Interview Q’s and A’s
Interview questions may vary but in essence they are all trying to establish the following:
1. Your skills and experience to do the job
2. Your enthusiasm and interest for the job
3. Whether you will fit in
If you can answer these questions, using real-life examples to illustrate your points, then you should be able to answer most of the questions that arise including the following frequently asked questions.
Tell us about yourself?
This question or something similar usually starts every interview.
Your answer should be well-rehearsed, confidently delivered and last between 3-5 minutes.
It should also: Focus on the areas of most relevance to the job in question Include some impressive achievements e.g. improvements made Convey your enthusiasm for the job Avoid personal or irrelevant information e.g. your children, un-related jobs
What are your key skills/strengths?
Focus on what you know they are looking for, even if it has been a smaller part of what you have been doing to date. The job advert or person specification form will give you the information you need about their requirements.
What are your weaknesses?
Choose a weakness that: Doesn’t matter for the job e.g. languages for a UK firm. Is a positive e.g. “I like to make things happen and get frustrated if too long is spent sitting around discussing it without action” Used to be a weakness but which you have improved upon e.g. presentations
Why did you leave your last job?
Your answer should be positive and upbeat even if the circumstances were difficult. If you were made redundant, depersonalise it by talking about company restructuring rather than your individual circumstance. Never criticise a previous employer no matter how tempting.
Why do you want this job?
Your answer should reinforce why you are such a good fit for the job and then convey your enthusiasm for the role e.g.
Good match between your skills and their requirements
Interested in the product/market/sector
Company’s excellent reputation, exciting challenge etc.
Do not say (even if it’s true) that you just need a job, or you want it because it’s local.
Tell me about a difficult scenario at work and how you dealt with it
Helped resolve or improve a difficult situation
Were resilient in adverse conditions
Showed emotional intelligence and cool-headedness
Avoid any examples which still feel sensitive, because in a high-pressure interview situation, old emotions can easily resurface and throw you off balance.
Tell me about an achievement of which you are proud?
Choose work-related examples that shows a tangible benefit to the business. Personal achievements should only be included if they are very impressive or prestigous. More experienced candidates looking for a specific roles eg Sales Director Jobs should focus on closely related areas eg driving an increase in sales or building a successful sales team
What are your career goals?
They are checking if you are likely to stay and if so, for how long. Reassure the employer that the role you are applying for fits your career plan and your longer term commitment to the company.
What are your salary expectations?
Salary negotiations are best handled at the job offer stage so try to avoid this at interview if you can. If forced to name a price, give a realistic but wide salary range and say that you feel that salary won’t be an issue if you decide to work together.
What do you know about our organisation?
You need to know the following:
Company structure, finances, products and services, key staff
Customers and competitors
Market trends and challenges
Interviews – do’s and don’ts
What to do:
- dress smartly, look bright and attentive, and speak clearly and confidently. Don’t forget that in the first few minutes only 7% of the interviewer’s opinion of you is formed by what you say – the rest is judged on how you look, act and sound
- find out where the venue is beforehand, how to get there and how long it takes
- get your outfit ready the night before
- find out what kind of interview it will be so you can prepare
- examine the person specification and your CV/application form, and think about what type of questions they will ask you
- prepare answers for the main questions – for example, why do you want the job, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are the main tasks in this job?
- make about three or four points in each answer
- take your time when answering the questions: make sure you understand the question and take your time if you need to think
- sell yourself: no one else is going to! Be positive about yourself and your experiences
- prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview – use it as an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company. (Don’t ask about money or perks just yet!)
- when discussing salary, know your market worth and start by quoting a little higher than this
- turn off your mobile phone: treat the interviewers with respect and give them your undivided attention
- keep your answers focused on what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you
What not to do:
- don’t be late
- don’t swear or use slang words
- don’t slouch in your seat or do anything that makes you look uninterested
- don’t smoke
- don’t lie: the interviewer may see through you. Even if you get the job, your employer can dismiss you if they find out that you have not been honest
- don’t let your nerves show too much; a few nerves are normal but extreme nerves will affect your performance. Use breathing techniques and try to remember that it’s not a life and death situation – there are plenty of jobs out there!
- don’t be arrogant and assume you’ve got the job. Nothing turns off employers more than someone who is disrespectful and over-confident
- don’t discuss controversial topics such as religion, politics and gender relations
- don’t read from notes or your CV — you should be familiar enough with your own history to be able to talk about it unprompted
- don’t criticise former employers or colleagues. Interviewers may mark you down as a troublemaker and a gossip
- don’t argue with the interviewer, no matter what. Remember to keep things positive!