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10 Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
Don't be caught off-guard in an interview! Try thinking about what you might be asked in advance and come prepared.
What is your biggest weakness?
You’re being asked to demonstrate your self-awareness, analytical skills, and your ability to improve. Having a confident answer to this question that shows you can adapt and succeed will address this question perfectly, as well as impress. Don’t self-deprecate here in order to win the interviewer over!
Also, you could show that although you may have had a problem in the past, you’ve taken steps to combat it. The best response, however, is to describe a weakness that could also be viewed as a strength.
Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?
This is a test of your ability to think on your feet and come up with a diplomatic response. There are two possible strategies here depending on your situation.
You could sidestep the question by saying something along the lines of: "Well, I'd like to think I’ve always got on well with my employers, because I’m personable and a hard worker."
The recruiter may query your response, but that’s just a way of checking how you respond to pressure. So smile, be confident, and stand your ground.
If you have had a bad experience with a past employer, don’t incriminate yourself or attack your previous employer. Craft your answer in a way that shows sensitivity as well as how you made the most of that bad experience.
Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis.
Here, the recruiter wants to know if you’re the sort of person they want on board when the going gets tough. In other words, they want someone who won’t go to pieces at the first sight of trouble!
Your answer needs to show that your common sense, forward planning, use of initiative, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving abilities help you to manage tricky situations. What employers want to see is evidence of a calm, practical approach even when under pressure.
What do you know about the company, and why would you want to work for us?
This is your chance to be original. Show off your research, but don’t just rehash whatever the company has written on their website. Explore its history, products or services, and explain why the company interests you. Try to come up with at least three reasons.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
The interviewer wants to know that you are committed to the job. Research the profession to find out the kind of career progression you could realistically expect within the company. Otherwise, you could also talk about the skills you would like to build upon in the future if you end up with the company.
What would you say are your strengths?
Interviewers want someone who is realistic about their strengths, so don't boast about abilities or skills you don't have. If you do, it could lead to some awkward situations later on.
Think about what kind of qualities the particular job requires. Then, use specific examples from your experiences to back your answer up and prove that you do have the skills you claim to have.
Have you ever had difficulties getting on with others?
Be discreet and tactful. Speak in generalisations about the kind of issues anyone could face in any job. Explain the methods you use to deal with difficult people and situations, emphasising your flexibility and good communication skills.
If you do decide to give specific examples, remember: don't drop names!
Are you willing to travel?
In other words, how flexible and dedicated are you? There's no point in lying here just to please the interviewer – it won't benefit either of you in the long run. If you’re worried about moving far away or travelling often, be honest and admit that. You don’t even have to accept the job.
Why have you chosen a career in X?
Show your interviewer what motivates you! Explain why this career sector appeals to you, and use any work experience you might have to back up why you think this profession is right for you.
Your goal is to show the interviewer that you've put some thought into your decision, and are making an informed career choice.
Would you ever break the rules to get a job done?
This is a particularly tricky one. You don't want to be perceived as inflexible, nor do you want to be seen as a troublemaker. The answer probably depends on the nature of the job and the company. It would also help to ask the interviewer to clarify the question or give you a specific scenario to work with.
A good solution would be to come to a compromise. Tell your interviewer that you would only break a rule if it keeps the company from losing out, but that you would also consult your supervisors beforehand. It's an answer that shows both a dedication to getting the job done, as well as respect for authority.
Scenarios and curve balls
Interviewers may sometimes throw unorthodox questions at you to assess you in a different light. Here are some actual examples:
Sell me this pencil!
What the recruiter wants to see here is how well you think on your feet. They also want to see if you're able to think outside the box. Remember, it's alright to ask for some breathing room to think your pitch through.
Here's a clue: don't sell the pencil... sell what the pencil could be used for instead, such as printing a witty company slogan on it and handing it out at promotional events.
Tell me how you resolved a situation where you were asked to do the impossible.
The recruiter is testing your ability to navigate unreasonable or illogical demands (such as this question!). Find an example of a task – either at work or during your studies – that initially seemed unrealistic, then outline how you used your skill set to get things done step-by-step.
If you were a wild animal, what would you be and why?
The interviewer is examining further how you see yourself. Focus on the positives, and make sure the qualities you talk about align with the traits necessary for the job role. There is no "right answer", so you're free to use any animal you wish. Best to avoid "viper" and "scorpion", though!
Listen, your CV actually looks kind of boring....
Calm down, the recruiter isn't being mean. He or she is deliberately trying to provoke you to see how you'll respond. Take this opportunity as a chance to promote yourself. Talk about your experience and education, as well as why what you've done is impressive and interesting, and how all of it is relevant to the job!
How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?
Say "10" and you'll seem arrogant. Anything less than "7" and it may seem as though you lack confidence. The safest bet is to say "8" – you're good, but still willing to learn and always trying to improve yourself.