The most common questions asked in interview

Every interview is different but having answers ready for each potential question is key.

Anticipating the type of questions you could be asked in an interview is absolutely vital.

In this article, we are going to reveal what your interviewer really wants to know when asking certain questions.

The goal is to personalise and adapt your responses to the position and the company’s culture in order to stand out.

It will also enable you to:

  • Avoid long awkward pauses and hesitations
  • Have examples that will highlight your relevant skills needed for the specific position
  • Show you are passionate about the position through your research and preparation
  • Prove your ability to communicate with concise answers and by including key facts

Are you ready? Grab your notebook and apply the STAR method to ace that interview!

Here is a list of the most common questions asked in interviews and guidelines on how to answer them.

1. Tell us about yourself.

This is usually the opening question and, as first impressions are key, one of the most important.

Pro tips:

  • Keep your answer to under five minutes
  • Begin with an overview of your highest qualifications then run through the jobs you’ve held in your career so far. You can follow the same structure as your CV.

2. What are your strong points / strengths?

Pick three of your biggest attributes which you think are the most important for this job and explain how these strengths will help you succeed in the position.

Pro tips:

  • They could be related to process skills, such as proficiency and organisation
  • They can also be in relation to a particular field such as proficiency a computer language, or a specific tool such as Salesforce, Photoshop or Sage
  • The last type are the intangible skills, also know as soft skills, like good managerial skills or creative thinking and adaptability

3. What are your weak points / weaknesses?

This dreaded question is best handled by selecting one where you have examples showing you have made positive steps to readdress this weakness. Ensure you demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are self-aware of your weaknesses, consider them when you are working on a project and will continue to work on improving yourself professionally.

Pro tips:

  • Show that you are able to learn independently
  • Demonstrate that your are a go getter
  • Prove that your are adaptable

For example, if your IT abilities are not at the level they should be, state it as a weakness but then tell the interviewer about training courses or time spent outside working hours where you have work improving those skills (watching online videos, using a demo, asking experts…etc.).

4. Why do you want this job?

Think carefully about this one. Your answer is very important to the interviewer and he is in fact waiting for several answers in one.

Pro tips:

  • Quote the aspects of the job and tasks you like
  • Explain in a few sentences what you like about this particular company
  • Show you are a team player by highlighting what excites you about joining the team
  • Explain why they match both your professional and personal needs. Put emphasis on :
  • the fact that it is an international environment that encourages an open minded culture
  • the youthfulness and friendliness of the team that will motivate you to perform even better
  • the passionate and skilled employees who could challenge your ideas and teach you new skills
  • Etc…
  • Explain why it matches with your career path and your goals
  • Do not mention the negative aspects of your current job or the job you are being interviewed for

5. What do you know about this company?

This is your chance to impress the interviewer with your knowledge and research of their company. This shows that you are really interested in, even passionate about, the company and would be very involved if you get the job.

Pro tips:

  • Check their website, career website, social media and blog
  • Find the latest news about them by running a search on the web
  • Give them a run down of their products/services, news, customers, etc.
  • Show that you are resourceful and can find information on your own
  • Show that you have a business mind set and would be an asset to the team. If you find news about a product or a change that could impact the manager, or might be related to the opening of the position, ask further questions about it and mention where you saw the news.

6. Why do you want to work for this company?

The interviewer is waiting for an answer that indicates you have given this some thought. If you have prepared for the interview properly, you should have good inside knowledge of the company and, in particular, why you want to work for them.

Pro tips:

  • Talk about the company’s values, employee well being, mission statement, development plans and products
  • Use this information to explain why you like this job and why it matches your career goals and personal expectations
  • You can conclude by telling the interviewer what you would bring to the company

7. You have not done this type of task before. How will you succeed?

Carefully review the job advert and identify the skills and tasks that you are not familiar with. You need to highlight your qualities that will enable you to be successful in this position. You also want to show that you are aware of your weaknesses and know how to overcome them.

Pro tips:

  • Highlight previous situations where you managed to overcome an issue
  • Demonstrate your social skills with a tangible example such as setting up a meeting to speak face to face with the people concerned
  • Explain what process you followed and which tools you used to solve the problem
  • Show the hiring manager that you can search for information on your own and train yourself at work as well as in your spare time

8. Why should we hire you?

Understand “What makes you special”? You should be able to find out what they are looking for from the job description and the discussion you just had. Looking at their career website is the best way to understand their environment, their culture and the people they hire.

