Sweaty palms and a dry mouth; if this is the way you typically feel before going into an important job interview, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
To help you with this, I have put together 10 typical interview questions you are likely to face when you go for that next career move.
The way to approach each question is to answer with specific examples and clear evidence of what you have done. Remember you are selling yourself, so closed answers will never set you apart from your competition.
So let’s kick off with that old favourite…
1. Tell me about yourself
This is your chance to make an immediate impact with a quick two to three minute synopsis of why you are perfect for the job. They won’t really be interested in a detailed account of your ornithological weekend twitching, more a quick summary of your qualifications, work history and future goals.
“Since graduating from University X I have worked for a marketing agency where I have improved the market share of all the clients I am managing.
I am looking to take this experience and specialise in one sector of the market and the sector you are involved in interests me above all others……”
Make it snappy, don’t waffle and remember you only get one chance to make a first impression.
2. Why should I hire you?
The obvious thing to say here is to state that you are the best person for the job, and whilst there is nothing wrong with that, you’ll need to back this up with something that differentiates you from the rest of the candidates in the running.
What could give you the edge? Look at the job spec, can you draw something out and give a great example of where you have excelled or really added value to a similar job or a project?
Speak passionately about some of your achievements in previous jobs while always thinking how these examples could apply to this new role.
“What sets me apart from other candidates is the passion I will bring to this role and the experience I can draw on from many years in this sector.
I have demonstrated my loyalty, commitment and progression in my last position and I’m looking to apply this and deliver the same levels of success in this 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 need to provide examples of where you have demonstrated examples of being part of a team, either at work or maybe whilst playing a sport.
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.
“I’ve worked and lead teams throughout my career and also whilst playing in a 5-a-side football team.
I recently managed a project which delivered a successful campaign on time and to budget. The campaign went on to deliver outstanding results for the client…..”
Be prepared that there may well be questions which follow on from this about managing or handling conflict within a team.
4. Tell us 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 them all before, “I always work till 8pm and at weekends”, or, “I’m such a perfectionist”.
Try choosing a weakness that you are actively working to overcome. Obviously avoid examples of not being able to get out of bed in the mornings, or having a poor sickness record!
“I’ve had issues in the past with my time management in the past, so I have started to diarise my days on Outlook, which has helped me prioritise tasks and plan my working week.”
If you feel 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.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is where you want to let the employer know that you want to be with them and in the sector for years to come, even if you don’t. Emphasise that you want to grow with the business and that their aspirations match what you are looking to do over the next five years. Avoid saying that you want to be sitting where they are or that you are looking to take over the company or even move overseas.
“I’m looking to join a vibrant growing business whose aspirations match mine. Hopefully as the company grow, I can grow and progress with them….”
6. 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 employers or a boss you don’t particularly like or respect. This is an opportunity to focus on what you have learned from your current position and how you can transfer these skills over to this new job.
“Unfortunately, I felt there wasn’t the scope for my employer to match my ambitions and I’m looking to join a vibrant growing business whose aspirations match mine and hopefully I can grow inline with the business.
7. If I asked your friends or colleagues to describe you, what would they say?
This question is asked to try and understand if you are a people orientated person who can speak honestly and openly about themselves.
Although they may ask about your friend’s opinions, the likelihood is that they are really only interested in how you are perceived in the workplace.
Therefore, keep the description as professional and as factual as possible. Avoid phrases such as jovial, carefree and risky.
Be careful not to trip yourself up with an answer that may come back to bite you in the future!
“My colleagues and friends would describe me as an ambitious, determined hard working professional.
The team I work in know me as flexible, tolerant and good at planning and managing projects”
8. Tell me about the worst boss you have ever had?
Be careful! Don’t see this as simply an open opportunity to slate previous bosses. Remember, the person interviewing you could well be your future boss and will anticipate you talking the same way about them somewhere down the line.
This question is gauged to understand how much a candidate has learned from previous bad experiences with managers. However tempting it is to criticise a manager for being a poor leader, try and focus on what you may have done differently to get the best out of that situation.
“Looking back, I understand the pressures my manager was under and why he/she was often abrupt and critical with me.
I didn’t always take the feedback on board, but I can see how beneficial it could have been.”
9. What level of salary are you seeking?
This is typically a question that will come up towards a latter stage of the interview process. When the question is broached, be careful not to sell yourself short. Recruiters will have a budget for a particular position and you can be on the front foot as long as you have done your homework.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate on salary. Have a clear picture in your mind of the salary you would accept and the figure which would mean you walked away from the opportunity.
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 mean you risk selling yourself short.
“Can I ask what you would usually look to typically pay somebody with my experience?”
10. Have you got any questions?
You know never to ask these questions, right?
Blunders aside, this is your opportunity to show that you’ve done your homework about the company.
You may have had the opportunity to ask a question during the natural course of the interview, but if you didn’t, remember to keep them brief as there may be other interviewees waiting in the wings.
Prepare some questions in advance and remember not to base them on topics such as holidays, pensions or use of the communal refrigerator! You can also refer to your notes as this will give the impression that you are really keen on the position and again emphasise the fact that you have done your homework.
Here are some suggested questions:
1. How do you assess the performance of your staff?
2. Is there an opportunity to progress in different functions in the business?
3. What is your internal staff training scheme and do you also back external training opportunities?
4. What is the ratio of working in the office to being field based?
5. How long have previous employees stayed in the role?
6. What is the team structure?
7. Would you be able to utilise my foreign languages?
8. How has this company developed over the last decade and where is it likely to go in the next 10 years?
9. What is your personal experience of working for this organisation?
You are much more prepared now for the big day. But if you want even more typical questions to practice on, then go through National Careers Service‘s top 10.- Anthony Hughes