How to answer common interview questions

Answering questions in a job interview

Although it’s impossible to know what an employer is going to ask you in an interview, there are some questions which tend to come up quite often. Being prepared for these types of questions will put you in a great position to keep the conversation going, and to impress the interviewers.

One of the worst things that can happen in an interview is to stumble over your words and not have anything to say. Planning ahead and considering what the employer might ask will give you the confidence to shine in the interview.

If you want to ensure you’re well prepared for a job interview, here are some common interview questions and how to answer them…

Q: Tell me more about yourself… 

This question will usually be the first, allowing you to quickly settle in to the interview and shake off a few of those obvious early nerves. This type of question is designed to make you relax, but to also test your ability to think quickly on the spot.

Most people will feel at ease much quicker when asked about themselves, as this is usually quite an easy one to answer. Talk about your hobbies and interests, your family, and more importantly to the interviewer your current work aspirations. But you should be careful not to end up giving your life story, so keep your answer short and on topic.

Answer: Briefly talk about your interests outside of work, your family (‘I have a 5 year old that keeps me on my toes’), and then move on quickly to your education/skills and work experience. Keep anything work related relevant to the role, and don’t go into too much detail that you start to answer questions they have planned for later.
Listen to this video by Linda Raynier for more help with this question:

Q: What makes you the right person for the job? 

Although you’ve indicated that you’re potentially the right person for the job on your CV, the interviewer wants to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth – and here begins your sales pitch.

Keep everything positive and relevant to what the employer has requested in the job advert, and be mindful of the conversation you’ve had so far. The job advert doesn’t always give everything away, so you should be in a better position to answer this question now that you have had some interaction with the interviewer. Listen to what’s already been said and tweak your pre-planned answer accordingly to ensure it doesn’t sound scripted.

Answer: Stick to the facts – what is the employer looking for? Go over the most important and valuable skills and discuss briefly how you achieved those skills. Talk about your education if it’s relevant, and especially if it’s a mandatory requirement for the role.

Your answer should discuss past examples of your performance and how you can transfer those skills and experiences over to the new role. Be positive throughout and only talk about what you can do, and never talk about what you can’t.
Here’s another video from Linda on this topic with more ideas:

Q: Do you have any weaknesses? 

For this type of question you should always be honest (to a point) and never say that you don’t have any weaknesses. Everybody has weaknesses, and if you choose to go down the ‘no weaknesses’ route you are going to leave the interviewer thinking you’re overconfident and arrogant.

Be careful not to be too honest and negative however, as this will not go down very well. The employer wants you to be honest and open about your weaknesses, but they don’t want you to sit there and self deprecate.

Answer: The interviewer will often ask for at least three strengths and three weaknesses. The strengths should focus upon what’s relevant to the role, whilst the weaknesses should ideally not be too relevant or direct to any particular task or responsibility. You don’t want the employer considering that your weakness is going to have a direct effect on your daily duties.

Top tip: When describing a weakness you have at work, always make sure you explain that you are striving to improve and grow stronger in this area. For example, you may say that you struggle to sometimes deal with a customer complaint if they are really angry, and there has been times in the past when this has been hard for you. However, you are going to continue to understand not to take it personally and you are already much better every time you face this situation.

Listen to this video by Linda for more guidance (and check out the resources under the video on YouTube):

Q: Where would you like to be in 5 years time? 

When facing this question you need to try and gauge what the employer would want from you in 5 years, so that you can align as much as possible. You obviously wouldn’t say that you planned to move to another job within that time, but you would also need to be careful not to tell them that you’re looking to take over the company and the CEO position is firmly in your sights.

Aiming too high could come across as over confident, and the employer may think that this kind of attitude is not going to help you work efficiently in your role and get along with the other team members. On the flip side, you don’t want to give them the impression that you are looking to jump ship any time soon!

Answer: If you are applying for an entry level position talk about how you’d like to gain a lot of experience, new skills and possibly qualifications (depending on if this is possible whilst you’re working), and that you’re aiming to work towards training for a supervisory role, assistant manager, team leader, and so on.

If you’re interviewing for a management position then talk about how you’re going to help the company to achieve its goals. Review the company’s website and do some research into what their goals are, who their customers are, and what product or service they provide. Once you know more about the company and the role, you can go into more detail as to what you would like to help the company achieve over the next 5 years.
Here’s a final video from Linda offering more help on this question:

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