The job interview: 5 classic questions you need to be prepared for

Your resume intrigued them, your cover letter drew them in and now you’ve got an interview! Now it’s time to look closely. At your job interview, you’ll probably be asked a variety of questions. In most cases, you’ll meet two types of questions – the classic questions and a few hard hitters that are meant to throw you a bit of course. Now, the hard hitters you can’t prepare for. That’s the point of them. BUT the classic questions – those they expect you to have prepared and eloquent answers for. And let’s be honest, they won’t be particularly impressed with you if you can’t even answer the simple question of “Well, tell me a little bit about yourself”. 

Even though they are classic questions that we’ve all heard of, they can still be a bit hard to figure out sometimes. What exactly do they want to know, what are they looking for? Find out exactly how to answer these questions and ensure that you live up to their expectations of an eloquent and great answer!


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Question 1: “Tell me a little bit about yourself”

The answer to this question isn’t your entire life story. Keep it short and sweet, a maximum of two minutes. But don’t forget that they’re hiring you as a person. That’s to say that they’re also interested in your person, not just your accomplishments and experiences. So don’t just recount experiences like a robot. Give it a bit of personality. 

Talk about:

  • education
  • experience
  • your person (short)
  • your goals 

When answering this question, it is super important to keep your language eloquent. Furthermore, remember that we, as humans, have a tendency to talk down about ourselves. This isn’t the time for that. Be positive about yourself and your qualifications. 

Home exercise before your interview:

A little exercise you can do from home is to formulate a 30-second speech about yourself. Then follow this 30-second speech with 3-5 positives about you. And that’s that. Nothing more. Now, all you have to do is practice the speech until you know it by heart. 


Question 2: “What’s your greatest strength?”

Match your strengths to the position

By asking this question, the recruiter is looking for your strengths, yes, but more precisely. they’re looking for strengths that match this particular job. Just as you have to adapt every single resume to each position, you have to adapt your chosen strengths to the given position and business. For example, you might be great at working alone, but this particular position is one that is within a team. Now, if you’re also a good team player, this should be the skill that you exemplify – not preferring to work alone – as “team player” is a quality that matches exactly what your future employer is looking for in this particular instance. 

Use examples

Make sure you at least one example per strength that you mention. You have to be able to describe how these particular strengths can be showcased and when you last used them. This shouldn’t be a long anecdote, but rather a short, potent and clear example that will highlight your strength and the match between your strength and the position. 

Home exercise before your interview:

Prior to your interview, you might compose a list of all of your strengths and qualities. Then you have to consider which of these will fit into this particular position within the specific business. Choose 3-5 and compose examples for each of them. Now you’re ready for the question and you have a great answer. 


Question 3: “What is your biggest weakness?”

Now, this can be an especially tricky one. Most of us are okay at brainstorming strengths, but finding our professional weaknesses? That’s a hard one. Especially since you wouldn’t want to scare them away. 

Here, it is important to choose a weakness that can be spun in a somewhat positive light. You don’t necessarily have to turn it into a strength (they’ll see right through that) but you should choose a weakness that you’re consciously improving. Yes, choose a weakness that can be improved upon. By doing that, you show that you’re a person with insight into yourself who isn’t scared of self-development. 

You should focus on two factors: 1) it shouldn’t be the most generic weakness in the book, and 2) it should be a weakness you actually have. 

An example of a very generic weakness (that many of us do have) could be a tendency to be a perfectionist, resulting in having a hard time when it comes to finishing a project. Because there always will be something you could improve upon. So, instead of choosing this generic phrasing, phrase it differently. “Perfectionist” easily sounds like you’re trying to compliment yourself. Instead, say that you tend to overthink things, making your work on projects slower than you would like. Now, the important part is to follow your weakness with how you’re working on it! So, follow that with “This is something that I am aware of. As such, I consciously chose to …”. In this case, you could choose to make very firm deadlines, ensuring that you don’t have too much time to overthink your tasks.

Home exercise before your interview:

Make a list of weaknesses that you actually have. It is a lot easier to speak honestly than having to remember an entire story. Once you have made your list, think of how each weakness could be improved upon. For example, if you’re a procrastinator who tends to leave every single task to the last minute, then very firm deadlines throughout the entire process could make a world of difference. 

If you’re totally lost and can’t think of a single weakness, then ask someone who knows you well. This could be a parent, a sibling, a boyfriend, a friend, a colleague, etc. 

Last but not least, you can brainstorm all the work tasks that you dislike. Oftentimes, our skills and interests go hand in hand, so this could be a way of figuring out what exactly you have a hard time with. This could result in some weaknesses you wouldn’t even have considered. 


Question 4: “Why should we hire you?”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you aren’t the only candidate they have decided to interview. This is precisely why you should have an answer ready for this particular question. You do somewhat answer this through your answers for the rest of the questions, but you should look at this as a last opportunity to really sell yourself. A last hurray, one might say.

Here you should emphasize your strengths, your experiences, and exactly the ways in which these two factors can fulfill the business’ needs. Follow up with examples and numbers showcasing how these strengths, experiences or qualities can strengthen their business. 

Home exercise before your interview:

Research the business prior to your interview. In the job posting, you can find information about which tasks the position covers. Figure out which of your strengths and experiences can be used especially to solve these tasks. Furthermore, look at the business’ website and find their general aims. Make sure to adapt your sales pitch to include how you can help them reach their ambitions. 


Question 5: “Why do you want to work at XXX?”

They are not looking for an arbitrary answer like “Oh, I just really think pharmaceutics are super interesting”. Your answer here should be a lot more detailed and motivated than that. You have to show, through your answer, how you can help the business fulfill its needs and ambitions. Choose a few particularly attractive factors of the position or the business, for example, their focus on sustainability. Here, you can describe your interest and passion for sustainability and why exactly you would like to help them promote their ideas. Remember to focus on yourself as well – what is interesting for you in terms of this particular position. This might be that you see a real opportunity to develop your marketing skills through this position. 

Home exercise before your interview:

Research the business from home and look at their overall aims and ambitions. If you’re particularly interested in sustainability, for example, check out the business on and look at their sustainability status. Choose the ambitions that resonate with you and showcase, through examples, how you with your particular qualifications and experiences can help them on their journey.