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Types of interview questions and answers

20th January 2020

It is advisable to research the common types of questions that you may be asked at interview. Whilst you cannot be sure of every question the interviewer will throw at you, you can at least prepare for the more common questions that most likely will arise.

Preparation like this, all adds to your own sense of confidence and ultimately helps ease any nerves on the day.

Types of interview questions

There are a number of different types of questions which could be asked. Make yourself aware of these, so that you can both identify them and know how to begin to answer them. The common types of interview questions are below.

Ice breaker questions

Often an interviewer will try to put you at ease with a few ice breaker questions. They are designed to put you at ease and begin the process of questioning. They are gentle questions – sometimes unrelated to the actual job itself. Examples include:

  • Hi, how are you?
  • Did you have any trouble getting here?
  • May I offer you a glass of water?
  • Isn’t the weather lovely / terrible today?

Open-ended questions

These questions are used in abundance in interviews as they are a good method to extract as much information as possible from the interviewee. Open-ended questions often begin with things like:

  • Tell me about…
  • What do you think about…
  • Why are you…

They require a detailed, full answer as opposed to a simple yes or no response. Be sure to recognise that the interviewer is looking for detail and are seeking your thoughts, feelings and knowledge on a particular subject.

Closed-ended questions

An interviewer may use a closed question when they are seeking a specific piece of information and are often used at the beginning of an interview. Examples of closed questions include:

  • How many years of experience do you have as a team leader?
  • What did you study at university?
  • Have you ever worked from home?

Whilst these types of questions require a short, succinct fact response, try to not limit yourself to a yes or no answer. For example, when responding to the first question – don’t simply answer with ‘five years’. Try, ‘I was team leader for five years within my previous position and enjoyed it immensely. To help me succeed within this role I undertook a series of training courses designed to improve my leadership skills and qualities and found these courses very beneficial in aiding me to get the best from the team’.

Behavioural questions

These types of questions are becoming increasingly popular in interviews and it is essential that you know how to handle them and how to respond to them. Behavioural questions are designed to gain insight into how you behave and react within certain situations and how you might handle certain future scenarios within the new job. They require you to talk about past situations, describing how you conducted yourself within the situation and what the result was. Examples of these types of questions are:

  • Tell me about a time you worked as part of a team and achieved a positive result.
  • Describe a situation whereby you had to work against a strict deadline.
  • Describe a challenge you faced within your past job and how you handled it.

The best way to answer these questions is to employ the STAR approach.

The STAR approach

STAR is an acronym for: situation, task, action and result.

  • Situation – what was the situation and when did it take place?
  • Task – what was the task? And what was the objective?
  • Action – what action did you take?
  • Results – what happened as a result of your action?

Hypothetical questions

These questions are designed to see how you can think on your feet and how you would react in a hypothetical situation. Examples include:

  • How would you handle an angry customer, who was dissatisfied with the service we offered?
  • How would you handle a situation whereby you are under staffed and have a deadline to hit?
  • What would you do if there was conflict between two members of your team?

Killer questions

You have sailed through all the questions asked so far, and out of nowhere, the interviewer throws you a curved ball! Designed to throw you off balance, here comes the killer question!

The phenomenon of the killer question is not new – in fact is has been a common type of question used in sales interviews for decades. It is however being increasingly used in a wide range of interviews in a multitude of sectors.

It is designed purely to see how you cope with the unexpected. The most important thing of all is to be calm and do not panic.

There is often no right or wrong answer to some of these questions. The interviewer is simply looking at how quickly you can put together an answer and think through your response.

Examples of killer interview questions and sample answers:

Question: What is the worst thing you have heard about our company?
Answer: I have heard that whilst the company is superb to work for, it is incredibly difficult to get a job there. I am told the interviews are tough and very rigorous.

Question: Would you say you are numerate? What is 7% of 7?
Answer: The correct answer is 0.49. The correct technique is 0.07 x 7 or indeed 7 x 7 divided by 100. Take your time, be logical and above all don’t guess!

Question: Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake?
Answer: I would classify a Jaffa Cake as a cake, as opposed to a biscuit. Reasoning for this would be that McVitties the company who make Jaffa Cakes won a legal case regarding this very question. They proposed that cakes are made soft and go hard when stale, while biscuits are hard when fresh and soft when stale. According to this definition a Jaffa Cake is indeed a cake!

In need of more job interview guidance? Read nijobfinder’s ultimate job interview guide.

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