Common interview questions

To demonstrate at an interview that you’re the right fit for the role, preparation is vital. Use these common interview questions to prepare succinct, relevant responses; matching your skills and attributes to the needs of the company and role wherever possible. Remember to also prepare a suite of compelling examples to help convince the interviewer that you are the best person for the job. Preparation, positivity and proof are your keys to interview success.

Q. Tell me about yourself.

Answer: Identify some of your main attributes and memorize them. Describe your qualifications, career history and range of skills, emphasizing those skills relevant to the job on offer. This is a commonly asked question designed to break the ice. A strong, succinct answer will quickly gain the interviewer’s attention and separate you from other candidates who may be tempted to divulge their life story. Give a brief, concise description of who you are and your key qualifications, strengths and skills. Tailoring your answer to the role on offer and declaring the strongest benefit that you offer an employer will leave the interviewer compelled to know more.

Q. Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer is trying to gauge your enthusiasm for the role as well as your level of knowledge about the company. Give specific examples of things that attracted you to the company and elaborate on your strengths, achievements and skills and how they match the position description, making you the right fit.

Q. What are your strengths?

A: This is one question that you know you are going to get so there is no excuse for being unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four proficiencies e.g. your ability to learn quickly, determination to succeed, positive attitude, your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal. You may be asked to give examples of the above so be prepared. The interviewer wants to know what you are particularly good at and how this would fit into the role. Choose a few of your key strengths that are required for the role and give examples of how you have demonstrated them successfully in the past. Strengths could include the ability to learn quickly; composure under pressure; ability to multi-task; team focus or your ability to work autonomously.

Q. What are your greatest weaknesses?

A: Do not say you have none – this will lead to further problems. You have two options – use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job. The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered to be strength and the steps you have taken to combat it. An example would be: “I know my team think I’m too demanding at times – I tend to drive them pretty hard but I’m getting much better at using the carrot and not the stick”. The interviewer is trying to gauge your self-awareness. We all have weaknesses so it’s best not to say you don’t have any. Avoid using the word ‘weakness’ and instead talk about an ‘area for improvement’ that is not vital for the job, or specify a ‘challenge’ that you are working to overcome. Demonstrating a willingness to develop yourself and face challenges turns the answer into a positive.

Q. What have been your achievements to date?

A. Select an achievement that is work-related and fairly recent. Identify the skills you used in the achievement and quantify the benefit it had to the company. For example, ‘my greatest achievement has been to design and implement a new sales ledger system, bringing it in ahead of time and improving our debtors’ position significantly, saving the company $50,000 a month in interest’. The interviewer wants to know if you are a high-achiever and ascertain how your accomplishments will be beneficial to them. Select one or two recent accomplishments that are directly related to the job on offer. Identify the situations, the actions you took, skills you used and the positive outcomes; quantifying the benefits where possible. Show how you can bring what you learned to the new role.

Q. What is the most difficult situation you have faced at work?

A: The purpose of this question is to find out what your definition of difficult is and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. In order to show yourself in a positive light, select a difficult work situation which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences. Explain how you defined the problem, what the options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive note. The interviewer is trying to find out your definition of ‘difficult’ and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. Select a tough work situation that was not caused by you. Explain the way you approached the problem, including the actions you took and the solution you applied to overcome the problem. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes setbacks and frustrations in your stride, as part of the job.

Q. What did you like/dislike about your last role?

A (Like): This is a straightforward question. All you have to do is make sure that your ‘likes’ correspond to the skills required for the job on offer. Be enthusiastic; describe your job as interesting and diverse but do not overdo it – after all, you are looking to leave.

A (Dislike): A: Be cautious with this answer. Do not be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses that will leave you open to further problems. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company, such as its size or slow decision-making processes etc. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job.

The interviewer is trying to find out your key interests and whether the job on offer has responsibilities, you will dislike. Focus on what you particularly enjoyed in your last role and what you learned from it, drawing parallels to the new role. When addressing what you disliked, be conscious not to criticize your last employer. Choose an example that does not reflect on your skills (such as company size) or which reveals a positive trait (such as your dislike for prolonged decision-making).

Q. Why do you want to leave your current employer?

A: State how you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, experience and a change of environment. Do not be negative in your reasons for leaving. It is rarely appropriate to cite salary as your primary motivator. This should be straightforward. Reflect positively on your current employer but state how you are looking for more challenge, responsibility, experience and a change of environment. Explain how your current role can no longer provide you with these things, but how you believe the role on offer presents an opportunity for growth that will make full use of your strengths and potential.

Q. What are your goals for the future?

A sense of purpose is an attractive feature in an applicant, so this question is designed to probe your ambition and the extent of your career planning. Your commitment is also under question, but avoid blankly stating that ‘I want to be with your company’. Instead, describe how your goal is to continue to grow, learn, add value and take on new responsibilities in the future that build on the role for which you are applying.

Q. How do you respond to working under pressure?

The interviewer wants to see that you have composure, problem solving skills and can stay focused in difficult conditions. Give an example of a time when you were faced with a stressful situation (not caused by you) and how you handled it with poise. Describe the context, how you approached the situation, the actions you took and the positive outcome. Demonstrate how you remained calm, in control and got the job done.

Q. Tell me about a successful team project that you have been involved in. What was your role and what made it a success?

The interviewer is trying to gauge your interpersonal skills and team contribution. Outline the project objectives, your responsibilities, the actions you took to assist the group and the successful results. Provide evidence of how you were a keen collaborator and how your contribution was critical. You also want to demonstrate that you value teamwork and understand its key attributes such as honest communication, a shared purpose and effective problem solving.

Are you happy with your career-to-date?

A: This question is really about your self-esteem, confidence and career aspirations. The answer must be ‘yes’, followed by a brief explanation as to what it is about your career so far that has made you happy. If you have hit a career plateau, or you feel you are moving too slowly, then you must qualify your answer.

Why have you applied for this particular job?

A: The employer is looking for evidence that the job suits you, fits in with your general aptitudes, coincides with your long-term goals and involves doing things you enjoy.  Make sure you have a good understanding of the role and the organization, and describe the attributes of the organization that interest you most.

Asking the right questions

Preparing relevant, insightful questions to ask at the interview shows initiative and your enthusiasm for the role on offer. Furthermore, it allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and research; a tactic guaranteed to impress any interviewer. Asking questions is also an important way to assess whether the role and company is a good fit for you, and will help you to make an informed decision if an offer is made.

Below are some examples of general questions to ask. Tailor your selection around the aspects of the job that concerns you the most. Remember to only ask questions that you cannot research the answer to yourself, and listen carefully to information given during the interview in case your questions are answered.

Questions about the role

  • How has the position become available?
  • How is performance measured and how often is it reviewed?
  • What long-term career opportunities are available and how do you support the up-skilling of staff?
  • What are the key challenges of the role, particularly in the first six months?
  • How would you describe a typical day in this position?

Questions about the team

  • How many people are in my team and what are their roles?
  • How does the team fit into the organization as a whole?
  • How would you describe the culture of the team?
  • With whom will I be working most closely?
  • What are the company’s plans for this team over the next few years?

Questions about the manager

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • Can you tell me about your background and your key strengths?
  • What do you like most about working here?
  • What are the qualities you like to see in your team members?

Questions about the company

  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • What is the leadership style of the upper management team?
  • I read about (name issue) in (name research/source). What other key issues is the company facing at the moment?
  • What are the major plans for the company in the next five years?

Common interview questions (http://www.michaelpage.ae/content/18050/career-advice.html)

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