Most Common Interview Questions and Answers

Employers use interviews to assess how well you match the requirements of the job; but also they allow you to ensure that the organisation is a good fit.

They’ll already have an indication of your qualities from your application, but you must confirm in person that you’ve the skills and experience to successfully perform in the role. This makes preparing interview answers in advance especially important. So let’s get started with the most common interview questions and answers:

Tell me about yourself

This is usually the opening question, tops the list of common interview questions. It’s the most important, as you can provide the interviewer with a great first impression. Keep your answer to under five minutes, beginning with an overview of your highest qualification then running through the jobs you’ve held so far in your career. You can follow the same structure of 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 probably take notes and ask for you to expand on any areas where they’d like more information. If you’re interviewing for your first job since leaving education, focus on the areas of your studies you most enjoyed and how that has led to you wanting this particular role.

Why do you want this job?

Demonstrate that you’ve researched the role by discussing the skills and interests that led you to apply. Draw upon what you enjoy; use examples from your academic, professional or extra-curricular life that suggest you’re strongly motivated for the role and can relate closely to the organisation. Tell the interviewer what particular aspect of the job advertisement enticed you.

Similar questions that you may be asked include:
• What do you know about the company?
• What motivates you?

Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you’ve given this some thought. If you’ve prepared for the interview properly, you should have a good inside knowledge of the company’s values, mission statement, development plans and products. Use this information to describe how your goals and ambition matches their company ethos and how you would relish the opportunity to work for them. Never utter the phrase “I just need a job.”

What are your strengths?

Pick three or four attributes desired by the employer in the person specification; teamwork, leadership, initiative and lateral thinking are common examples. Whichever strengths you pick, ensure that you can evidence them with examples.

Similar questions that you may be asked include:
• How would a friend describe you?
• How would you describe your personality?
• What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?

What are your weaknesses?

You can positively frame your answer by picking characteristics that you’ve taken steps to improve. For example, self-confidence issues could have previously led to difficulty accepting criticism; but tell the interviewer that you’ve learned to embrace constructive feedback as it allows self-improvement. Alternatively, discuss how you overcame a potential downside of your greatest strength; for example, you might have had to learn how to cope with conflict if you’re a great teamworker.
Never say that you have no weaknesses, that you’re a perfectionist, or that you work too hard. These are clichéd responses that portray you as arrogant, dishonest or lacking in self-awareness.

Similar questions that you may be asked include:
• How do you respond to criticism?
• How would your worst enemy describe you?

Can you give an example of a time when you had to cope with a difficult situation?

This question is one of the most popular performance-based interview questions. It allows the employer to assess how calm and reliable you are under pressure. Outline an instance where you’ve coped with an unexpected problem, discussing how you reorganised and managed your time. Think about times where you’ve had to meet tight deadlines or handle difficult people.

Similar questions that you may be asked include:
• Give an example of a time when you had to cope under pressure.
• Give an example of a time when you’ve handled a major crisis.
• How do you manage your time and prioritise tasks?
• How do you respond to stress and pressure?

What has been your greatest achievement?

Ideally, your answer should evidence skills relevant to the job; teamwork, initiative, communication, determination and organisation, for example. For inspiration, think about a time when you’ve received an award, organised an event, learned something new or overcome a major fear. Always prepare several examples.
Avoid the achievement of graduating from university; this won’t distinguish you, unless you’ve had to deal with major difficulties such as illness or personal problems.
A similar question that you may be asked is “what are you most proud of in your working life?”

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

This is a great time to brag about yourself through someone else’s words. Try to include one thing that shows your ability to do the job, one thing that shows your commitment to the work, and one thing that shows you are a good person to have in a team. For example, “My boss has told me that I am the best designer he has ever had. He knows he can always rely on me, and he likes my sense of humour.”

Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?

Tough interview questions like this test your ability to think quickly. Avoid attacking any previous employers; perhaps simply describe a tricky situation that you’ve experienced, but one that won’t be an issue in the interviewing organisation. Emphasise the eventual positives, not the negatives.
Similar questions that you may be asked include:
• What did you like the least about your last job?
• Why did you leave your previous job?

What are your goals or where do you see yourself in five years time?

It’s best to talk about both short-term and long-term goals. This is your chance to show the recruiter that you’re highly ambitious and professionally determined. Talk enthusiastically about your realistic short- and long-term targets, basing your answers on the employer, the industry, and your skills and experiences.
Outline the various steps to your ideal job, but only in relation to the position that you’re applying for and the company’s career development offering; it’s vital that you explain how your goals make you valuable to the organisation. You could even mention your knowledge of relevant professional bodies and qualifications, or reveal that you’ve researched the career paths followed by other graduates.
A similar question that you may be asked is “What do you expect to be doing in five years’ time?”

What salary are you seeking?

You can prepare for this by knowing the value of someone with your skills. Try not to give any specific numbers in the heat of the moment – it could put you in a poor position when negotiating later on. Your interviewer will understand if you don’t want to discuss this until you are offered the job. If they have provided a guideline salary with the job description, you could mention this and say it’s around the same area you’re looking for.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

Interviewers use this type of psychological-behavioural 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; which could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the organisation.

A similar question that you may be asked is “if you were a biscuit, what would you be?”

Why should we hire you or what can you do for us that other candidates can’t?

This question, often the closing question, allows you to demonstrate your unique selling point and other major strengths, outlining how your skills, interests and experiences fit the job. Ensure that you’re positive and perhaps even reemphasise your greatest achievements – but don’t boast.
Similar questions that you may be asked include:
• How would you improve our product or service?
• What can you bring to the team?
• What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
• Why do you think you’ll be successful in this job?

Do you have any questions?

Anything that you ask should cover the work itself or career development. Prepare questions in advance; if all your queries have been answered, mention that the interviewer has covered everything you need to know. Remember to ask questions if the moment naturally arises during the actual interview.
Good interview questions to ask the employer include:
• How could I impress you in the first three months?
• How often is a graduate’s performance appraised?
• Is there anything that you would like to improve in your department?
• What are the travel requirements of this job?
• What development plans does the organisation have?
• What is a typical career path in this job?
• What training and development is provided?
• What’s the proposed start date for the role?
• What’s your personal experience of working for this organisation?

You could also check the article I have previously covered about Interview Tips.

Please leave your comments below with your thoughts or topics I haven’t included.

Nik

Experienced IT Consultant working and living in the UK. In early years he was born and raised up in Greece and been to the UK since studies. He is passionate with technology, gadgets and computers, he really likes the internet and IT in general.

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