Interview questions and answers

What you might get asked, what to say and what you can ask them

 

Employer reading through a CV in a job interview

What your interviewer might ask you – and what to say

Every interview is different, but there a few go-to questions that a lot of hiring managers and other interviewers like to use. Here are some examples of what you could be asked and what you could say in response.

What are your strengths? 

This should really be an easy question to answer, which is good because it's a very common one. If you're particularly modest, think of a few qualities in advance.

Remember to back up what you say with examples, and mention what's most relevant to the job first. Be honest and play to your own strengths, but consider things from this list:

  • Hard working
  • Good analytical ability
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good problem solver

What are your weaknesses? 

This is one some people find quite tricky, because when we're trying to sell ourselves it isn't natural to want to talk about the things we are not so good at.

An anonymous TSR member said: "I usually say I have trouble delegating, as I prefer to complete work to my own high standard. But I have learnt that trusting someone to do a good job frees up my time and allows me to concentrate on my core job role."

Why are you leaving your current employer? 

It's important to make the answer to this sound positive, so you could say for example:

  • You're looking for more of a challenge
  • Your current role is too restricting or doesn't give you enough responsibility.
  • etc

Tell me about a time you used leadership/initiative/good judgement. 

Get a few examples of times you showed your strengths in your head before going in, so you aren't stumbling for an answer. What happened? What was the outcome?

Answers about leadership could be academic or extra-curricular. Consider any roles you've had in clubs or societies. Maybe you organised events for your university sports team, or you were head boy or girl at school or college and made some good decisions

Tell me about a time when you made the wrong decision. 

Whatever you choose to talk about here, it's important to remember is to say what the outcome was (hopefully you turned it around!) and state what you learned from this experience.

Why do you think you'd be good at this role? 

Here you could relate all your skills and attributes to the responsibilities you would undertake in the role. If you're a clear and confident speaker with good communication skills, for example, and your job will involve answering lots of telephones, then you can apply the qualities you bring to the table to the job specification.

What can you bring to this organisation?

You could repeat your key strengths and talk about your knowledge of whatever is relevant to the job. For more general answers, choose some examples from this list or feel free to add your own.

  • Dedication
  • Initiative
  • Innovation
  • Motivation
  • Enthusiasm

Do you feel you can work well unsupervised, in a team or both? 

Mention some incidents where you had to work in a team, perhaps a drama performance, or a sporting event where you had to come together with your teammates.

TSR JR member says: "For me, for unsupervised I would probably talk about writing my university dissertation and not really having any contact hours with my tutor for guidance; while for team work I'd mention when I was in year 11 and as part of a group we had to make a scale model of the small estate where our school was located for a local anniversary."

How do you cope under pressure? 

Provide some examples of occasions when you were under pressure and you succeeded. The way you handle yourself during an interview will also give a good indication of how well you manage in a stressful situation, so keep your body language and speech deliberate and confident.

Explain how you went about acquiring (a) new skill(s) 

This could be through study, training or experience. Whether it was in school, a work experience environment or somewhere else, take the interviewer through what you did and how effective it was.

Give me three words to describe yourself. 

This is a tough thing to be asked; try to be positive, but don't be afraid of throwing in one slightly less positive one. Obviously if you want to through out three similar positives, then go for it. It's your prerogative.

Examples:

  • Motivated, cooperative, cautious
  • Enthusiastic, committed, decisive

What questions to ask at the end of an interview

When it gets to the end of the interview, there will normally be the opportunity to ask a question or two of your own.

Make sure you think about this before you go in, as you'll want to ask a question that makes you seem keen on the role and well-researched. At the same time, it's your chance to make sure it's the right job for you.

Here are just a few examples that should get you thinking:

What are you looking for in the ideal candidate for this position? 

Translates to: Do you fit the bill for the kind of person they are looking for? Then you can assess for yourself whether you're a good match.

How many people at my level (entry level/university graduate etc) are you looking to hire in this round? 

Translates to: What sort of chance do you have of getting this job?

Describe the culture of your company in and around the office. 

Translates to: Is this the sort of company you want to work for eight hours a day, five days a week? If you're a very laid-back person, a very formal work place might not be for you (and vice versa).

What kind of work would I be doing? 

Translates to: Is this what you want to be doing? You don't want to accept a job where you don't really know the sort of things you'll be doing, especially if you find that your daily tasks are too easy.

What do you offer to your clients and employees that other companies do not? 

Translates to: What benefits will you get when working here? It would be nice to know the little perks and bonuses you might be entitled to, to help you make up your mind about whether you'd want to work there, or to compare employers with each other.

What does your company value? 

Translates to: Do their values align with yours? If you are working for a company that values the same things as you (for example, greener technology, pro bono work) then you may enjoy working for a place like that better.

What training and development will I be exposed to?

Translates to: How will you be trained and assessed? If you're starting at a low level, you'd much rather know that you're going to be mentored and assisted until you are qualified than simply being thrown in at the deep end.

More useful links

Go to TSR's Summer hub for more articles on work experience and fun activites for the long break.

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