The perfect guide to job interview questions

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Being called for an interview after you’ve applied for a job means you’re one step closer to your next career move.

The interview is not just about seeing whether you are the right fit for the organisation, but it’s also about making sure you feel confidence about your ability to do the job and in turn, making sure you feel like the role would be a successful career move.

Make sure you’re prepared by following our comprehensive guide.

Job interview questions

Most professionals have had both good and bad interview experiences. What these are likely to have in common is the questions as the same ones tend to come up time and again. If you prepare your answers in advance, you’ll be able to make sure that they showcase the qualities that make you right for the job.

Here are some questions that are regularly asked in interviews, and suggestions on how to answer them.

Tell me about yourself

This is usually the opening question and it’s your chance to tell the interviewer about the highlights in your career history and any relevant qualifications. Don’t feel you have to cover every point in this answer. It’s much better to give an overview of what you’ve done and achieved than to go into lengthy detail about your responsibilities.

You can follow the structure of your CV, giving examples of achievements and the skills you've picked up along the way.

What are your strengths?

This question should be easy to answer, but make sure you use it to your advantage. Pick the three attributes that you think are the most important for the job you’re applying for and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a work situation. They could be tangible skills, such as proficiency in a particular computer programme, software system or a foreign language, or intangible skills such as good team management.

What are your weaknesses?

Don’t answer this question as it’s been asked. Instead, answer the question ‘what are your weaknesses and what have you done to overcome them?’. This means you can turn a negative into a positive. So don’t give examples of things you’ve not done well if you don’t also have an example of how you’ve learned from it or worked to improve your skills as a result.

You don’t have to list every single weakness you think you have either. Just highlight one or two that are relevant and how you’ve taken steps to address the problem.

Why should we hire you?

This is where you get the chance to tell the interviewer about the skills, experience and attributes you have that make you perfect for the job. When preparing for the interview, check the job description and try and include some of the phrases in your answer (if they are relevant). Whenever you talk about a skill or attribute you have, make sure you relate it back to the company or the role. Don’t just list your experience without explaining how it could benefit the organisation.

What are your goals?

You should answer this question in terms of both short-term and long-term goals unless it’s asked in specific terms such as ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’.

Tell the interviewer about the kind of job you'd eventually like to do and how you plan to get there. Show the employer you have ambition, and that you have the determination to make the most of every job you have to get where you want to be.

Why do you want to work here?

This is a real chance for you to spell out how well your skills, experience and attributes match the requirements of the role and the company or organisation’s ethos.

Make sure your answer is really powerful. Practice what you’re going to say so that your answer is clear and that the interviewers are left in now doubt that you should be hired.

What salary are you seeking?

You can prepare for this by knowing the value of someone with your skills but don’t provide a figure in the interview as it could put you in a weak position when you come to negotiate later on. If they have provided a guideline salary with the job description, you could mention this and say it's around the figure you're looking for.

Questions to ask during the interview

An interview isn't just a chance for your potential employer to learn about you. It’s also your opportunity to establish whether joining a particular company will benefit your career and ultimately, whether it is a suitable fit.

Asking the interviewer questions about the role shows that you are engaged and interested in the company and demonstrates your initiative.

Why has this position become available?

Understanding why a position has become available is important - the previous incumbent may have left, or the role could be newly created. If so, why was created? This will inform you about the management and growth expectations of the company.

Depending on the answer you may want to highlight particular areas where you have strong skills.

If the role is newly created focus on your ability to innovate and take initiative, while if you are replacing a former member of staff consider times where you have been able to develop and refine existing processes. 

What do you like about working for this company?

Gaining an insight into someone that is already part of the company will help you to find out more about whether the cultural fit is what you are looking for as the interviewer is likely to step out of a corporate role.

Asking this question is a great way to show that you’re thinking about the role beyond the job description or what was covered during the interview

How will my success be measured in this role?

Understanding how success in your role will be measured is key, particularly when providing examples of past experiences where you have excelled at a task. 

This is useful to know as each business operates differently. It will show what type of approach the company takes with its employees and is useful for you to think about whether the approach suits you as a person.

What can I expect in terms of development and support?

This question will show that you are keen on growing, learning and staying with the company. It will also allow you to find out more whether the role offers what you are looking for in the long-term.

Employers wish to support their staff with career development and progression. Clear career goals and an eagerness to understand how the position can help you reach them demonstrates reliability and commitment, which are very attractive to employers.

Where does the job fit into the team structure?

Understanding the way you will support and interact with the rest of the team will be important to your success in any role, and showing an interest in this early on shows your employer that you recognise the importance of collaboration at work. 

This line of questioning will provide you with the chance to see how you can progress within the team and give you an opportunity to understand the team you will be a part off.

What is the next step after the interview?

Although it can be easily forgotten, this question is vital to ask. It shows the interviewer that you have thought about the next stages and provides you with an indication on whether you need to prepare more.

How to avoid job interview mistakes

How you perform in the interview is likely to mean the difference between getting the job and not being successful. Make sure you avoid mistakes job seekers commonly make.

Not doing enough research

Researching the company you’re applying to will take time, but you must be prepared to invest the time needed if you want to perform well in the interview. Some job seekers don’t do this thoroughly enough. 

It’s important that you can speak confidently and intelligently about what your potential employer does. You should know specific facts about the organisation, including:

  • Their history, financial position, mission and products/services
  • The market in which they operate
  • Their main competitors

Not being specific in your answers

You’re almost certainly going to be asked why you want the role or why you want to work for the particular company or organisation. When you’re asked this, you should give a specific reply and not talk in vague terms about why you’d like any job in this sector or industry. If you can’t explain clearly why you’d like this specific job, you will put off employers. 

Instead, you should be enthusiastic and speak specifically about the aspects of the organisation that appeal to you, such as its products or reputation, or the key responsibilities of the role.

Not knowing your CV in detail

You don’t have to know every word of your CV by heart, but you do have to be comfortable talking about what you’ve done, what you achieved and why you moved on.

Don’t assume that just because the information is in your CV, interviewers won’t ask questions about your background, including your responsibilities in previous roles and educational results.

Make sure you review your CV before your interview and practice how you will respond to any potential questions about the details you’ve provided. Most importantly, make sure that you can articulate how your accomplishments to date relate to the role you are applying for.

Criticising previous employers or roles

No matter how tempting it is, it’s not a good idea to make derogatory remarks about your current boss, previous boss, current employer or companies you’ve worked for in the past. It’s fine to talk about that with your friends but not when you’re trying to persuade an employer to hire you.

They won’t know the background to why you and your current or past employers don’t see eye to eye and you could also open yourself up to an uncomfortable line of questioning.

Try to find the positive aspects of your employment history and focus on these instead.

Being too relaxed in the interview

Don’t fall into the trap of being too familiar with your interviewer, no matter how relaxed you may feel. An interview is one of the more formal work situations you’re likely to encounter and being familiar and joking around are unlikely to help you get the job.

It’s important for you to be friendly and engaging and to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, but you must be professional at all times, even if you feel you have a good rapport with the interviewer.

For more hints and tips, visit the Career Advice section of the Robert Walters website.

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