Career coaching: 6 common interview questions – and how to answer them
Here are the 6 most common interview questions – with some tips on how to answer them
As you know, preparation is key for any job interview. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. But how do you know what to prepare? Before you do anything, learn your CV off by heart. Once you have done this, then the rest is fairly easy. Although there are literally 100s of questions an interviewer can ask you, there are 6 that come up more than most. They might take a slightly different format each time but the information they are looking for is the same.
Here are the 6 most common interview questions – with some tips on how to answer them.
1) Tell me about yourself…
To answer this, simply write a script about your past experience and proven successes, following this formula:
How long you have been in the industry
What has been your most recent experience (what were you doing and where)
One reason why you like the industry and your work
One achievement (pick the one most relevant to the role you are interviewing for)
One strength or significant ability (again, most relevant to the role)
Conclude with your current situation – what type of job and industry you want to work in and why?
Try and keep as much of your answer as relevant as possible to the role you are interviewing for.
2) Why do you want to work for us?
Here you will need to research the company. Go to their website and take as much information about them as you can. Learn their mission and vision statements, their values and research their news and recent achievements. Figure out what problems they are trying to solve and for who. Then do the same in Google. Find out as much about them as you can.
3) Why should we hire you?
Look at your career history and pick out all of the information RELEVANT to the role you are interviewing for. With this question, they want to know what you can bring to the table and how well you understand their business. Simply write 3 lists:
List the companies you have worked for that share similarities with the company you are interviewing with e.g. similar industry, products, operations, sales/marketing strategies, consumers etc. Show them you know their business.
b) Relevant experience and skills
Go through each job you’ve had in the last 10 years and write down all of the responsibilities / experience you’ve had, MOST relevant to the job. Pick the stuff that really shows you can do the job and know what it entails. Give 2 to 3 examples for each role you’ve had in the last 10 years, with a total of around 8-10 examples ready at your fingertips.
c) Relevant achievements
This is the most important part of the interview. Your achievements show what value you can add to the business. Whatever you have achieved for your previous companies, the new employer will assume you will achieve for them. They are the reason the company will hire you. Again, focus only on the achievements RELEVANT to the job you are interviewing for. Quantify as much as possible – include as many figures, percentages, time measurements etc. as you can. Achievements could be:
“Increased sales / revenues by ‘x’ amount of dollars” or “Grew the business by ‘y’ %”.
“Saved the company ‘x’ amount of $” or “reduced process time by ‘y’ number of days”.
Write at least 3 examples for each role you have had in the last 10 years. If you’ve had only one role for the last 10 years – you still want roughly 10 examples. 1 for each year!
If you’re super modest and struggling to list your achievements, focus on what value you have brought to your previous companies and work from there (read this to get you started).
4) What are your strengths/weaknesses?
Pick 3-5 strengths and one weakness. For strengths, focus on what’s most relevant to the job you are interviewing for. Give examples of when you used each strength. For the weakness – it’s a trick question. Focus on a weakness that could be a strength in a different context e.g. 'Sometimes I'm too enthusiastic when working on a new project. But I've learned to adjust to everyone else's pace and not go charging ahead.'
5) Why did you leave that job? or What didn’t you like about that job?
Wanting a higher salary, better health insurance/benefits, a bad boss or too much hard work are NOT good answers to either of these questions. KEEP THEM OUT of the interview. ALWAYS be as positive as you can – about every job, boss, co-worker, company you have ever had. When answering these questions, focus on passion, learning opportunities and career progression. The interviewer wants to know you are joining them to grow and make a difference – not because you want a higher paycheck.
6) Give me an example when… and how you dealt with it
These are your famous “Competency-based” questions. HR departments love them. It’s mainly to figure out behavioural style, interpersonal skills, thought processes and personality. Again focus on the ones relevant to the job you are interviewing.
Examples could be when you had to show leadership, manage conflict (with a colleague or customer), motivate teams, handle stress or a challenging situation, make a difficult decision, handle change, create a new process etc. Think about what you might have to do in that job and focus on creating answers for those.
Once you have prepared these answers, it’s simply a case of practice, practice, practice!