Interviewing for a new job can be intimidating at the best of times. Thankfully, the process can be considerably less stressful if you're well prepared. While the questions you're asked will obviously vary from one interview process to the next, there are some that we hear come up time and time again when we talk to recruiters at our partner companies. With that in mind, here's our guide on the ten common interview questions and tips on how you can answer them.
1. Tell me about yourself.
At the heart of it, interviews are about employers getting to know you. So talking about yourself is something you’ll need to get comfortable with. They will have a pretty good idea of your background having seen both your CV and your LinkedIn profile so when answering this question you should look to connect the dots on your CV and discuss not only what you've previously done, but also why you've done it.
With the question being so open ended, it can sometimes be easy to ramble on aimlessly. To avoid this happening, you should talk through previous roles you've had in chronological order, why you took those roles and why you left. Likewise, you can discuss your motivations for choosing the course you did in university as well as any extra curricular activities or hobbies you have.
Approaching the question like this allows you to create a narrative around your career to date and how it led you to applying for this specific role within that specific company and more importantly — how your background makes you a good fit.
2. Why do you want to work here?
An integral part of your preparation for the interview should involve thoroughly researching the company. This question gives you a perfect opportunity to show that you've done just that. While their website is a good starting point, you should also invest time into reading the latest company blog posts as well as searching recent news articles and press releases.
Are previous or current employees leaving exceptional reviews on Glassdoor? Do they have a number of CSR initiatives that you'd love to get involved in? Have you reached out to someone who works there who has told you there are great opportunities for personal and professional development? Have you recently seen an article mentioning they'd gotten funding and would be growing fast in the coming months?
Not only should you be able to clearly articulate what appeals to you most about the employer; you should talk about how the position is a perfect fit for the career goals you hope to accomplish, both short and long-term.
It's also worth mentioning that if you struggle to come up with answer to this question, you should probably begin to question whether or not you should continue in the interview process.
3. How did you hear about this role?
Employers nowadays don't want to hire someone who just wants any role they can get; they want to hire people who want a role with their specific company. Whether you saw it on a jobs board, heard about it from a friend, saw it listed on the company website or through a careers fair, there are a number of ways you may have come across it.
If you found out it on a jobs board like Indeed or LinkedIn, explain why it stood out to you amongst the other roles that were posted alongside it. If you found out about the role through a friend, mention that person's name and what they told you about the company. If you found it on the company website, explain what led you to the company website in the first place. Similarly, if a careers fair was the first time you heard about the company, tell them what attracted you over to the booth and how that initial conversation went.
4. Why should we hire you?
While this may sound like a tricky question, with the right preparation you should be able to answer it relatively easily. Prior to the interview, review the job description and pay close attention to the skills and requirements listed. Think about how your experiences match what is listed and how that sets you apart from other candidates.
You can also use this as a chance to talk about anything that you think is relevant to your application that hasn't yet been discussed. Your experience is a good starting point but don't be afraid to mention other things you've done outside of work that you think might help you stand out from other candidates.
5. What do you like to do outside of work?
Many companies place a huge emphasis on cultural fit and often ask about your hobbies or interests as a way to determine how you will fit into their team. With that said, don't be tempted to spoof and say you have hobbies that you don't. It might sound impressive to say that you enjoy reading but if you're not ready for a follow-up question on who your favourite author or what your favourite book is — the interviewer's bullshit detector will start going off.
The key here is to be honest, but keep it professional. While this question is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through, saying you like going for a few drinks on the weekend with your friends isn't going to go down too well either. Instead, focus on activities that indicate some sort of growth: skills you're trying to learn or goals you're trying to accomplish.
6. Tell me about a time a co-worker or customer got angry with you. What happened?
While you're probably not too keen on the idea of reliving conflicts you've had at work during a job interview, you shouldn't pretend you've never had one. In this scenario, the interviewer doesn't care as much about the juicy details of what happened; but more so how you handled it. Did you push the blame onto someone else or did you take responsibility for rectifying the situation?
The reality is that conflicts happen all the time in work, whether internally or externally and hiring managers want candidates who deal with those situations appropriately. Every business needs employees who admit when they're wrong and take ownership for fixing the problem. Use the STAR method to reflect on how the conflict arose, the steps you took to resolve it and, most importantly, what you learned from the experience.
7. What is your biggest strength?
This is a yet another great opportunity to talk about not only what sets you apart from other candidates but how you're a great fit for this role. However, candidates often struggle with this question as they try strike a balance between selling themselves without coming across as overconfident or arrogant.
The key to answering it is to not only mention what your strengths are but to have clear and precise examples. Listing off a number of attributes you think they want to hear is best avoided. Rather than just saying that you're a great problem solver or have excellent organisational skills, you need to give examples that prove it.
Pick a one or two specific qualities that are relevant to the position you're interviewing for and have a story ready to tell around them. Stories are always more memorable than generalisations and can often help you stand out from other candidates. Similarly, if there’s something you were hoping to mention that makes you a great candidate but you haven’t had a chance yet, this would be the perfect time.
8. What is your biggest weakness?
What the interviewer is really trying to do with this question, beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. No one is perfect, but showing you've the ability to assess your skillset and are constantly looking for ways to improve will ensure you come across well.
It's amazing how often we hear of candidates answering this question by picking a "weakness" and transforming it into a strength. For example: "My biggest weakness is that I'm a perfectionist." Yes you've answered the question, but it's an overused cliché and yet again, the recruiter will likely smell bullshit.
The best approach is to choose an actual weakness you have and talk about how you're working to overcome it. For example, if you're not a naturally well organised person, you can say how you've now learned to set aside time to organise your physical and digital space and the positive impact that it's had on your productivity levels.
9. Are you interviewing with other companies?
Companies might ask you who else you’re interviewing with for a few reasons. More often than not, they’re trying to find out who they’re competing with to hire you but they may also potentially want to see how serious you are about this role and company. For example, if you're interviewing for a sales role with them and a marketing role at another company, they may be some question marks about your commitment to that working in that field.
The key here is to answer in a way that ensures you don’t give the company any more leverage than it already has. Even if it's not the case, don't tell them that you're not in the running with anyone else. It's human nature to want what you can't have and if a company thinks you're in high demand, not only will it help you move through the process quicker — it may even help you negotiate a better salary.
Having said that, it's also important to express your enthusiasm for the job you're interviewing for in your answer. Depending on where you are in the process, you can mention how despite the fact you're applying to or interviewing for other roles, this role seems like a particularly good fit for you and have a reason why.
10. Do you have any questions for me?
The answer to this question should absolutely always be yes. By preparing a few questions, you can not only demonstrate your interest in the role and the company, it’s also a great opportunity to learn details that will help you decide if the company is a good fit for you.
Thankfully, we've recently written a blog post here which gives some ideas of the best questions you can ask.
Ian from Gradguide