Top 10 Interview Questions – Practice your answers!

While you can’t anticipate every question asked in a job interview, there are certain questions that come up time and time again and you should be prepared for ….

1. Tell me about yourself

This question is often used as an ice-breaker and as a way of putting you at your ease at the beginning of the interview. You should keep the focus on your professional life, highlighting the skills and experience you have that most closely match this position. If used correctly, this is your opportunity to give your opening sales pitch and to influence the future direction of the interview.  The answer to this question needs to be succinct with the response relevant and concise.

A very simple process to use is Present-Past-Future formula.

The temptation with this question is to start with the past – this is not the place to start at all!

Firstly start with the Present – where are you now, what are you doing and what skills are you using currently..

Then move into the Past – a little about your previous [relevant to the job opportunity being interviewed for] experiences and skills ..

Finally moving into the Future –  why you are excited about and suitable for this current position ..

2. Give me a brief outline of your CV & how your experience relates to the job on offer

This is asked to gain an understanding of your experience and if it links to the job on offer and to determine your interpretation of the job requirements. Remember not all of the interviewers may have completely digested your CV. This is a real opportunity for you to link your experience to the competencies of the job role on offer.

3. Why do you want to work for us?

It’s rare for an interview not to include this question. The good news is that it’s an easy one to prepare for. Most companies want to recruit people who are enthusiastic about the company and its products. They don’t want people on the team who “ended up there by accident”. So this is your chance to show why working for the company is important to you and why you think you will fit in. They will be looking for evidence that you can make a contribution and will be able to grow into the role they are recruiting. This question is designed to screen out candidates who aren’t serious about the company or may be using it as a stop-gap, while they look for something better. It’s also your chance to make the most of the company research you have done. You can use this opportunity to add comments that show you understand the company’s position in the market place; the role of its competitors and any challenges it may be facing.

4. What do you know about this company?

An employer wants to see proof that you are genuinely interested in working for their company and have taken the time to research what they do, where they are positioned in the market place and are aware of recent activities they have been involved in. Much of this information is available online…look at the corporate website and old newspaper articles. By gathering this information, you can use it to position yourself as a commercially aware individual with a strategic and pro-active approach.  If you know someone who does or has worked for the company talk to them to get an inside view

5. Give us an example of a situation where you faced conflict or difficult communication problems

This is not the time to tell the interviewer how much you hate your current boss or colleagues! It’s also not the point to launch into a tirade about how difficult people in your office are to work with and how many arguments you have. So what are they looking for? They’re looking for someone who can rise above conflict and diffuse the emotions, finding a win-win solution. Basically, recruiters want to employ people who will get on well with others, whilst still delivering the company’s objectives. This type of question is your chance to demonstrate your interpersonal and team-working skills. The interviewer will be looking for maturity and the ability to be able to keep your calm, whilst others around you are losing theirs. Don’t feel you have to provide an answer that gives you full credit for the solution – it can often be more powerful (if it’s true) to demonstrate how you worked with others to find a fix.

6. Where do you see yourself in 3/5/10 years time?

Errr… Not a good response!  So what might an employer be looking for with this question?

  • Are you serious about the company? Is the company part of your long-term plan, or are they a stepping stone?
  • Are you serious about your career?
  • Do you know where you want to go?
  • How does this job help you get there?
  • Are you ambitious? This can be positive or negative.
  • How does this job fit within your longer-term plans? Is this job just a stop-gap? If the job is part of your strategy, how likely are you to want to be promoted?
  • Do you have any longer-term plans? They may use this to judge how far you would plan ahead in your new role.

This question is a good opportunity to show your commitment to the role and knowledge of the company’s structure and vision.

7. What would your current/previous manager say are your strengths?

As part of the recruitment process, the employer will have already identified the essential qualities required in a prospective employee and if you can demonstrate that your strengths compliment the job, you will immediately stand out from the crowd. The key competencies and skills will be outlined in the job specification and should guide you as to which strengths to focus on. Highlight three to four key strengths and have an example to back each one up.  We often find it hard to tell people what we’re good at. Selling yourself, without appearing arrogant, is one of the most common interview worries. Many people simply don’t sell themselves, for fear of seeming big-headed but you need to. Ensure to relate the strengths to the position you’re being interviewed for and supply evidence (provide examples)?
Still stuck for answers to this question?

  • You could try asking someone. Ask a trusted friend or work colleague. Make sure they give you examples of where you have demonstrated the strengths, so you can quickly use these, if asked.
  • It’s also worth revisiting the job information, to look for which competencies they are looking for. You will make a more favourable impression if you can cover some of these in your answer.

8. What would your current/previous manager say are your weaknesses?

This is not the place to admit your biggest flaws. It’s also not the time to pretend you don’t have any development areas – it would make you look either conceited or as though you can’t evaluate your own performance. So how should you handle this type of question? The main thing is to admit that you have areas to develop, whilst showing that you are already working on them and giving examples of the progress you have made. Choose a development area that doesn’t affect your ability to do the job for which you are being interviewed or is not noted as one of the key strengths required for the role. It’s usually a good idea to make the “weakness” something small. Avoid topics such as “organizational skills” or “time management”! Be ready to turn it into a positive.

9. Why should we give you this job?

This is the time to give them your USP – Unique Selling Proposition – or what makes you different from all the other applicants. It’s really worth working out and practicing your answer to this before the interview. Some businesses use the phrase “30 second elevator speech”. Imagine you have just bumped into the CEO of the company you want to work for, getting into a lift. He or she asks you “Why should we give you the job?” You have the time it takes for the lift to reach its destination (about 30 seconds) to give a compelling answer. The key is to highlight your strengths and the benefits you can bring to the company. Make sure you avoid sounding desperate! As preparation, you should refer back to the job advert/competencies and also listen carefully during the interview, to make sure your answer meets the needs of the “buyer” (the interviewer). You are giving your answer from the perspective of the buyer’s needs, rather than your own.

10. Do you have any questions you would like to ask us?

Ensure you ask questions! Questions you ask can help differentiate you from the other job applicants. Choose questions that make a great final impression. Whatever you do, make sure you avoid the “anti-climax ending” of not having any questions to ask. It can undo the hard work you’ve done, giving great answers to all their questions. It can make you look uninterested – not a great final impression.  Make your questions relevant, genuine and intelligent. Don’t ask about something that doesn’t interest you [it will show in your body language] or has already been answered in the interview – so asking for the sake of it! For example, what are the two/three things you most want to know about the job, about the team and/or about the company? Maybe your company research highlighted some questions about the current competitive environment or working practices?

At Office & Training Solutions we provide interview preparation coaching– contact or 086 3807802 for any assistance you may need. Good luck in your job search!

Comments are closed