Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We’ve gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.
Typical questions an interviewer might ask:
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
- What would your colleagues and friends consider as your best qualities?
- Why should we hire you?
- What the interviewer really wants to know: can you do the job?
Know your strengths, and mention ones that are relevant to the job you’re being interviewed for. It’s important to quote examples of when you used the skills; it’s not enough to just say you have the skills.
Typical strengths employers look for are:
- Communication – the ability to get on with a wide range of people
- Team working – the ability to be an effective team leader or team member
- IT skills – most jobs these days need some IT skills
- Good attitude – hard worker, honest, polite, co-operative
- Problem solving – using your initiative to identify solutions
- Enthusiasm – employers like someone positive
- Quick learner – so you can take on new tasks
- Determination – shows you are focused on achieving goals
- Flexibility – doing a variety of tasks to achieve a common goal.
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.
Strengths: ‘I’m a good organizer, 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.’
Weaknesses: ‘Sometimes I’m too enthusiastic when working on a new project. But I’ve learned to adjust to everyone else’s pace, and not go charging ahead.’
- Why do you want to work here?
- What do you know about our company?
- What can you do for us that someone else can’t?
- What the interviewer really wants to know: Do you know what we do? Why have you chosen to apply to this company?
The interviewer wants to know you’ve done your homework and that you know about the organization 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, such as:
- the size of the organization
- what the product or service is
- last year’s turnover figures
- latest developments in the field
- history, goals, image and philosophy of the employer.
When talking about why you want to work for the employer, focus on what you can do for them, not on what they can do for you.
‘Smith’s is a respected firm with a reputation for high quality work, and I’d like to be part of that success. The quality of my work is important to me, so I feel I’d be at the right place. I’ve also heard you invest in your staff by training and developing them.’
ABOUT THE JOB
- What will the main tasks and responsibilities be in this job?
- What do you think the main challenges will be?
- What would you do in the first day/week/month/year?
- What the interviewer really wants to know: Do you know what the job’s all about?
The interviewer wants to know if you fully understand what the job will involve. They want to know why you think you’d be good at it, and how you’d approach it if they offer you the job. To answer this question well, make sure you read the job description thoroughly and research how the organization operates.
‘The main task is to supervise a team of sales staff to ensure they exceed sales targets. It’s my responsibility to motivate them and pass on my sales experience to enable them to achieve more.’
YOUR WORK HISTORY
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Tell me about a typical day in your current/previous job
- What experience have you got from previous jobs?
- What the interviewer really wants to know: What have you done in your previous jobs?
When talking about previous jobs, focus on the positives. Even if you think your previous or current job wasn’t very demanding, if you jot down the tasks and responsibilities it will sound more impressive than you think. You will have learned something, so mention it. Focus on the skills and experience that are relevant to the job you’re being interviewed for.
Don’t bring up negative things like having a dispute with a colleague or your boss. And don’t criticize previous employers.
‘In my current job I have developed my knowledge of computer software packages. But now I’m ready for a new challenge, and want to use these skills in a more customer-focused role.’