job interview

After spending enormous amount of time reading job adverts, writing CVs and sending job applications, now you are one step closer to your dream especially if you were applying for your dream job, you definitely do not want to mess that up at this stage so you always need to prepare for the interview.

While there is no way of predicting exactly what kind of questions you will be asked, there is a couple of standard questions that tend to always come up.

Here are 20 common questions that you can expect at an interview and some tips on how to tackle them.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself

This is possibly the question I don’t like on an interview but always come whenever I go for one. Nearly all interviews start with this question or something similar to this one, it helps the interviewer(s) to start preparing other questions while you are busy talking about yourself. Don’t waste much time talking about some irrelevant stuffs that can end up having bored your interviewer and thus creating a bad first impression. So what to say then? Remember there are still plenty questions to follow after this and you won’t have the whole day to do dissertation of your life.

Briefly explain your educational and employment history, highlight your previous success whether at school or at your previous employer. Work through it chronologically from the furthest back to the present.

2. Why are you currently in the job market for a new position?

Normally an employer would ask you this question to find out your ambitions, it always a good idea not to mention money at this stage as people can think of you that you are just after money and nothing else, also don’t bad-mouth your previous employer.  If you are currently employed, the best words to say are: Developing your career, growth, exposure to certain aspects of your field, the right experience etc. If you were fired or retrenched, you should always prepare a solid explanation but don’t panic about that.

          3. What do you know about this company?

This is why it is always good to do your home work before the interview, speak to the people you think they know the company, if the company has a website or a social media account like Facebook, visit it, go to search engines like Google and type the name of the company and read some articles about them that can come up.do research on the internet.

Background checks will make you stand out as someone who comes prepared, and is genuinely interested in the company and the job. Don’t come at the interview you don’t even know the products or services that company deals with.

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

If you did a good background research plus your career objectives, you shouldn’t have a problem to answer this question. Point out what they do that match your career ambitions. Found out if they are a global company, whether they have been in news recently, all these can help you show them why you are interested to work for them.

5. What are your career ambitions? Or where are your career goals in the next three to five years?

In this question, the interviewer wants to know your long term ambitions and also wants to know if they align with what they are doing. nobody wants to employ somebody who can leave at any time again. Do your homework about that position beforehand. Tailor your answer to be appropriate for that particular position, try to explain how that position can be a stepping stone to your career goals.

6. What major challenges and problems did you face before? How did you handle them? 

When they ask you about a challenge, try to come up with a specific examples of how you handled a particular difficult situation. If you are a new graduate, you can give an example like: “When we were doing our final project, as we worked as a team, some team members were not fulfilling their responsibilities on time and thus pulling the whole project behind. I had to use some leadership skills to persuade everybody to come on board”.

7. What is your greatest strength?

I personally believe this is the easiest question you can ever get at an interview, it gives you the opportunity to shine but always remember the interviewer is looking for a work related strength. The best way to respond to this question is to describe the skills or experience that directly correlate with the job you are applying for. Mention a number of them such: “I get on well with people at all levels, adapt quickly to new skills and environment, I deliver to all the tasks assigned to me and can work well independently or as part of a team. I am reliable, punctual, hard working, willing and eager to learn new tasks or skills quickly”.

 Read also on student companion: How to write a great professional Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Read also on student companion: Free professional CV templates

          8. What is your greatest weakness?

Behold here! Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. This one I think is the most challenging one as you cannot betray yourself by exposing your weaknesses and at the same time you cannot say you don’t have any weakness as no one is perfect. A lie is not also allowed, So what to say without exposing yourself? The best way to tackle this question is to use some positive trait disguised as a negative one. You could say things like: “I’m a perfectionist”or “I usually like to triple-check something to make sure it’s done correctly, this can sometimes leads to wasting some valuable time”.

          9. How do you handle stressful situations and working under pressure?

It’s always good to portray positivity when you are answering this question as your perspective employer would like some body who can handle pressure and stress. Use some few examples from your previous employer or some stressful situation at school/university before the exam or when a deadline was approaching to hand in a project or an important assignment to show that you don’t panic in a stressful environment, you actually work well under pressure. List some few tips or tools that help you to keep your blood down, this like: Prioritizing my responsibilities so I have a clear idea of what needs to be done when, has helped me effectively manage pressure on the job. Or you could say you actually work better under stress as you enjoy a challenging environment.

          10. Explain in your own words how you understand the responsibilities of the position we are interviewing you for?

This is a time again when you have to do your home work, read carefully the position descriptions and responsibilities. Listen carefully if the interviewer will try to explain in details the job position he/she is interviewing for. Here they want to make sure you completely understand what would be the responsibilities or tasks of a person who is going to get that position. Try to reply accordingly and if you don’t understand some few things about that position, you can ask for some clarification.

