A well-trained interviewer will throw all sorts of challenging questions at you in an attempt to assess your true suitability for the job. They often deliberately create stressful situations to see how you react. In fact, the tougher the questions, the better you’re doing.
To help you get to grips with the range of possible questions you might get asked, we’ve listed them under four sections:
Selling yourself: How to mention your strengths and good attributes when answering a question.
Informative answers: For questions that are looking directly for information on your experience and skills.
Dealing with objections: Answering direct objections the interviewer may have with your profile.
Turning negatives into positives: How to turn an interviewer’s attempts to weed out your weaknesses into an opportunity to show your strengths.
What kind of experience do you have to benefit this particular job?
The answer to this question lies in understanding the role when it is first described to you and taking the trouble to ask lots of questions about tasks involved in effect they are really asking how much training and instruction they will have to provide for you.
Can you work well under pressure?
This is a closed question and can be a sign of an untrained interviewer. Use the opportunity to give a comprehensive but brief answer focusing on several clear-cut examples showing your ability to cope under pressure.
What is your greatest strength?
If you’ve done your homework before the interview, you would have several strengths to choose from. The obvious choice would be the strength which best suits the demands of the job. This common question is a good opportunity to assert your profile.
What interests you most about this job?
Answering this question properly requires that you fully understand the job description, and if you ask plenty of questions you should be able to respond with some specific explanations that show your enthusiasm. Some good responses include: challenging, exciting, scope for learning and developing, departmental growth, teamwork etc. This question can also be turned around so that you can glean more information from the interviewer regarding the role and the company’s expectations.
What are you looking for in your next job?
You want a role where your skills and experience can be put to best use in contributing to the company. Avoid an over emphasis on what you hope the company can do for you.
Why should I hire you?
Be careful not to answer with a broad description. Keep it brief and to the point. Each point should be a direct link between your skills and experience and the demands of the role. A precise answer shows that you accurately understand the role and what you can bring to it.
Do you consider yourself a natural leader?
In reality not all of us possess the confidence required to lead. You can substitute ‘natural’ with ‘competent’ or ‘conscientious’, focusing more on leading by example with good organisational and interpersonal skills.
Tell me about yourself.
This can be a frustratingly open question. It’s a good opportunity to reveal the strengths that you would have identified in your personal profile. Aim to keep it professionally orientated, specific to the characteristics that the interviewer may want to hear.
What are your biggest accomplishments?
Answers to this should be job-related. Modesty should again be applied, hinting that your best work is yet to come. A big accomplishment doesn’t need to be overly impressive, but rather show your competency. Don’t be hesitant or vague when answering this question. Show that you have a clear idea of your achievements to date.
Dealing with Objections
What did you like or dislike about your last job?
Ideally you would answer that there was nothing you disliked. Hiring someone who easily fits into the existing complement of staff is very important, so steer clear of criticising former colleagues, managers etc.
How long have you been looking for another position?
Whether you are employed or not, this question can be potentially fatal. If you are currently unemployed and have been looking for some time, try to minimise the ‘time gap’ by mentioning any other activities in which you have been involved. If your work is of a specialist nature and you’ve been fussy, or determined to continue in that field, point this out provided it isn’t at odds with the demands of the new role.
Why were you made redundant?
If you were made redundant then this is a legitimate excuse which most recruiters will understand, seeing as they have most probably been involved with laying off people themselves. Try to give acceptable reasons (such as downsizing, restructuring etc), be brief and move on to the next question.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
Try to portray an attitude that all criticism has a benefit and provides a chance for improvement. Try and elaborate on this question by giving an example of a poor idea that was criticised, rather than substandard work which you had produced.
How will you be able to cope with a change in environment?
This sort of question is usually posed if you’ve spent a long time in one particular job. It sounds like a negative but can be turned into a positive, especially if you’re looking for a change or a chance to grow.
Why aren’t you earning more at your this stage of your career?
Another implied negative which can be turned into a positive by emphasising your desire to gain solid experience instead of continually changing jobs for the sake of money. This question gives you scope to ask; “How much do you think I should be earning?” This could possibly lead to an offer.
Why have you changed jobs so frequently?
Emphasise that the variety of jobs has been good experience and that you’re now more mature and settled. Questions like this can be turned around to portray a positive, but be careful not to dwell too much on the subject or over- justify yourself.
Turning Negatives Into Positives
What can you do for us that someone else cannot do?
Don’t let this tough question intimidate you. If you have properly understood the details of the job then try to answer with a unique combination of your skills/experience which others are unlikely to have. Describe a difficult problem you’ve had to deal with. Outline an example of your success in troubleshooting and organisation. It’s always good to go into an interview armed with one of these. Clearly explain how you approached the problem, the result and how a difficult outcome was averted. Try to give an example which is relevant to the new role.
What is your greatest weakness?
If you lack a certain skill or experience in a particular field, express your desire to fill that gap or mention that you’re studying to rectify this. On a personal level you may be impatient or lack analytical ability, but mention any progress you’ve made in dealing with this, briefly giving an example showing how much you have improved.
What type of decisions did you make in your last/current job?
Prepare the answer for this straightforward question before the interview. Whether or not you made lots of decisions, make sure your answer reflects that they carried responsibility, were important within the role and required sound judgement.
How do you take direction?
You need to show that you are the type of employee who can be easily briefed and can finish the task at hand without any unnecessary disagreements or issues with your colleagues. Don’t give simplistic or vague answers. Try to give examples from your previous or current job showing your ability to follow instructions without being difficult.
Do you prefer working with others or alone?
Answering this depends on the nature of the job you are going for, but team players are usually favoured so it’s best to show that you function well in both situations depending on the nature of the task. Describe an atmosphere that is conducive to work. Without a clear idea of the company’s office environment, you run the risk of saying the wrong thing. Keep this answer short, base it on your previous role, mention conscientious factors, such as “a professional team”, “not too noisy”, etc.
What kind of people do you like to work with, or have difficulty working with?
Don’t get into personal details here, just give a short, sweet and obvious answer that you prefer working with people who are motivated and have integrity and pride in their work. No one likes working with slackers so you’re not likely to offend or influence the interviewer negatively with this comment.
Bonus Tip: Being prepared for an interview puts you in the top 5% of all interviewees. This alone can make the difference between success and failure.