Pro tips:

  • Highlight the fit between your skills / experience and the job requirements.
  • Explain what you would bring to the company
  • Show them that your personal goals match their company’s values. For example, if helping your community is one of your personal interests and the company has involvement in the community, talk about it. This implies that if they hire you, you will be happy to participate.
  • Come with tangible examples which show why choosing you and not someone else will be beneficial for them

9. What do you like and dislike about this position?

Explain why you are interested in the position and what you like about the team. Ask questions about what you possibly dislike, in order to ensure you understand exactly what you could not like and be able to adjust your answer.

Pro tips:

  • Stay focused on the position, especially if your interest in the company has already been discussed
  • Emphasise what you excites you about the position, however, recruiters will also appreciate feedback regarding your concerns
  • Stay open-minded about your dislikes and find a way to turn them into positives, especially with hiring managers

10. Why did you choose a career in …?

Be positive about your reasons. If you have changed careers prepare a logical and concise answer to explain your decision.

Pro tips:

  • It can be an opportunity you followed and you discovered that it was made for you
  • It could be related to a parent, friend, family member, or a teacher who encouraged you to walk on this path and you realised it is your calling!
  • Perhaps you had a personal experience / event that made you decide to start this career

11. 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 and if you have the skills needed.

Pro tips:

  • Focus on the similarities between your experience and the position
  • When you highlight the differences make sure that it is not an issue for the job you are applying for. If there was an issue in your current or previous employment, explain how that it will not be an issue with this company as they could provide you with the tools and resources needed to overcome the problem.

12. What do you think of the last company you worked for?

You should only discuss the positive aspects of your last company, unless they ask you further details on why you are leaving. The goal is to explain what you liked in your previous job that this company also has to offer you.

Pro tips:

  • Tell them about the training you received that will be useful for the tasks you will have to accomplish
  • Talk about the work related experiences you have gained that will be useful for the position
  • Focus on the tasks you found interesting and that you would be able to continue in this new role
  • Highlight the benefits that both companies have

13. Do you prefer to work in a small, medium or large company?

Remember why you applied for this role! You need to explain what you like about small, medium or large companies, and put a focus on the type of company you are applying to.

Pro tips:

  • If you do not have experience in the type of company you have applied for, explain that you know what you do not like about the other sizes and why this does not apply to the company you are interviewing for
  • Use examples to illustrate your reasons

14. Why are you looking for a new job?

Explain your reasons for moving. Do not say negative things about your current employer.

Pro tips:

  • You could discuss the lack of tools or training because the company does not have the resources
  • You can talk about you career progression and explain how your current company did not meet your expectations. Mention only the expectations that you know your potential company can meet.
  • Do not discuss issues you have in your current job that are related to people. It will only raise a red flag about your own personality.

15. What would be your ideal job?

Again, remember where you are! What you will say needs to fit with what they can offer you. The more they know that they fit your expectations, the better chance you have to feel fulfilled in your job and be efficient!

Pro tips:

  • Describe your ideal job using keywords seen in the job description
  • Give examples such as challenging projects, interesting career opportunities, good team atmosphere, learning and mastering new skills etc.

16. Did you progress in your current/last job? Are you satisfied with those?

This is the moment to showcase your qualities and demonstrate your results with tangible examples and key numbers! If you progressed faster than normal you should say so. If your growth was not as good as expected then be careful about how you phrase it.

Pro tips:

  • List the weaknesses you improved upon and how you did it
  • Show that you are a quick self learner, determined and adaptable by explaining how you overcame difficult situations
  • Highlight your success with key data and awards received
  • Highlight your career progression if you got promoted

17. How do you handle criticism?

Mention the positive aspects of criticism and think of an experience you had, where it was useful to get feedback.

Pro tips:

  • Explain the importance of getting feedback to improve your work
  • Mention the fact that challenging your ideas can help you make them better
  • Insist on the fact that constructive criticism will make you perform better

18. Can you act on your own initiative?

Think of an example in your current or previous job where you managed a project or made a decision on your own initiative.

