Ever walk out of an interview and wonder, “Why didn’t I say this?”  Worse, were you ever in an interview and while you’re trying to concentrate on the new line of questioning your mind keeps racing back to your failed response to a question three questions ago? And it is especially frustrating if it was a seemingly dumb question like, “If you were an animal, what type of an animal would you be?”

It is not good to be scripted in interviews. However, it is good to know yourself. The questions you are asked in interviews are many times life questions you should answer for yourself anyway. The questions are asking about your future many times and where you want to go because the interviewer wants to make sure your direction in life matches the company direction.

So go ahead and answer these questions for yourself now and when you get in an interview situation, you won’t be trying to define your five year life plan, you’ll know it. And then you can concentrate better on the zingers because you’ll have the basics out of the way.

So here they are. Ten of the most common interview questions according to Monster.com with come of my own commentary as well. Figure out your answers now!

1. What are your weaknesses?

This is the most dreaded question of all. First, don’t answer this question with something that is really a strength – it seems disingenuous and dishonest. It seems like you are trying to snow the other person with something so obvious. However stay away from personal qualities and concentrate on professional traits. They don’t need to know your personal challenges with staying out to late having fun or watching too much TV. They are interested in your work weaknesses. So be honest and then tell them what you are doing to work on this weakness. You should also currently begin to work on that weakness. You might have a success story for them by the time you interview. For example, “I am always working on improving my communication skills to be a more effective presenter. I recently joined Toastmasters, which I find very helpful.”

2. Why should we hire you?

Summarize your experiences: “With five years’ experience working in the financial industry and my proven record of saving the company money, I could make a big difference in your company. I’m confident I would be a great addition to your team.”

3. Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you’ve given this some thought and are not sending out resumes just because there is an opening. For example, “I’ve selected key companies whose mission statements are in line with my values, where I know I could be excited about what the company does, and this company is very high on my list of desirable choices.”

4. What are your goals?

Sometimes it’s best to talk about short-term and intermediate goals rather than locking yourself into the distant future. For example, “My immediate goal is to get a job in a growth-oriented company. My long-term goal will depend on where the company goes. I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility.”

5. Why did you leave (or why are you leaving) your job?

If you’re unemployed, state your reason for leaving in a positive context: “I managed to survive two rounds of corporate downsizing, but the third round was a 20% reduction in the workforce, which included me.”

If you are employed, focus on what you want in your next job: “After two years, I made the decision to look for a company that is team-focused, where I can add my experience.”

6. When were you most satisfied in your job?

The interviewer wants to know what motivates you. If you can relate an example of a job or project when you were excited, the interviewer will get an idea of your preferences. “I was very satisfied in my last job, because I worked directly with the customers and their problems; that is an important part of the job for me.”

7. What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?

What makes you unique? This will take an assessment of your experiences, skills and traits. Summarize concisely: “I have a unique combination of strong technical skills, and the ability to build strong customer relationships. This allows me to use my knowledge and break down information to be more user-friendly.”

8. What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?

It’s time to pull out your old performance appraisals and boss’s quotes. This is a great way to brag about yourself through someone else’s words: “My boss has told me that I am the best designer he has ever had. He knows he can rely on me, and he likes my sense of humor.”

9. What salary are you seeking?

It is to your advantage if the employer tells you the range first. Prepare by knowing the going rate in your area, and your bottom line or walk-away point. One possible answer would be: “I am sure when the time comes, we can agree on a reasonable amount. In what range do you typically pay someone with my background?”

10. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

Interviewers use this type of psychological question to see if you can think quickly. If you answer “a bunny,” you will make a soft, passive impression. If you answer “a lion,” you will be seen as aggressive. What type of personality would it take to get the job done? What impression do you want to make?