Interview Questions and Answers
So you’ve got a big interview coming up and you want to make sure you’re completely prepared for any questions that they may ask you. Maybe it’s been a few years since you last attended an interview, or you’ve never been to one before. ‘What if they ask me something I don’t know the answer to?’ we hear you panic. First things first: remember that an interview isn’t an interrogation. If you struggle to answer a question, that isn’t an instant fail. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to make it up in your other answers. Interviewers understand that you’ll have interview nerves, so they’ll take that into consideration. All you can do is keep calm and portray yourself as confident as possible.
No-one can guess what questions you’ll be asked in an interview. There are too many different variations of questions to do so, and each company has a different way of doing things. Plus, the questions asked will depend on the job role that you’re applying for. But it doesn’t hurt to get yourself into interview mode a few days running up to your interview to practise answering on-the-spot questions. If you have no idea about the type of questions that they could ask, we’ve put together a list of 8 example interview questions and answers to help you prepare.
“Tell us a little about yourself”
This question often begins an interview, giving you an opportunity to talk freely about yourself. Interviewers aren’t looking for you to recite your CV or cover letter here – they’ve read them already. Instead, they want to see how you react under pressure. Really, you are the person in control. You aren’t constrained to a particular topic, but can run with the question however you see fit. It’s important to note, however, that you shouldn’t ramble. This isn’t chit-chat, nor is it an invitation to hear your entire life story. Keep your answer succinct and relevant to the job on offer.
Example of a bad answer: “My name’s so-and-so, I’m double-digit years old and I’ve loved this field ever since I was a child. In fact, in primary school I…”
How to construct a good answer: Keep your answer to a couple of minutes. Highlight how your past education, work experience, and personal interests and skills have prepared you for this position.
“Why do you think you’re the right person for the job?”
There will no doubt be other people interviewed for this position, so this is your opportunity to explain why you stand out from the rest of them. When answering this question, the interviewer wants you to promote yourself, so here is where your interview preparation comes in handy. Try to keep your response in line with the job specification you read during the application process; that’s what they want in a new employee, so you’ve got to explain how you can be that person for them.
Example of a bad answer: “I want to try something new.” or “I dislike my current job.”
How to construct a good answer: Explain what motivates you; take inspiration from past experience and the knowledge you have in this sector to describe what you can bring to this new venture.
“What would you say your weaknesses are?”
A lot of people struggle with this question. Admitting that you have weaknesses to the person deciding your fate is scary – but it’s not a trick. Employers know that everyone has weaknesses. They even have weaknesses. Here, they just want you to be honest with them and show them that you’re self-aware; you know that you have some things to improve upon and you’re going to do your best to make that happen. Really, this question is a tool to test how you’re able to analyse your abilities.
Example of a bad answer: “I am a perfectionist” – it’s too cliché and a bit of a cop-out.
How to construct a good answer: Provide a weakness counteracted with a method of improvement. This could be what you have done or what you will do, turning your weakness into a strength.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Again, we’ve got another daunting question. Does anyone really think that far ahead? You’ve only known about this opportunity for a couple of weeks – is it supposed to turn into your life plan? Hold your horses there – there’s no need to map out your entire future. Here, the interviewer simply wants to hear that you’re ambitious. They’re looking for early warning signs to suggest that you could be a flight risk or that you’re not entirely committed to the position. They want to make sure that you don’t see this job as a temporary fix until you find something else; that you’re in it for the long haul. Make sure your answer directly relates to the job position and the company you’re applying for, explaining how they can help you to achieve your ambitions and progress your career.
Example of a bad answer: “I’d really love to go travelling and spend a year in India.”
How to construct a good answer: Make sure that you convey your enthusiasm for the industry and determination to succeed. Explain your career ambitions with their company at the forefront.
“Why do you want to leave your current job?” or “Why did you leave your last job?”
There’s one route that we’re all inclined to go down here: bad-mouthing our current or previous employer. But that is a huge no-no in an interview. Bringing negativity into an interview leaves a bad taste in employers’ mouths, especially if it’s directed at a senior member of staff. That’s not the attitude they want to see in a potential employee. You don’t want to lie, but you don’t want to seem too resentful either. Refer to the job you’re apply for in your answer, taking the spotlight away from any bad blood that you may have with your current or previous employers.
Example of a bad answer: “My boss refuses to give me a pay rise and I don’t know why.”
How to construct a good answer: Demonstrate that you’re looking for something more; something that this company can offer you. That you want to move forwards instead of staying at a constant.
“Tell us about an instance when a client was unhappy. How did you resolve it?”
This is a key example of a behavioural interview question, or a ‘competency’ question. Here, the interviewer is testing your ability to react in a specific situation. They’re keen to learn how you react when under pressure by drawing your answer from a previous experience, so it’s important that your answer is structured and organised – as opposed to scatty. They want to know how you act in the workplace, seeing as they won’t be able to witness it for themselves before they hire you. Although the subject matter is a little negative, it’s crucial that you remain professional and positive in your response. You’re not complaining about a previous client, but you’re taking this opportunity to explain what went wrong and how you rectified it – showing that you can take responsibility.
Example of a bad answer: “The client complained about me but it wasn’t my fault. I was right.”
How to construct a good answer: Demonstrate that you can remain calm and collected in difficult situations. Briefly explain the issue, that you sympathised, and what you did to make them happier.
“Why do you want to work for us?”
This is a company-specific question. It’s not why you want the job role, but why you want to be a part of that company in particular. Instead of just reciting the ‘About Us’ on their website, you should show that you have a genuine interest in what they do. Instead of explaining how they can benefit you, you should explain what you can do for them. Compliment the company that you’re hoping to work for, but use examples to do so. This is where your research comes into play; use the information you found about the company to explain how you’re both on the same page. Take note of any recent achievements they’ve made or any exciting plans they may have for the future.
Example of a bad answer: “You give really good staff benefits.”
How to construct a good answer: Refer to how progressive the business is and how the prospect of working for them excites you, and then suggest how your experience would benefit them.
“If you were an animal/biscuit, what would you be?”
This is perhaps one of the most dreaded questions, often misconstrued as a trick. But really, there’s no right or wrong answer – it’s the ‘why’ that’s the important part. The interviewer simply wants to hear sound reasoning behind your choice; how you came to that conclusion. Here, they want to get an idea of the type of personality you have. Your answer reflects you as a person. Whatever the animal, biscuit, car or any other object that you may choose, it must relate back to your skill set and personality traits. It must demonstrate – in an unconventional way – what you’ll bring to the job role.
Example of a bad answer: “I’d be a wolf because they’re cool.”
How to construct a good answer: Choose an animal with significant attributes. You don’t want to be too literal here, but instead form an answer by correlating your strengths to your chosen animal.