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Key Interview Questions to Prepare for

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Beth Allsopp

If you have just secured yourself an interview with a potential new employer, you are most likely thinking about how you can make the best impression. Whilst interviewers are beginning to take more unpredictable approaches to get to know their candidate’s capabilities, there are some questions it pays to always be prepared for. Since the questions listed below are so common at interview, the hiring manager will probably expect you to answer them quite readily and smoothly. There is no need to have perfectly rehearsed answers to these questions but, before going into your interview, it would be beneficial to have considered what you might say in response. Therefore, to assist you in your preparation, we have outlined some very regularly occurring, key interview questions and commented on some of the reasons that hiring managers often ask them.

Tell me about yourself

The hiring manager wants to know if you’re the best fit for this role. Evaluate the skills, qualities, and attitude the perfect candidate should possess. Take this opportunity to share more about yourself and showcase your personality, you could start by talking about work and how you got to your current position. Share some of your personal interests and experiences or talk about your background and what motivates you. When you talk about your career history, emphasise the range of skills you possess which are most relevant to the job offer. Your hiring manager needs to learn more about the person beyond the black and white CV, help them understand not just what you’ve previously done, but why you did it.

Why should we hire you?

The recruiter wants to see you talk; they want to see how you can sell yourself. It’s time to show that you are qualified for the job. This question might seem intimidating but, if prepared for, it’s a perfect platform for you to directly demonstrate why your skills, experience, and personality make you the best prospect. Think about the job description, what are the company looking for? Align this with what you have to offer and back it up with evidence. Deliver your answer like a well-focused sales pitch and don’t forget to take the opportunity to highlight anything you haven’t had the chance to touch upon. It’s important not to be vague, be specific when you summarise your achievements and work experience. Don’t just say ‘I’m a great team-player’, talk about what results you have achieved in the past by working effectively as part of a team.

What are your greatest strengths?

The interviewer wants to know if you’re well qualified for this role and how much value you can add to the organisation. Give a straightforward and to the point answer, make sure your answer is clear and sharp, you want to show your confidence in your ability. Here, it is essential to prove what your greatest strengths are rather than just stating them, give examples of how your strengths have assisted you in your career.

What are your weaknesses?

This question is asked so that the employer can find out how developed your levels of self-evaluation and self-awareness are. Therefore, don’t try to behave as if you are perfect – your interviewer will certainly see through it. Chose a genuine weakness and frame it in a positive light by talking about the steps you’re taking to overcome it and improve.

What are your greatest professional achievements to date?

The interviewer wants to know if you’re an achiever. What will you bring to the table if they hire you? Preparing for this question is crucial so that you don’t fall short when you have the chance to dazzle your interviewer. Chose an achievement that is quite recent, identify the skills you used, the actions you took, any obstacles you overcame and then describe the result, and quantify the benefits of what you did. You could also explain why you are most proud of this achievement over your others.

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?

By asking this, the recruiter wants to find out if you’re ambitious, they want to see if you’ve already thought about your future and progression. Of course, be wary of appearing unrealistic. The hiring manager will also be trying to work out if your goals are in line with the position and its potential for growth. The best approach is to think about where this new step could take you and answer along those lines, and if the position doesn’t provide you with a direct path to your career aspirations, remain honest. It’s ok to say that you’re not entirely certain what the future holds, but you see this role playing an important and valuable part in your professional journey.

Describe a difficult challenge or conflict you had to deal with at work, how did you overcome it?

Understandably, you’re probably not keen on talking to a prospective new employer about a work conflict you have had to face. This question is important because it helps the employer understand what your definition of difficult is, and how you can show a logical approach to solving problems. Be truthful about a difficult situation you have coped with and remain professional – don’t approach your answer in the same way that you may complain to a friend. Spend more time talking about the resolution than the conflict, how did you define the problem? What action did you take and why? What was the outcome? End the story with a positive note, the interviewer probably wants evidence that you’re willing to deal with and learn from these kinds of difficult situations.

Why do you want to work for our company?

The hiring manager doesn’t just want to know why you want to be a part of the organisation; they want to know what you already know about the company. Do your research into the organisation and find something unique about it which you find appealing. Avoid answering with a very generic answer which could be applied to any company. You could incorporate this to then talk about how you would like to contribute to some of the company’s future opportunities for growth.

Why do you want to leave your current position?

Your interviewer wants to understand what motives could drive you to leave an employer. You should answer this straightforwardly, state that you are looking for a change of environment, more challenges, greater responsibility and a chance to broaden your experience. Never speak negatively about your current employer in response to this question.

Why do you want this job?

Employers usually want to hire enthusiastic candidates, they will want to see how passionate you are about the role, so you should be able to answer this question quite swiftly and sincerely. Identify some significant aspects of the job that make it such a great fit for you, it would be good to then tie your answer into why you’re interested in the company and what you like about it.

What are your interests outside of work?

The interviewer wants to get to know you as a person a little more and find out how you prioritise your time when you’re not at work. Take the opportunity to let your personality shine through. Remain professional but answer honestly, just being cautious of appearing as though you have a hobby which you will devote all of your time to in favour of the job you are applying for.

Do you have any questions?

This will most likely be the last question you are asked before the interview is wrapped up. Don’t pass up on your last opportunity to stand out by responding with a ‘no’. There is always something you can ask at the end of a job interview, even if you feel that all of your questions have already been answered. Being inquisitive will show enthusiasm and demonstrate that your interest in the position is sincere. In preparation for the interview, consider a handful of question which you could ask and keep them in the back of your mind.

Taking some time to think about how you might respond to these questions, could make the difference between you having a successful and flowing interview, rather than one which leaves you feeling disappointed. Dedicating some of your time now, to anticipate how the interview might go, means that you can relax more during the process, think more clearly and get to know your potential new employer.

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