Top 10 interview questions – it’s all in the prep

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Every interview is different, but you can pretty much guarantee that certain questions and themes will always come up, no matter what the job.

Okay, we don’t have a crystal ball, but by preparing and planning out some answers you can increase your confidence on the day, lower your chances of tripping up and make sure you don’t forget to mention all the great experience you have to your next employer.

Here are 10 questions that, in some shape or other, will come up. Try making some notes on each one, thinking of practical examples of things you have done, either in other roles, through volunteering, or at school or college:

1) What do you know about our company?
Nothing makes an interviewer’s heart sink more someone who clearly has not taken the time to find out about their potential new employer. Check out their website and read the About section, pull out a few stats, or have a glance through any annual reports. Do you actually really know what they really do? There’s no perfect answer for this one, but you do have to show that you took the time and that you are interested. That will win all the points you need.

2) Why do you want this job?
This is in similar territory to the last question. It’s testing that you are serious about the interview and not just turning up because your TV broke and you were bored. List two or three things that you like about the role. Nobody is expecting you to dance around the room in excitement, but, as before, they want to know you are serious about the job.

3) Why are you leaving your present job?
This is not a trick question, you are not walking out on your wife or husband, people move jobs all the time for very good reasons, including: wanting to get a promotion -nothing wrong with ambition; you do a good job and think you deserve a pay rise ; you’ve been in the role for a while and want a new challenge. Try and keep it positive, and if you are leaving your old role because you cannot stand life at the old place a second longer, that’s fine too, but don’t slate your old employer too much, keep it concise and professional.

4) What work achievements are you most proud of?
This is a great open question and perfect for getting out your best projects, skills and successes. If you think of these in advance you can make sure you pick the best ones that relate to the new job. Also, you do not have to stick to professional or business projects. If you’re a great people person who has helped colleagues, you’re the rock that keeps the team together, or the one who organises the office softball team, mention this too. Interviewers like to see initiative, organisational and personal skills.

5) Do you have any questions?
Prepare a couple in advance that reinforce your interest in the job and want to know more. Don’t make them too tricky to answer and too specific, you could even choose a question about the work culture, or ask the interviewees what their favourite things are about the employer.

If you have questions about flexible working, salary or vacation leave then leave these for a follow-up email, unless the question comes up or you feel it would be appropriate.

6) What are you career goals?
This a classic question and a good answer will make you look ambitious, and the new company look like it can meet your ambitions. Don’t leapfrog too far ahead and say you want to be CEO in a year (unless the job is for CEO), focus on how the new job will help you meet your ambitions, with a little mention that in the future you would like to continue to grow and progress with the company.

7) What’s your greatest weakness?
Do people still ask this question? Maybe. Best to be prepared. There are two approaches that work well here:

  • Pick a weakness that you have fixed. A great example is being organised on a daily basis. You used to find this tricky but now you manage your tasks and jobs through a spreadsheet or a project plan and nothing ever gets missed and is delivered on time. You’ve taught yourself to be great organiser.
  • Pick a weakness that relates to your new job, but only in a small way. So if you were going for a job an programmer, you might say that you get nervous doing presentations to clients, but that you have practiced and are getting better at it. You wouldn’t go in a say that you are an awful coder with anger management issues.

8) Do you prefer working on your own or as member of a team?
For questions like this the best approach is normally to show that you are good team player who can work collaboratively, but also capable of completing a project on your own too. Think up a couple of good examples of projects where you worked as a team and one where it was all you from the beginning to the end. You’re a good allrounder, sociable but confident in your own ability.

9) Skills related questions
At least a couple of questions will be related to the specifics skills and experience asked for in the job description. Make sure you have strong examples lined up for the main points in the JD, or if you short or any key areas be open about the fact in the interview but explain how you would fill any gaps, perhaps through training or learning on the job. You’ll gain more points for your confidence and openness, than dodging the question or less relevant examples.

10) Why should we employ you more than another candidate?
Keep this one short, confident and candid. Of course mention your great experience or qualifications, but also mention the personal too, remember what a good team member you are! Don’t be too pushy though, and end be reinforcing the fact that you would really love to work with them in this role.

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