While no two job interviews will follow the exact same format, there are some questions that are very popular among employers when screening potential candidates.
By preparing confident answers to some of the more common interview questions, you can give yourself the edge over other potential candidates.
Here we explore some of the more common interview questions, how best to answer them and how you can prepare your responses most effectively.
An interviewer will be impressed if you have considered your short-term and long-term goals. Talk about the kind of job you'd eventually like to do and the various steps you will take to get there.
Show that you have the ambition and determination to make the most of every job you have held to get where you want to be.
Always relate this back to the position you're interviewing for and be realistic in terms of your aspirations. Avoid telling the interviewer that you want their job.
This question is often seen as challenging by many candidates, even those with significant experience. However, if approached correctly it is easily possible to avoid 'bragging' when discussing your strengths or seeming excessively negative when talking about your perceived weaknesses.
Based on the job description, choose three examples of traits the employer is looking for and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a work situation. Ideally, include a mixture of tangible skills, such as technical or linguistic abilities, and intangible skills, such as management experience.
The best approach here is to pick a trait that you have already made positive steps to address.
"Consider how you have approached your perceived weaknesses in the past and what you have done to address them," commented Janine Blacksley, associate director at Robert Walters.
"If your IT ability is not at the level it could be, state this as a weakness before telling the interviewer about training courses or time spent outside work hours you have used to improve your skills."
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Focus on your assets - what makes you different and where do your major strengths lie? Outline what you can offer in terms of experience, personality and enthusiasm.
"The job description should give you a good indication of what they are looking for," added Janine Blacksley.
"Make sure you address the particular qualities the employer has stated they are looking for and provide specific examples of what you have done so far in your career that demonstrates how you are particularly suited for the role."
This is usually the opening question for most interviews and can be one of the most important. First impressions are key, so keep it brief – know your CV inside out and focus on delivering a one to two minute advertisement for yourself, highlighting the key achievements in your employment history. Know what you want to say and how you are going to say it beforehand.
"Begin your answer with an overview of your highest qualification then run through the jobs you've held so far in your career," added Janine Blacksley.
"You can follow the same structure as your CV, giving examples of achievements and the skills you've picked up along the way. Don't go into too much detail - your interviewer will ask you to expand on any areas where they'd like more information."
Do your research - this gives you the chance to discuss all you know about the job and the company and why you are a good match for them. The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you've given this some thought, so do your homework properly.
"You should have a good inside knowledge of the company's values, mission statement, development plans and products. Describe how your goals and ambition match the company ethos and how you would relish the opportunity to work for them," advised Janine Blacksley.
While you should never mention salary unless asked or prompted, it's important to understand the value of someone with your skills. Be flexible - indicate that you are willing to negotiate for the right opportunity and confirm that you value the position strongly.
"All too often, problems arise from pricing yourself out of the position or stating a figure less than the company is willing to pay. If a guideline salary has been provided with the job description, you could mention this and say it's around the amount you're looking for," Janine Blacksley continued.
You should use the interview as an opportunity to say something interesting about your skills and experiences that relate back to the role at hand. Remember that interviewers will be looking for you to demonstrate key skills, so prepare examples in advance that you can call on when required.
Examples of the key attributes employers look for include:
Do your research
Above all, it is vital that you do your research. Make sure you have a look at the company website and understand as much as you can about their business and how they operate, as well as the products or services they provide. It is also important to go prepared with questions to ask them – after all, the interview is a two-way process. Don’t be afraid to write questions down ahead and take them with you.
First impressions are key, so keep it brief – know your CV inside out and focus on delivering a one to two minute advertisement of yourself.
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These frequently asked questions touch on the essentials hiring managers want to know about every candidate: who you are, why you’re a fit for the job, and what you’re good at. You may not be asked exactly these questions in exactly these words, but if you have answers in mind for them, you’ll be prepared for just about anything the interviewer throws your way.
1. Tell Me About Yourself.
This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here's the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead, give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Muse writer and MIT career counselor Lily Zhang recommends using a present, past, future formula. Talk a little bit about your current role (including the scope and perhaps one big accomplishment), then give some background as to how you got there and experience you have that’s relevant. Finally, segue into why you want—and would be perfect for—this role.
Read More: A Complete Guide to Answering “Tell Me About Yourself” in an Interview (Plus Examples!)
2. How Did You Hear About This Position?
Another seemingly innocuous interview question, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name-drop that person, then share why you were so excited about the job. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.
Read More: 3 Ways People Mess Up the (Simple) Answer to “How Did You Come Across This Job Opportunity?”
3. Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?
Beware of generic answers! If what you say can apply to a whole slew of other companies, or if your response makes you sound like every other candidate, you’re missing an opportunity to stand out. Zhang recommends one of four strategies: Do your research and point to something that makes the company unique that really appeals to you; talk about how you’ve watched the company grow and change since you first heard of it; focus on the organization’s opportunities for future growth and how you can contribute to it; or share what’s gotten you excited from your interactions with employees so far. Whichever route you choose, make sure to be specific. And if you can’t figure out why you’d want to work at the company you’re interviewing with by the time you’re well into the hiring process? It might be a red flag telling you that this position is not the right fit.
Read More: 4 Better Ways to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?”
4. Why Do You Want This Job?
Again, companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. (And if you don’t? You probably should apply elsewhere.) First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you’re doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).
Read More: 3 Steps for Answering “Why Do You Want This Job?”
5. Why Should We Hire You?
This interview question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work, but also deliver great results; that you’ll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates.
Read More: 3 Better Ways to Answer “Why Should We Hire You?”
6. What Can You Bring to the Company?
When interviewers ask this question, they don’t just want to hear about your background. They want to see that you understand what problems and challenges they’re facing as a company or department as well as how you’ll fit into the existing organization. Read the job description closely, do your research on the company, and make sure you pay attention in your early round interviews to understand any issues you’re being hired to solve. Then, the key is to connect your skills and experiences to what the company needs and share an example that shows how you’ve done similar or transferable work in the past.
Read More: What Interviewers Really Want to Hear When They Ask “What Can You Bring to the Company?”
7. What Are Your Greatest Strengths?
Here’s an opening to talk about something that makes you great—and a great fit for this role. When you’re answering this question, think quality, not quantity. In other words, don’t rattle off a list of adjectives. Instead, pick one or a few (depending on the question) specific qualities that are relevant to this position and illustrate them with examples. Stories are always more memorable than generalizations. And if there’s something you were hoping to mention because it makes you a great candidate, but you haven’t ha
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