuse to answer the question.
  • End the interview.

Keep in mind that the way you handle this situation says a lot about your professionalism and maturity. Avoid being rude and argumentative; remain positive, polite, and assertive.

The following links have more information on how to handle inappropriate questions:
SFSU Career Center (PDF)