Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

The 10 Most Common Interview Questions and How You Should Be Answering Them

By James Ball | Oct 20, 2015 | Candidate Tips

man looking confused with a speech bubble saying If I keep smiling maybe he won't notice Sweaty palms and an outrageous dry mouth… a slight shiver trembles across your body.

You sit, straight-backed, rigid as a cardboard box, surrounded by confident (looking) competitors, waiting to be ushered into the boardroom…

You should have accepted that glass of water.

Sound familiar?

Don’t worry, most people get nervous when it comes to interviews, but the best (and only) way to get over that fear, is to prepare yourself.

To give you a helping hand, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common interview questions, with tips and sample answers, guaranteed to impress.

1. Tell me about yourself

This little gem usually crops up at the start of the interview, as an ice-breaker before moving onto the more troubling, revealing questions.

The best way to answer is with a brief, interesting summary of your qualifications, work history and future goals.

It’s pretty much the same as that all-important first little personal statement on your CV and should immediately reveal your killer USP.

Sample answer:

“I graduated from The University of Liverpool in 2011 and started working for a marketing agency called X.

During that time, I really took to the role and industry and improved the market share of all of the clients, including making one client £100,000 richer, with one email campaign – that was my greatest achievement.”

Make it snappy, don’t waffle and remember you only get one chance to make a great first impression.

2. Why should I hire you?

Again, this is your chance to shine… but you have to be different.

You’re not going to get anywhere if you rattle off a list of skills and attributes that everyone under the sun has.

You need a USP! Something that you can use, throughout the recruitment process to differentiate yourself from all other candidates.

It isn’t always easy, but I recently wrote this blog to give you a helping hand.

Sample answer:

“After working with a variety of clients, both B2C and B2B, I feel like I could bring a unique perspective to the role.

I’ve tried and tested a wide range of marketing techniques and having been involved in the reporting side of things too, I really do have keen insight into what works and what doesn’t.

Not only that, I feel like I’ve demonstrated my loyalty and commitment to progression in my last position which I’d hope to continue at your company.”

Speak passionately about some of your achievements, while always thinking how these examples could apply specifically to the new role.

3. Are you a team player?

I’ve yet to interview anybody who has answered a straight “no” to this question.

Of course the stock answer is yes, but you must, must, must provide examples, using the STAR method.

Explain the Situation, the Task, the Action you took and then the Result of your efforts.

Sample answer:

Situation:  Mid-season, the local football team I captain for were struggling; we’d lost 4 matches in 5 and were dragging behind.

Task:  We had to win every single game, to make it to the finals.

Activity:  I held a team meeting and we went over our strategy and brainstormed what we thought was going wrong. It soon became clear that a couple of our players weren’t positioned correctly, to utilise their skills. We shifted things around and agreed to meet up for 3 training sessions a week (rather than the usual one) to work on our passing in particular.

Result:  We got through to the finals – and won!

(Obviously this is really simplistic, but using a work-example and jazzing it up with your industry knowledge and clear passion will work wonders).

Talk about how being part of a team can deliver better results than working in isolation, but that each team member still needs to be held accountable for their results.

You should also be ready to discuss any conflicts that may have arisen within the team and how you resolved them, again using the STAR method.

For more tips, check out this brilliant article from Big Interview.

4. How would your friends describe you?

This is a great opportunity for you to reveal something more natural and personal about yourself, don’t waste it!

Use positive, attributes like “good listener,” “relaxed” and “sociable” and then back them up with examples.

Sample answer:

“I think my best friend would describe me as a good listener, more than anything else.

I’m the person that people come to when they’ve got an issue they want to solve or just want to talk something out.”

You may be tempted to make a joke at this point in the interview…don’t!

Admitting to your stubbornness, lack of common sense or mad skills at getting ‘smashed’ at the weekend won’t get you anywhere.

Be friendly, but always be professional.

5. What’s your greatest weakness?

Don’t fall into the classic trap of answering with a strength dressed up as a weakness.

The interviewer will have heard it all before and “I always work till 8pm and at weekends” or “I’m such a perfectionist” will come across lazy and a bit annoying.

It’s much better to choose a weakness that you are actively working to overcome.

Sample answer:

“I was lacking in the technical side of X, but I’m currently taking  a part time course to fix that.”

If you feel like there are any obvious gaps in your knowledge that this role will require, focus on these and emphasise how keen you are to build that skill set in order to gain your new position.

