Interviewing for a new job can be stressful but is a vital part of career progression. At some point, we will all need to attend an interview, so it’s important to be prepared.
Fortunately, most interviews include at least a few of the standard questions and preparing for these will not only help to calm your pre-interview nerves but could also make all the difference in effectively showcasing your skills and personality.
Below are 10 of the most common interview questions and how to answer them.
1. “Tell me about yourself”
This traditional icebreaker is intentionally open-ended and designed to provide an overview of your background.
Practice an interesting and engaging pitch that showcases your personality and key accomplishments. Try to keep personal information limited to things that have defined you as a person or that may impact your professional life – things like travel, significant achievements and life-changing developments. Steer clear of political leanings, personal drama or controversial opinions.
Ultimately, keep it professional, relevant and under two minutes.
2. “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Interview questions about your strengths catch a lot of people out but are some of the easiest to prepare for, as you know yourself and your career better than anyone. Keep your answers relevant and demonstrate how your strengths make you an ideal candidate.
Weaknesses are trickier because you need to show awareness of your shortcomings, without damaging your chances. Choose a weakness that is unlikely to impact the role and discuss how you’re working to improve it.
Ross Pike, Operations Director of exhibition stand contractors Quadrant2Design, has conducted hundreds of interviews and said “Questions about weaknesses always make for interesting conversation. They’re less about the candidate’s weaknesses and more about how they are dealing with them. It’s one thing to acknowledge your weaknesses but it’s more important to be actively doing something about them”.
3. “Why do you want to work here?”
Here’s where your preparation and research pay off. Your interviewer won’t expect you to know every detail of the company’s history but they’ll at least expect an understanding of what the company does and the role that you’ve applied for.
Research the company and its culture then, during your interview, mention specific aspects that align with your values and explain what makes you a perfect fit for the team.
4. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
This interview question assesses your long-term ambition and commitment to the role and company. Your interviewer will want to know if they’ll be interviewing for this role again in 6 months.
Tailor your response to the specific job and company, highlighting your enthusiasm for professional development and how you think you can contribute to the business long-term.
5. Situational questions
Your interviewer will likely ask some situational questions, which could begin with
- “Tell me a time when…”
- “What would you do if…”
- “How would you deal with…”
- “Describe a time when…”
Before your interview, familiarise yourself with your career history and have some examples of previous work in mind, as well as what these situations demonstrate about you and your skill set.
Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action and Result) to structure your response and demonstrate your problem-solving skills.
7. “What is your greatest (professional) achievement?”
This is your moment to shine. Having an answer prepared will allow you to present your actual greatest achievement, instead of just the first thing that comes to mind.
The wording is important. If asked for your greatest “professional achievement” then showcase something related to your career. If the wording is more open, you can name a personal achievement but should acknowledge that is it a personal achievement and offer a professional alternative. It’s good to have an answer prepared for both.
If you’re new to employment it’s ok to use a personal achievement, as this will still show off your transferable skills and personality.
8. “Why should we hire you?”
Share past achievements that demonstrate your value, with a focus on how your unique experiences and skillset will be useful to the company.
Try to avoid regurgitating your CV and instead articulate how your skills, experience and passion for the role make you the ideal candidate.
9. “Why do you want to leave your current employer?”
This question is about determining your professionalism in speaking about your employer, as well as the reasons that you feel your current situation isn’t a good fit, so that you don’t face the same situation within the hiring company.
Keep your answers honest, professional and focused on what you want from your career. Perhaps you are looking for more flexibility, perhaps you’ve reached the ceiling for progression opportunities. Whatever your answer, avoid badmouthing any current or former employers.
9. “What are your salary expectations?”
All recruiters will ask this question at some point. Research industry standards and the company’s pay scale for the position, then provide a reasonable salary range based on your experience and market value.
Be prepared to justify your expectations and negotiate if necessary.
10. “Do you have any questions?”
The most important part of your answer is showing genuine interest in the company and role.
Prepare thoughtful questions that showcase your interest and research. Inquire about the company’s future, the team’s dynamics or the challenges the role may include. Clarify any details that are unclear from the job description, but avoid asking questions about salary or benefits at this stage.
Honourable mention of the weird and wonderful
While off-the-wall interview questions are rare, they may still crop up depending on the personality of your interviewer. There’s really no limit to what questions could be asked, providing they remain legal. Questions might include
- What animal are you most like?
- How do you feel about clowns?
- What food would you be?
- Who’s your favourite Spice Girl?
- What superpower would you want?
These questions are more about your ability to think on your feet. Your interviewer will want to know how your mind works under pressure and, while it’s impossible to prepare for every wacky question, it’s important to be a good sport and try to answer with a logical and consistent response.
Interviews are opportunities to shine and leave a lasting impression on potential employers. By preparing for common interview questions and tailoring your responses to the specific job and company, you can increase your chances of success and lay the foundations for a long and successful career.
Remember to research the company, practice your answers and present yourself with confidence. With the right preparation, you’ll be well-positioned to walk into your interview with the poise of a seasoned professional and successfully land your dream job.