…and how to answer them
When preparing for interviews, many people think that they don’t know what questions they can expect, which can result in anxiety levels reaching fever pitch because they feel so out of control.
However, interviews are not rocket science. The very point of an interview is to test whether you have the skills, experience and ability to do the role. A recruiter will want to know about your background and your greatest achievements i.e. what have you done and how did it add value to your current/previous employers. Therefore, the first part of our interview preparation should always be to make a list of your biggest achievements (see my post ‘5 Biggest Interview Mistakes‘ for more information).
Secondly, you should prepare your answers to the most frequently asked questions. If you Google ‘most asked interview questions’, you will get an array of different ones. However, the following list is based on my experience as an interviewer and a career management coach. Every delegate or client I’ve worked with (which runs into the thousands since I set up my company in 2009), has been asked a minimum of two of these questions at their interviews. Therefore, it’s worth spending a bit of time planning how you would reply.
1. What are your strengths?
Your strengths should be self-explanatory i.e. what are you good at! I recommend that you prepare at least four that fit with the company’s competencies or values (which you can usually find on the website of larger organisations). Alternatively, pick key skills from the job description or person specification and be able to give short examples that illustrate why you think you have that strength.
2. What are your weaknesses/development areas?
Everyone has development areas, so saying that you don’t have any is simply not good enough. Choose something small that you’re currently working on or planning to work on or something that you’ve already resolved. Good examples are where you’ve had or planning to do some additional training or self-development. Alternatively, choose something that you used to struggle with, but found a way to manage effectively.
3. What’s your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
Again, don’t offer something big! Choose something small preferably that wasn’t your fault and that you solved elegantly with minimal disruption to the business.
4. What do you know about our company?
Not having done your research on a company is unforgivable. If you can’t be bothered to look at them, why should they be bothered to look at you! Sounds harsh but it’s how a recruiter will view it. You should thoroughly review their website so that you are aware of what they do, their values, their customers, etc. Prepare a couple of questions to ask them about what you’ve discovered in case you’re asked.
5. How do you like to be managed?
“Left to get on with my work but knowing that there’s support available if I need it” is a perfect answer. Recruiters generally want people who don’t need to be micro-managed and who will just get on with things and deliver with minimum support.
6. How do you like to manage/what’s your management style?
“I like to give employees clear instructions, timescales and expectations. I’ll then leave them to get on with things but have regular reviews. I let them know that they can come to me for support if they need it” is a model answer. Recruiters want to know that you’re supportive, set clear goals, but don’t micro-manage.
7. How would your manager/colleagues describe you?
I’m still surprised how many people don’t prepare for this question. “Hardworking, trustworthy, an integral team member, dependable, supportive” are acceptable answers.
8. What’s the most difficult situation you’ve faced?
Again, pick something that didn’t cause too much upset to the business and that ended well. Preferably choose a relatively minor problem that you didn’t cause.
9. Why have you applied for this role?
This question is similar to the ‘strengths’ one above. Recruiters like it when you compare your values to theirs. You could also inform them of what excites you about the role/company and how you think you can add value.
10. Why should we choose you/What can you offer to the role?
This question gives you a chance to sell yourself and provides you with the opportunity to stand out from your competitors. Recruiters are looking to see, hear and feel that you want the role. N.B. Never mention anything about money or job security. Although that’s what most of us go to work for, a recruiter wants to hear that that you want to work for them because you think they’re a fantastic company.
Top Tip: never give an employer a reason not to employ you! Some questions are specifically designed to catch you out, which is precisely the reason why I suggest you think about them before the interview. When you prepare your answers to these questions, if there’s anything you think may be controversial, consider using another example. If you’re unsure, run your answers past someone else, preferably someone who is used to chairing interviews. Conversely, don’t make something up. If you can’t think of a difficult situation or you’re lucky enough to not to have made a mistake, then tell them that.
My biggest top tip for any interview is, PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE! Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”. There really is no excuse not to prepare for an interview.
More top tips are available in my book, ‘Land Your Dream Job Now!’ (available on Amazon), which is packed full of advice and guidance on all aspects of finding and landing the right job for you.
Also available is my Your Dream Job FREE mini course which is packed full of all of my top job hunting tips. Click here to find out more and sign up NOW!