Common interview questions and answers

Imagine how much easier a job interview would be if you knew the most common interview questions and answers. You could plan out your answers in advance and save yourself from any embarrassing silences. Your confidence would be much higher and the interview would certainly go a lot smoother.

Unfortunately it isn’t possible to know what the employer will ask, but the good news is that there are some common questions that are almost guaranteed to pop up during the interview. If you’ve already taken the time to prepare an answer in advance, then they are going to be very impressed!

Here are 8 common interview questions and answers.

1. Can you please tell me more about yourself?

Job interview

Interviewers understand how nervous you may be when you first walk in, so this is at the top of our common interview questions and answers. It will help you to feel more at ease and to hopefully shrug off any nerves you may have. Talking about ourselves is always a lot easier than discussing situations, or answering specific questions thought up by the interviewers.

Keep your answer fairly short and concise, as there will be lots more questions to come and you don’t want them to get impatient. But you must also make sure you don’t rush, as they want to see that you enjoy talking about yourself and you’re passionate about your education or career, as well as any hobbies you may have.

Highlight your most successful achievements, and pick on any previous work placements that relate to the job you’re going for. If you are fortunate enough to have previous experience in a similar role, then you could make this your topic of conversation. The same goes for any qualifications you have in the same or similar field. Even though they’ve already seen your CV, it’s important to highlight the most relevant points and talk passionately about them.

But it isn’t just about work, and the employer has asked you this question because they are also interested in your hobbies. This is a great opportunity to talk passionately and come across enthusiastic about your interests outside of work. There is plenty of time to discuss your career during the interview, so this is a good opportunity to show them your personality. The more unique and interesting the hobby, the more likely you are to build up a rapport and make great conversation.

2. What are your biggest strengths?

This is usually a relatively straight forward subject, but you need to have at least three answers prepared in order to make it go smoothly. Again, it’s important you come across positive and passionate about yourself, as you want them to believe in you and to agree that these are your strengths.

A lot of people fail on this topic, not because they don’t answer it well, but because they don’t make it believable. You could be the sixth person they’ve seen that day, and all the previous answers were most likely very similar. So make yours stand out, and come up with three great answers that are factual, honest and believable.

Your strengths need to be specific and accurate. If you fluff these answers and say things like, “I’m good at accounts”, then you’re not going to get the job. If possible, try to also explain a previous situation this strength came in handy. It could have been in an emergency, or it could be just a day to day occurrence. Again, you need to make your strengths believable!

Finally, make sure your answers are linked to the job you are going for. Employers will naturally try to paint a picture in their own mind of how you’d look in this role, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them and focus your strengths to the role. Try not to be too obvious though, otherwise it might have the opposite effect.

3. What are your biggest weaknesses?

Job interviewNumber three of our common interview questions and answers is typically the most difficult question to answer, and most people go about this in the wrong way. The most common way people get around answering this is by actually avoiding it, and assume they’re being really clever by saying things like, “I sometimes work too hard, and never leave work on time”.

This will just annoy the interviewers, and won’t win you any points. Employers are genuinely looking for honest people who give honest answers. So if you think you’re being smart by sidestepping the question, then think again!

The best way to answer this common interview question is to provide genuine weaknesses, but more importantly, what you’ve either done or are currently doing to improve on those weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, and it’s important to be honest and open about your weaknesses and to show explain you are attempting to fix them.

If for example your IT skills are slightly behind, then you could highlight this as a weakness but then go on to explain about the courses you are taking. This would be a perfect example of how you’re taking the initiative. However, try not to be too honest and completely destroy yourself with negative comments. Employers are looking for honest answers, but also want to see how passionate you are about improving in these areas.

It’s advisable to also avoid highlighting any weaknesses which are important to the role – so you need to do the opposite as before and pick on weaknesses that don’t relate to the job you’re going for. For example, admitting that you struggle with being confident when speaking to customers is a bad idea if you’re applying for a sales job.

4. Why should we employ you?

This is also a very difficult question to answer, and if you don’t have a pre-planned response then you’re in big trouble! These types of common interview questions can sometimes be accompanied with, “What can you bring to this company that other employers can’t?”

