Interview Preparation: Frequently Asked Questions
- What do you know about the company?
This is your chance to shine. The more knowledge you have about the company, the better. Focus on details that will relate to your skills, knowledge and qualifications.
Here are some ideas:
- How long has the company been established?
- How many branches do they have?
- What size is the company?
- What’s their growth pattern been like?
- Who are their main competitors?
- What are the names of chief executives, MDs etc?
- What is the ethos of the company?
- How successful is the company? Any major achievements?
- General reputation of the company?
- Is the company publicly or privately owned?
- Why should we employ you?
Base your answer on your previous experience and skills, you can add that there’s a good fit between you and your job. Explain what you can bring to the company.
- How would you describe yourself?
Don’t be modest, be positive. State your attributes and achievements and always relate it back to the job specifications and company ethos.
- Why did you choose this career?
If you have changed careers, make a logical argument as to why you did so. If you are just starting out give a solid answer to why you chose your career path which shows your motivation and interest in the profession.
- What qualities do you think will be required for this job?
Think outside the box. While the advertisement may help a little, you should also think of the other qualities that may be required. These include leadership ability, supervisory skills, communication skills and problem solving.
- What do you find most attractive/least attractive about this job?
List three strong attractions and only give one minor unattractive factor. Shift the emphasis away from the negative.
- What do you think you could bring to this role?
Find a quality unique to you. The interviewer is looking for what you have to offer that would make you the best person for the position.
- What did you think of your previous manager(s)?
This question shows your attitude to several matters. Never speak negatively of anyone and show how that person helped you in your career.
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Employers know you’re not going to stay in the same position forever so have a goal for the future. Don’t undersell yourself; be realistic and ambitious.
- What is your greatest weakness?
Be careful with this one. Most interview guides will tell you to answer it with a positive trait disguised as a weakness. For example, “I tend to expect others to work as hard as I do,” or “I’m a bit of a perfectionist.” Interviewers have heard these “canned” answers over and over again. To stand out, be more original and state a true weakness, but then emphasize what you’ve done to overcome it. For example: “I’ve had trouble delegating duties to others because I felt I could do things better myself. This has sometimes backfired because I’d end up with more than I could handle and the quality of my work would suffer. But I’ve taken courses in time management and learned effective delegation techniques, and I feel I’ve overcome this weakness.”
IMPORTANT: Be sure the weakness you talk about is NOT a key element of the position!
- How do you handle stressful situations?
Give some examples of stressful situations you’ve dealt with in the past. Tell how you use time management, problem-solving or decision-making skills to reduce stress. For example, mention that making a “to-do” list helps. Cite stress-reducing techniques such as stretching and taking a break. Don’t be afraid to admit that you will ask for assistance if you are feeling overwhelmed. If it’s true, say you actually work better under pressure.
- Have you ever had to discipline a problem employee? If so, how did you handle it?
This is a likely question if the position for which you are applying requires supervisory duties. Explain how you used problem-solving skills, listening skills, and coaching skills to help the employee. If those techniques turned the employee around, be sure to say so. If those techniques failed, tell how you followed the company’s policies and what the end result was.
- Why do you want this position?
Here’s where your research about the company will help you stand out among the other candidates. Explain how you’ve always wanted the opportunity to work with a company that… provides a vital public service, leads the industry in innovative products, whatever…
Find something specific about that company that you can tie in with your answer. Explain how your qualifications and goals complement the company’s mission, vision and values (use specific examples). If you are applying for a position in a company for which you already work, explain how you’ll be able to apply and expand on the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from your current position, and will be able to increase your contributions and value to the company through your new responsibilities.
- Why do you want to work here?
To answer this question, you must have researched the company and built a dossier. Reply with the company’s attributes as you see them. Cap your answer with reference to your belief that the company can provide you with a stable and happy work environment – the company has that reputation, and that such an atmosphere would encourage your best work.
“I’m not looking for just another paycheck. I enjoy my work and am proud of my profession. Your company produces a superior product/provides a superior service. I share the values that make this possible, which should enable me to fit in and complement the team.”
- Can you work under pressure?
You might be tempted to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but don’t. It reveals nothing, and you lose the opportunity to sell your skills and value profiles. Actually, this common question often comes from an unskilled interviewer, because it is closed-ended. As such, the question does not give you the chance to elaborate. Whenever you are asked a closed-ended question, mentally add: “Please give me a brief yet comprehensive answer.” Do that, and you will give the information requested and seize an opportunity to sell yourself. For example, you could say: “Yes, I usually find it stimulating. However, I believe in planning and proper management of my time to reduce panic deadlines within my area of responsibility.”
- Why should I hire you?
Highlight your competency fit for the position, your cultural fit to the company and motivational fit in your career. Make sense the interviewer knows what you can bring to the company but keep your answer short and sweet.
- How do you take direction?
The interviewer wants to know whether you are open minded and can be a team player. Can you follow directions or are you a difficult, high-maintenance employee? Hopefully, you are a low-maintenance professional who is motivated to ask clarifying questions about a project before beginning, and who then gets on with the job at hand, coming back to initiate requests for direction as circumstances dictate.
This particular question can also be defined as “How do you take direction?” and “How do you accept criticism?” Your answer should cover both points: “I take direction well and recognise that it can come in two varieties, depending on the circumstances. There is carefully explained direction, when my boss has time to lay things out for me in detail; then there are those times when, as a result of deadlines and other pressures, the direction might be brief and to the point. While I have seen some people get upset with that, personally I’ve always understood that there are probably other considerations I am not aware of. As such, I take the direction and get on with the job without taking offence, so my boss can get on with his/her job.”
- Do you prefer working with others or alone?
This question is usually used to determine whether you are a team player. Before answering, however, be sure you know whether the job requires you to work alone. Then answer appropriately. Perhaps: “I’m quite happy working alone when necessary. I don’t need much constant reassurance. But I prefer to work in a group – so much more gets achieved when people pull together.”
Do you have any other questions?
Yes! Have questions prepared. This shows your interest in the position. Don’t ask any questions that were already answered during the interview as this demonstrates a lack of attention.
Possible Questions to Ask:
•When will the hiring decision be made?
•Would I be working as part of a team or on my own?
•Do career opportunities exist within the company?
•What are the characteristics of employees that excel in this position or similar positions?
•How is employee performance evaluated? How often is it evaluated?