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Common Interview Questions

Common Interview Questions



I have written a few posts about interview questions but not the most obvious one, so here we go – common interview questions and how to answer them!


The number one rule of answering interview questions is to always make them positive. If you are a naturally pessimistic person this can be a challenge, so the number two rule is be prepared! Practice is also good – so every time you go to an interview and didn’t get offered the job remember what you have learned. And if you get to the point where you have had as many interviews as I have they will not phase you in the slightest – well ok, I do still get nervous but that shows you want the job so it’s good! I even prefer having a presentation to deliver now as it makes you focus on preparation and you invariably think about the role and what it will involve in the process which makes it easier to prepare.


1. Tell us about *insert company name here*

Personally, I hate this one as both an interviewer as well as an interviewee. All it shows the panel is that someone knows how to use google and has a good memory, so personally I prefer the people who work at the company to tell the candidates about the company, after all they do work there! However, as many people don’t agree with me it is a good idea to do some background research. The company website will usually give you the corporate line of what they want you to see, whereas the news may give you more information about any issues the company has had and how well they have resolved them. If you have experience of using the company as a customer this will help you have a more personal connection to them, or if you know someone who has used the company services this will also give you a more rounded view of the organisation. This is obviously easier for some companies and industries than others so it may not be possible.


2. What are your strengths / weaknesses?

This one also can get some cheesy answers! Answering about your strengths is probably easier than talking about your weaknesses, and is the most straightforward to answer. If you get asked about weaknesses the way to answer it is to turn it into a positive. So for example “I am very stubborn which means that once I have made my mind up I find it difficult to change it. However, this can be positive too because I am very decisive and this helps me to stay on track. Sometimes a quick decision is what is needed and I am very good at this”. This is an example of turning the answer into a positive. I do believe that all strengths are weaknesses and all weaknesses are also strengths – it is situation dependent.


3. What would you bring to the role that other people can’t?

This is another question that is difficult to answer because how can you possibly know what other people are bringing? So this is a chance to think about your USP (unique selling point).


4. Why do you want to work here?

Whatever you do, don’t say anything about needing the money. Obviously, that is why you are there – we all need to earn a living but what they are looking for is what particularly attracted you to their organisation. They want to know if you will be committed or if you will move on quickly.


5. What would you do in the first week / month / year?

The employer is looking to find out how well you know what the job entails, if you have thought of the potential for the role and if you have the foresight and passion to develop the role into its full potential, or if you will sit back and do what you’re told. They’re looking for initiative and a self starter. You can find out what they are expecting of you in the job description and the person specification but can you think of anything they have missed that you could bring to the role.


6. Describe a situation where you demonstrated your ability to work efficiently (you can insert lots of alternative words here)

The way to answer any question like this is with the SAR model. That is situation, action, results. So you would start by describing what was inefficient (situation). Then you would describe what you did about it (action), followed by the results of what happened. An example of this would be
“I was volunteering in a charity shop and noticed that the books were not selling as well as in other branches. I asked the manager if it was ok to rearrange the books and she agreed. I moved the books to an alternative space in the shop and put them into categories based on genre. The results were that the sales of books went up by 200%”.

If something went wrong, it is OK to say so, but if you do this make sure you say what you would have done differently if anything, or why it didn’t go to plan. If this was the case what did you learn?


7. What do you hope to be doing in 5 years time?

This is another difficult one given that you are in the middle of a major life change. However it is asked to find out what your ambitions are and what your goals are in life. How you answer will very much depend on your own goals and personality.


8. What makes a good team player?

A quite straight forward question – I would say something along the lines of each person bringing a different set of skills, viewpoints and ideas to the table. The skills is getting those to work together well. You might like to give an example of where you have worked well in a team and what didn’t work so well. Teams don’t always gel, and if you can identify what didn’t work in an impartial manner it will show insight.


9. What motivates you?

Is it money? Constant praise? Recognition? Or is it doing a good job? Providing for your family? This is very personal so there can’t really be a wrong answer, however consider the way your answer might land on the person hearing it! The way you structure your sentence may well make a difference to how it comes across.


10. Do you have any questions for me / us?

It is best to have some questions to ask at the end as it shows you are interested and have thought about it. It can be tricky though as they might have already answered all of your questions. We do have another post which will give you a few ideas for questions to ask. You can find it here.


Remember before you go in to make sure you rock it like wonder woman and superman and do your power pose. It’s also a good idea to prepare as much as you can, and also try to relax. The questions are there to get you to talk not to trip you up!


Good luck! I’m sure you’ll do really well, but if you have any questions or need further help get in touch – kelly@cygnetnortheast.com

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