There’s a definite formula to preparing for an interview. Sure, you don’t know exactly which questions you’ll be asked – but you can have a pretty good guess.
Here are five of the most commonly asked questions at the interview stage:
1. Give me an example of when you…
More and more interviews these days are competency-based, that is, when employers want to know about specific work situations you’ve faced in the past, how you identified any problems and what you did to find a solution. Think about times you’ve used your initiative, dealt with difficult customers or clients, handled a conflict with an obtrusive colleague etc, and come up with four or five examples of times where you used skills you know your employer is looking for. Don’t be afraid to write down your anecdotes and practice saying them out loud to a friend or family member.
2. Why should we hire you?
This isn’t the time to go all Apprentice – “Because I’m the absolute best and everyone else is a loser”), or X Factor – “Because I just really, really want this”.
This is the time for quiet confidence and eloquence. Use examples to demonstrate you’re the best candidate, calling on past educational achievements or when you lead successful projects or supervised colleagues. Show that your achievements to date are vital in making you the right person for the new role.
3. What are your weaknesses?
A bit of a trick question because although it’s calling on you to point out your faults, it is in fact an opportunity for you to show your employer you are positive and upbeat and know how to turn a negative into a positive. Don’t go for the old turkey that your weak point is being a ‘total perfectionist’. It’s glib and contrived. Instead think about where your experience gaps lie. Could you be more experienced in certain areas of technology or social media engagement? Tell your employer how you’re rectifying this, any courses you’re taking to improve your skills.
4. What are your goals?
This question can come in many guises. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? If you are successful in getting this job, where will it take you in the future? It all means the same thing – the employer wants to know your game plan. Are you ambitious? Do you have a set career plan and how can your own ideas/goals benefit their business.
The best approach is to talk about the job you’d eventually like to do and the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Make it clear that you will give your all to every role you’ll take along the way to your ideal job, that you see each position as an opportunity for learning as well as progression.
5. Do you have any questions?
Although this question will be bringing the interview to a close, it’s not your cue to immediately grab your coat. Show the interviewer that you have given some thought to working for their organisation. You could ask about details of any training programmes that would be open to you or what the company’s appraisal system is. Whatever you do, don’t just smile politely and say you have no questions. Even if you did have questions and they were answered during the course of the interview, say so. For example: ‘Well, I did wonder about the time scale of progressing from this role to the next grade, but I think you answered that and I was very impressed about…” It will show the employer you have an inquiring mind.