Question Time

Get some practice

There’s no better way to prepare yourself for an interview than thinking about some of the questions you may be asked and then thinking about how you would answer them. Most interview questions can be predicted, here’s a few general questions that you should prepare to answer:

Tell me about yourself

This, or any of the alternative introductory questions ('What sets you apart from other candidates?' or 'Why should we hire you?') is an ideal opportunity for you to talk about how you're a good fit for the job. You can almost guarantee you will get a question like this, so prepare an answer, but be careful not to sound too rehearsed. Concentrate on how your experience, successes, or personal characteristics make you a strong candidate and avoid irrelevant information. Aim to talk for a minute or so, then check with the interviewer that s/he has enough information. Don't describe yourself using cliches like 'I'm a team-player', but demonstrate through examples how you match the job description or ideal candidate profile.

Why do you want this job?

For this type of question, you'll need to know what inspires you about the job. Select a couple of aspects from the job description that also highlight your abilities.

Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer wants to know you've done your homework and that you know about the organisation and its aims. They want to know you've thought it through and you've chosen to apply to them for a good reason. Show your knowledge of the company by having some facts and figures at the ready. Things like the goals of the company so that you can demonstrate why that suits you; or the fact that they have a good reputation so you can say that you are inspired by what their customers say about them.

What are your strengths?

This is a great question as it allows you to really sell yourself. Everyone’s strengths are different but pick a couple and tell the interviewer why it’s a strength. A great answer for someone who is organised would be to say something like: 'I'm a good organiser, and I plan everything in detail. I showed this when I was given a new project, and I had to get it up and running from scratch.'

What are your weaknesses?

If you're asked about weaknesses, don't list many - only mention one! Choose a minor flaw that isn't essential to the job. Turn it into a positive, such as how you've worked on the weakness. Or you could present it as an opportunity for development. For example, 'I tend to clam up in meetings, but if I go in with prepared points, I find I can contribute much more effectively.'

Where would you like to be in the next three/five years?

The interviewer wants to know that you’re ambitious and enthusiastic. This is a good opportunity to talk about your career goals, and link them to what the company offers in terms of promotion and career development. You could talk in terms of short-term and long-term goals. Remember you are at the interview for that particular job - so your short-term goal should be to get that job for the time being. Then you can start talking about moving on higher.

What did you like the most/least about your last job?

Knowing what the role involves is important, as it'll help you frame your answer. Saying you disliked working for a disorganised manager will be counterproductive if you're interviewing for a similar position. Try to emphasise the positives. For example, 'I enjoyed being able to help my manager be more efficient by organising his diary and correspondence' would be more appropriate in this instance. Although you need to show self-awareness of what you really dislike, it's not an invitation to criticise your previous company. 

Have you got any questions?

Interviewers often ask this at the end of the interview and it’s a good idea to have something up your sleeve. You may feel that all your questions have been answered at some point during the interview but try to ask some, if only to show enthusiasm and interest.

Some potential questions could include:

If I were successful, what would the main focus of the role be in the first few months.

What are the opportunities for career progression within the company.

What are the key plans for the company in the year ahead.

Avoid asking questions very basic questions that you should already know the answer to and this is definitely not the place to ask about the salary or perks – you can ask that when they offer you the job.

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