Pro tips:

  • Explain how you proceeded to highlight your organisational skills
  • Detail how you convinced your team/manager to support the project in order to highlight your communication and leadership skills
  • Choose an example that had a successful completion to prove that you reached or even over reached your target

19. What motivates you?

Remember, you want to show them that you are the right fit for their position, their company and their team.

Pro tips:

  • List your motivations such as: career growth, opportunity to learn new skills, skilled co-workers, international team etc…
  • Highlight the motivations that you know the company can offer you
  • Show who you are, especially if the company is involved in causes that you defend such as education for people or the protection of the environment

20. Can you work under pressure?

The recruiter wants to understand how you react in this environment. It will also indicate what kind of personality you have.

Pro tips:

  • If you are comfortable within this environment, you can say that it is not necessarily a bad thing as it can help drive you
  • Explain how you proceed to manage stress
  • Think of a situation you handled under pressure and overcame your stress

21. How many hours are you prepared to work?

You should be prepared to work the necessary hours to get the job done on time.

Pro tips:

  • However, if you know that the company is cautious about the well being of their employees, highlight the fact that a good organisation should enable anyone to do their jobs during their agreed working hours.
  • But show them that in exceptional situations, you are willing to work outside your hours to help your team and the company reach a deadline or get through a peak in the activity

22. What are your career goals?

List all your goals that are relevant to the company you are interviewing with.

Pro tips:

  • Show that this company and position can help you achieve them
  • It can be related to different topics:
  • The industry of the company in which you want to specialised yourself in
  • The causes they support and you are passionate about
  • Skills you want to perfect
  • Career progression
  • Do not discuss salary increases or benefits at this moment, keep it career goals oriented

23. Where do you see yourself in 2 years time?

It is best to talk about both short-term and long-term goals. Talk about the kind of job you would eventually like to do and the various steps you will need to get there.

Pro tips:

  • Mention goals related to the position you are interviewing for in order to show that their company is also the perfect fit for you.

24. What interests do you have outside work?

Your hobbies and interests can tell an employer a lot about you, including whether you are sociable or solitary, and whether you can take on leadership roles. Think about which interests can be a plus for the position you want.

Pro tips:

  • Only discuss genuine interests that you follow or practice during your spare time.
  • Highlight the causes that both you and the company support. Give examples of what you have done, and what you could do with them for this cause.

25. Are you prepared to relocate?

If it is a sure yes, share your thoughts with the recruiters. Explain that your suitcase can be ready tomorrow and that you are looking forward to discovering a new place or returning to a familiar place. Feel free to give a few examples of what you really like about the location as this shows you have done some research. If you are not sure, ask questions relating to your concerns.

Pro tips:

  • Ask if the company provides a relocation package and what it includes
  • If you hesitate, ask questions about the career opportunities, locations and salary, explaining that it will have an impact on your decision

26. How much did you earn previously? What are you salary expectations now?

You need to research info on salary within the industry you have applied for as well as about the location where the position is based. Check different sources to got an average.

Pro tips:

  • You can find salary guides on the internet that will give you an idea of the market and what you can ask for
  • Match your expectations with your experience and skills
  • Make sure you know how much the cost of living is in the area

27. What will your referees say about you?

There are three key tips to keep in mind. Include one example that shows your ability to do the job, one that shows your commitment to the work and one that shows you are a good person to have on a team.

Pro tips:

  • Quote your referee
  • Use their names to show that you remember people and have attention to details
  • Mention several referees

28. Do you like working in a team environment or do you prefer working alone?

Think about your experience in a team environment and about a time where you had to be autonomous.

Pro tips:

  • Describe how you have been successful in both environments
  • Regarding what they need in the job advert, adapt your speech to match your preferences with their requirements

29. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

Interviewers use this type of psychological question to see if you can think quickly. If you answer ‘a bunny’, you will make a soft, passive impression. If you answer ‘a lion’, you will be seen as aggressive. What type of personality will it take to be successful in this job?

Pro tips:

  • Define what qualities you want to highlight regarding the position and company
  • Search online to determine which animals are famous for those qualities

Practice, practice and practice again to be smoother and clearer in your answers. It will also help you to avoid panicking when you do not know how to answer or do not have an example to illustrate.

One last piece of advice before you go into an interview: find out information about the dress code in the company to adapt yours and be ready to make a stellar first impression during your interview.