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Common Interview Questions & Answers

We know interviews can be a daunting experience, even if you know you can do the job you are applying for. However, regardless of the role, there are common interview questions that are regularly asked by employers to understand who you are and if you will fit into their culture. They assess your motivations, aspirations and work ethic.

Common Interview Questions

Here, we give you a guide to common interview questions and how best to answer them with examples.

Why do you want this job?

This has to be one of the most common interview questions asked. We suggest thinking carefully about this question. Stress the positive aspects which have attracted you to applying for this position. Do not mention the negative aspects of your current job or the job in question.

Good Examples

  • I have heard lots of good things about your company and that combined with my research has really got me enthused about working for you.
  • I am looking to work for a company that I can further grow and develop my skills and my experiences and I feel that this role and your business will enable me to do that.

Bad Examples

  • I’m looking for a job closer to home.
  • I looking to move to a job that offers me more money.
  • I’m not getting on with my current manager and need to get out.

What qualities do you think will be required for this job?

Their advertisement for the job may help you a little bit, but you should also think of the other qualities that may be required. These may include leadership ability, supervisory skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, analytical skills, etc.

Example:

I think you will need someone that can effectively manage your customer’s expectations and deliver a high level of service. I feel that my years of experience and numerous examples of where I have done so put me in a strong position to perform well in the role.

What can you contribute?

This is your chance to shine. Tell them about your achievements in your previous position(s) which are relevant to the new position you are applying for.

Examples:

I am cool under pressure and I am able to find a positive in any situation to overcome the challenge. For example, in my previous role, I had a deadline to organise x project. I decided to utilise the expertise of those around me to support me in completing the project on time.

My years of experience in x industry will support the growth of your business. In my last role, I managed to bring on 10 new clients from my connections within the industry, resulting in x revenue over x years for that company.

Why do you want to work for this company?

Emphasize the positive reasons why you want to join their company, but avoid aspects such as more money or shorter hours. These would not endear you to a prospective employer.

Examples:

You have a really strong reputation in the market and I want to be a part of this.

I feel that your company values are in line with my own such as your focus to become more sustainable as a business.

What do you know about this company?

This is your chance to impress the interviewer with your knowledge of their company. Give them a rundown of their products/services, sales figures, news, company figures, customers, etc.

Examples:

History and Structure:

You were founded in X and Operate in X countries and are a leader in the market. You have X employees across X sites.

Market Knowledge:

You are number x in your industry and have x products that are big sellers in your market.

What interests you about our product (or service)?

thinking bubble with a lightbulb in the middle

Again, your research into the company should aid you in answering this question. Have they won any awards for their product innovations or service?

Example:

You have some of the most innovative products within your market and this has been proven with your industry award for xxx. I am interested to understand more about the thinking behind the products and achieving such good standards.

What can we (the new company) offer that your previous company cannot offer?

Tread carefully here! Again do not mention money. In other words, stress opportunities for personal growth, new challenges, etc.

Examples:

I want to work for a company long term where I can progress. You offer various progression routes and you really invest in your employees. I feel I have gone as far as I can in my current company.

You have a leading product that I am really excited to work with and support with its development.

What do you like and dislike about the job we are discussing?

a blackboard with a smiley face in green, neutral face in orange and sad face in red written with chalk. A tick is next to the green smiley face.

Likes: stress things such as a new challenge or the opportunity to bring fresh experience to the company.

Example: I like that I will be able to take on more responsibility and welcome the challenge

Dislikes: Imply there is nothing to dislike about the job, which is why you are so interested.

Example: There is nothing that I dislike the sound of at all. If that was the case I probably wouldn’t have applied and accepted an interview.

Why did you choose a career in …?

Be positive about your reasons. If you have changed careers make a logical argument as to why you did so.

Example:

I decided t pursue a career in x industry because I had a real passion for it personally. This has only fuelled my ability to develop my career.

How much does your last job resemble the one you are applying for? What are the differences?

The interviewer is trying to see how well you would fit into the position you are applying for. So you should stress the similarities rather than the differences. When it comes to discussing the differences it will help your case if you can show that either you have done something similar in the past or that you can quickly pick up the new skills.

