Of all the parts of the job-hunting process, the interview can prove to be one of the most daunting, and can end up being the place where potential candidates end up falling short.
However, while it’s impossible to predict the exact questions you might be asked as part of the interview process, it is possible to prepare for some of the more common questions that come up frequently. Doing so can help you to get into a frame of mind that will set you up for a successful interview.
Can you tell me something about yourself?
This question (or one of its many variations) is a common interview opener, and often sets the stage for the remainder of the conversation. Many people struggle with this question as a result of not knowing where to begin, and end up giving a rambling account of their professional and personal lives.
In the interview situation, it’s much better to focus on giving an account of yourself that focuses on relevant experiences and qualifications for the job at hand, keeping things concise and showing why you are the best fit for the role.
Why should we hire you?
This is one of the more direct interview questions that often takes people by surprise. However, it can be useful in that it gives you the opportunity to give a direct answer; one that clarifies why you are the right person for the job.
Focus on three aspects of your answer: your qualifications and abilities, your fit with the management style and working atmosphere of the company, and the qualities that put you above any other potential candidates.
What are your greatest strengths?
In answering this question, many people either err on the side of being too humble, or give a long list of adjectives, not all of which necessarily apply to the job at hand.
It’s important to focus on being honest (not just telling the interviewer what he or she wants to hear), relevant, and specific in your answer, and to give concrete examples of your strengths in action.
What are your main weaknesses?
This question and the preceding one are often asked together, so it’s important to consider both sides of the coin (which, in this case, is you). Interviewer’s are generally looking to assess your level of self-awareness and honesty with this question, and are not looking for an overly self-deprecating answer.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is designed to assess your ability to think about the future and to set realistic goals – abilities that are of vital importance in most jobs. Realistic thinking is important in answering this question. While demonstrating that you have a healthy level of ambition, you should also show how you can use this to achieve your goals.
Honesty is also important, even if this means that you do not see yourself working for the same company in five years! In this case, it’s best to explain how you nonetheless see the position as a valuable experience that will help you work towards your end goals.
How do you perform under pressure?
This question is another that involves self-assessment, and is best answered as honestly as possible, but in a way that shows your personal stress-management techniques.
Describing these is a good way to begin an answer to this question, and can be followed up with an example of a situation form your past professional experience in which they were successfully put into practice.
What kind of salary do you expect?
Many people view this as a kind of trick question, which in a way it is, but that doesn’t mean it requires a tricky answer. By far the best way to prepare a good answer is to do a bit of research on realistic salary expectations for the job to which you are applying to enable you to get a ballpark figure.
Based on your qualifications and experience, you should then be able to quote a flexible figure that shows that you are able to strike a balance between not selling yourself short and avoiding unrealistic expectations.
What are your interest/hobbies outside of work?
This kind of question is one of the few that gives you the opportunity to talk a bit about your non-professional side. Interviewers generally ask it for this reason, as it allows them to get a more personal impression of a candidate and determine the extent to which they might fit in with the ‘culture’ of the company.
In your answer, it’s fine to open up about yourself to a certain extent, without mentioning anything that might detract from the professional impression you are trying to make.
Why did you leave your last job?
This question is almost always asked in interviews, as it allows interviewers to understand where you’re coming from and where you’re at in your current phase of life. Importantly, it’s best not to dwell too much on the past in your answer.
Give the reasons for your departure as clearly as possible (whatever they may be), and try to convey the impression that you are eager for new opportunities as a result.
Do you have any questions?
This is often the final question asked, partly out of courtesy but also to gauge your own thinking process. This is your chance to ask about anything that may be on your mind regarding the position.
Even if all your questions have already been answered, it’s still a good idea to ask something, as this can convey a good impression of your interest in the company itself.