Career Advice for Job Seekers

Ask Matt: How to respond to the 5 most basic interview questions [video]

Businesswoman interviewing candidate for a job. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Matt Krumrie
May 11, 2017


Dear Matt: I recently completed an interview, and realized, I wasn’t prepared to answer the most basic interview questions. I spent more time preparing for that odd, or unique question that may come up, and not enough time on the basics. What are some answers or responses to the most basic interview questions every recent job seeker should be sure to master before the next interview? 

Watch the video or read the blog post below to learn the 5 most basic interview questions

Preparation is key to a successful job interview. But when preparing for a job interview, many recent college grads focus on how they will answer the tough interview questions, instead of mastering how they will answer the most basic interview questions. While the former is important, the latter is crucial to a successful entry-level job interview.

“As you prepare yourself for interviews, you may find yourself focusing solely on prep for the more complex interview questions,” says Jill O’Connell, VP of Talent Management at Cengage, an education and technology company that provides resources for the higher education, K12, professional, library, and workforce training markets worldwide. “You don’t want to be caught unprepared to answer the most basic questions.”

What are the most basic job interview questions and what responses do employers want to hear? O’Connell and Michael Steinitz, Executive Director of Accountemps, a division of Robert Half, provide a list of five basic interview questions every recent college grad should master for interview success:

Related: The best job interview questions to ask employers

1. Tell me about yourself

Remember, a hiring manager is not asking about your personal life. “This question is geared toward determining your professional skills, interests and experience,” says Steinitz. “Try to be succinct. Your response can explain how you’re a good fit for the company’s needs, or show your career objectives.”

O’Connell advises interviewees to prepare a concise pitch that shares a few of your personal interests, most recent accomplishments, and skills that highlight areas of interest for your interviewer to follow up on later during the interview.

“This is an essential building block for building rapport with your interviewer and setting the tone for the conversation,” says O’Connell.

2. What do you know about our company and why do you want to work here?

Prepare well for interview questionsProvide information that demonstrate you researched the company and know about their products and services, industry, and any related or recent news affecting the company. Then, show your knowledge of the company and how you can make a positive impact in the position for which you are interviewing for, says Steinitz. When doing so, be sure to express your enthusiasm for the opportunity.

3. What are your strengths or weaknesses? 

Before the interview, be sure to read the job description thoroughly. Then, when asked about strengths in the job interview, craft a response that provides honest, relevant examples of your strengths that directly relate to the required qualifications listed in the job description. “Interviewers will want you to expand upon simply listing your skills, so be sure to provide specific examples of past experiences that clearly demonstrate your strengths and confidences,” says O’Connell.

When asked about weaknesses, don’t provide a canned response such as, “I work too hard” that reveals little about real areas for improvement, says Steinitz. A sound approach is to name an actual weakness that’s minor to the role, but follow it up with steps you are taking to improve in that area.

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4. Why should we hire you?

This question gives you an opportunity to shine. If you’ve researched the position and company, you’ll know which areas to focus on. Then, explain your relevant skills, says Steinitz, and show how you’re a great fit for the corporate culture, are results-driven, and eager to make contributions as soon as possible.

5. Do you have any questions for me?

Prepare some questions to ask of your interviewer“Always have one or two targeted questions in your back pocket that show you’ve done your homework on the company and position, demonstrate your interest in the position, and shed additional light on what to expect in the new role,” says Steinitz.

Some potential questions to ask the employer include:

  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?
  • Is this a new position? If not, why did the last person leave?
  • How would you measure the success of a person in this role?
  • What kinds of career paths are available for a person in this position?
  • How would you describe the company’s culture?
  • Aside from my manager, who would I be working closely with? Would it be possible to meet them if the hiring process moves forward?
  • I’m excited about the position. What are the next steps?

Remember, the interview is the one chance to show the employer you are not only a fit for the job, but that you can fit in with the team and company. Don’t be shy or timid. This is the chance to showcase the impact you can make if hired for this job. If you don’t do it, the person who interviewed before you or after you will, and they will get hired. So even if you don’t have real world work experience, be prepared with examples of how you have collaborated with others, overcome challenges, or helped others, says Steinitz. Volunteer work, internships or even student projects could provide good fodder for examples of successes, skills, or abilities.

Related: 5 ways to wow your interviewer and show you’ll be a highly engaged employee

“Don’t memorize responses, or you’ll sound robotic and not genuine,” says Steinitz. “Come up with strong examples of past situations that will help illustrate why you’re a good fit for the position.”

There are basic interview questions, but that doesn’t mean you should give basic answers. Use these tips to get ahead of the competition in your next interview.


Matt Krumrie

Matt Krumrie is a contributing writer for

About Ask Matt on
Ask Matt is a new monthly career advice column that offers tips and advice to recent college grads and entry-level job seekers. Have a question? Need job search or career advice? Email your question to Matt Krumrie for use in a future column.

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