Career Advice

10 Likely Job Interview Questions in 2021

min read
Mikaela Thompson

Hiring managers and recruiters are quick to tell us that candidates should always do the hard yards pre-interview and go in with answers prepared and rehearsed. Easy, right? Not really, it’s not like hiring managers provide candidates with a neat list of questions beforehand, and unfortunately, I’m not a mind reader. Sure, some questions are standard and predictable, like, “Tell me about yourself”...I mean, if we don’t know ourselves, who does? Regardless, such obvious questions can still cause a tangible creeping panic paralysis…. even for those whose work lives have spanned several decades. Where do you start? Well firstly, chill out because you’re not alone. These are questions given to all the candidates and luckily, we’ve got you covered! 

Take a sneak peek at our composite list of employers’/recruiters’ preferred job interview questions, and best answers, for 2021. I say, 2021 advisedly, since Covid-19 has changed the face of global business and hiring practices. Not unsurprisingly, new questions have emerged in line with today’s social, political, and business milieux state of flux. Even though you may feel some are pretty tired and cliched, these ones are still appearing in interview rooms and remotely via Zoom consistently in 2021.

Knock yourself out tailoring, personalizing and memorizing those responses you fancy as a true reflection of your business professional self. Don’t be tempted to straight out lie, embellish or massage the truth. Hiring managers are experts at seeing through these. Just reframe answers positively for honesty and to suit both your needs and the hiring company’s. 

1) Tell me about yourself. 

Do: be concise and on point; be work specific e.g., tell them where you are now and what you’ve learnt to date professionally; research beforehand to see what this company is looking for in strengths/qualities, so you can show the HR you have these (look up the job description, LinkedIn, company website, blog etc.).

Don’t: dive into your life’s story, such as, growing up tales etc.; ramble on about unrelated work experiences.

2) Why should we hire you? 

Do: leverage your research findings about the company and the open position to highlight to the HR how you can help them solve their issues whilst giving an account of your relevant work experience; show the HR you’re uniquely qualified for the position through your detailed knowledge of this company and their general practices; tell a ‘success story’ to further illustrate the skills and qualities you have that this company needs.

Don’t: feel discouraged, if the HR leads in with, ‘There’s a lot of qualified candidates applying for this position.’, it’s common practice; be too modest, this is your opportunity to stand out and shine; go overboard and sound arrogant either; be wishy-washy/vague, keep to specifics and say why you’d be perfect for the job.

3) Why do you want to work for us?

Do: indicate you’ve given this some thought and know about this company’s values and culture; talk about how your values align with their mission statement; show a genuine interest in, and excitement for, joining this company and wanting to be an integral part of its future growth; show this company is high on your preferred list of where to work.

Don’t: talk about the paycheck; indicate you’ve sent out loads resumes (sounds willy-nilly desperate to get any job); show you’re uninformed about the company.

4) Why did you leave (are you leaving) your previous/present job?

Do: reframe any ill will towards your last employer into a positive context e.g., ‘After x years there, I’ve decided to look for a company focused on sustainability/ team-focused/ green practices/ fair trade policies’ etc., whatever is true for you; if you’ve left voluntarily, explain why e.g., you want a different challenge which is offered by this company; refer to a specific characteristic or policy that this hiring company has that attracts you; give a specific positive reason why you want to go in another direction.

Don’t: Diss or run down your last employer or colleagues (this is a critical job interview tip!), fear answering this honestly, say, if you were fired (you need to own it before illustrating what you’ve learnt from this that’s helped you address these problems; good defenses are inherent in words like, ‘down-sizing, budget cuts, redundancy, bad economy’ in these Covid times); say you’re tired of doing the same thing or it’s time for a career switch.

5) What salary are you seeking?

Do: give yourself an advantage first by asking the HR what their salary range is for this position; prepare beforehand by finding out the going rate and deciding what your bottom line/walk away point is; reassure the HR that an agreement will be able to be arrived at when the time comes (i.e., a job offer has been made).

Don’t: make a stab in the dark to select a salary figure; underrate or overrate your value to them.

6) What can you do for us that other candidates can’t? This is similar to, ‘What makes you unique?’ It’s asking for an assessment of your experiences, skills and traits.

Do: home in on the specifics of your work experiences and highlight any special opportunities or experiences you’ve had e.g., ‘My skill set is unique because I’ve worked in a number of roles at a start-up, which means I can offer you myself as a multifaceted, asset. Employees in bigger companies don’t get this chance and tend to be one dimensional in their skill set.’

Don’t: freak out because you think there’s nothing special you can offer; say there’s nothing different I can do/know (prepare for this answer in advance so you’re not stuck for something to say)

7) What are 3 positive things your last boss would say about you?

Do: refer to old performance appraisals and quotes to help you out here; brag about your talents, qualities, and achievements through another’s words., e.g., ‘My boss said that he loves coming to work to see my welcoming smile, positive ‘can do’ attitude and excellent client communication.’ 

Don’t: undersell yourself for fear of being seen as conceited; say he didn’t like you and said nothing positive (in which case, keep to skills you have and projects you delivered).

8) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question can really throw off some candidates. At face value it seems simple enough but lurking under the surface are a couple of traps. In today’s business climate of sudden lockdowns and ever-changing restrictions, it’s daunting enough to think about today or the near future without trying to project five years hence.  

Do: show realistic ambition for your stage; focus on the company and position in front of you; show a convincing level of commitment to the role you’re interviewing for; outline a realistic growth strategy tied to the role you’re going for; stress your interest in a long-term career with this company.

Don’t: shoot yourself in the foot by showing ambition that suggests this job is a mere steppingstone; show you’ve got your head in the clouds by saying you want to be CEO in 5 years or say to the HR you want to be in his/her seat within 5 years. 

9) Describe a difficult work situation and what you did to resolve it?

This is a prickly behavioural question, but one frequently asked. The key is to pick a work anecdote that demonstrates the skills/qualities you have which also coincide with those needed for this open position and company.

Do: have a success story prepped and rehearsed; be specific, concise and on point; Use the STAR method to keep on track; select a success story that shows you’re multiskilled with multi-desired qualities sought by the company and role. 

Don’t: ramble on; bash anyone, like your boss, co-worker/s or client/s, in your success story.

10) Do you have any questions for me?

Yes, this is a standard end of interview question, however, you should try to ask questions during the interview as they come up. It’ll help turn an interrogation type interview into a conversation between potential colleagues which will help the interviewer to imagine you as part of their team. Although 75% of candidates will say ‘No’ to this question, it’s a terrible response and a wasted opportunity (

Do: use this great opportunity to stand out from the crowd based on your pre-interview research of the company, position, market trends etc; focus your questions on the company and what you can do for them; ask something about the company you’ve discovered during the research phase (to show your knowledge and passion for the company); ask if there’s any reason the HR wouldn’t hire you (scary as this is, it’s a chance for any niggles to be addressed and show you’re genuinely keen to get the job).

Don’t: say, ‘No, I’m good.’, (always have questions ready); focus questions on yourself and what you can get out of the company/role; ask questions Mr. Google could easily supply you; ask how soon you can start applying for other positions in the company.

If you’re interviewing for an internship, your questions will differ somewhat.

Take a peek here for a selection of internship questions and ‘best’ answers. 

Check out more words of interview wisdom in our latest blogs, here!

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