We’ve provided a list of typical interview questions, a brief explanation as to why they’re asked and advice on how you could structure your response. Note we say ‘could’ and not ‘should’, as you’ll have no need for our advice if you’re confident. Either way, make sure you have a few practice runs beforehand and have some fun with it, maybe get a friend to ‘play interviewer’?
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: This is a common device used to open the interview and it’s your chance to spend a few minutes describing your qualifications, career history and skills relevant to the job. Be prepared for this one or risk clamming up, or worse, telling a bemused interviewer about your first goldfish. Think of your career and how you can explain why you’ve done what you have, and the choices you have made.
Q: What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced and how did you tackle it?
A: The purpose of this question is to establish your approach to problem solving. Show yourself in a positive light by describing an adverse scenario (that wasn’t your fault), how you defined the problem and possible solutions, why you chose the solution you did and what the outcome was. End on a positive note.
Q: What do you like about your current job?
A: This is not a trick question. Make sure your ‘likes’ correspond to skills relevant to the new position. Be enthusiastic, describe your job as interesting and diverse but don’t overdo it – after all, you are looking to leave, however there must be something you have enjoyed.
Q: What are your strengths?
A: Be ready for this favourite. List three or four proficiencies and how they serve you in the workplace – maybe you learn quickly, have an inspirational attitude or work well with others.
Q: What is your greatest weakness?
A: There are two ways of dealing with this question. The first is to identify a weakness in an area that has no bearing on the new role. The second is to describe a weakness that can be construed as a strength: ‘I’m a perfectionist, but I do get results’, or ‘I find it difficult to delegate as I prefer to see a job through to the end.’ Don’t select a personal weakness – nobody will be impressed if you admit to not being a ‘morning person’.
Q: Why do you want to leave your current employer?
A: This is a straightforward one, giving you the chance to talk about how you want a new challenge, more responsibility or a change of environment. It is inappropriate to cite salary as a motivator or to speak negatively about your current employer.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years time?
A: This question is intended to uncover your level of ambition and how you intend to achieve your goals. But be aware that routes for career progression or advancement aren’t the same in all organisations, so make sure you tailor your answer to suit the context in which the question is asked. Employers are keen on candidates who will stick around and are committed to developing with a company, so any indications that you will use the job as a stopgap won’t be well received.
Q: Why do you want to join our organisation?
A: This is when your background research into the company really comes into play. Demonstrate your knowledge by linking one of your core competencies to a key business driver. For example, ‘I know that your research and development facility is world class, and given my current role in supporting a key member of the development leadership, I know I can add value to the business support team here.’ A little subtle flattery never hurts either!