If you’ve got an important interview coming up, it’s a good idea to consider the questions you might be asked. You won’t be able to plan for every question - a lot of companies like to throw in strange questions, to see how you think on your feet - but you can certainly prepare your answers to the questions commonly asked in interviews.
While you don’t want to sound too rehearsed, like you’re reading from a script, it is important to practice your answers, so that you’re not completely put on the spot. Consider the general things you can respond with, rather than memorise your answers. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel. To get you started, we’ve come up with a list of the 10 most common interview questions, and how you can best answer them.
This can be a difficult question to answer, as it’s so open. The interviewer will have already developed an impression of you through your CV and cover letter, so they’re trying to find out how accurate this is, and see how confidently you come across. You need to be comfortable in yourself, and project an aura of calm.
While it may seem simpler to just read off what you’ve written on your CV, or even talk about your personal interests, you need to answer the question in terms of the skills and experience you can bring to the role. Start by briefly summarising your employment history, and then explain how your career has developed.
Let the interviewer know what you’ve learnt over the course of your career, and what you’ve achieved. Try not to ramble though - you’ll probably go over some of these points later, so don’t make your answer longer than a few minutes.
If you’re generally quite a humble person, this question can feel like you’re bragging. But it’s important not to be shy about your accomplishments, and talk about specific strengths that relate to the role. Don’t use generic chichéd statements such as working well independently and within a team - find the top three skills the interviewer will be looking for, and then prepare examples from your own work history.
Do your best to think of strengths that set you apart from the other candidates, such as a particular qualification or training. Describe how your last employer has benefitted from these skills also. Make sure you don’t excessively exaggerate your strengths though - you’re bound to be caught out later down the line.
When it comes to this question, the temptation is often to either say you have no major weaknesses, or to choose a weakness that is clearly a strength in disguise, such as being a perfectionist. While you don’t want to give a weakness that relates to a key skill needed in the role, you do need to ensure that it’s work related, and that it’s something you’re working to improve.
Essentially, you need to describe a weakness, and then explain how you’re taking steps to overcome it. For instance, you could say that you previously spent a lot of time working on projects that were not the highest priority. Since you recognised this weakness, you plan your day via a calendar, and have made sure to prioritise each task, asking your manager for the best order if necessary.
You may not have left your last job in the best of circumstances, but you shouldn’t use this question as an opportunity to voice your negative opinions of the company. Try to stick with the main facts, and focus your answer on the future. The interviewer is just as concerned with why you’re interested in this position as the reason you left your last one.
Discuss how fortunate you were to work for your last company, and the skills they helped you develop. Describe any training you received in your previous job, and how this will benefit you in the role you’re applying for.
For this question, you don’t need to memorise every fact you can from the company website, but it is important to show that you’ve done some research, and have knowledge of the basics of the sector. You’ll be expected to know about the goals, values and culture of the business, as well as challenges they face and any key competitors they have in the industry.
When you answer, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve researched the business through a range of platforms. If you just look at the homepage of their website, you won’t have a holistic view of the company. Read up on the whole website, along with the job description found on job boards. Try to find industry specific publications, and look for any press releases from the company or others in the sector.
Get creative - use LinkedIn to research your interviewer, and visit the business beforehand if possible. It’s also important to show how enthusiastic you are about the company through your answer. Make sure that you describe the business positively, and talk about how much you admire the strategies they have put in place.
The interviewer wants to know what was the most important factor when you applied for this job. Was it the salary, location, or a genuine belief in the company values? Try not to sound desperate for any job you can get - you need to show that you want this job in particular, so use specifics.
You should mention something that you’ve found out about in your research of the company, such as the inspiring company culture, or the cutting edge technology the business uses. It’s also important not to be overly negative about your last employer when answering this question. If your previous manager was blocking your progression within the company, don’t mention them specifically, but talk about your excitement for career progression in this new role.
This question is essentially asking why the business should hire you over all the other candidates. Summarise your previous experiences, and what skills you have gained. Try to link these with the job qualifications you found on the job posting, so that it’s clear that you meet all the requirements. Use specific examples where possible, of occasions where your skills benefited your employer at the time.
You’ll also need to tell your interviewer your method of working, how motivated you are, and ensure that you show a passion for the industry. You should also include ways you can bring a fresh perspective to the company, without sounding condescending. Don’t worry if you don’t meet every requirement listed in the job description though - the chances of anyone doing this are slim to none, and the interviewer will be aware of that.
The interviewer wants to know how you handle stress and pressure. Everyone experiences stress at work at some point, so don’t try to claim that you’re immune. You’ll simply need to prepare an example of a specific situation where your response improved the outcome.
Make sure that you give details, and make the story engaging. For example, you may have had the responsibility of firing someone, which you found challenging as they demanded an explanation as to why. Discuss how you had previously worked with this individual to improve their performance, but they weren't willing to change their approach. Then go on to say how you were polite during the meeting, and avoided casting blame, using straightforward reasons regarding why they were being let go.
Hopefully, the salary will have been posted on the job advert, but there is often a range given, depending on experience. You might want to ask the wage typically given to someone of your experience and background. Try to research the standard wage for similar roles - this will give you a rough idea of what to respond.
You might alternatively be asked what your previous salary was. Only give the specifics if directly asked, and make sure that you don’t mention too significant an increase. Try to avoid salary negotiations in general if possible, as that’s something that can be discussed should you be offered the job.
With this question, the interviewer is trying to determine whether you’re likely to remain with the company, or will be constantly on the lookout for better opportunities. Try to focus your answer on this job, and relate both your long and short term goals to the business.
For example, you could mention that your immediate goal is to progress in your career, and you’re certain that this business can offer such opportunities. Your longer term goals may depend on the direction this company goes in, but you’re excited to receive the training advertised in the job description. It’s always a good idea to mention that you’re someone who likes stability too.
Another thing to consider is whether you can predict other more specific questions that might come up. You’ll need to thoroughly research the business regardless, so try to get a feel for the company culture. Maybe then you could be able to determine what angles they’ll take in the interview. If you’ve contacted a recruitment agency, like us, to help you find a new job they may also be able to give you a good idea of the questions you’ll be asked. In a lot of cases, the agency will have found people roles in that company previously, so will know what they’re looking for.