From perfecting the pressure of a handshake to picking out just the right shade of taffeta for your tie, one of the most daunting aspects of the job hunt is the interview. But aside from body language and dress sense, interview preparation is one of the most crucial elements of impressing a future employer and landing that dream job. Whilst you can’t predict exactly what you’ll be asked, preparing for interview questions in advance can allow for impromptu, informed and effective answers and aid with those niggling nerves.
As experienced recruiters, we’ve rustled up our top 8 most commonly asked interview questions and our do’s and don’t's on how to answer them.
Tell me about yourself.
This question aims to uncover your education, work experience and interest in the field. Keep your answer concise and if it helps, prepare a short response in advance to avoid going off topic. In this instance, your interviewer is also looking to gauge your personality and gain a positive insight into how you would fit in with their team.
Do: Provide a short summary, highlighting most important elements of your experience.
Don’t: Give your life story.
What do you know about us?
Since most company’s have a wealth of information available on their website or social media channels, it’s easy to research and familiarise yourself with the company’s ethos, aims and specialisms. Employers want to know not only if you’ve researched the role and brand, but also if you can convey the reasons why you’re attracted to the work that they do.
Do: Research and engage with the company’s ethos and brand.
Don’t: Give a generic answer; try providing a response with a personal flair.
What’s your biggest failure? / What has been your biggest achievement?
Detailing your failures or mistakes during a job interview can be terrifying – especially if you’re put on the spot. What a potential employer is looking for when they ask these questions is can you recognise and accept your mistakes and how have you gone bout rectifying them. When it comes to achievements, providing relevant and recent examples will give the interviewer an idea of what you constitute as an achievement and your potential within their company.
Do: Give examples that identify skills/mistakes and how you implemented them/corrected them.
Don’t: Take this question as a personal attack, the aim is to determine your ability to recognise faults.
Tell me about a challenging situation you’ve faced and how you tackled it.
Although this question can be daunting, the interviewer is simply trying to find out what you define as ‘difficult’ and if you have problem solving skills and are willing to use your own initiative in challenging circumstances.
Do: Define the problem, the options available and which you chose, and what the outcome was.
Don’t: End on a negative note.
How do you respond to working under pressure?
Give an example of a time in which you were given challenging tasks, from working to a deadline or managing multiple projects. Detail how you managed the pressure and maintained your composure in a stressful situation. The answer to this question will illustrate how you handle stress and whether these high-pressure situations give way to productivity and creativity or panic and procrastination.
Do: Emphasise how you dealt with the pressure rather than focussing on how much it affected you.
Don’t: Give an example of a stressful situation that will be common in the job you’re applying for.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question will give you the opportunity to discuss your wider passions and career goals as well as letting a potential employer know if the role you’re applying for fits within your field of interest and your long-term plans.
Do: Express your ambition.
Don’t: Fail to answer or say you’re unsure, this would imply that you wouldn’t be fully invested in the role.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Instead of answering this question with standard answers – ‘I love to cook, I love to travel’ - specify exactly what draws you to a certain pastime and don’t hold back in conveying your passions. This answer could also allow you to segway into referring to your qualifications or achievements too. For example, ‘I play piano and regularly perform in different bands, and last year I achieved my grade 8 with distinction’.
Do: Be specific and use this as an opportunity to discuss your talents.
Don’t: Be vague and unenthusiastic.
Do you have any questions for us?
This question will prove if you were listening during the interview, and how invested you are in the company and the position. Asking sincere questions will show that you care and are genuinely interested in how the company runs and the work that they do.
Do: Give an answer that ends that leaves a lasting and positive impression.
Don’t: Ask questions that focus on when you’re not working, such as time off, or a question that shows you’ve done little research on the role.
Did these questions help you prep for your upcoming interview? Join the chat over on Twitter and Facebook and if you’re eager climb the career ladder, have a look at our current vacancies.