You may encounter some uncommon or unusual questions during your interview and there will definitely be some industry or role specific questions, or requests for further detail about some of the info on your CV. However some questions are so commonly used that you can bet they’ll come up… and it’s best to be prepared with smart and insightful answers to show yourself in the best possible light. Don’t be tempted to wing it!
Here they are, along with suggestions on how to best answer them:
Tell me about yourself. Most interviewers use this to break the ice, but also to get a sense of your poise, style of delivery and communication ability. Prepare about a one-minute broad overview of who you are (professionally speaking), where you’re at in your career and what you’re especially good at, with an emphasis on your most recent position and anything that pertains to the opportunity you are applying for, along with what you can bring to the company. Keep your personal life out of it.
Why did you leave (or why are you leaving) your last position? Your primary goal here is to not throw up any red flags, and to keep your answer positive. Be truthful but don’t disparage your last employer or co-workers and don’t offer up any negative details. Also, don’t mention money at this stage. Give a reasonable reason as to why you left (or want to leave). Focus on the opportunity the new role provides and be specific about what challenges most excite you.
What attracted you to our company? The interviewer wants to guage whether your interest is genuine and that you haven’t just sent out your CV to all and sundry. They are looking to see that you have done some research, understand the company and are a good fit. Talk about the company’s brand, mission, products or services, achievements and culture, and how you’d like to contribute (link your career goals with company objectives in your response).
Why would you excel in this position? For most vacancies, employers are flooded with qualified candidates. You need to show not just that you’re qualified to do the role in question, but that you will excel at it. Talk about ‘evidence’ from your career that demonstrates your success in each of the key qualifications the employer is looking for. Focus on what about the substance of the role most interests you. Don’t talk about benefits, salary, the short commute or anything else unrelated to the day-to-day work you would be doing, or you’ll signal that you’re more interested in what the position can do for you rather than that you are passionate about the opportunity itself.
What are your greatest strengths? Read the job description carefully and highlight strengths that would lend themselves to being successful in the position. Mention a number of them such as being self motivated, taking initiative, the ability to work well in a team, willingness to work long hours, a good motivator, problem solver, performing well under pressure, being loyal, having a positive attitude, eager to learn, taking initiative or attention to detail. Prepare anecdotes that demonstrate these skills in action. Don’t claim to be good at something you don’t actually know how to do.
What do you think your weaknesses are? While it’s often suggested, it’s not actually a great idea to answer citing a positive trait disguised as a weakness, e.g. “I’m a perfectionist.” Instead be sincere and honest and mention a genuine weakness and add to this what you have done/are doing to overcome it. Concentrate on professional traits, not personal ones. Interviewers essentially want to see your level of self awareness, your willingness to learn and improve; and be reassured that any weaknesses you have won’t get in the way of doing the job well.
Why should we hire you over other applicants? Basically, what skills separate you from the herd? Know which skills make you a typical candidate and have an explanation ready that shows why you will be indispensable in the position. Your best bet is to look at skills you’ve acquired outside of the industry (through interdisciplinary study, volunteer work, etc.) and make those major talking points. Draw attention to any skills that haven’t already been addressed.
Where do you want to be in 3/5/10 years time? What they are really asking is what you expect to achieve with their company. So, talk about what you will achieve for this company and where that might take you both.
What’s your salary expectation? It’s better to hold off discussing salary until after the first interview (you can deflect it by saying something like “let’s hold off on the numbers till we are sure I am right for this position”) but when the time comes be ready to negotiate your own worth. Know what the position is offering and research the market rate for the type of role you’re applying for, so you can ground your answer in real data and an understanding of what a reasonable range is. Know your own bottom-line walking away rate.
Do you have any questions? This will always come up. Don’t answer “no.” Show your interest in the company by preparing some key questions in advance. Asking smart questions can demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, and that you’re already thinking about how you can contribute to it. You will also convey confidence and competence. Asking about corporate culture or what the interviewer likes the best about the company, will give you insight and let the interviewers know that you’re interviewing them as well.
Practice and preparation are key: remember, interviewers are looking for a competent, confident candidate who not only wants the job, but also understands its requirements and can quickly hit the ground running. Answering questions with poise and conviction helps you outshine other applicants, and puts you in a good position to land the role you want.
Good luck and as always, if we can be of any assistance, please get in touch.