Good and Bad Answers to the 4 Most Common Interview Questions

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Yes, practice your answers to 40 common interview questions. Yes, there will be quirky interview questions that will probably justifiably confuse you. But realistically the majority of interviews will really touch on the four questions below. Good answers to these interview questions will get you the job offer. Bad answers will eliminate you from consideration.


Why are you leaving your current job?

Bad Answer: Anything to do with money. Don’t raise the issue of compensation or talk about disappointing raises you got or promotions you didn’t get.

Bad Answer: Any whiff of not getting along with your associates, your boss, your external customers or your internal clients. There is no way to discuss this and not sound like part of the problem.

Good Answer: A desire to broaden your skills or the scope of your job. You learned this and that at your current job and you want to take those skills to the next level, next product line or next opportunity. Their company, product or service has qualities you want to work with.


Tell me about yourself?

Bad Answer: Do not fall into the trap set by this vague and seemingly personal leaning question. This is a job interview! Do not talk about your passions outside of work or dramatic life events that are so interesting at the bar after the interview but not appropriate for the interview.

Bad Answer: Rambling on for the bulk of the interview.

Good Answer: Highlight the parts of your resume and your background that fit this job. Be able to answer this question in five to ten sentences and make the answer interesting enough that it prompts further questions about what you know and what you have done.


What are your weaknesses?

Bad Answer: I work too hard. This or anything like this sounds self-serving and disingenuous.

Bad Answer: I lose interest in mundane tasks. Every job has mundane tasks so this makes you sound potentially incompetent.

Good Answer: It is very hard to come up with a weakness that doesn’t sound disingenuous or calls into question your competence. Come up with a weakness or two that you mastered in the past and describe how you were able to change. The story should be real which will make it inherently more interesting.


What is your desired salary?

Bad Answer: Many, many people will tell you to avoid this question. “I’d like to get to know more about the position before answering this question.” The question is being asked because they want an answer, not to be put off. Unwillingness to answer a critical question about your viability for the position is annoying and unprofessional.

Bad Answer: Inquiring about every benefit, grade level and profit sharing in order to give an answer. These are only addressed once an offer is made, and if they are out of line with industry standards, you can revise your base salary expectations justifiably.

Good Answer: You know how much money you want. You just don’t know if that amount is feasible for the position. If you are working with a recruiter, get their advice. Before giving a base salary number it is fine to ask about bonus as that could influence your base expectation. That question also might get your interviewer talking about salary before you have to commit. Do commit. Don’t be a wimp.


Interested in starting a job search? Contact the recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates. We specialize in the recruitment of Data Scientists, Credit Risk, Digital Marketers, Actuaries, Market Researchers and Pharmaceutical Industry Sales, Medical Science Liaisons, Biostatisticians and Commercial Analytics professionals.

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