The best way to prepare for a job interview is to know what's coming.
Of course, you won't be able to predict every single question that you'll be asked but that shouldn't stop you trying. There is such a thing as 'standard' interview questions that most employers will ask in an interview regardless of what job you've applied for and in what industry.
To help you craft your answers to these typical interview questions, we've put together our list of the 10 most common interview questions, complete with answers to guide you. We've even included competency based questions to really get you thinking!
'To give good answers to job interview questions, you need to do your research.'
1. Tell me about yourself…
As an opening question, this one can be pretty tough if you haven't prepared an answer. It's tempting to start talking about yourself on a personal level, your age, where you're from etc. but what the interviewer wants to know is why you'd be a good fit for the position. If you've recently left secondary school, you may not have a whole lot of work experience to talk about, so you should be aiming to relate your other experiences to the job in question.
For example, if you have an interview for an administration role with a company, you could mention that studying for exams at school has helped you become organised and meet deadlines.
2. What are your strengths?
Most of us find it difficult to talk ourselves up when asked what we're good at. They key here is to think in terms of the soft job skills that you can relate back to the position. For example, you might say something like:
'I feel that I'm a natural leader. I'm always the person in the group who is keen to take on challenges and organise other people if they need assistance. At school, I was the captain of our basketball team and I was also responsible for organising the rota for our reading club. I think my leadership skills would really come into play in this type of job role.'
3. What is your greatest weakness?
A common interview technique is to ask candidates inherently negative questions to see how they respond. Although your first instinct might be to start rhyming off all the things that you're not good at, the trick is to give an example of something that could also be seen as being positive. For example, in response to this question, you might want to say something like:
'I'd have to say that my greatest weakness is probably that I'm too eager to please. Because I'm a people-person, I sometimes say what I think people want to hear.'
Although you're highlighting a weakness here, you're also framing it in a positive light. You're saying that even though you're eager to please, which in itself isn't a bad thing, you just really want to make people happy.
4. Why do you want to work here?
This is a typical interview question that gives you the chance to show what you know about the company. You could start by explaining your personal reasons for applying for the job, for example, to gain experience in the industry, but then you should show the interviewer that you've done your research. To prepare for this type of interview question, have a look at the company's website and take some notes about what they do and try to have some facts and figures that you can quote if possible.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Employers often look for people with ambition to progress within the company. When faced with this question, you want to show that it's your intention to stay with the company in the long-term. If you mention that you'd like to be working somewhere else or doing something different, an employer might not see you as a valuable investment.
You should make a point of mentioning that you'd still like to be working for the company but in a role that requires you to have more responsibility.
6. Can you give us an example of a time when you worked in a team?
This is an example of a competency based interview question. These questions are designed to determine how suitable you'll be for a role based on your previous experiences. If you've recently left secondary school, you may not have any work examples to mention here, so you should think about other things you could say.
Think about times when you had to do group work at school, or when you were involved in a team sport. Your answer to this competency based interview question could be something like:
'For my A-Level Geography class, I was required to work on a project with other classmates. There were four of us in the team and we were each assigned a specific role. I personally, was involved in researching. This particular project was challenging and everyone in the team really supported each other.
Even though I had my own individual part to play, I was aware that my contribution had a great impact on the overall grade that we would receive. Thanks to everyone's efforts, we each received an A for the project.'
7. Can you give us an example of a time when you have had to deal with conflict?
This is another example of a competency based interview question. The interviewer wants to see that you're able to match an example to the competencies that they're looking to test. In this question, you could think back to a time when you had a conflict with a fellow classmate or with a teacher.
You should provide a little bit of background information to begin with but focus most of your answer on how you managed to resolve the situation. In most cases, you'll want to explain how you took responsibility for the situation.
8. How would your friends describe you?
This might seem like more of a fun question because it tends to come towards the end of a job interview but you should still relate your answer to the job in question. Ask yourself what kind of person the company needs for this role and base your answer around these qualities. For example, if you're interviewing for a customer service job, your answer might be:
'My friends would describe be as friendly and good with people. I'm always being told that I am very patient and can get on with anybody.'
9. What are your salary expectations?
This question is designed to show that you know how much the type of role normally pays. Your employers wants to make sure that your expectations aren't unrealistic. The trick here is to do some research beforehand. The job may have been advertised at a certain salary in the job description, in which case, you'll want to quote that figure to show that you paid attention to detail. If not, look at similar jobs online and see what salary they are being advertised at.
10. Do you have any questions you’d like to ask?
Knowing what questions to ask at an interview can be tough. By doing some research beforehand, you may have come across some interesting information about the company or the work that they do that you'd like to know more about. This is the perfect moment to ask those questions. If you can't think of anything specific to the industry, you could try asking some questions like:
- How many people work for the company altogether?
- When was the company formed?
- Are there many progression opportunities with the company?
- If I'm successful with my interview, when would I expect to hear back from you?
And here are some questions you shouldn't ask. Have a think about how they might sound to an interviewer.
By thinking about your own answers to these typical interview questions, you'll be well-prepared for most questions that you'll be asked. Even if you aren't asked these questions specifically, you'll probably find that you can still use some of the answers that you prepared.
What your answers tell the interviewers
The questions you're asked in an interview are usually about more than just the answer you give. The panel will want to get a sense of your personality, attitude and work ethic. This infographic from Wise Careers gives you a sense of the meaning behind the questions – just take it with a pinch of salt!
Now you've read the top 10 interview questions, learn more about those pesky competency based questions to make sure you're really prepared.