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Common interview questions and answers

Joe
Sharman
Talent and Curation

The world of work is a wild one, but it takes some doing to get into. In the last twenty years, technology has advanced every discipline and sector beyond recognition. It’s now your mission to find your place in helping to build the world of tomorrow. 

However, you can’t fix what isn’t broken, and to that end, the art of the interview has much remained the same. And yes, it is an art: both for the interviewer and the interviewee. 

Although every interview is different, there are some questions that everyone wants an answer to. Interviewers want to find out who you are, what you can do and what you want to do. So to help you get prepared, here are some common interview questions that employers use to gauge if you’re the right candidate for them (and some tips on how to answer them..).

But before we go answering any questions...

Check out our article on 8 interview tips for entry level jobs, and keep these three things in mind:

Research

There's no point in answering any questions if you haven't got anything to back it up. Researching a company not only gives you insight of a company, but it shows you are independent, intuitive and keen!

Don't Exaggerate

Be proud of your achievements, there’s no need to add extra details or ‘fluff it up’. Honesty and trustworthiness are invaluable to employers.

STAR Method

The ‘STAR’ method is an effective technique, allowing you to impress with concise points and leaving interviewers with something to think about. When giving an example, the way you say it can be even more effective than the story itself.

Remember: SITUATION, TASK, ACTION, RESULT

***

“So, why do you think you’d make a great candidate for this role?”

  • Or simply put, ‘Why are you here?’. This direct question is often used to test the intent and ambition of a candidate. 
  • Keep it short and sweet. No more than 3 concise reasons as to why you’re the one they want. Leave them feeling like you’re fundamentally built for the job. 
  • Why DO you want it? Can you see yourself with the company in 5 years time? Do you want to rise the ranks, or are you inspired by the work they do? Do you have the skills they’re looking for, or is it a chance for you to learn and grow?

“Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge”

  • Be honest with your examples, and think about how they relate to the role you’re applying for. 
  • Take yourself back to the situation, what skills did you use/ learn? What qualities did you show? 
  • They’re looking to see how you operate, how you approach a problem, and how you work: keep it appropriate. Try to use more professional examples, such as volunteering, work experience or a project.

“What are your strengths/ weaknesses?”

  • Often, when you are asked about your strengths, it will be followed immediately by a question of your weaknesses. Be prepared, be thoughtful, be honest. 
  • Imagine 4 pillars (3 strengths, 1 weakness), and each is a quality you possess. These 4 qualities sum up the entirety of your character. What are those pillars of you? 
  • Remember, everyone has areas they’re not so good at, the important thing is being honest. Show that you are aware and working to improve, it’s admirable.
  • Weaknesses can be a dangerous word - think of it as areas you want to focus on. Look at it in a positive light, how does it influence your work.

“What do you like to do in your free time?”

  • Your hobbies and activities say a lot about you, don’t be shy!
  • Keep an eye out for local clubs and activities, take some time to learn some new skills or take part in a course! 
  • Do you like to rebuild computers, are you on a chess team? Do you play an instrument? Everything that makes you stand out is another reason to hire you!

“What do you know or like about our company?”

  • In no uncertain terms, they’re going to test your knowledge. Don’t be caught out.
  • If you find it easier, jot down some facts and figures to take in with you. Reference during the interview, e.g “I read you are moving towards a greener future in your operations, this is what initially sparked my interest, as you seem to be moving ahead of your competitors”. A little thought goes a long way.
  • Research the different areas of the company: competition, industry news, company values, new products or research. You’d be amazed what you can find!

“How do you cope with stress?”

  • It’s human and normal to be stressed at work sometimes. That isn’t an issue. The thing that employers will be interested in is how you handle it. 
  • Think about how you work and think, do you thrive under pressure or do you take a minute out to clear your head and plan? 
  • Again, honesty is paramount, they want to see how you resolve problems, and not by putting your head in the sand.

“What is your proudest achievement?”

  • This is a chance to show yourself off in the best light, use it!
  • Think about what your example says about you - does it showcase your skills and/or your personality?
  • Does it relate to anything you’ve already said about yourself? Is it evidential? 
  • Don’t worry about trying to force an example from your work or school experience if it isn’t truly your proudest achievement - it can be from a situation with your friends or family, or a sports success, as long as it’s authentic

“Situational Judgement: What would you do?”

  • Often, employers want to see how you would react in a negative situation, and more importantly, how you would resolve it. 
  • Take a minute, think it through. It’s not a trick question, break it down, use logic. 
  • Before you answer, think about the company and its goals and motives. Does it put the client first? Is it focused on numbers? What’s the best way to protect their interests?

“Do you have any questions?”

  • Remember that research you did? Now’s the time to use it! 
  • Think about clients, culture, your opportunity and growth, plans for the future. Think about what interested you in the first place. 
  • People like to be indulged, and there’s nothing wrong with giving someone a chance to talk about their successes.

***

Like we said, every interview is different. To be prepared, you’ve got to honestly assess yourself, make sure you’re utilising every skill and all the experience you’ve collected so far. A couple more tips to remember:

Take a breath!

If you’re asked a thought-provoking question, sucker-punched by an interviewer’s flat-line enquiry or a bit overwhelmed: BREATHE!

You’d be amazed by what happens when you take a second to assess the situation, or think of the right answer. 

Sometimes saying the first thing that comes to mind can destroy what you’ve spent the last half an hour building, take some thought and consideration for yourself - remember, it is completely fine for there to be a pause before you answer.

You’ve gotten this far!

An interview can be quite an intimidating situation, you feel like you’re offering all you’ve got and you need even more.

Before you walk in, remember: they’ve asked you to be there! You have earned their time as much as they have earned yours. 

This is your moment to shine, and pretending to be anything but yourself will never work. They’re interested in you: your skills, your talents, your potential.

First impressions…

Enjoy the opportunity for what it is, a new career or a learning curve. Be positive and let it show.

A firm handshake, eye contact and a smile will always say more than ‘Hello’ ever will. 

Think about how you present yourself. Always dress smartly, be prompt and bare their values in mind. When in doubt, it is always safe to be smart!

Good luck!

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