A job interview is like a first date; you’ve got to work out if you’re a good match. It’s nerve-wracking and a little awkward. You’re trying to act naturally, but you can’t stop obsessing over how to handle all the questions. Before your potential employer decides to woo with perks, you need to show them you’re the right person for the role. When it comes to job interviews, solid preparation means you respond with confidence.
As both a recruiter and a hiring manager, I’ve been involved in thousands of interviews. Here’s my list of the ten most common job interview questions and some advice on how to tackle them. Use it as a guide to prepare your style of responses.
1. Why do you want to work here?
You googled the company you’re interviewing with, right? This is your chance to talk about all the information you gathered. Mention their competitors. Discuss something that interests you about the company rather than what you think they want to hear. Avoid talking about something obvious, like their new slogan. Perhaps they’re doing something different in the industry that stands out to you? Don’t regurgitate soundbites from their website. Be honest and genuine.
2. What are your strengths?
There is a way to answer this question without sounding arrogant or vain. One tip is to think about your favourite manager. If the job interviewer was to chat with them about you, what would they say is your greatest strength? Answer truthfully and try to make your response relevant to the role.
3. What are your greatest weaknesses?
No one likes talking about their weaknesses. But, it’s important for potential employers to understand what you can and can’t do. In this question, what you mention as your strength may impact what’s assumed as your weakness. So, if you say ‘attention to detail’ is your strength, the interviewer may think you aren't a big-picture person.
Consider discussing your biggest development area. Or areas you need the most support. Give an example of how you manage it. Such as, one of my managers would say I have difficulty with xyz, and this is how I manage it. This way, it sounds more authentic.
4. What are your achievements to date?
Don’t shy away from answering this one. It’s your chance to sell yourself. Respond to this question with passion and drive. It’s worth spending extra time preparing. Jot down a handful of examples and make the connection to how they relate to the job. When you’re explaining your answer, bring your achievements to life – be excited and don’t be monotone or flat.
5. Tell me about a time where you x, and how did you x?
The interviewer may ask this question in several different ways. Tell me about a time where you handled a difficult situation, and how did you manage it? Tell me about a time when you were successful in a project, and how did you achieve this? They’re looking for insight into your on-the-job behaviour. Concise storytelling is essential. Try using the STAR Interview Response Technique to keep your response on track.
6. Have you ever worked with a difficult person?
This is tricky. Interviewers ask this because they want to understand how you react to conflict. They want to hear what steps you took to resolve it. It’s okay to talk about the conflict. Focus more what steps you took to resolve the dispute, rather than the situation.
7. Why do you want to leave your current employer?
Regardless of how you feel about your current company, the number one rule here is never to throw them under the bus. Constructive reasons are best such as looking for new challenges, transferring into a different area, wanting to join a more prominent company. Make the reason you're leaving your job about them, not about the company you’re trying to leave.
8. What are your goals for the future?
You don’t need psychic abilities to answer this question, just a little ambition with a dash of hope. Interviewers may also frame this question as ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’. They want to know you’ll be happy to stick around in the role for the short to medium term, but they also want to hear that you’re driven. Try to frame your response so that your ultimate role is something they could offer you. If you're aspiring to be a general counsel and the company doesn't have an in-house legal team, that might be tricky. Be considered and realistic.
9. Do you have any questions for me?
Always, always ask questions! You need to prepare at least three questions to ask the interviewer. It’s okay to bring in a notepad with pre-written questions and thoughts to discuss. This shows initiative and preparedness. Feel free to ask about the culture, team, expectations, direction of the company, career paths etc. Don't ask about salary, bonuses, how long is the lunch break and what time you will get to leave the office.
10. What do you like to do outside of work?
This is your chance to express yourself and see if you will be a good culture fit for their organisation. Be honest and be yourself. What are you passionate about? Do you volunteer? Are you involved in sports or recreation groups? Whatever you share, steer clear of mentioning your love of all-night raves, or drinking three bottles of wine a night. These activities are likely to frame you as an unreliable candidate.