Common interview questions and how to answer them
Published: 09 Mar 2018
Common Interview Questions and How to Answer them
Job interviews can be scary. But with the right amount of preparation they become a great opportunity to share your personality, knowledge and skills with a potential employer. And secure the job you’re after.
Interviews help employers to find out who you are, what you know and where your skills lie. They’ll see if you have the talent for the job and the personality to thrive in their company.
During an interview, an interviewer will use a question and answer technique to find out about you: they pose a question, you articulate your best possible answer and blow them away.
But what are the top face-to-face and phone interview questions – and how should you answer them?
What are the most common interview questions?
From the very vague to the strangely specific, interviewers will ask a variety of questions to test your communication skills, confidence and ability to think under pressure.
Here’s are some of the more typical interview questions, and how you should try to respond.
1. Can you tell me about yourself?
Interviewers love opening with this one. It breaks any tension and starts the conversation.
Keep focused and give the interviewer a positive overview of why you’re a great fit for their company. Be yourself, keep it relevant and don’t ramble.
Try to build a rapport with the interviewer – paint a picture of why you’d be a great person to have around.
2. Why have you applied for this position?
You’ll have a personal reason for this. But try to relate what you say to the qualities listed in the job spec – and what attracted you to the job in the first place.
Perhaps it was the mention of career progression? Whatever your reason, use your answer to show off your talents and flatter your potential employer.
The key to giving good interview answers is preparing what you’re going to say before the big day.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Employers like self-awareness. Being able to tell your strengths from your weaknesses shows them you can see what you’re good at and what you need to improve.
Share a few examples of your strengths and how they’ve helped you. Then be honest about some weaknesses and explain how you’re working hard to improve.
Keep all examples relevant to the job you’re going for. And don’t say you have no weaknesses – it shows a lack of self-awareness.
4. What’s your biggest achievement?
Here’s another opportunity to speak with confidence and show pride. Just make sure the achievement you choose relates the job you’re applying for.
Give an example that helps the interviewer to see how your successes could become their successes. Go into detail to show why you think it’s an achievement worth sharing.
If you’re worried you lack a great achievement, talk about the skills that help you adapt to different challenges.
5. What makes you the right person for this role?
It’s time to highlight what makes you a better pick than any other candidate.
Share the qualities, skills and achievements that show why you’re suitable. These should paint you in a positive light, and give the interviewer a clear picture of how well you’ll do the job.
Like always, keep your examples relevant to the role.
6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is a cheeky one. The interviewer wants to hear how ambitious you are, what motivates you, and how dedicated to their company you’ll be.
So set yourself some goals before the interview. Then take the interviewer through them in detail. Show your commitment, and reassure the employer you’ll be around for years to come.
Ambition to work your way up the career ladder might impress. But any sign you’ll leave the job if you hit a hurdle might scare them off.
7. Why did you leave your previous role?
A new employer won’t want lightning to strike twice. They’ll ask why you left your last job to work out if the same could happen with them.
If you weren’t a good fit or opportunities didn’t satisfy you, be honest and say so. Your interviewer would rather hear that than feel you’re not a team player, or you’re difficult to manage.
Whatever your reason for moving on, share it with the most positive angle you can find.
8. Can you give me an example of a time you had to cope with a difficult situation? What was the outcome?
Interviewers like to find out how you cope with challenges. Especially those that might come up in the role they’re recruiting for.
Give an example of a time you faced a serious problem, responded positively and overcame it. Even better, relate your response to the role you’re interviewing for. Show you’re a cool, calm, creative problem-solver.
Your interviewer will want to know you can stay composed – even during stressful times. So keep your answer positive. No stories of losing control.
9. Why do you want to work here?
Make sure whatever you say shows the interviewer your desire to work for a reputable company like theirs.
Then – to make sure they remember you – bring in your own personality and share examples of the successes you could experience together. Try not to sound so enthusiastic that you come across as insincere.
Also, do some extra research before you meet. Search the recruitment pages of the employer’s website. Are there company perks you’d like to discuss?
10. What do you do in your spare time?
The interviewer wants to get to know your personality.
So be yourself and share your hobbies.
From what you say, the interviewer will see if you’re a good fit or might create a personality clash. It’s their responsibility to build a productive, happy team.
If they feel you’re not the right fit, try not to take it personally. Say thank you and find another opportunity.
11. Why should I consider you for this role?
This is a biggie. It could win you the job. Or, if you don’t sell yourself quite right, put your interviewer off.
Think what attracted you to the role and the company. Look back over the job criteria. Then make sure your answer paints you as the only person who could do this job – and do it brilliantly.
This might be one of your last chances to sell yourself. So give it everything to finish the interview full of pride and confidence.
12. Can you explain what our company does?
Of course you can. Because you’ve done your homework and taken the time to research the company in detail.
Explain what they do, who they work with, why this appeals to you. To really show you know them, give some examples of what they’ve done recently. Have they been featured in the news or won an award?
There’s no excuse for getting this wrong. So put in the time to read their website, blog or printed material to show you’re serious about joining their team.
13. Would you like to ask any questions?
Take this opportunity to ask anything that’s on your mind. As long as it’s related to the interview, of course.
What team-building activities do you do? How will you encourage me to learn new skills? Prepare a few good interview questions before you meet. Then ask those you haven’t already covered.
Just try not to answer ‘no’. Asking even a couple of good questions can make you look eager and excited to get the job and become part of the team.
Our top five interview tips:
1. Prepare your answers in advance
Hesitating and stumbling might look like you didn’t prepare. Reciting from a script might make you sound robotic. Prepare and rehearse just enough to feel comfortable and confident.
2. Take your time and don't ramble
Nerves make some people breathe harder and speak faster. Do your best to breathe naturally, speak slowly and read the room. If people look bored, wrap up your answer.
3. Be honest
Answer truthfully. It’s better to be open from day one. And if you get confused by a question, ask the interviewer to repeat it or rephrase it.
4. Prepare to flatter
It’s wise to highlight what you like about the company and job you’re applying for. Be full of praise – but keep it sincere.
5. Beat the competition
Often, a lot of people will interview for the job you want. So think hard about what you have that they might not. Make sure instead of talking them down, you talk yourself up.
There’s not always a perfect answer to an interview question. And you might find only a handful of these questions come up when you’re next sitting opposite an interviewer.
But if your interview preparation is good, you’ll be bursting with energy, confidence and knowledge to tackle almost anything that comes your way. Plus your prospective employer will see how organised you are.
Now it’s over to you. Find your dream job and apply today. Bone up, breathe deep and enjoy yourself.