     11. Have you ever had issues with any of your previous bosses or co-workers?

Be careful here the way you are going to answer this question as the interviewer might want to see if you are that kind of person who speaks badly about their previous boss or co-worker or find out also if you are a trouble maker. Try to be diplomatic here, you could say you never really have issues with your previous bosses or co-workers, that you had a good professional relationship. If there was trouble, think if it’s worth mentioning it here as they are not here to defend themselves. The interviewer will simply think that you are bad-mouthing them.

          12. Do you consider yourself successful? 

You could be diplomatic here as well, don’t say that you are successful, but you are very happy with your progress. You have set yourself some goals and you are on a path to achieve them. Don’t show as if you have reached the top height of your success. Tell them that this position will move you another step closer to your success. You must be an ambitious person.

13. Explain the gaps in your CV.

Here the interviewer is not really looking for some excuses why you were not employed as they might be reasons for this but the important thing here is to know what you have been doing while unemployed and whether that could be beneficial to the position they are interviewing you for. If for example you were studying some short courses, explain that you have learnt some new skills that are relevant to that job position. Maybe you traveled  to another country, show that you have learnt about diversity when you met so many new people with different backgrounds and cultures, this could be beneficial especially if it’s a big multinational company. With globalization, the world has become a small village, as an employee you might be dealing with many customers form different backgrounds, this could be a boost for you. Any thing you did while unemployed, whether just staying at home taking care of the children homework, just try to find something you have learnt during that period. It’s not all gloom!

14. Are you good at working in a team?

The answer here should be a big YES. Companies nowadays want to employ people who can work very well with others. Think for example about an engineering company involved in some big complex project, the success of this project will depend on how well different  people could work in harmony together as they could be different teams doing specifics tasks but depending with others teams. In engineering people work most of times in teams. Go further and tell them how you work well in a team, or you adapt quickly in new environment.

15. Why should we hire you?

Try to emphasize all your skills that are relevant to that position, highlight all your achievements that maybe you haven’t discussed yet. Show them that you are the best candidate and you will make a good employee. You will fit in easily and you will enjoy doing that job. Answers like I really need this job or I am really good won’t really help you here.

16. What salary are you looking at?

This is possibly another tricky question, it’s obvious that you are looking for as much as possible you could get but at the other hand your employer will try to offer as little as possible. Before you go to the interview, do your homework. Research how much people in your position in similar companies are getting paid. If in the advertisement of that position they gave some salary range, this can help you to know where to start with the negotiation. If they did not provide, try to ask them a salary range as you would’t want to ask small or very high then what they have prepared to offer. If you have the specific figure, go for it with confidence but show that you are flexible and open for discussions but if you want to avoid the question altogether, you could say that at the moment, you are looking to advance in your career and money isn’t your main motivator especially if you are a junior employee or a recent graduate with limited experience.

          17. Are you applying for other jobs?

If you are serious about changing your job or you are looking for your first job, it is possible that you apply for other positions, be honest tell them but don’t go into too much details. If they are really interested in you, they could see that you are in demand and they should accelerate their recruiting process so that they don’t risk losing you possibly to their competitors. If asked about names of who you have spoken to, it is absolutely legitimate to say you prefer not to disclose that information at this stage.

18. Have you ever had to bend the rules in order to achieve a goal?

Beware of this type of question! It is definitely a trap. At under no circumstances whatsoever is it necessary to break company policy to achieve something even if it’s for the benefit of the company. Resist the temptation to answer and give examples even if you think it might have been for a good cause, as what the interviewer is really looking for is to determine how ethical you are and if you will remain true to company policies. A company could be fined a lot of money and lose reputation if found guilty of unethical, uncompetitiveness behaviours or corruption.

          19. Are you willing to travel or relocate if necessary?

This is something you need to have very clear in your mind prior to the interview. You need to decide whether if necessary you could relocate to another province or even to another country as some big companies have branches in different places. There is no point in saying yes just to get the job if the real answer is actually no. Just be honest as this can save you problems arising in the future. If you don’t get the job it’s fine you can always apply for another position.

20. Do you have any questions?

At the end of the interview, once the interviewer has finished with his/her questions, he/she will probably ask you whether you have questions. If you did your home work, you could come prepared with a couple of questions that you can ask at the end if they don’t cover them during the interview. Or you could even pick up some questions during the interview. There are also some few general questions that could ask at this time like: “How soon can I start if I were to get the job?” or “How quickly they expect you to become productive?”, all these can help show that you have interest in the job.