Fortunately you should have already covered this a little when discussing your strengths. Again, tailor your answers to the job and the skills typically required. If for example you have high qualifications that match the job description, then highlight this is an important point to consider.

But you can’t just stop at qualifications, as there may be another 50 people out there that applied with the same. So you now need to focus your other answers on something unique that will surprise them. For example, if you are applying for a job as a motor mechanic, then you should focus your answer around the 15 years of experience you have as well as any awards you’ve won – like employee of the month.

Other ways of winning them over is to discuss how you would make the company more successful. In order to do this you would need to study the company in depth beforehand, and then offer suggestions during the job interview. If they can see that you’ve spent the time looking into their business and have already formulated some ideas, you are one step closer to landing the job. It doesn’t matter if they’ve already come up with these ideas, as long as you keep them sensible and to the point.

This shows them that you’re creative and willing to help and assist the business if needed. If they are a forward thinking company and looking for employers to help improve the business, then you’re clearly the right person for the job!

5. Why do you want to work here?

Job interviewWe’ve already mentioned how important it is to be passionate in a job interview, and here is the perfect opportunity. No one is going to employ someone that doesn’t have an enthusiastic response to this question, so it’s vital to prepare an answer in case it gets asked.

In order to give a great response you must study the company and do your research beforehand. Almost every company has a website these days, so you must read up and find out as much about them from the internet as you can. Don’t forget to also read their social media pages – Facebook and Twitter for example.

If you have the opportunity to talk to someone from the company before the job interview, then try and ask as many questions as you can. You may even be lucky enough to have a friend that works for the company in a similar role, so take advantage of your good fortune and speak with them about the role. They should be able to provide you with some insider tips on the company, and what they’re looking for.

6. Tell us three positive things your previous boss would say about you?

This is similar to discussing your strengths, but it’s important to understand the difference and provide unique answers. Try to also provide believable answers rather than saying things like, “My boss always says I’m amazing, and the best employer she’s ever had!”

Your answers need to be specific and honest. A good example of a great answer to this is, “My boss would say that she can always rely on me to help, as she regularly comes to me in times of crisis and asks me to take charge and find a solution”. You then might go on to give an actual example of when this happened to leave them in no doubt that this is accurate and true.

7. What are your salary expectations?

This question is less common than the others we’ve listed here, but we felt the need to prepare you if it was asked. Your answer to this could make or break your interview – it really is that important.

If you confidently demand a salary that’s way above the industry standard for the role, then you will of course end up with a rejection letter. They won’t be able to afford you and will have found someone else that’s just as good who’ll take the job for much less. At the same time you need to be careful not to undercut yourself, and for two reasons:

Firstly, they may decide to take you on and you’ve now shot yourself in the foot, because you’re getting paid less on average than anyone else in the region that does the same role. Secondly, because you’re undervaluing the role it may mean your undervaluing yourself. It could show a lack of confidence, and they may decide not to hire you on that basis.

So if you are going to confidently provide a ballpark figure, you need to be accurate and fair. Do your research first and make sure you know what the average salary is for the role in that particular region. If you believe that you’re experience and qualifications justify a slightly higher salary than the average, then you may decide to take the chance and boldly state it. Just be careful not to come across as arrogant and that you’re making demands. Your fate is in their hands, so don’t push it!

8. What would be your theme song every time you walked into a room?

You may be thinking, ‘what’s the point of this question’? Well, it isn’t necessarily going to have a huge affect on the overall interview; however it can be a great opportunity to inject a little sense of humour into the proceedings.

Our advice would be to avoid anything sad and slow, and go for something fast and upbeat. You want to project energy and enthusiasm, so go for something like ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves, or ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. The choice is of course yours, and the answer should reflect your personality.

This is likely to be the very last question, so make it count!

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About Jen Wiss-Carline

Jen Wiss-Carline has been a Senior Manager and Consultant for several sizeable companies which included dealing with all aspects of staff management and recruitment. She is also a Solicitor and Chartered Legal Executive, having been admitted as a Fellow in February 2006.

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