Michael Sterling

Say What?! How to Answer Interview Questions


As a young professional, on the job hunt, I remember being warned about interviewers

asking odd, psychoanalytic questions like -“If you were a color, what color would you be?”


I spent a great deal of time practicing how to answer interview questions. However, I

was so preoccupied by composing a rational answer to “What type of animal would I be,

and why” that I neglected being fully prepared for the basic questions. My bad!


Today, I coach job seekers not to make the same mistake. Sure interviewers will throw

curve-ball questions. You need to be nimble enough to think through the question and

provide a reasonable answer. Those questions are really just meant to see how you

think and respond under pressure.


You must prepare for the basics – those foundational interview questions which are most

commonly asked. Know them and give each some thought before the interview occurs.


There are four classic category of questions (see: “4 Types of Interview Questions You Need to Crush“)

and ten fundamental questions.


Ten Basic Interview Questions


  1. Why do you want this job?
  2. Why do you want to leave your current job?
  3. Tell Me About Yourself?
  4. What are your personal and professional goals?
  5. What do you like most about your current job?
  6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  7. What are your strengths?
  8. What are your weaknesses? What do you like least about your current job?
  9. What do you know about us?
  10. Do You Have Any Questions?


While these are basic questions, don’t be fooled into giving basic, boring answers. Craft unique

and thoughtful responses. Just remember unique doesn’t mean inappropriate. For instance,

when asked “Why do you want this job?” don’t say “Because my cousin works here” or,

“The office is an easy commute from my house.”


Emphasize your strengths. Focus on the needs of the employer and how you can provide value.


Be positive, not negative. Never play the blame game by pointing out the faults of others such

as “I can’t stand the office politics,” or, “My boss is a jerk.” It’s best to place the burden on yourself.

Answers like “I feel I’m ready to exercise a new set of professional muscles,” or, “The type of technology

I’m interested in isn’t available to me now.” Showcase your motivation while being professional.



Preparing interesting answers in advance keeps you from stumbling through a response. Additionally,

the prep process will help you evaluate your career choices before spending time and energy on an interview.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the answers you come up with, maybe the new job isn’t right for you.


Your Turn – 3 Key Categories of Questions to Ask


While your answers will help the interviewer determine if you’re right for the job, it’s equally important to learn

if the job is right for you. Candidate questions are the lifeblood of a successful interview. To get to the core of the job,

you must co-lead the interview. You must be ready with great questions of your own.


Split questions into three categories and slant questions to show your interest in the employer’s needs. Start broad.

Fly at 10,000 feet with questions aimed at understanding what’s most important to the firm. Next, ask what’s most

important to the person interviewing you. Finally, swoop down to crop-dusting level to seek how you might help solve their problems

and achieve their goals. I’ve detailed this approach in “How to Co-Lead an Interview: Three Types of Questions You Must Ask!


Formulating strong answers and questions for the interview process will put you in a prime position to make a great impression

and a great career decision.


As a career coach and recruiter, exclusive to public accounting, I help professionals reach their full potential and attain success.

Connect with me on LinkedIn.


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website.


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