Answering the Most Common Interview Questions

illustration of a woman in a virtual interview

Interviewing can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you don’t know what to expect. Fortunately, many recruiters ask the same questions over and over again. Their goal is to identify which candidates will be the best fit for the skills and requirements of the job. To do this, their questions typically focus on understanding the highlights of your career experience and confirming you have the specific skills the company is looking for. These questions are often the same across industries and don’t change much even as your seniority and experience increase.

Practicing your answers to the most common interview questions recruiters ask can help you answer confidently and address any potential gaps in your experience that they’d like to discuss. As you prepare for your interview, make a list of the interview questions you think the recruiter or hiring manager may ask. Then, write your response and practice repeating it verbally until you’re comfortable. It’s a good idea to practice in front of a mirror to make sure you look natural when answering. Strive to make solid eye contact and stand confidently. 

Here are some of the most common interview questions moms can expect in their next interview.  

The big ones

"Tell me about yourself"

This may be the most common interview question out there. If you’ve already created a “Why Me?” statement for this job application, you have a great response! The trick is providing the right blend of personal details as well as professional accomplishments. In an interview, you should keep your response to just 1-2 minutes max.

📖 Read more: How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself" in an Interview

"Tell me about a challenge or problem and how you overcame it"

This question is often tailored directly to the role, such as: “Tell me about a time your team was understaffed during a busy season and how you dealt with it.” Be prepared with a few different examples that share a specific situation, your solution and the results. Be sure the examples you pick had successful outcomes! 

"Name your biggest strength (and your biggest weakness)"

This is your opportunity to sell yourself without bragging. Pick a few strengths you have that relate directly to the job description. When addressing your biggest weakness, be honest but tie your example back to how you’ve successfully addressed this weakness. For example, “I have a tendency to want to be involved in each phase of a project to make sure we are hitting our goals, but I’ve learned to feel confident delegating to my team by laying out clear expectations from the beginning.”

"What are your reasons for trying a new position/new industry?"

Respond by highlighting which responsibilities attracted you about the role you’re interviewing for. Then, relate these back to your current skills and experience and mention that you’re excited to put them into practice in this role. Remember, skills translate easily across industries: project management requires the same skills whether it’s done in a financial firm or an ad agency. 

"Share your experience with (insert a particular program or technology)"

If there are skills or programs in the job description that you do not have direct experience with, prepare to answer this question by explaining your experience in a similar area. For example, you may have experience in a different project management software than the company uses. But all project management softwares serve the same purpose and have many of the same features. Explain what you are familiar with and that you’re confident you can adapt to their preferred technology. 

"How much you would like to make?"

If you’re asked about your salary range, see if you can get the employer to answer first by saying something like, “I’d really need to learn a bit more about the role and responsibilities before I can give an exact number. Can you give me an idea of your range for this role and the benefits that are available?” 

If the interviewer presses you to provide a number, respond with a range by saying, “Based on my experience, $75,000-$90,000 is a competitive range depending on several factors like benefits and work schedules.” This leaves enough wiggle room for you to negotiate your offer later.

📖 Read more: How to Determine Your Ideal Salary Range (and Ask for It)

Your questions for the interviewer

Use your research on the company and the position to create a list of 3-5 questions you can ask about the role and the company. This is a great time to ask about family-friendly benefits the company may offer like flexible schedules, remote work options and childcare reimbursements.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. What does a typical day in the role look like?
  2. What is the biggest challenge the team is facing right now? 
  3. I noticed that (mention a recent company accomplishment or news item), can you tell me a bit more about that and how the team is adapting?

📖 Read more: Stand Out in Your Interview by Asking the Right Questions

Common interview questions for moms

Moms can face some tricky questions in interviews. These questions might be overly personal or they might be flat-out illegal. Being prepared for these questions will help you answer confidently.

Addressing illegal questions

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Due to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against pregnant women and parents who take leave from their employment to care for a newborn baby, sick child or aging parent. 

Questions that could be classified as illegal under these laws include:

🚫 Do you have any children?

🚫 Are you planning to have more children?

🚫 What kind of childcare arrangements do you have in place?

🚫 What are your plans if you get pregnant?

When faced with these questions, it’s best to consider what the interviewer may be concerned about (typically, your ability to commit to the position and perform the tasks). Use this opportunity to briefly acknowledge that you are a mom and then shift the focus right back to your professional goals and the experience you bring to this position. 

"Tell me about this pause in your work history"

You’re not alone in taking a break to raise your family. Be prepared to address the career pause on your resume by speaking positively about the experience.

For example: “I decided to take a brief pause from my work to fully dedicate myself to supporting my family at an important time in our lives when it was needed. It was a great experience but I now have the time and resources I need to focus on my career.”

📖 Read more: How to Explain Your Mom Pause

"What did you do during this time?"

Share the skills you kept sharp while you were out of the workplace, either through paid side gigs or volunteer experiences. When you speak about your experience, look for ways to level-up the words you use. Instead of simply saying you served on the PTA at school, state you managed multiple fundraising projects and share a stat about the value they drove for the school.

"Tell me about your kids"

While directly asking if you have children is illegal, if you mention children in one of your responses it’s likely the interviewer will follow up with a question. They may be genuinely interested (and could be a working mom who is relating to you), or they may be fishing to gauge your commitment to returning to work or remaining in this position long-term. 

The bottom line

Moms face a combination of common and common-to-moms-only questions in interviews. By brushing up on your answers to the ones that are most frequently asked you’ll be well prepared for any interview and one step closer to success.

Woman in interviewThe Essential Interview Guide

You’ve got an interview scheduled, now what? Use our interview guide to get all the advice about interviewing well and making a memorable impression. Read more

Get more advice to propel your career forward

From the career search to maternity leave, advocating for a promotion to learning if freelancing is right for you, The Mom Project is here to help you succeed. Sign up or log in

Recommended Articles

Subscribe to discover more resources, programs and events

Get on the list

New to The Mom Project? Sign up for our emails and discover more resources, programs and events!