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Sample interview questions and answers

17th January 2020

We have highlighted some of the most commonly asked interview questions and provided answers to help you prepare for your job interview.

Question: Tell me about yourself…

Answer: This is a very common interview question and it is surprising how many candidates fail to prepare for it. It sounds informal and friendly, however it is seeking much more than you initially think. The interviewer is not wanting a 10 minute ramble about how effective you are as a manager, or how dedicated an employee you are. Rather they are seeking a short, sharp, succinct overview to set the tone for the rest of the interview. The best way to answer this question is to have a summary response prepared in advance. Begin outlining your main selling points and attributes. Describe your qualifications and career history and emphasise the skills you possess which are relevant to the job.

Question: Why are you seeking to leave your job? Or why did you leave your last job?

Answer: The most important advice regarding how to answer this question is to not be negative. It is not appropriate to complain about your previous employer or to suggest that you are leaving because you want more pay. Think about what this new company can offer you – new challenges, career progression, a change of environment, experience in other fields, to widen your knowledge, or even for location reasons – i.e. relocating to a new town or country.

Question: Why do you want this job?

Answer: A short question, but one that requires a lot of preparation to answer correctly. It is important that you give the employer a sense that you are passionate and interested in their business, their company and what they do. No employer wants to think that you would work just about anywhere – even if that is the truth!

The best way to answer this question is to ensure that you fully research the company in advance. Understand who they are, what they do, what they sell, where they are headed, as well as understanding the achievements they have reached and the challenges they face.

Then think about what you will bring to the company in this context. It is important to outline how you will benefit the company and not focus on what the company will bring to you.

An example of an effective response is:

“I have researched and read widely on your company and consider it a market leader within the digital industry. I am particularly interested in some of the new projects which I understand are coming down the tracks – such as the building of a new website for the publishing industry, as well as the development of an online e-commerce site. With over 5 years experience in this arena, I feel that I can play a key role in ensuring the success of these new projects by bringing all my knowledge and know-how to the company.”

Question: What are your biggest strengths?

Answer: Again this is a very common question and one you should prepare for. Try to be original and imaginative in your response as opposed to the standard ‘I am a hard worker’.

To prepare, create a list of all your knowledge-based skills, transferable skills and personable skills. Then read the job specification and try to identify which skills would be relevant to the job in question. Once identified, narrow the list down to three core skills and try and think of examples to demonstrate your key strengths.

Question: What are your biggest weaknesses?

Answer: This question is difficult for everyone. In essence you are being asked to critically evaluate yourself in front of a potential new employer and to outline an area of weakness. It pretty much goes against everything you are trying to portray at interview.

However if handled correctly, this question can provide you with the opportunity to highlight to the employer how well you know yourself and how you are proactive in identifying areas of weakness and addressing them head-on. No one is perfect after all.

It is important to be as honest as possible and not to respond with a ‘clichéd’ response – one that every employer has heard a hundred times!

Make it real – think of an example of a time that you genuinely had a shortcoming, for example you may have needed coaching for a public speaking event, or you found difficulty in the past using spreadsheets. Whatever the failing, identify it and show what steps you took to remedy it, for example you enrolled in a training course to improve confidence with speaking to large crowds or undertook online courses on how to get the best from excel.

Question: Why should we hire you?

Answer: This question is providing you with the ultimate opportunity to sell yourself! Your answer should address the following:

– What do you have that the company needs?
– What can you bring to the company?
– What makes you unique? Why should they hire you and not any of the other candidates?

Think about what the company has detailed within the job description and what skills and knowledge you have that will help you undertake the role successfully.

Consider any achievements you made for previous employers, such as increased revenue for a company, decreased costs or secured new clients for a new product.

And finally, make your case on why you and not any of the other interviewees. What do you have that no one else has, or that you can do better?

Question: Are you a team player?

Answer: The answer is yes! However, do not stop there. This question requires elaboration and encourages you to talk about your teamwork skills.

Teamwork skills include listening, discussing, questioning, persuading, respecting, helping, sharing, participating, and ability to utilise all communication channels. Offer one or two short 1-2 minute examples. The ability to provide practical examples from your current or previous job is an added benefit.

Question: Describe yourself in three words?

Answer: If you have only got three words, you need to make sure the ones you choose will leave a big impression on the interviewer. The following words are always seen as desirable: dependable, punctual, honest, driven, reliable, organised, positive, achiever, ambitious, energetic, dedicated, friendly, motivated, flexible, and responsible.

In this situation you can use positive words that bring about your most positive characteristics. The answer should also be ground in solid logic and should reference professional achievements.

Question: Do you have any questions?

Answer: Believe it or not, the most common answer to this question at interview is NO! It is not however a constructive answer. The general advice is that it is always advisable to take the opportunity afforded to you and to ask a few questions. These questions should relate to the job, the company or indeed any other area raised during the interview.

It is advisable to avoid questions about pay or other benefits the company will offer you. These sorts of questions give the employer the impression that you are more concerned about what the company can do for you, than what you can do for the company.

Examples of commonly asked questions are:

  • What are the responsibilities and accountabilities of this position?
  • Please describe an average day in this job.
  • What is the history of the position? Why is it vacant?
  • What aspects of this job would you like to see performed better?
  • What are the key challenges or problems of this position?
  • What do you most enjoy about your work with this organisation?
  • What are the various ways employees communicate with one another to carry out their work?
  • How will the responsibilities and performance of the role be measured?
  • Could you describe your company’s management style and the type of employee who fits well with it?
  • What is the company’s policy on providing seminars, workshops, and training so employees can keep up their skills or acquire new ones?

Looking for more advice on preparing for an interview? Find tips for interview success, how to guides and more in the advice area.

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