As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Below are some valuable insights into the most commonly asked interview questions and the techniques you can use to answer them.
The key things to remember when responding to interview questions are to keep your answers relevant, brief and to the point. If you are faced with a difficult question, stay calm, don’t get defensive, and take a moment to think about your response before you answer.
Q. Tell me about yourself.
A. What this question really means is “Tell me something that will matter to me as I consider you for this job.” Identify some of your main attributes and memorise them. Describe your qualifications, career history and range of skills, emphasising those that are relevant to the job on offer.
Q. What do you like about your present job?
A. This is a straightforward question. All you have to do is make sure that your “likes” correspond to the skills, experiences, etc. required in the job on offer. Be enthusiastic, describe your job as interesting and diverse but don’t overdo it - after all, you are looking to leave.
Q. Why do you want to leave your current employer?
A. State how you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, experience and a change of environment. Do not be negative in your reasons for leaving. It is rarely appropriate to cite salary as your primary motivator.
Q. What have your achievements been to date?
A. Select an achievement that is work-related and fairly recent. Identify the skills you used in the achievement and quantify the benefit it had to the company.
For example, “My greatest achievement has been to design and implement a new sales ledger system, bringing it in ahead of time and improving our debtors’ position significantly, saving the company £50,000 per month in interest.”
Q. What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it?
A. The purpose of this question is to find out what your definition of difficult is and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. In order to show yourself in a positive light, select a difficult work situation, which was not caused by you, and which can quickly be 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. Are you happy with your career to date?
A. This question is really about your self-esteem, confidence and career aspirations. The answer must be “yes” followed by a brief explanation as to what it is about your career so far that’s made you happy. If you have hit a career plateau, or feel you are moving too slowly, you must qualify your answer.
Q. What do you dislike about your present job?
A. Be cautious with this answer. Don’t be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses that will leave you open to further problems. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company, such as its size or slow decision-making processes. 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?
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 proficiencies e.g. your 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 these so be prepared.
Q. What is your greatest weakness?
A. Do not say that you don’t have any - this will lead to 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 to the job. The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered a 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.”
Q. Do you have any questions for me?
A. This question is pretty much guaranteed to be asked, and your response must be yes! The best questions will come as a result of listening to the questions the interviewer asks you.
For example, “From what you’ve been asking during the interview, it sounds like you have a problem with customer retention. Can you tell me a little more about the current situation and what the first challenges would be for the new person?”
Other good examples include:
- What improvements or changes do you hope the new candidate will bring to this position?
- How would you describe your company culture?
- What do you like most about working here?
- What qualities are you looking for in the ideal candidate?
Do not ask about benefits, salary or holidays until you have a job offer. Your recruiter should be able to advise you of these details prior to your interview.