Answering the most common interview questions

Nailing those age-old questions

No two interviews are the same, but there are some common questions that tend to crop up.  It is made up of an array of questions that form the start, middle, and end of the interview story. Some may seem straightforward and others a bit trickier – how you respond, and the questions you ask in return, will enable the interviewer to get a feel for who you are and what you can do. Knowing how to answer certain questions will allow you to make a good impression.

We’ve listed the most common interview questions below which, believe it or not, tend to be the questions that catch most people out.

Q.Tell me about yourself?

This may be a really common question, but don’t take it lightly. Really think about it and prepare your answer, making sure you highlight the aspects of your personality and skills that you’d like your interviewer to know about. For instance, your education, career history, training or wider interests that may be relevant to the role.

It’s not an invitation to tell people your life story. To gain a bit of clarity, you may want to ask, ‘Is there a particular aspect of my background you’d like me to talk about?’   Whichever direction you decide to take, keep it brief, succinct, and ensure that it has some relevance to the job and industry in hand.

Q.What are your greatest strengths?

Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  • Ability to solve problems
  • Keeping a cool head under pressure
  • Willingness to go the extra mile
  • Ability to work in harmony with others
  • Stable and progressive career to date

Keep one or two key strengths in mind because the question may ask for just one key attribute. You’ll want to demonstrate professionalism, reliability, willingness and manageability. Don’t discuss strengths that aren’t related to the job or profession – keep it relevant.

Q.What are your weaknesses?

This isn’t an invitation to put your head in a noose. Balance a weakness with a compensating strength.  Demonstrating self-awareness that you do have weaknesses will also give the interviewer an impression of your honesty and desire for improvement.

Consider the technique of reflecting on a problem from the past and explaining the actions you took to overcome it. For example, ‘I enjoy my profession and have high standards, so when people aren’t pulling their weight, I get a little frustrated. I’m conscious of this, so I overcome it by being positive and hope others catch on.’ See what we mean?….

Q.Why should I hire you?

Simultaneously, this is the best and worst question. The best, because it’s an invitation to reiterate your strengths and other factors that put you ahead of other candidates. The worst, because it’s the one that sticks in the interviewer’s mind and, if you aren’t prepared, then it doesn’t make for a positive lasting impression.

Highlight your skills and expertise that are relevant to the job and emphasise the fact that you can take direction, add value and want to make a success of it. Show how the work you’ve done relates to the work you’re going to do.   Your answer must cover the tangible and intangible things you can offer, but must, most of all, communicate to the employer that you want the job!

Q.What do you know about our company?

You can’t answer this question well unless you’ve researched the company thoroughly. A high level of credibility is attributed to candidates who have a true understanding of the organisation, its history and position in the marketplace.  Tell the interviewer something that would not be found on the website. A quick review of the website doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

Q.What would your references say?

Be positive and honest. Take a reference from a previous employer that highlights your abilities and integrity and puts you in an extremely favourable position.

Try to draw connections between the job requirements and your recent career achievements. You may want to highlight your former employer’s positive thoughts about you in relation to problems you may have solved and projects where you exceeded expectations.

Q.How do you take direction?

This is a manageability question – the interviewer wants to know if you’re personable, open-minded, and able to take direction. Employers are looking for candidates that can take fair and clear direction without hassle and fuss.    Your answer must give examples of times when you have taken direction, and may be related to a specific project that you have completed. You may also want to highlight positive working relationships with previous bosses that illustrate your ability to work well with your peers and employers.

Q.What do you think of your current/last boss?

This question is on a similar vein to the question above, and there are no prizes for working out the correct answer! The best answer you can give is one that demonstrates that you respected your previous boss and the help they gave you while you were under their guidance. You may be asked to validate your answer, so be prepared to give examples.

Q.What salary are you looking for?

Have a good idea of your worth in the market, it’s always tempting to shoot for the moon, but give an over-inflated answer and you may find yourself eliminated. It’s worth remembering that most jobs, particularly in the agency and in-house sectors, have a salary range, and it’s best to stay within it.

The main thing to remember when answering interview questions is to be honest and sincere. It’s also incredibly handy to do your research beforehand too.  Always try to give the best possible impression of yourself and, if you want the job, make sure the interviewer knows it!

We hope the details above will help you effortlessly nail those common interview questions. For advice on asking the right questions, check out our asking the right questions page.  In the meantime, if you have any queries, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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