Having a Successful Job Interview 

And How to Make it So 

There is often a sense of fear and trepidation surrounding the dreaded interview. Nerves bubble to the surface and our minds thrust into overdrive. We begin to mull over the worst case scenarios without even considering the best. 

Letting that worry take control is far more damaging than the worries themselves. In fact, I am going to let you in on a little secret: job interviews are easy. They require only two things; being yourself, and preparing in advance. The first of these should come naturally, and the latter we are here to assist with. 

Many interviews consist of the same (or similar) questions, and once you have been through the wringer a dozen or so times, you will begin to predict the routine. 

Below is a compilation of the most common interview questions, with guidance on how to approach each one. 

What can you tell us about yourself? 

• The ‘classic’ opening question. 

• A chance to talk about you; to advertise yourself. 

• Begin by talking about non-work related interests. 

• Then discuss yourself as a professional; explain three skills which you could bring to the role. 

• Briefly discuss one piece of relevant experience. 

• Avoid information overload; there will be an opportunity to expand short answers as the interview progresses. 

• Aim for 2 minutes in length. 

• Avoid repeating your CV. They have read it already. 

• Avoid controversial topics (e.g. football teams). 

What are your strengths? 

• Focus on three key strengths. 

• Provide evidence for each strength, and how it was developed; an experience, perhaps. 

• State why these strengths are relevant to the desired job. 

• Always study the job profile; tailor your answers so that they adhere to the company’s desires (never lie!). 

• Do not be afraid to blow your own trumpet (but do not exaggerate). 

• Avoid being vague. 

What are your weaknesses? 

• Everyone has a weakness and the employer knows this. 

• You are being evaluated on your ability to self-criticize, self-improve and be honest. 

• Highlight one weakness and discuss how you seek to improve upon it. 

• Avoid the complimentary weakness (e.g. ‘I work too hard’) – this is a cliché which only shows a lack of preparation. 

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

• You are being evaluated on your ambition and forward-thinking.  

• Discuss your long-term career goals. 

• If you are an entry level employee, then consider how you want to move up through the company. 

• If you are a management employee, consider how you can push the company forward. 

• Do not discuss leaving the company. 

• Avoid the clichéd answer of ‘doing your job’. 

Why should we hire you (and not the next person)? 

• Consider this as a concise pitch on what you can bring to the role. 

• Focus on the skills which make you unique. 

• If you have relevant qualifications, let the employer know (though do not be disheartened if you feel underqualified). 

• Provide evidence and experience. 

• Discuss your desire to grow as an individual and learn as a professional. 

• Use the company-provided job profile as inspiration. 

• Aim for 1 minute in length. 

What can you bring to this company? 

• Very similar to the ‘Why should we hire you?’ question – another sales pitch. 

• Discuss skills, qualifications and relevant experiences. 

• Use the job profile as motivation, and consider what the employer is seeking. 

• Focus on your achievements thus far, and what you hope to achieve in the future (in reference to the company). 

Why do you want to work here? 

• This is an opportunity to show off your background research on the company. 

• Discuss what you admire about the company in particular (perhaps their handling of employees or inspirational success story). 

• Discuss how your personal values align with those of the company (these values can usually be found on their website). 

• Actually put time into the research – do not be vague. 

• Never speak negatively about your previous/current employer. 

What do you know about this company? 

• The interviewer is testing your background research. 

• Learn the basic facts; 

o Founder. 

o Founding date. 

o Company values. 

o What the company does? 

• Is the company getting any current media attention? 

• Research can take anywhere from twenty minutes to half an hour. 

• Your research should be thorough. 

• The company website will be your best resource. 

What are your salary expectations? 

• This might be a potentially awkward topic but it should not be. 

• Background research the pay rates for those in the same industry, with similar qualifications, as yourself. 

• If you are worried, discuss pay in terms of range rather than a specific figure. 

• This is not a pay negotiation; wait until an offer has been made before attempting to negotiate. 

How did you hear about the role? 

• This question is designed to gauge where you heard about the job. 

• This will assist marketing departments by providing them insight into where they get the most engagement from. 

• Mention what caught your eye about the job. 

What motivates you? 

• Motivation is a very individual experience. 

• There is no wrong answer. 

• You might be motivated by family or by building a stable career. 

• This questions allows the employer to understand more about you as a person. 

What is your passion? 

• This is an opportunity to discuss your enthusiasm or hobby (which does not have to be work related). 

• Ask yourself, ‘What is the most important thing in my life?’ 

• This question is about discovering you as a person; unearthing your values and interests, and ensuring you are a well-rounded person. 

• There is no correct answer. 

What is your dream job? 

• You are being questioned on your goals and sense of ambition. 

• Try to ensure your goals align with the role you are applying for. 

• Consider how this job will pave the way to your dream career. 

• Try to be realistic. 

How would other people describe you? 

• This is a time for self-reflection. 

• This is an opportunity to evaluate how others’ view you. 

• Highlight the skills and strengths you have failed to mention elsewhere. 

• Be honest – the employer will check your references. 

What is your preferred work environment? 

• Tailor your answer to the work environment of the potential employer. 

• Be flexible, adaptable and neutral. 

• Use the company website – or your network of contacts – to find out about the company. 

• If you cannot research, then this answer is easy to tailor on the spot. 

• Be honest. 

• Do not apply for somewhere you will hate. 

• This is a question to discover how well you will integrate into the company, or which department is the best fit. 

Why did you leave your previous job? 

• You will always be asked this. 

• Be positive and never negative. 

• Be optimistic for the future; show a wish to grow. 

• Explain why this job will be a better fit. 

• This will allow an employer to evaluate whether you are good for the company. 

• Be clear and concise. 

• Always have evidence to back up claims. 

Why were you fired from your previous job? 

• Always be honest – a potential employer will contact your previous employer and get the truth. 

• Put a positive spin on events. 

• Explain how you have evolved since then; how you have learned from your experience. 

• Be short and to the point. 

• Be positive and never negative. 

• Be optimistic for the future. 

Why are there gaps in your employment? 

• If there are gaps in your employment, then explain how that time was expended. 

• Try to fill those gaps with volunteering or education; expand your skills. 

• You can state that you took a break to redirect your career too. 

• Be direct. 

• Be positive and never negative. 

Which skills do you most value? 

• Very similar to discussing your strengths. 

• State your top three skills. 

• Use examples and experience to back up any claims. 

• Ensure these skills are relevant to the job. 

Tell us about a time you…? 

• These questions will ask for specific examples of experience which developed a particular skill. 

• Prepare a variety of different answers. 

• Here are some topics to consider: 

o A time you handled a difficult situation. 

o A time you dealt with stress. 

o A time you worked under pressure. 

o A time you overcame a challenge. 

o A time you showed leadership/teamwork. 

What is your biggest accomplishment? 

• Discuss your most proud achievement. 

• This is a chance to show off your work ethic and previous successes. 

• Explain how these accomplishments relate to your current job. 

• Do not be arrogant. 

• This is a chance to back up skills from your CV

What is your biggest failure? 

• Evaluate something you are not proud of. 

• This shows your ability to highlight difficulties and improve upon them. 

• Be honest. 

• Turn a negative into a positive; explain how you solved the problem or how a rocky road turned out well. 

• Pick a less significant example. 

Do you have any questions? 

• Be prepared with one or two questions. 

• This shows engagement with an employer and makes you appear more interested. 

• An opportunity to discover whether the job is right for you. 

• Try to pick up on something the employer may have briefly mentioned or skimmed over. 

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