To increase your chances of receiving a job offer you need to learn how to confidently and successfully respond to the following generic questions you will be asked.
Listed below are 10 common questions with some comments as to the reasons they are asked and the response expected. Remember these responses are only suggestions – do not use them if you feel uncomfortable about them, and try to individualise them, as many candidates will receive the same suggestions!
Practise your own responses before interviews:
Q: Tell me about yourself. The interviewer is really saying “I want to hear you talk.”
A: This is a loosener, but is a common question so your response can stay the same. Write a script; rehearse it so it sounds impromptu. Spend a maximum of 4 minutes to describe your qualifications, career history and your range of skills – emphasising those skills relevant to the job on offer.
Q: What have your achievements been to date? The interviewer is saying, “Are you an achiever?”
A: Again, this is a common question so be prepared. Select an achievement that is work-related and fairly recent. Identify the skills you used and the achievement and quantify the benefit. For example, “my greatest achievement has been bringing on X amount of business or a client that then generated X amount of business.”
Q: Are you happy with your career to date? The interviewer is really asking about your self-esteem and self-confidence, your career aspirations and whether you are a happy, positive person.
A: The answer must be ‘yes’ but if you have hit a career plateau or you feel you are moving too slowly, then you must qualify the answer.
Q: What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it? The interviewer is really trying to find out what your definition of difficult is and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving using your initiative.
A: This can be a trap! To avoid it, select a difficult work situation which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences. Explain how you defined the problem, what the options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive note.
Q: What do you like about your present job? The interviewer is really trying to find out whether you will enjoy the things you will experience in the job on offer.
A: This is a straightforward question. All you have to make sure is that your ‘Likes’ correspond to skills etc required in the job on offer. Be positive, describe your job as interesting and diverse but do not overdo it after all, you are leaving!
Q: What do you dislike about your present job? The interviewer is trying to find out whether the job on offer has responsibilities you will dislike or which will make you unsuitable.
A: Be careful with this one! Do not be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses, which will leave you open to further problems. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company such as its size – its slow decision- making etc. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job!
Q: What are your strengths? The interviewer wants a straightforward answer as to what you are good at and how it is going to add value.
A: This is one question that you know you are going to get so there is no excuse for being unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four explanations of how they could benefit the employer. Strengths to consider include technical proficiency; ability to learn quickly; determination to succeed; positive attitude; your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal. You may be asked to give examples of the above so be prepared.
Q: What is your greatest weakness? The interviewer is really asking about your self-perception and level of self-awareness.
A: This is another standard question for which you can be well prepared. Don’t say you have none – this will ensure further problems. You have two options – use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job. The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered strength and the steps you have taken to combat it. An example would be, “I know my team think I’m too demanding at times – I tend to drive them pretty hard but I’m getting much better at using the carrot and not the stick.” Do not select a personal weakness such as ” l’m not a morning person – I’m much better as the day goes on.”
Q: What kind of decision do you find most difficult? The interviewer is really saying, “I need someone who is strong and decisive but who has a human side.”
A: Your answer must not display weakness. Try to focus on decisions that have to be made without sufficient information. This will show your positive side. For example “I like to make decisions based on sufficient information and having alternatives. When you have to make quick decisions you have to rely on ‘gut feeling’ and experience.
Q: Why do you want to leave your current employer? The interviewer is trying to understand and evaluate your motives for moving.
A: This should be straight forward. State how you are looking for more challenge, responsibility, experience and a change of environment. NEVER be negative in your reasons for leaving, and rarely will it be appropriate to cite salary as the primary motivator.
Examples of other frequently asked questions
- Have you worked under pressure? (Meaning – can you?) Give examples
- Can you give me an example of when your work was criticised? (Be prepared for the next one of how you coped and the outcome).
- Give me an example of when you have had to face a conflict of interest at work. (Testing interpersonal skills, team and leadership opportunities).
- Do you prefer to work alone or in a group, and why? ( the answer is both ideally)
- Are you a self-starter? Give me examples to demonstrate this (yes always good so show you can use your initiative)
- What kind of pressures have you encountered at work?
- Describe the biggest problem you have faced recently and how you resolved it. What changes in the workplace have caused you difficulty and why?
- Which part of this role is least attractive to you?
- What area of your skills do you want to improve? (Try to relate to role on offer).
- What can you bring to this organisation?
- What have you failed to achieve to date?
- Give me an example of when you have been out of your depth.
- How do you feel about working long hours and/ or weekends?
Have you ever been asked any of the questions we’ve mentioned here? How did you deal with them? Let us know in the comments below.