Job interviews can be daunting, especially if you’re not prepared for the questions you may be asked.
Not only that, but questions are often calculated to reveal more than just the direct answer. How you speak, your confidence in answering, the length of your answer and your body language are probably being assessed too.
Resume.io career expert Rolf Bax said the more prepared you were, the more likely you would be to nail the interview and score your dream job.
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“You are going to be nervous so, to put your best foot forward, it’s wise to prepare some answers to common questions. You are less likely then to stumble or be flummoxed by a brain block. You will be able to let your amiable, able and inspiring [read: winning] personality come through,” Bax said.
These are the most common job interview questions and the best ways to answer them.
1. Tell me about yourself
Bax said the interviewer had three goals when asking this question. First is finding out more about you but there’s also discovering what is important to you and assessing your communication style.
Bax said it was best to not just repeat what was in your cover letter but to always keep it professional.
Talk about interests that relate to your job role, such as why you chose the career path you’re on, and what made you want this particular job.
This could be because a teacher made a lasting impression on you, or just being fascinated by the field when you were growing up.
“When it comes to your personal traits, don't reel off an idealist list. Do be honest. And don’t ramble about traits unrelated to the job. If you’re an awesome hip-hop dancer, keep it to yourself,” he said.
“The employer is also hoping for hints about your interpersonal skills and work habits. How you’ll fit in. Ask friends and co-workers to describe you and have this one worked out before the interview.”
2. Why do you want to work here? What interests you about the job?
Bax said it was important to do your homework on the company. This will give you an idea about its reputation, culture and successes.
Use your knowledge of these things to explain how your qualifications and skills match the company, the role and the job requirements.
“Don’t show desperation and don’t gush. The goal of this question for your interviewer is to find out whether you really want the job because it excites you and whether your focus aligns with what the company is looking for,” Bax said.
3. Why are you looking for a new job?
If you’re asked this question, do not criticise or complain about the job you’re leaving or the people you work with.
Instead, aim to give a positive reason for why you’re leaving. For example, you could say you’re looking to move up but there are no opportunities for promotion where you currently are.
4. What makes you the best candidate?
When asked this question, Bax said you should focus on one or two attributes and the achievements that came from them, and try to make them match the key requirements cited in the job ad.
Bax said it was important to not merely list what had already been said in your resumé but, if you had to pick attributes from there, expand on them.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
“These days, jumping from one job to another is seen as a fast-track to career advancement, and that is OK,” Bax said.
“But replacing staff is expensive and the interviewer wants to know that your heart is in the job, that you don’t just see it as a pit stop. You could say that you hope to see yourself being promoted within the company. That you hope to build a broader set of skills. That you see yourself having made achievements for the company that you are proud of.”
6. What is your greatest weakness?
While this may seem like a nasty question, it can be used to paint a positive picture, Bax said.
He suggested choosing a past weakness you had conquered and explain how you did that and what you learned and/or gained from doing so.
“Don’t choose a fawning weakness like ‘I work too hard’, or ‘I’m too good to people’. Keep it real,” Bax said.
7. Tell me about your greatest success?
Bax said, for this question, it was important how you chose to tell the story.
“Paint the picture concisely - background, problem to solve or aim, what you did, what it achieved,” he said.
“Make it relevant to the new role if possible. Your greatest success may be outside work but keep that one to yourself until you’re hired.”
8. How do you handle difficult situations?
“Try to share a situation you’ve handled in the past but focus on the positive things you did, not the negative problems that confronted you,” Bax said.
“Describe the situation without emotion, fill in all, but only the details necessary for the interviewer to understand it, but remember you are not trying to win an ally to your side. State only the facts, not your opinions.”
9. Is there anything we haven’t discussed that you’d like to ask?
Here are some questions Bax suggests might be good to ask to give you an idea of the company and culture:
Is there an opportunity to progress through the company?
What is the culture of the office like?
Can you tell me about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
If those were already covered and you can’t think of anything else, flip the question - tell the interviewer that, after hearing more about the position, you are even more enthusiastic about the job.
10. What are your salary expectations?
Bax said to be prepared for this one. You will also need to do your homework. Research average salaries in your sector and for your role. Google the role and look for old job ads.
Secondly, consider what the job is worth to you. Are you willing to lower your expectations in exchange for other benefits, such as career progress, better working hours or conditions, or package benefits?
“Now there are several ways you can answer. Obviously, one is to name a figure. It shows strength and confidence. Be prepared to say why you are worth it,” Bax said.
“The second option is to turn the question around. Ask for an idea of the employer’s budget before you pitch your number. Let’s say that number is $65,000-$75,000. You might respond, ‘OK, I was hoping for around $80, 000 but for the right position, benefits and company, I’d be willing to lower my salary expectations’.
“The third option is to ask for additional details about the salary package and benefits before you name a figure.”