Preparing for a job interview in English can be stressful. Becoming familiar with the most common interview questions (and how to answer them!) will increase your confidence and skills. It’s also useful to become familiar with job interview culture in the U.S. so you know what to do—and avoid.

Here are common interview questions and the English phrases you need to answer them!

"Tell me about yourself."

This is often the first question in an interview, so it’s a good idea to prepare a strong answer that's short and not too personal. For example, don’t share things like your relationship status, your age, or whether you have children. Instead, focus on things that are relevant for the job, like your education, work experience, professional interests, and skills.

This question might also sound like: 

  • We’d like to get to know you a little.
  • So, tell us about you.
  • Let’s start with an introduction.

Helpful phrases for answering this question:

  • My name is…
  • It’s very nice to meet you.
  • I applied for this job because…
  • I’ve been working in the [work subject] field for [number] years.
  • I’ve been a [job title] for [number] years.
  • My background is in [work subject].
  • I studied [educational subject] at [university name].
  • I’m looking forward to our interview.

Sample answer:
I’ve been a manager at a small company for about seven years, and before that I studied business administration at Duo University. I applied for this job because you’re looking for someone who is very organized and good with computers, and I’m passionate about keeping businesses running smoothly.

"Why do you want this job?"

This question is a great time to show that you understand what the position is! You can prepare for this question by reviewing the job description and thinking about how your resume aligns with it.

This question might also sound like:

  • Tell us why you’re interested in this position.
  • What made you apply for this job?
  • What drew you to this position? 
  • Why are you a good fit for this job?

Helpful phrases for answering this question:

  • a great fit
  • perfect for my background
  • very interesting to me
  • well-suited to my skills
  • I have a lot of experience [verb]
  • an opportunity to grow professionally
  • I know how to [verb]
  • I majored in [school subject]
  • I have a degree in [school subject]

Sample answer:
When I saw this job posting, I was so excited because it is a perfect fit for my professional background! It seems like you’re looking for someone to teach kids math. I have worked at an elementary school for many years, so I have experience working with young children. I also majored in math, and I love it!

“What is your biggest strength?”

When you hear this question, the interviewer wants to know about your best qualities! Instead of talking about what you have done, you need to talk about who you are as a person. You can also share a very short example to illustrate the quality. 

Remember that in U.S. job interviews, the interviewer will expect to hear a very positive answer. Be polite, and avoid being critical of yourself. Don't be too humble, either!

This question might also sound like:

  • What are some of your best qualities?
  • What qualities make you a good candidate?
  • What would you bring to this position?

Helpful phrases for answering this question:

  • My biggest strength is my…[complete the sentence with a powerful noun].
    • Flexibility
    • Creativity
    • Dedication
    • Responsibility
    • Organization
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Communication
  • My biggest strength is that I am… [complete the sentence with an adjective or “a + noun phrase”]
    • Flexible
    • A great communicator
    • Good in a crisis
    • Organized
    • Patient

Sample answers:
My biggest strength is my patience. In my last job, I often worked on time-consuming projects that required a lot of focus and attention to detail. That experience really helped me strengthen this quality!

My biggest strength is that I am good in a crisis. Last year, my company had a problem with some important paperwork. Because of my attitude, I helped my team fix the issue in a timely manner and we resolved the situation.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?"

The purpose of this question is to find out about your goals. To make your answer even stronger, you can also explain what you are currently doing to reach those goals!

This question might also sound like:

  • Tell me what you hope to achieve in the next five years. 
  • What do you want from the next ten years?
  • What are some of your professional goals?

Helpful phrases for answering this question:

  • In five years, I hope to be…
  • Something I’m working towards is…
  • My biggest priority is…
  • I have a goal to…
  • I’m currently… so I hope that in five years I will…

Sample answer:
In five years, I hope to be using my psychology degree by working as a family therapist. I’m currently doing my internship at Cool Company and am on track to reach this goal. I also have a goal to publish at least one research paper before graduation.

"Give us an example of…"

For questions like this one, you need to tell a short story instead of talking about abstract qualities. Make sure that the story you choose is positive and doesn’t include any rude comments about past bosses or coworkers. Keep it short and very clear so the interviewer can understand your role in the story.

This question might also sound like:

  • Tell me about a time when you… 
  • Can you share an experience where you…

Helpful phrases for answering this question:

  • To state the time that the story happened
    • Last year
    • A few months ago
    • In my last job
    • When I was a student
    • I had an experience like this when I was…
  • To mention the main problem or key event
    • One day
    • Suddenly
    • Unexpectedly
    • To our surprise
  • To highlight what went well
    • Luckily
    • Because of my [good quality]
    • Instead of…, I…
  • To end the story
    • So in the end, everything worked out.
    • From that experience, I learned that…

Sample answers:
Give us an example of a challenging customer experience you’ve had.
Once when I was working in housekeeping at Fancy Hotel, a customer approached me and started yelling at me about something that was not my fault. I knew it was important to stay in control of the situation, so I decided to listen to the customer and try to solve their problem instead of getting upset. Because of my patient reaction, the situation resolved quickly and the customer even apologized. From that experience, I learned that it is important to stay calm and not escalate a bad situation.

Tell me about a time when you had a problem with a boss.
I used to work as a cashier in a fast food restaurant. One day, to my surprise, my manager did not come into work. I realized that I was the most experienced worker in the restaurant, so I decided to step up and make sure everyone knew what to do. My manager had had a small emergency, and luckily she showed up a few hours later. She was grateful for my quick decision-making, and I learned that I am very helpful in a tricky situation.

"Do you have any questions for us?"

This is usually the very last question in an interview. The most important thing to remember is that you should always ask a question: Never say “No”! It’s generally recommended to avoid asking a question about benefits such as vacation time and salary. Instead, ask a question that shows your interest in the company and the job.

Question ideas:

  • If I get this job, what would my typical day be like?
  • What do you love most about working here?
  • What do you hope this role achieves a year from now?

You've got what it takes 💪

With some focused preparation and useful phrases in your pocket, you will do great on your next job interview!