No two interviews will be the same, but certain questions stand the test of time and will appear in some form or another in most. It is imperative that you are prepared for these and have well rehearsed answers, though the less it sounds rehearsed the better.
These are in our view the top 6:
1. What circumstance brings you here today?
This open ended question surprises many people. You must be able to respond quickly and positively to this question. The positive nature of the answer is imperative as it sets the tone for the whole interview. It should never be used to reveal problems with your current employer. It should be answered in the same way as “Why do you want to work for us?” A little research and you’ll be able to talk compellingly about the business and how you can impact on it.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Talk about strengths that are most relevant to the job, this should be the straight forward part. Weaknesses are your opportunity to show your ability to identify the need for personal improvement. The best responses are things peripheral (but not completely irrelevant) to the role but most importantly include a plan on how you are addressing the weakness. Please be aware that interviewers often ask for multiple not just one.
3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Research the company structure to pitch your aspirations more realistically than ‘I want to be on the CEO by then’. It is important not to lie here though so for instance if you have no wish to move into managerial roles within the business don't say you want to. It goes without saying that the answer should be within the organisation you are applying to.
4. What is your greatest achievement?
Use the selection criteria or job description to identify which of your achievements called for skills the interviewer is interested in. In rare circumstances you can use a personal achievement but 99 times out of a 100 the example should be from your professional life
5. Why should we hire you?
Describe the skills and experience you’ve gained that qualify you to fulfill the duties listed on the job description.
6. Do you have any questions for us?
This is a very important part of an interview and can make or break decisions at this point. Typically it is at the end of the interview and you should use this opportunity to refer back to a key point in the interview and develop it. It is rarely a good time to ask about salary, holiday entitlement, job flexibility, bonuses, retirement, or other benefits – these are much better asked by your recruiter on your behalf.
Stand out from the Crowd
If you want to be a truly great, memorable candidate, you need to ask some great questions during your interview. It is important if you have pre-prepared these that you don’t just run through a list asking things that have already been answered, also, be aware that you may have a time window to ask and remember, most candidates will be asking questions purely about the role.
The best questions are ones that are very well-researched, detailed and unique as well as showing your enthusiasm and work ethic. Here are a few examples:
1. I understand that this role will consist of …….. Ideally, what would you like me to accomplish for you in the first year in the role?
This shows enthusiasm, positivity and an understanding of the role. It also shows that you have prepared for the interview.
2. How would you describe an ideal employee?
Here you’ll get an idea as to whether you are a good fit for the company. It also shows that you are eager to please and keen to meet their expectations
3. From what you know about me so far, how well do you think I will fit into the team here? Why?
Asking about the team shows that you understand the importance of settling well into the team you’ll be working with. It also shows that you’re aware of the importance of team work and office culture. Hopefully, the answer will be positive and if the interviewer isn’t sure, it’ll give you the chance to show them that you do possess the right qualities. This is a good opportunity to assess how the interview is going and put your interviewers at ease if they have any doubts.
4. I am aware that employees have recently been involved in ………... (i.e.trade conference, press story, charity work etc.) Is that a typical opportunity in the job for which I am interviewing?
This shows eagerness and an interest in going above and beyond your day-to-day work. It also shows that you have researched the company above and beyond reading their website and that you are up-to-date with industry news.
5. From what you have learnt about me today are there any aspects of my background and skills that are cause for concern for you in relation to this position?
It’s a very direct question but one that allows you to address any areas of concern they have. If you ask this question you must not get defensive or argumentative with the answer, instead try and volunteer an example or even better offer to send through examples of work in this area. If their concern surrounds something you do not know or know little about, you need to express your eagerness to learn and an example of where you have quickly picked something up in the past.