Having an hour or less to prove your worth to a complete stranger can be nerve-wracking for even the most confident job-seeker. Here are our top tips on some of the questions you are most likely to be asked and how to ace them.
1. How much do you know about the company and/or the role?
You don’t have to have spent hours trawling through the company website and reports to answer this question but you definitely shouldn’t be too vague, says Karen Meager, managing director of Monkey Puzzle Training & Consultancy. “Do a bit of research on the company and pick out three of four facts that you find interesting, such as who their biggest or quirkiest customers are and what their most impressive achievement was last year.”
2. Why are you leaving your current job?
If you’re applying for a new job, this is a question that will be almost certainly be asked. Make sure you are as positive as possible and don’t say anything negative about your current employer, advises Seamus Breslin, managing director of Solas Consulting. “Instead focus on the position your applying for by mentioning why you want to work for the company and that you’ve learned all that you can in current job and ready to move on.”
3. Are you a team player or do you work best on your own?
“Don’t say ‘I can do both’. Everyone says this. Instead think of a way of being clear about your preference and in what circumstances you prefer to work on your own,” advises Meager. Think about what the job requires. “Good examples include ‘I concentrate best when I don’t have interruptions so I probably work best alone for focused work, but I like to run my ideas past others so like to have a way of being able to share and discuss ideas as well,’” says Meager. This indicates that you can do both but is more specific and demonstrates that you’ve thought it through.
4. What are your strengths?
Firstly, know what your strengths are and, if in doubt, ask your friends and colleagues as they often know better than you. Look at the role and think about how those strengths support that role. Then, says Meager, you can talk about what you do well in a way that the interviewer can relate to the role. “If you talk about your fine customer service skills for an analytical role that won’t help you. Instead, talk about your attention to detail and problem solving abilities.”
5. What’s your biggest weakness?
The common misconception with this question is believing that the interviewer actually wants to know what your weakness is and use it against you, says Chris Platts, founder of Talent Rocket recruitment agency. “Although there are always some bad interviewers that may be looking for ways to trip you up, the primary reason most people ask this question is to see if you can demonstrate a satisfactory level of self-awareness,” he notes. “Answer it honestly, but professionally and make sure you can explain what you’ve been doing to improve your weak spots to demonstrate a willingness to address frailties and not just play to your strengths.”
6. Why should I hire you?
This is all about matching your skills and experience to the job requirements so make sure you read the job description thoroughly and pull out specific, tangible examples of when you’ve demonstrated the skills required to do the task. “You also need to demonstrate you’re potentially a good culture fit with the company,” says Platts. “Research the company values and give tangible examples of why they resonate with you. If the company values collaboration, tell them how you’ve been a team player both within the context of work but also in extra-curricular activities such as sports, music or hobbies.” Finally, convince them that you’re the type of person that gets stuff done. “It’s easy to sell your ability in an interview with confidence; it’s harder to give tangible examples of executing on a plan, going the extra mile and exceeding expectations,” says Platts.
7. Do you have any questions for me?
This is by far the most important question you’ll get asked at interview and your chance to leave a lasting impression, says Platts. “Make a list of the questions you want to ask ahead of the interview and take it with you. Be clear in understanding the responses, demonstrating that you have a strong attention to detail. Don’t just ask about the role, location and pay. Try to understand the culture of the company. Ask questions such as “how do people work together?” and “what’s great about working here and what’s not so great?”’
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.