Accessability Links

Interview advice

There are several styles of interviews and over time we will cover them in more detail here, but the most common one, the informal one, will usually cover some of the examples below.

Regardless of the type of interview you would do well in being able to respond to all of the below anyway, so it should always be used as a starting point when you start preparing to move job. 
The other interview types you are likely to come across would be telephone interview, competency based interview, panel interview and presentation based interview.

When working through the examples, make sure that you take notes and that you, once you’ve worked out how to respond, practice your responses out loud, perhaps with a partner, to make them part of your repertoire. Where relevant include examples from your previous experience to illustrate your responses.

So let’s get started.

1. So, tell me a about yourself.

Most people get asked this question at every interview. It's probably the most asked question and it sets the stage for the interview and it gets you talking. Make sure that you don’t give the interviewer your life story here; it should be concise and coherent, and similar to an elevator pitch but slightly longer.  Only cover what’s relevant, educational history, your career, what drives you and your aspirations should do it.

2. Why are you looking to leave your current employer?

Normally this is a straight forward question to answer; however, there are a few traps that you’d do well to avoid. The key thing to bear in mind is that you are looking to advance your career, allowing you to grow professionally and as a person. As always, Steer clear of money.

In the event that you were laid off, which isn’t that unusual over the past few years, you will need to stay positive however you respond to the question.  Also, don’t dwell on this, but be brief and concise.

3. What you know about this company?

It’s important that you do the homework on the prospective employer ahead of going into a live interview. Don’t spend too much on this part however as you’re not likely to be expected to go into any great detail.  Some desktop research should suffice, looking at their website, latest annual report, any news in the press and key individuals in the company you should be aware of.

4. Why do you want to work for us/this company?

This should be directly related to the last question and the research you’ve done should have given you the fundamentals to answer the question well enough. You will want to convey why you want to work for the company, how it’s aligned with your own aspirations and career plans.

5. How would your colleagues describe you?

This is a pretty straight forward question, but as with anything else, if you haven’t anticipated it you may still look slightly caught out if can’t give a confident and to-the-point answer. The interviewer is looking to find out how you might be perceived by others and how your behaviour impacts them.
Needless to say, you should focus on adjectives related to your job, e.g. transferrable skills and personality. Driven and dedicated to the cause, diplomatic, decisive and energetic are all positive traits that would support your cause.

6. How do you ensure that you are developing professionally and stay abreast of new developments in your field?

The question is designed to find out about your drive and dedication to your job or career in general. It’s important that you convey the notion that you invest time and effort in improving your skills and knowledge, but do make sure that you don’t come across as a maniac; perhaps mention that you take time out twice a week to do Thai Boxing as it helps you stay focussed and clears your head.

7. Have you applied for any other jobs at the moment?

In the event that you are, rather than being coy about it, tell the truth but don’t go into any details. This is a good opportunity to show that you’re in demand, and could turn out to work in your favour.

8. How do you cope with working under pressure?

Remain positive in your answer. You can say something along the lines of ‘I work well under pressure’ or ‘I thrive in a pressurised environment’. Be prepared to give a brief example of how you tackle these sorts of situations and how you deal with it.

9. What motivates you to do a good job?

Simply put, you should be motivated by life’s noble pursuits. You will want to improve, do a good job, help others, deliver success and helping your employer to grow and be successful. To become a thought leader in your field is also a good thing to mention, if it’s appropriate. Just bear in mind that mentioning money is unlikely to do you any favours.

10. What's your greatest strength?

One of the all-time classic interview questions and there is really no excuse for not being able to give an impressive and credible answer. This is your chance to explain why you’re a great employee and highlight everything that is good about you. It could be ‘good at working under pressure’, ‘a great motivator’ or ‘great attention to detail’, but remain positive and if at all possible, try to highlight strengths that are relevant to the particular role you’re interviewing for.

11. What's your biggest weakness?

If you’ve been asked about your strengths, you can be sure that they’ll cover this question as well. It should be easy enough to get out of this one unscathed and as always, make sure that you have a well rehearsed answer.

The best approach is to pick one small work-related flaw, perhaps public speaking or getting caught up in details, and then give a succinct account of how you’ve worked at your weakness and perhaps overcome it. It shows that you have an awareness of your weaknesses and the impetus to do something about it.  Do make sure that it’s a brief account though.

12. What traits in others do you find it difficult to deal with?

You’ve no doubt got a number of pet hates about co-workers and colleagues but the advice is to steer clear of mentioning any of them. The best way to answer this one is to think for a while and then say something along the lines of ‘I've always got on just fine with my co-workers actually.’

13. So, explain why I should hire you.

This is a question that there is no excuse for not having prepared for.  Make sure that you go through the job specification and align any answer with the skills and traits they are after. Then work out a summary statement where you mention the skills and traits that you would be able to bring to the role, and how it would help the company become even more successful.

This is effectively your sales pitch and should not be more than two minutes long.  Once you’re done with the statement and you’re happy with what it says about you, your capabilities and what you can do for the company, practice, practice and then practice some more.

14. Finally, do you have any questions to ask me?

Make sure you come armed with some good questions. This is a crucial bit and candidates have been known to be rejected only based on getting this part wrong. You could ask about the company, its performance, recent changes that might have been in the news, future plans for the company as a whole and for the department, what the working culture is like, what’s expected of the person getting the role in the first 60 days, what development programme they have in place, particular issues that the organisation might be facing in the near future, etc.

A particularly brazen question that you might ask is whether they have any doubts as to whether they think you are suited to the position. This might give you another chance to address any weaknesses that interviewer think you might have, and possibly turn things around.

There are of course many more questions that you could be asked, but hopefully these have given you a good enough start in terms of preparing yourself for that interview.  Best of luck!