Knowledge Centre for recruitment

Preparing for Questions Asked at Interview

Although it might sound strange practicing aloud is also useful – it sort of exercises the muscles. Get your partner or friends to ask you interview questions from time to time when you are doing something together. It will be good practice and might even be fun.

To give you a head start I have outlined some of the questions that might come your way. Make sure to listen to the question carefully, as many interviewers are very concerned that the candidate answers the question asked.

1. General Background

  • Tell me about your career to date: this is an easy and obvious one. It is easy, however to get caught into a long rambling life history. Identify the key steps along the way drawing attention to those things that are relevant to the job or company that you are applying to. There are variations, what are the key steps that led you to where you are today; give me the highlights of your career which are relevant to this job…
  • What made you decide that you wanted to be an xxx?: this should be an easy question – what made you decide that you wanted to be an xxx? The only comment would be to focus on the positive reasons and not the fact that other options were not available …
  • Why did you apply for this job?: an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that you have done some research into the company. You should try to cover both halves of the question – why the particular job/job category and why their company in particular. Whilst you will be expected to have thought about their company and have some things about it and its job that have special appeal you will not have to say (unless it is true) that this is the only company for you.
  • How many other jobs have your applied for?: if this is the only one say so but also explain that you are serious about a move. If you have been looking elsewhere this is also legitimate – but you should try to avoid the sense of being desperate or unhappy where you are

2. Motivational Questions

  • Why do you want to leave your current job?: a crucial question. As an interviewer I never ceased to be surprised by what people said here and how they could get caught up in the ‘tale of woe’. Keep yourself professional at all times. Talk about enjoying your current role but looking for more challenge, a different location, something new. If you are leaving due to a significant issue think very carefully about how you explain it and do not get drawn into saying more than you intended. Be honest but not self indulgent.
  • What do you like most about your current job?: What do you like least? What gets you up in the morning? What frustrates you? There is a whole series of this sort of question. The normal approach is to ask the positive and then the negative so think about both. The different versions are subtly different so shape your answer around the specific one asked. On the negative one make sure you have a follow up to how you ‘manage’ it and it does not get in the way of your effectiveness. For example ‘the thing I dislike the most is having to do routine paperwork’ [be ready with an example of what this is] and ‘so I have therefore got into the routine of doing it for the last 30 minutes every Friday evening just before going home, its my sort of permission to enjoy the weekend task!’

3. Questions about you

  • You will rarely get through an interview without one of these.
  • The normal type is ‘what would you describe as your 3 main strengths’ followed by ‘and one main weakness’. If I were to ask your boss, colleagues, team members to describe you what would they say?... Usually with this one it is good to volunteer a ‘soft’ negative. They would say xyz (all positive) and if they were moaning about me they would say that under x circumstances I can sometimes be x. You may as well beat them to the negative and it shows self awareness.
  • My favourite is what do you like about yourself – 3 things. And one thing you would change.
  • If someone asks it in a way that is unusual it is OK to say that you had not thought of it in that way before and to take a minute.

4. Capability questions

  • These can be technical or professional – give me examples of xyz that you have done. Be prepared for these. Think about the key areas of the job and examples to demonstrate capability in each of them
  • Best Interview Practice is to ask people to describe things they have done. So things like: give me an example of when you had to solve a difficult problem; tell me about a time you had to persuade someone to do something they did not want to do; tell me about something that you have done to improve efficiency, reduce cost; tell me about a time you felt strongly about something but you boss would not support you; tell me about the worst decision you have made.
  • Don’t forget for the negative ones slip in something about learning from the experience, sorting it out in the end etc.
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