The 10 most common interview questions (and best answers)

So, you got a job interview? Hooray!

Now there’s just that little matter of those pesky interview questions that you are going to have to answer.

Now, it goes without saying every interview is different and any questions will massively depend on the job and field you’ve applied for, but there are a few usual suspects that rear their ugly heads on a regular basis.

We’ve narrowed it down to the ten we see most frequently and then just for good measure we’ve chucked in some advice about how to answer them.

Think of it as an early Christmas present. OK, off we go…

1 Why are you interested in working for our company?

Simple but effective – one of the most common interview questions.

Your interviewer wants to know if you’ve done your research so you better know all about their company.

Employers are looking for someone enthusiastic who knows what they’re talking about so give examples of what attracted you to their particular company which highlight their strong points.

For example, if the company is known for excellent customer service, make it clear this is something you are passionate about.

Then give an example of something you’ve done in the past to prove it – here’s a few examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Don’t worry if you don’t have anything like that up your sleeve, just make sure you can give an example or two to back up what you are saying.

2 Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

This question can throw interviewees because the human instinct to chat kicks in so try not to ramble.

It is phrased casually in an effort to disarm you but don’t be fooled: Everything you say should come back to why you are the right person for the job.

What they want is a few lines that highlight some of your key achievements that are relevant to the job.

Be specific – if you can go into detail on any awards you’ve won, KPIs that back up your case or successful projects you’ve worked on then your argument becomes a million times more powerful.

3 Describe a difficult work situation and how you overcame it

Here you want to tell them about a time you coped well in a tough situation by keeping calm under pressure.

Give a colourful example or story if you can  – they are more likely to remember it.

Briefly describe the context, tell them the situation that arose then explain how you handled it like a pro.

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4 Can you outline your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths – the easy one. Just make sure you focus on any qualities you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Again this means nothing without evidence so back it all up with examples.

If you say you’re a good communicator, explain that you speak five languages or manage a team of 100 in an ever-changing working environment. Without this evidence, it means next to nothing.

Weaknesses – a tougher nut to crack, for obvious reasons. You don’t want to tell them anything that would jeopardise your chances of getting the job.

There are different ways to avoid this, one being coating a strength as a weakness – but this tactic is used a lot so try not to make it too obvious.

So, for example, rather than saying “I’m a perfectionist”, say “I sometimes find it difficult not to get caught up in the nitty gritty too much. It’s only because I care about the quality of my work but I’m working on it.”

You don’t want to be too honest but you don’t want your answers to look too pre-prepared either so be careful – it’s a fine line.

Another tactic is talking about something you suspect has nothing to do with the job.

So, if you’re applying to be a dance instructor, you are probably on safe ground if you mention you aren’t great at maths.

Or vice versa – but that would seem even more random so it might be best to insert your own more subtle example here.

A third possibility is to handle this question by talking about a past failure but only do this if you can give evidence to show you’ve grown older and wiser.

Everyone makes mistakes and being aware of your weaknesses can be a strength in itself.

Most interviewers will appreciate your honesty as long as you can prove that weakness is something you’ve worked on.

5 Why are you applying for this position?

Another of the most common interview questions.

Think long and hard about which of your skills are particularly relevant for any job you are applying for.

Show passion and enthusiasm.

Talk about their particular company, why they’re impressive, why their work culture sounds perfect and why you would love to work for them.

Never say you’re ‘just looking for a job’ – even as a joke – it looks desperate and as though you aren’t committed to their particular company.

OK well we hope this helps for now but there’s plenty more where these came from – well, five more if we are counting – so we’ll be in touch with part two of this blog shortly. Good luck.

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