Obviously avoid any examples that are just plain negative like ‘I’m not a very good time-keeper’ or ‘I tend to irritate other people!’

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is your chance to let your interviewer know that you’ll be loyal to them in the years to come.

Emphasise that you want to grow with the business and how well your aspirations appear to reflect their own ones, focusing on progression, development and growth.

Sample answer:

“I’m looking to join a vibrant growing business where there are clear opportunities for growth. I’d love to eventually manage a team.”

Don’t get too cocky and tell your interviewer that you’d like their job in the future.

Don’t admit that you just want a job that you can turn up to, get your job done and leave bang on the dot.

7. Why do you want to leave your current job?

Do not, under any circumstances answer this question with a tirade of negativity about your current boss or employees that you don’t particularly like or respect.

You’ll come across as someone who really can’t play well with others.

Rather, use this opportunity to focus on what you have learned from your current position and how you can transfer those skills over to this new job.

Sample answer:

“Unfortunately, I felt that there weren’t enough opportunities to match my ambitions and at this point in my career, I’m looking for progression. I’ll be sad to leave, but I do feel that I have more to offer a company who have the right opportunities available.”

You need to give information at this point, don’t be generic and illusive… “I just want a new job” isn’t going to impress anyone.

8. Why do you want to work for this company?

Employers often like to pop this question into the process, to see whether you’re genuinely interested in the business, or you’re just a CV-blasting candidate who applies for any old role.

This and the good old, straightforward alternative ‘what do you know about the company’ require you to have done your research!

If you haven’t, you’re simply going to flop.

Sample answer:

“After doing some research, I feel like your company culture is vibrant, progressive and in a constant state of growth which would offer me a chance to flourish. I’m looking for a chance to grow within a vibrant team and culture and I think your company would be the perfect match.”

If you start repeating yourself, talking about your own skills, the industry and the job role, it will soon become clear that you don’t know anything about the company.

And that just makes you look lazy and uninterested.

9. What level of salary are you seeking?

This question will typically crop up at the end of the interview or sometimes, during the initial telephone interview.

The BIGGEST mistake you can make, is to sell yourself short. Don’t be afraid to negotiate (find out how, here).

Recruiters will have a budget for a particular position and you can be on the front foot as long as you have done your research (cross check typical salaries for that role on Indeed).

Sample answer:

“Can I ask what you would usually look to typically pay somebody with my experience?” or something along the lines of “I am currently working at £X, but after X years experience and a proven track-record of A, B and C, I think I’m worth £Y.”

Obviously, you don’t want to come up with a preposterous figure that will make you look greedy and unrealistic, but equally you don’t want to come across with a figure that appears desperate and insecure.

The thing is, employers will take advantage. If you let them.

10. Have you got any questions?

I would say that 99% of interviewers ask this question – and if they don’t, they must be mad.

It can be SO revealing.

Savvy, prepared and passionate interviewees, will be ready with a series of well thought-through questions that demonstrate intellect, interest and insight into the business and prospective employer.

Here are some suggested questions:

1.  Could you give me any examples of the type of projects I’ll be working on?
2.  Most of your clients are currently in the technology industry, is there a reason for that and would you consider moving into other industries in the future?
3.  Is there an opportunity to take on other, extra responsibilities if appropriate?
4.  How would you describe the company culture in three words?
5.  How will my performance be measured?
6.  Do you have any concerns about my ability to do the role?
7.  What will the next stage of the process be?

For a breakdown of why you should ask these types of questions, with more examples, check out this blog: 7 Questions You Should Ask To Impress Your Interviewer.

Don’t base your line of inquiry on topics like holidays, salary, perks and pensions… it’ll make you look fickle.

Don’t Stop There.

This blog should give you the guidance you need to come up with your own, impressive interview answers.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just practicing the above 10 questions and getting handed a job on a plate… there are a million other things your interviewer will consider…

If you’d like to learn more about interviewing, writing CVs and your boosting your career in general, click on the respective links, or feel free to sign up to this blog.

We’ll send over a short weekly update, with the latest guidance and tips to help you smash your next interview!

Of course, it’s also really important not to appear to scripted.

Take a breath and a moment to ‘think’ before answering each question, rather than reeling off a well-rehearsed, staccato answer.

And please, please, don’t start spurting out the old clichés like ‘I’m a perfectionist…’

Good luck!

- James Ball

James Ball

James is the founder and owner of Coburg Banks and a recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield in the UK.  He regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment processes.

> More blog posts by James Ball

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