The key to nailing an interview is research, and not just researching the company you have applied to. It is about knowing your own résumé inside-out, understanding how you represent a package of skills and experience, and relating these details to the core values and profile of the company that you want to work for. Before we get into a strategy for answering the most frequently asked interview questions, it’s imperative that you ensure that your appearance and demeanour will make an instant, and lasting, positive impression in the minds of your interviewers.
With that stage of prep taken care of, the three key letters you need to focus on now are F, A and Q. The success of many interviews can often depend on how well you answer the most Frequently Asked interview Questions
There are numerous common questions that crop up time and time again in interviews. Occasionally you will be blindsided, but that is why it is crucially important that you use your own résumé as a means of fortifying your own self-worth, and of being positive, pleasant and confident at all times. Give satisfactory answers to any or all of the following 15 most frequently asked interview questions, and you will certainly make your interviewer sit up and take notice. Good luck to all those preparing for interviews at this time.
1. Tell me about yourself
Never mistake this question as a soft one to allow you to settle into the interview. Every question you will hear over the next while is loaded, and even in this one, preparation will assist you greatly. They don’t want to hear a bland, potted version of your history. They want to get an idea of your communication style, and whether you are able to pitch your core professional values and skillset in a manner that tallies with their business’s needs. Study your company research, and your résumé, with the utmost care, and join the dots between what you have to offer, and what they need.
2. What are your strengths / weaknesses?
Like many of the most frequently asked interview questions, this one should not be taken for granted. Either answer offers you the opportunity to either impress or underwhelm, so be prepared. For strengths, they’re looking for skills relevant and desirable to their business, as well as confidence and self-assurance, but not arrogance. With weaknesses, they want to know about your inner strength, how you can turn negatives into a positive, with a practical demonstration as to how you achieved it. Think about things that irk bosses—missing deadlines, shoddy timekeeping, lack of attention to detail—and think of a simple story from the past demonstrating how you improved on one of these undesirables and learnt from it.
3. Why did you apply for this role?
Again, your answer to this question should be based on your investigations into the company’s background. Essentially, you are being asked, what do you think you have to offer this business? Think about your long-term wishes and ambitions, and about your career progression to date, and sincerely outline how your specific skills and experience make you a good fit for them.
4. How familiar are you with our company?
Find out about the company’s history—here is what you should be looking for: How long have they been in existence; have they always been based in their current location? If not, why? Research business news to find out anything noteworthy involving the company. Have they won any awards, and if so, do they relate to the company’s core values or ethos? Who are the most high profile members of the organisation, and what do they do, and what have been their major accomplishments.
5. What would you hope to accomplish in your first 100 days?
This question drills deeper than number 3. It may be a frequently asked interview question, but it’s no filler. You cannot bluff it, and you will be leaning on your research, as you will be relating specific skills to as specific tasks required from the vacant role as you have been unable to discover.
6. Why is there a gap in your employment dates?
Although there may be a negative reason for this gap, it is vital that you stay positive. If you have had to leave a previous position because of a personality clash with a colleague or a boss, never speak ill of the organisation or any individual within it. There is no way that you will emerge looking good from trashing colleagues, even past ones. Always choose positive reasons such as taking time to search for a new opportunity, for example.
7. What are your salary expectations?
While it’s advisable not to show your hand too early, particularly in the first interview, this question can be quite loaded and possibly a test to see how well you handle difficult questions. The best approach here is to be polite and find some way of turning the question back to the interviewer, asking whether the company has a range for the role advertised. That may get you an answer, but if it does not, say it would depend on the company’s expectations for the role, and give a wide salary range..
8. What achievement are you proudest of?
It’s questions like this where you will find the payoff for careful research of your own résumé. Make sure you have chosen a good accomplishment from your personal history to put to them, and briefly describe the circumstances. This can range from a specific project, to a suggestion that you made to a superior that was a successful one. If any of this relates to the specific job you’ve applied for, you will be on solid ground here.
9. What would your present boss tell us about you that could be improved?
Simply a test to see if you will speak ill of your present or most recent employer. Please do not fall into this trap. If you do, you could very well blow the entire interview. Always stay positive, and emphasise your skills and your achievements, and say that you would be surprised to hear if your boss was dissatisfied with any aspect of your performance.
10. What’s the most difficult situation you’ve ever encountered?
Again, don’t fall into the trap of being negative. You must think and express yourself positively. Think of a specific incident that you’ve encountered with a colleague or a superior and discuss how your solved the problem, detailing that part of the process, rather than the difficulty itself.
11. How would you fire someone?
Firing someone—which is not the same as laying them off, or including them in a round of redundancy—is the most difficult thing that any employer will have to do. However, there are times when it is the right thing to do, for the sake of the business. Show to the interviewer that you take this question with all seriousness.
This is serious. Do not make light of it or in any way seem like you like to fire people. At the same time, you will do it when it is the right thing to do. When it comes to the organization versus the individual who has created a harmful situation, you will protect the organization. Remember firing is not the same as layoff or reduction in force.
12. What was the last book you read that deeply impacted on you?
Choose a book that is likely to tally with the values expressed in the company’s mission statement and its track record. Do not bluff. But everyone has read something, whether books or a magazine article that has affected them in a profound way. Relating it to the company is an advantage, but don’t be dishonest.
13. Who is your business role model in business?
Here is a golden opportunity for you to either reference a specific mentor—a mentor/mentee relationship is respected and admired by interviewers and employers—or famous person whose values and achievements tally with those of the company that you’re seeking to join. Don’t stray too far from those values, because it could signal that you might not be happy working there.
14. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Do not pick the lazy or flippant option, and say at the job you’re applying for! What you’re looking for here is an answer that is a logical extension of your career path, while also referencing the core values of the firm you’re applying to. Best bet is to go for something generic but with certain magical key words, like “Working in a job where I’m fulfilled, challenged and happy.”
15. Do you have any questions for me?
This is the most obvious question of all. There are scores of questions that you could ask. Here is a handy list of just 10 of the best that you could put to them. Always ask at least one, and be alert for opportunities to ask supplementary questions, depending on the answer.
If you repeatedly nail this list of most frequently asked interview questions in your own time, until you can answer them instinctively. But it’s true that with your research done, you may well still be nervous. If so, kick back and enjoy this lovely TED Talk by Anna Post on the etiquette of job interviews.
In it, she briefly discusses the simple things, behaviours and etiquette, that can needlessly destroy the golden opportunity of the interview. Here is her big take away, and you should emboss it on your brain.
Frankly none of these things should be a reason that you don’t get a job, for which you have skills and experience and qualifications to do.