Surely there is nobody in the world that really enjoys interviews? Whether for an apprenticeship or a job, there is something about being told to dress up and then told to impress a group strangers with how great you are that just doesn’t sit right. The whole thing, from the formality of it all to the uncomfortable prospect of having to talk about yourself and how great you are, seems designed to put us on edge. Indeed, any help that we can get to ease through the interview is greatly received – so knowing what the interviewer is going to ask has got to be useful, right?
Fortunately, a lot of interviewers ask similar questions to one-another - perhaps there are only so many things you can ask a stranger about a job they haven’t done yet?
So, here we present five of the most common interview questions, and how to go about answering them!
- Why do you want this job?
This question may also be phrased as why do you want to work for this company, but is basically the same thing. Of course, there is the fact that they are going to pay you, but that is not what your employer wants to hear. They want to hear about how your own career aims and goals fit in with those of the company. This means you will need to do some research, so look at the job description and the company’s website. You may be able to find a mission statement or an ‘about us’ section which will tell you a lot about the over-arching aims of the business, their ethos, and so on. Do they fit your own personality and career goals? If so, you can explain why you are the perfect fit for the company as well as the job, and what you hope to bring (experience, dedication, enthusiasm?).
- Tell us about yourself
OK, firstly, your prospective employer isn’t asking for your autobiography. They don’t need to know about that childhood crush you had on your primary school teacher or that you were once caught stealing a chocolate bar from your local shop. They only need to hear about things relevant to the role. Offer a summary of your education and work (and especially where it is relevant to the job), making sure to highlight your achievements. If you don’t have much experience concentrate on how your studies have helped prepare you for the role – making you more organised perhaps? Look over your personal profile on your C.V.and your covering letter to check what you wrote there too – bearing in mind your interviewer will have read these.
- Do you have any weaknesses?
Don’t say just say, ‘no,’ but do keep your answer as positive as possible. Rather than thinking of ‘weaknesses’ look to strengths that you could improve on, or something that you could get training in. Highlighting an area for improvement is subtly different to bringing up a weakness. Of course, it is even better if you are already taking a course or doing something to improve on the weakness you mention – not only have you highlighted it but are able to show how you are already working on improving yourself!
- Why should we give you the job?
Again, ‘because I need the money’ simply won’t cut it here. This dreaded question may leave you feeling stumped, but you should use it as an opportunity to show off your skills and strengths. Think of a few examples where your education or working life, such as when you led a group or supervised others, and use them to show why you are the best person for the job. It may feel a bit odd to start promoting yourself so brazenly, but if you don’t, who will?
- Give us an example of…
Job interviewers love asking applicants for an example of when they did something, whether it was dealing with a difficult customer, used their initiative, or dealt with another somehow tricky situation. The problem here is that you never know exactly what the interviewer will ask, but there is a good chance they will try to ask for some sort of example from you. Your best bet is to look at the job description for what sort of questions they may ask – there should be clues. For example, if you go for a customer service role should expect to be asked about dealing with tricky customers or people, or calming people down. Think about the obstacles you may encounter in the job and think of a few examples of when you tackled similar issues.
Of course, there are plenty of other questions you could be asked at your interview, but these will depend on the job and the employer themselves. But, if you have done your research into the company and the job and checked over your C.V. and covering letter you should be able to manage these.
It should also go without saying that you need to be clean and tidy, and make sure you dress the part – even though what is seen as acceptable clothes to wear at interview may be changing. Also be polite and try to sit up straight rather than slouching in your seat – your body language can give out all sorts of messages!
Finally, being prepared will help you stay calm, so don’t be afraid to practice a few answers out loud before you go!