Have you got an interview coming up? Great news, well done. Now to nail it!
Doing your pre-interview research is the best way to get prepared. While you are doing that, get ready for your interview by practice answering commonly asked interview questions.
Here’s a list of questions we frequently come across … and suggested answers
How to Answer Commonly Asked Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself
This is an open-ended question that is often asked to help ‘break the ice’ in an interview, as well as assessing your personality, preparation, communication skills and ability to think on your feet. Always remember to keep your answers short and sweet and purely job-related.
This is as simple as a one-liner summing up your professional experience, and one more outlining how you see yourself – Simple as that!
2. How big was the last organisation you worked for?
You should know the size of the company you’re interviewing with, and use that reference point to provide perspective.
For example, if you have only worked in large organisations and the interviewing company is much smaller, emphasise your experience of working closely with colleagues in small team environments.
3. Why did you leave your last job?
Respond positively — For example: “To extend my career through international experience” or “increased responsibility and a greater variety of work”. Never be negative about your previous employer(s).
4. What do you enjoy most about your current/last job?
Simply list the aspects of your role you have enjoyed, prioritising one’s which relate to the key competencies of the position in question. Mention that you are looking forward to expanding your experience and skill-base in these areas.
5. What didn’t you enjoy about your last role?
With these types of questions, remember that all negative answers to interview questions should have a positive connotation.
You could say something like “it is never nice finding out when a client has problems, but I do gain comfort from helping them resolve a problem when I find one” etc.
6. How would you rate your level of experience?
If asked whether you would see yourself as a junior, intermediate or senior level – you may say you are not sure exactly how these levels translate between organisations and countries. You could also say that you are happy being guided by them.
7. What do you consider the most noteworthy accomplishment in your last job?
Give examples of ways in which you saved the company time or money. Or maybe you developed a strategy or procedure that improved efficiency.
8. Do you work well under pressure?
Yes, you do – you must. Give a specific example of a time when you were under pressure and how you rose to the challenge.
9. What do you believe are your key strengths?
This is the time to describe the skills you have identified that will most effectively market you as an employee. You should know these as they are generally established from your CV. Prepare responses that give specific examples of your strengths at previous positions that will support your job application.
10. What do you believe are your weaknesses?
No one readily admits real weaknesses in an interview situation. This is an opportunity to turn the question into a positive. Think of something that relates to your experience of work that is plausible as a weakness but is not really a negative point.
For example, “I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet deadlines” or “I become very focused on the projects I am involved in”.
Alternatively, you can turn your weakness into a positive by showing how you overcame the weakness. “In the past, it has been difficult for me to accept criticism from my colleagues, however, I have learned to value constructive criticism as I find it helps improve my job performance.”
11. What are your interests outside of work?
The interviewer will want to see how you fit into the location etc. So, if you’re from South Africa and like going to game parks, it is not recommended you say this is your favourite pastime in your interview in London!
12. What do you know about the company?
Demonstrate your interest in the job and your understanding of the organisation and industry. Talk about the research you have done into the company’s key areas of interest, its size, its main customers, making reference to your source of information. Practice by explaining the company to your friends and family.
13. Why do you want to work for this company?
Whatever the company, you need to ensure you have researched thoroughly and have plausible reasons why the company interests you.
This will show the employer that you have done your homework, demonstrate your knowledge of the company and emphasise your suitability for the position.
You should show you have a genuine interest in the company location and give reasons why, e.g if it is in rural NZ, say you are looking forward to “tramping” there etc.
Ensure you give them 100% comfort around this, for example by explaining you have family in New Zealand, have best friends in London etc.
14. What do you think you have to offer this company?
This is a chance to sing your own praises and express interest in the role and organisation. You should concentrate on the skills you currently possess, which are required for the position.
15. What do you think this position involves?
This question is designed to reveal that you have thought about the position, done some research, listened to the interviewer and can summarise all of this information clearly.
16. What is your family situation?
You may be asked what family you have. If you have a partner, be sure you can explain what your partner does. If your partner will be looking for work, give comfort that he/she will be able to find work. Unfortunately, no company will want to hire you if they are worried that your partner will be unemployed! Likewise, if you have children ensure you give assurance as to who will look after them when you are employed etc.
17. What are your salary expectations?
If you get asked what salary you are looking for, ideally do not give a figure. Say you are flexible and will be guided by the company and their team – you will be happy with whatever they think your value is.
18. What is your availability to commence work?
Make sure you know what date the employer would like to start the role and ensure that you are available to start work by the required date.
19. What is your visa situation?
Companies will not want to employ you if they are worried that your immigration process is not underway or may fall over. Ensure at the interview that you can give full comfort to the interviewer regarding this.
20. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
This is an assessment of the extent of your ambition and career planning. You should demonstrate that your long-term goals are appropriate for the position being discussed.
21. What are your long-term plans?
Make sure that when you explain what your long-term plans are, that they are in line with the given company’s. For example, if you are interviewing at a Chartered Accounting firm don’t say your long terms plans are to be a CFO of a big corporate, perhaps say they are to be a senior manager at a CA firm.
22. What other interviews do you have on?
You may get asked if you have other interviews. If you do, ensure you show a clear interest in the company you are speaking with at the time.
23. Do you have any questions you would like to ask?
Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. By asking questions, you again show interest in the job. Ask about the position, request clarification of general information about the company, or summarise your understanding and request confirmation.
And there you have it! Our top tips on how to answer commonly asked interview questions.