9 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers: Know the Intent behind them and answer convincingly

There are a lot of articles and videos on facing interview questions, however rarely any of them highlights the main intent of the interviewer behind asking those questions. Once you know that, you can structure your response better. So without much ado, read on, and don’t forget to share any other question that you were asked in the comments section below.

1. Tell me about yourself

The intent behind the question:
  • To understand your overall profile
  • Your experience, education, achievements
  • Assess your communication skills
  • Your Present-Past-Future
  • The logical flow of thought (storyline)
How to respond:
  • This will be the 1st question of the interview, so write and prepare it, do mirror practice
  • Maintain eye contact and a positive body language
  • Include more relevant experience/projects as per the job you are applying to
  • Don’t include strengths or weaknesses unless asked to
  • Family details not required unless asked for
  • Say “I am..<full name>”, avoid “Myself”
2. Why do you want to leave your current job?

The intent behind the question:
  • To know your career aspirations
  • How you make decisions
  • Your stability and ambition
  • Research-based approach rather than an escapist attitude
How to respond:
  • No complaining about your current or previous companies
  • It should also not sound like an escape
  • Your thorough research about the company and reading through the JD should feed into this answer
  • Give a forward-looking answer in a positive way
3. Why should we hire you?

The intent behind the question:
  • To know your personal and professional aspirations
  • Have you thoroughly researched the profile and company you are applying for?
  • How you connect your skills/strengths to the output you produce
How to respond:
  • Mention your core skills and strengths
  • Connect them to the job you are applying for
  • Focus on how you can create value in their existing system
  • Mention 1-2 things you could do immediately after joining, let’s say in the next 3 months
4. Describe a key project. Highlight the challenges you faced and how you handled them.

The intent behind the question:
  • Your role in the project
  • Your technical expertise
  • Are you a problem solver
  • Creativity and process orientation
  • How you work with other people, team player
How to respond:
  • If it was a team project, don’t say I did it, say we did this project
  • Include a successful project that was neither too long nor too short
  • Don’t mention conflicts that you had with other people, mention the technical or process challenges you faced and how you found solutions
  • Mention how others supported or mentored you, it shows your humility
5. What does a typical day look like for you?

The intent behind the question:
  • Planning and prioritization
  • Your productivity and passion
  • How productive are you in your current role?
  • Are you ready to manage more responsibility?
How to respond:
  • Don’t share either a very busy day or a very easy day. Share an average day where you are occupied for most of the time and have produced a few outputs
  • Share some key deliverables in your profile rather than occasional projects that you worked on
  • Be very specific and keep this answer short and crisp
  • No need to include what you do after you reach home
6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

The intent behind the question:
  • Strengths that are relevant to the job
  • No cliché list: hard work, teamwork, etc.
  • Awareness and acceptance of weaknesses
  • Examples where you displayed strengths
How to respond:
  • Have 3 strengths ready with 1 example of each, share only 2 at first, share 3rd if asked for more. Note that the strengths you pick must be related to the job you are applying for
  • Have 2 weaknesses and an action plan on them (what are you doing for improving on those), but only share them if asked for specifically
  • 3rd say I will need to think
  • Weakness shall be easily manageable and not a hindrance to the job
7. What are your interests/hobbies?

The intent behind the question:
  • Are you a holistically developed person
  • Whether you waste your weekends idling or learn something
  • What are your priorities and how you de-stress
How to respond:
  • Have a hobby first, and not like listening to music. Pick a musical instrument, or play a sport, or get involved in social work. These will actually make a better person out of you
  • Share the hobby and how it helps you personally
  • Share any achievements if you have while pursuing that hobby
8. What would you do on day 2 or 3 of your job here?

The intent behind the question:
  • Are you looking for comfort or to create value?
  • Have you thoroughly researched the profile and company you are applying for
  • How you connect your skills/strengths to the output you produce
  • Your vision for the role
  • Are you pragmatic or only dreamy?
How to respond:
  • Mention 1-2 things that would hit the core challenges of the company
  • Don’t overboard with extravagant promises or big achievements
  • Focus on how you would create value for the end customer
  • Include your core skills and how you will start using them

9. Any questions for me?

The intent behind the question:
  • Your in-depth understanding of the role
  • Whether you seek clarity than making assumptions
  • Logical approach
How to respond:
  • Don’t ask for the sake of asking, politely say “No questions as of now”
  • If you have a question, keep it related to the role and the company, focus on the future
  • Value the experience and skills of the interviewer and ask them for their experience and opinion on the question
  • You can also seek feedback about your profile if you are confident
Summary and final tips
  1. Do proper research on the role and the company
  2. Read about the industry as a whole
  3. Always state real-life examples to validate your skills and strengths
  4. Focus on creating value and contributing, not what you will get
  5. Be Honest
  6. Practice every day and don’t just wait for the night before the interview
  7. Deep breathe when stuck, it really gives your brain some thinking fuel
  8. Be polite and respectful, the interviewer may try to test your patience and emotional control
      Don't forget to go through the Ultimate Pre-Interview Checklist a day before the interview.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below.