Sign up Login
Career resources
Get the best from your career.

Prepare for your Job Interview with the Top 5 Questions of 2017

  1. “You’ve only been with your company for a short period of time. Why do you want to leave your current job?”
  2. “Why is there a large gap on your resume?”
  3. “What are your strongest skills?”
  4. “Tell me about your educational background.”
  5. “Why do you want to change career path?”

Ever wished you had a crystal ball to see what questions you’ll be asked at your next job interview? Alas, we don’t have one either. The good news, however, is that you can ace your next interview by preparing answers to our predicted most common questions hiring managers will ask in 2017.

Crafting responses in advance can also help you feel more prepared and relieve some of the pressure that comes with prepping for a job interview.

Ready to prepare? Here are five questions a hiring manager might ask about your CV—and pointers on how to answer them to make a great impression.

1. “You’ve only been with your company for a short period of time. Why do you want to leave your current job?”

Most employers are looking to hire workers who are going to stay at the company long term. In fact, 56% of employers say that retention is a major concern for their company, according to Payscale.com’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report. Retention is a big concern especially when hiring entry-level workers, since millennials are the most likely generation to frequently switch jobs, a recent Gallup poll found.

Moreover, turnover costs can be substantial for companies: according to one Gallup survey, the replacement cost of an employee can be 150% of his or her annual salary or more. That’s as much as $150,000 or more for a worker with an annual salary of $100,000, which may explain why hiring managers are concerned when they see you’ve left a job shortly after starting it. Case in point: a 2014 CareerBuilder survey found that 43% of employers wouldn’t consider a candidate who’s had short tenures with several employers.

Thus, your goal when answering this question is to reassure the hiring manager that you’re looking for a long-term job; in other words, you need to convey that you’re not a job hopper.

Here are a couple good responses to choose from:

  • “I want to work for a bigger company that offers more opportunities for growth.” Hiring managers like to hear that you’re focused on expanding your skill set. Also, “feeling that your job can no longer offer you what you want in terms of professional development is a valid reason to quit,” says Kyriaki Raouna, a career advisor in Cyprus.
  • “I’m very interested in the ground-breaking work that your company is doing, which I don’t have the chance to learn about at my current job.” This is one way to praise the company without badmouthing your current employer.

2. “Why is there a large gap on your resume?”

If you took a significant amount of time off from work (think six months or more), hiring managers are bound to ask you to explain why there’s a gap in your employment history. “If an employer sees an unexplained hole on your resume he may think, ‘This person’s hiding something’ or ‘This looks like someone who could have a problem’ such as laziness, substance abuse, or prison time,” says Susan Ireland, a San Francisco-based resume writer and career coach.

The best approach is to briefly explain why you left the job preceding the break. Transparency is crucial, so “be open and honest about your career breaks,” advises Andrew Fennell, a UK-based recruiter and CV writer. Some potential responses include:

  • “I got laid off when my employer was downsizing.” People get laid off; hiring managers understand this.
  • “I left my job to care for a close family member during a serious illness.” No one will fault you for taking time off to be a caregiver.
  • “I took time off to travel, but now I’m ready to re-enter the workforce.” Taking time off to travel is by no means unusual. Also, traveling gives you a fresh perspective and insight into other cultures, which can make you more valuable to a prospective employer.

Then, you’ll need to show the interviewer that you used the time off constructively, writes Italy-based business communication trainer Clare Whitmell. For example, if you did volunteer work, freelanced, or gained a certification or accreditation, make sure you mention it.

3. “What are your strongest skills?”

Assuming you have a skills section on your CV, you can expect a hiring manager to ask you about your greatest talents. To craft the most compelling response, focus on skills that are important to the job that you’re interviewing for; for instance, if you’re applying for an accounting job, you’d highlight that you have good attention to detail. Presenting examples that show how you’ve demonstrated these skills in the past is also crucial.

A few good examples:

  • “I’m a goal-driven person. Last year, I exceeded my sales target by 75%.” On your resume, this skill might be called “goal-driven sales strategist.”
  • “I’m a team player. I led a group project last month that we completed ahead of schedule, but I couldn’t have done it without the support from my co-workers.” Indeed, 83% of HR professionals said that teamwork is a top priority when assessing entry-level job seekers, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. This could appear under your resume’s skills section as “team-oriented leader”
  • “My customer service skills are top notch. When I worked at a restaurant during college, I always greeted customers by name and learned their orders by heart.” On your resume, this skill could be called simply “customer service expert.”

4. “Tell me about your education background.”

Employers are raising the bar for education requirements. Companies are hiring more college-educated workers for jobs that have been traditionally held by high school graduates, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey. The study also found that one in five employers are now targeting Master’s degree holders for positions previously held by those with four-year degrees—and a third of employers are even offering to send current employees back to school for an advanced degree.

Of course, the education requirements will depend on the job and will likely be spelled out in the job posting. However, hiring managers still try to dig deeper into the education information that appears on your resume—which means it’s your responsibility to describe valuable courses you took or audited (including online classes through a site like Coursera, Udemy, or EdX), academic clubs you participated in (and what skills you gained from them), or research that you conducted.

So, some smart responses include:

  • “I learned a ton about how consumers develop habits and patterns through my Behavioral Psychology class.”
  • “I joined my school’s debate club to improve my communication and public speaking skills.” Yes, college debate clubs exist, such as Harvard University’s College Debating Union.
  • “Being a research assistant for my professor gave me hands-on experience and showed me what it’s like to work in the field.”

5. “Why do you want to change career path?”

A lot of people change professions. But if you’re in the process of making a career change, employers will naturally be curious as to why you’re making the transition.

There are a few rules to follow when crafting your response. The first is to stay positive when describing why you want to leave your current field. The second is to explain why you’re a good fit for the job that you’re being interviewed for. And third: “don’t go into a lot of detail or an extended explanation,” says job search coach Susan P. Joyce.

Based on those guidelines, good answers include:

  • “I’ve learned a lot by being a sales associate, but my goal has always been to work for a nonprofit.”
  • “Throughout my entire career as a coder, I’ve been interested in the graphic design element of building a website. It feels like the right time to pursue that passion.”
  • “While working in construction, I’ve met a lot of commercial real estate agents. I know it’s the right career path for me.”

The bottom line: a strong resume that best represents your skills and experience will help you land a job interview, but to ace the interview you’ll need to prepare responses to these common interview questions.

Make your next career move with confidence.

Join more than 1 million members managing their professional profile with VisualCV.

Get my VisualCV