To increase your chances of receiving a job offer, you need to learn how to confidently and successfully respond to the questions you will be asked.
Listed here are 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! Practice 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. Prepare your response but be careful to make sure it does not sound rehearsed. 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.
E.g. “My greatest achievement has been to design and implement a new sales ledger computer system – bringing it in ahead of time and improve our debtors‟ position significantly, saving the company £50,000 per month in interest.”
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, you must qualify an 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 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 the skills 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 about 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 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 asked so there is no excuse to be unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List 3 or 4 explanations of how they could benefit the employer – eg, technical proficiency; ability to learn quickly, determination to succeed; positive attitude; ability to relate to people to 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 2 options:
The interview is a two way process so be prepared to ask probing questions such as:
In closing the interview enquire about the next interview stage if you are interested in progressing things. Don‟t be discouraged if no definate offer is made or specific salary is discussed. The interviewer will probably wait to consult with colleagues first or interview other candidates before making a decision.