Example:

It is a very similar role, just with a different process and software. I will be able to learn quickly and be up to speed and operational in a short time.

The products are very similar, however, yours are different in terms of quality and innovation and I feel that I can perform even better in the role due to this.

Why did you join your previous company? Did they live up to your expectations? Why are you leaving now?

Always be positive about your reasons for joining and leaving a company. Be very careful that you do not say anything negative about your present employer. If you do, the new company will wonder what you will say about them when you leave. You might want to stress that you are looking for a new challenge and that you feel that the company that is interviewing you fits the bill!

Example:

My previous company gave me a great opportunity to develop as a manager and are a great company to work for, however, I feel I have progressed as far as I can and it’s time for me to take on a new challenge at this stage in my career.

Explain the organisational structure in your last company and how you fitted into it?

It’s important to realise, this sort of question may be used to find out whether your old job is at a comparable level to your new job. If the new job being discussed would be a step up the ladder you will need to show that you are ready for a more demanding position. You may be able to show that you have already had many of the responsibilities and the necessary skills which would be required for the next step.

Example:

In my current role, I work in a team of 10, we all report to one manager who reports into the director of the company. I also have one person who reports into myself. As part of my role, I have on occasions stood in for my manager and have provided updates on team performance and project progression to the director.

How long have you been looking for a new job?

If you have been unemployed for a long time this may be a rather tricky question to answer. But be honest. If you have been away on holiday or done some voluntary work you could mention this.

Examples:

If you are still employed

I don’t want to take a job just for the sake of it so am waiting for the right career opportunity to come up.

If you are unemployed

Whilst I have been looking for a new job, I have been studying for x qualification to strengthen my knowledge of the sector.

I have been volunteering at x company which has supported me to develop management skills.

What are you looking for in a new job?

Make sure your answer fits in with the company who is interviewing you. A suitable reply would be that you are looking for a new job where you can apply your existing skills and learn new ones.

Example:

In my current role, I have developed competent production planning skills. I am looking for a role where I can add to my current skill-set through being given the responsibility of more complex production planning requirements.

Are you considering any other positions at the moment?

If you are say so, but do not give too many details away – it will weaken your negotiating position later. If you do not have any other job offers at the moment just say that you have a few interviews in place.

Example:

As I am actively looking, I am considering a few select roles that meet my criteria’

What did you think of your manager/supervisor?

Say that he/she was the sort of person you could learn from and you communicated well, which meant that the task in hand was completed on time.

Example:

My manager gave me support when I needed it, knew when I needed to be put under pressure and provided constructive feedback which helped me develop my skills.

What did you do on a day to day basis?

Stress the positive things you did including your achievements. Even if some or much of it was paperwork, you can still show your interest in the way it was tackled.

Example:

As my role as Sales Administrator, my day to day duties included processing sales orders, answering queries from our clients and stock control. I really enjoyed building relationships with our clients and learning about how the companies products were used for their business.

How would you describe yourself or How would others describe you?

Choose characteristics that fit with the role you are interviewing for. If it is a sales role, talk about soft skills such as communication. If it’s a finance role, perhaps attention to detail. Either way, keep it relevant. There is a tendency from people to only focus on the positive traits but it shows a good level of self-awareness if you can balance the answer perhaps with an area of development that you or another has identified for you to work on.

Example:

I am extremely approachable and put people at ease when they talk to me. However, I’m not afraid to challenge a difference of opinion or rejection.

What was your greatest success? How did you achieve it?

arrows in an archery board

You should pick an achievement which is related to their needs and talk through it using the STAR method.

S – Situation – explaining this initially will give context to the example
T – Task – give details of your responsibilities in the situation
A – Action – demonstrate how you responded or took charge
R – Result – Explain the impact you made or the lessons you learned

There are great examples of this here.

What has been your biggest failure?

Keep it work related if possible and explain why you feel it is your biggest failure and more importantly, what you have learned from it and how would you apply that in future situations?

What Next?

If you don’t seem to be able to get past interview stage, maybe we can help. Register with us and one of our consultants will be in touch to:

  • Talk through your experience, situation and what you are looking for
  • Match you with companies and roles that are right for you
  • Help you prepare for your interviews to give you the best chance of success

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