City : Interview Practice : How to Answer Common Interview Questions

Interview Practice
  • 1. Tell me about yourself

    Interviewers love this question as they think it's an easy ice-breaker, but for the interviewee it can be a nightmare. Remember they are not looking for your life story, you need to choose four or five key things about yourself that are relevant to the role. This could include specific skills, qualifications, years of experience, or passion for your area of expertise. Try to keep your answer under two minutes, again they don't want your life story!

  • 2. Why are you interested in working for [company name]?

    You need to resist the temptation to say "I want a job", even if it's true. The employer is trying to figure out if you will take this job if offered, and, if so, whether you are likely to stay for any length of time. If you appear unsure, they will be less likely to offer you the job.

    Empty assurances such as "this seems a nice place to work" are unlikely to be enough to reassure them. Do some research beforehand. Find out things about their products, services and expansion plans which also show you in a good light for the role. For example: 'You've run some great innovative campaigns and I would love to be part of that creative thinking'. Deliver this confidently with good eye contact and energy. Also make sure you have some examples lined up,if you haven't done your research they will catch you out.

  • 3. Why should we hire you?

    Always be ready to answer this question in three parts. First, make it clear that you believe you meet all of the role requirements. Second, back each of these skills up by identifying one or more relevant examples of how you've demonstrated that skill.

    Finally, demonstrate you're someone who is proactive and has identified problems or opportunities in the past and then personally took the decisions and actions which led to a successful result.

    By showing you made things happen, you're portraying yourself as a self-motivated with a high levels of creative thinking. Few candidates do that well, so you can make the job yours with a great answer.

  • 4. What are your strengths?

    In this question you are expected to let the interviewer know why you are better than other candidates for the job. Your answer should focus on what you specifically can bring to the job and offer the company. Anyone can say they have good experience or are a good communicator but that won't make you stand out. Quantify your experience (with numbers if possible) and back up every answer with a relevant example from your previous roles.

    A good example for answering this question is to match your strengths to the job role. Companies hire people to solve problems, so let the interviewer know what problems you've solved and how your employers benefited as a result.

    If you've had no prior work experiance give examples from when you were at school. Everyone has worked in a group at some point so use that to your advantage.

  • 5. What are your weaknesses?

    This is one question that most candidates hate, but it's not a question to worry about. We all have something we're not good at or don't enjoy doing. We just have to know what they are.

    To answer this question:

    • First make a list of three weaknesses or areas that you think you need to develop. You can source these examples from your work history or education. 
    • Second, list three reasons why you think each of those is a weakness or an area to develop. 
    • Third, rehearse three examples of what you're doing to overcome that weakness. 

    By being truthful about your weaknesses, along with showing examples of how you have or are going to overcome them, you show the interviewer you are honest and can solve problems.

  • 6. Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years' time?

    In this question interviewers are looking to assess your long-term planning. The perfect answer depends on your personal aspirations and the job role. A good answer to this question will illustrate a growth in your skills, experience and responsibilities during this period.

    To prepare for this question research what a reasonable career path in your role would look like in five years' time. Don't be overambitious as it will look like you are rushing past the first role. Instead, emphasise your enthusiasm for the current position and look to the next steps for building your career.

  • 7. Tell me about an accomplishment you are proud of

    Competency questions like this can be difficult as they rely on your ability to tell a story. For example, 'Oh, I saved £125,000 of costs in my last role' is of no value as there's no context. As with any story, you need a beginning, a middle and an end.

    The Star technique (situation, task, action, result) is a good way to structure your answer if you're having trouble making your answer flow.

    1. Start by describing the scale of the challenge you faced. This is your opportunity to grab their attention. 
    2. The middle of the story needs to focus on what you had to endure in order to make progress. The greater your struggle and the barriers you had to overcome, the more impressive your story will seem. 
    3. The end may be short, for example, 'I achieved X, Y and Z'. But extend it to include what you learned and how that will help you in the future.

  • 8. Describe a situation in which you solved a problem

    For this question it's a good idea to think of a fairly recent example and pick a problem that is similar to the challenges you'd face in the job you're interviewing for.

    • Start by explaining the task in no more than a few sentences while giving sufficient detail so the interviewer can understand the challenge involved. 
    • Next describe the action you took, the process you followed and the steps you completed, remembering to be clear about the part you played in the result.
    • The result is the most important part of your answer as a successful outcome proves that your actions were effective. 

    If possible, detail statistics or figures which highlight the magnitude of your success, mention positive feedback you received and talk about what you learned and how this learning will help you in the job.

  • 9. Describe a situation in which you led/worked in a team

    A good team leader has to avoid being too bossy, instead they need to be great listeners, strategic and knowledgeable about their area. It is therefore important you show these skills in your answer.

    You also need to understand your team members' differences and strengths and have ways of communicating their vision.

  • 10. Do you have any questions?

    Often the final interview question, it offers you the chance to build your relationship with the interviewer. There are a variety of good questions you could ask, and it's worth preparing a few in advance. This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your genuine interest and enthusiasm for the role!

    Here are some examples of good questions:

    • "What are the biggest challenges facing the company right now?"
    • "Where do you see the company heading in the future?"
    • "What can you tell me about the team I'll be a part of?" 

    Questions like these will show that you are keen to learn as much as possible about your new company and team. Make sure your questions don't sound rehearsed. It's vital that you ask them in a natural, authentic way. An interviewer will be able to tell if you are asking questions for questions' sake.

    However, be warned. Make sure you stay well away from questions that show you weren't listening earlier in the interview, or that you really haven't done sufficient research.

    For more good questions to ask click here

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