How to answer interview questions

Be prepared for the tricky questions!
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Illustration of a businesswoman asking interview questions

Interview questions will vary from interview to interview but there are common questions which come up in most. Interviews can be a nervous time so the best way to settle your nerves is to be prepared and to run through questions which may come up with a friend or family member before the interview. Below is a list of common questions which you be asked at a job interview and ways in which you can answer them.

Common questions asked at job interviews

Q: Tell me about yourself. 

A: Keep this short and sweet – remember they’ve already seen your CV so you don’t need to explain everything you’ve done in the last five years.

Q: Why did you leave your last job (or why do you want to leave your current job)?

A: Don’t criticise your last employer – it never sounds good. Instead, explain that you want to improve your skills or gain more experience in a new and challenging position.

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A: Decide on a few strengths that are an asset to the job in question (such as I’m very organised, a good team worker, etc.). Then choose just one weakness, which can be seen as a positive thing (Like, you feel that you could improve your skills in a certain area through this job.)

Q: Why do you want the job?

A: This is your chance to explain why you are suitable. Explain how your skills or personality are perfect for the position. You can also highlight the skills or experience you hope to gain while working in this job.

Q: What can you bring to this company?

A: Again, a chance to prove you would be good in the job. Highlight your skills, relevant experience and strengths, and try to incorporate some originality into your answers- they’re recruiting you for your fresh ideas on how you’d do things as much as anything else.

Q: What can you tell me about our company/the industry?

A: You should research the company you’re applying to and find out as much as possible about them, especially about their background and values. Also, depending on the job, you might have to prove your knowledge in the type of work you would be expected to do.

Q: What are your career goals?

A: Be honest about your ambitions but make sure it’s relevant to the job in question. They probably won’t thank you for promising you’re in for the long run, then leaving for another job after two months! (This can affect the type of reference the employer gives you as well.)

Q: Can you work well in teams?

A: This question is a way to figure out your interpersonal skills and whether you would be able to work well with colleagues. If your ability to communicate is one of your key assets, be sure to make it known here.

Q: Tell me about an achievement you were proud of?

A: Try to keep it relevant to the job you’re applying for- if that’s not possible then highlight an achievement where you used relevant skills (team work, leadership skills, organisational skills, etc.).

Q: How would your last employer (or current employer or school teacher, etc.) describe you?

A: Think of a time you have been praised and use that as an example.

Q: What mistakes have you made in previous jobs?

A: This can be tricky but try to choose something that you learned from and something that could be fixed quickly

Q: Do you have plans to go travelling soon?

AAgain, honesty is the best policy here. If you have a pre-booked holidays, most companies will be understanding of your predicament and will try their best to give you the requisite time off. 

Q: What salary expectations do you have?

A: Know in advance what the salary range is and plan your answer accordingly.

If you find yourself unable to answer a question: be honest. Ask them to explain it more clearly or tell then that you have no experience in that area/ issue.

Suitable questions to ask the employer

Usually at the end of an interview you will be asked whether you have any questions, so make sure to have some prepared! This is an opportunity for you to find out more about the job and the company.

  • What training do you offer employees?
  • What office/department would I be working for?
  • Can you describe the responsibilities that go with the job?
  • Are there opportunities of promotion within the company?
  • Why is this position open?
  • Have one or two questions specific to the role.
  • And to finish the interview: When can I expect to hear the results of the interview?
  • Don’t ask about pay, holidays or job benefits. This gives a bad impression so it’s best to leave these questions until you’ve been offered the job.

The line: Learn how to present your life skills for an outstanding CV and prepare for a job interview with

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