Top 10 Interview Questions

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Focus on your CV and the job description when answering this question. If you haven’t mentioned your work history this is the ideal time to do it. If you are unsure where to start you could ask, “Is there a particular aspect of my background that would be most relevant to you?” This will enable the interviewer to help you find the appropriate focus and avoid discussing irrelevancies.

Whichever direction your answer ultimately takes, be sure that it has some relevance to the world of your professional endeavours. The tale you tell should demonstrate, or refer to, one or more of your key behavioural profiles in action – perhaps honesty, integrity, being a team player, or determination. If you choose “team player” (maybe you’re the star player at first base on a community team), you can tell a story about yourself outside of work that also speaks volumes about you at work.

In part, your answer should make the connection between the two, such as, “I put my heart into everything I do, whether it be sports or work. I find that getting along with team-mates – or professional peers – makes life more enjoyable and productive.”

Or you might describe yourself as someone who is able to communicate with a variety of people, and give an example from your personal life that indicates an ability to communicate that would also apply at work. This isn’t a question that you can answer effectively off the cuff. Take some time in advance to think about yourself, and those aspects of your personality and/or background that you’d like to promote or feature for your interviewer.

  1. “Why do you want this position?”

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. Don’t forget to mention what you can bring to the company also.

  1. “Why are you the best person for this job?”

Your answer will be short and to the point. It will highlight areas from your background that relate to current needs and problems. Recap the interviewer’s description of the job, meeting it point by point with your skills. Finish your answer with something like: “I have the qualifications you need [itemise them], I’m a team player, I take direction, and I have the desire to be thoroughly successful.”

  1. “What, do you feel, has been your greatest work related accomplishment?”

Keep your answers job related. If you exaggerate contributions to major projects, you will be accused of suffering from “coffee-machine syndrome,” the affliction of a junior clerk who claimed success for an Apollo space mission based on his relationships with certain scientists, established at the coffee machine. You might begin your reply with: “Although I feel my biggest achievements are still ahead of me, I am proud of my involvement with . . . I made my contribution as part of that team and learned a lot in the process. We did it with hard work, concentration, and an eye for the bottom line.”

  1. “What is your greatest strength?”

Pick a skill or trait that either the company values highly or the job description mentions as important. Focus on giving a good example of how this is your greatest strength and then draw attention to how this strength can help the company. Using creativity as your greatest strength for a design jobs will only work if the company wants creativity and you have a portfolio to show of your creativeness.

  1. “What is the toughest problem you’ve had to face, and how did you overcome it?”

The question looks for information on two fronts: How do you define difficult? and, what was your handling of the situation? You must have a story ready for this one in which the situation both was tough and allowed you to show yourself in a good light.

Avoid talking about problems that have to do with co-workers. You can talk about the difficult decision to fire someone, but emphasise that once you had examined the problem and reached a conclusion you acted quickly and professionally, with the best interests of the company at heart.

“What are some of the things that bother you?” “What are your pet hates?” “Tell me about the last time you felt anger on the job.” These questions are so similar that they can be treated as one. It is tremendously important that you show you can remain calm. Most of us have seen a colleague lose his or her cool on occasion – not a pretty sight and one that every sensible employer wants to avoid.

This question comes up more and more often the higher up the corporate ladder you climb, and the more frequent your contact with clients and the general public. To answer it, find something that angers conscientious workers. “I enjoy my work and believe in giving value to my employer. Dealing with clock-watchers and the ones who regularly get sick on Mondays and Fridays really bothers me, but it’s not something that gets me angry or anything like that.” An answer of this nature will help you much more than the kind given by a California engineer, who went on for some minutes about how he hated the small-mindedness of people who don’t like pet rabbits in the office.

  1. “What did you like/dislike about your last job?”

The interviewer is looking for incompatibilities. If a trial lawyer says he or she dislikes arguing a point with colleagues, such a statement will only weaken – if not immediately – destroy his or her candidacy. Most interviews start with a preamble by the interviewer about the company. Pay attention: That information will help you answer the question. In fact, any statement the interviewer makes about the job or corporation can be used to your advantage.

So, in answer, you liked everything about your last job. You might even say your company taught you the importance of certain attributes from the business, achievement, or professional profile. Criticising a prior employer is a warning flag that you could be a problem employee. No one intentionally hires trouble, and that’s what’s behind the question.

Keep your answer short and positive. You are allowed only one negative about past employers, and only then if your interviewer has a “hot button” about his or her department or company; if so, you will have written it down on your notepad. For example, the only thing your past employer could not offer might be something like “the ability to contribute more in different areas in the smaller environment you have here.” You might continue with, “I really liked everything about the job. The reason I want to leave is to find a position where I can make a greater contribution. You see, I work for a large company that encourages specialisation of skills. The smaller environment you have here will, as I said, allows me to contribute far more in different areas.”

Tell them what they want to hear – replay the hot button. Of course, if you interview with a large company, turn it around. “I work for a small company and don’t get the time to specialise in one or two major areas.”

  1. “What type of management style do you feel comfortable work with?”

Whether interviewing for a management position or lower level this is an important question for the interviewer to understand how you work. Open door policy, team player with the ability to work alone and quick learner are important words here but it is important to know what way the company manage their staff. You can determine this through the image of the company brand and how people talk about the company on and offline. Understanding the management culture of the company and, if possible, the culture of the department you are interviewing for will allow you to recognise the management culture within the company leading to a better comprehension for if you want the position.

  1. “Do you have many interests outside work?”

This is a nice question to allow interviewees to describe their likes and hobbies for the interviewer to decide if you will fit the culture of the company. Mentioning upskilling to a company who put emphasis on training and development or stating your fondness for team sport to a highly motivated sales team can be the icing on the cake but to understand what answer to give you must listen to the interviewer’s description of the company and try and relate your interests to the role advertised.

  1. “What would you like to be doing five years from now?”

The safest answer contains a desire to be regarded as a true professional and team player. As far as promotion, that depends on finding a manager with whom you can grow. Of course, you will ask what opportunities exist within the company before being any more specific: “From my research and what you have told me about the growth here, it seems operations is where the heavy emphasis is going to be. It seems that’s where you need the effort and where I could contribute toward the company’s goals.” Or, “I have always felt that first-hand knowledge and experience open up opportunities that one might never have considered, so while at this point in time I plan to be a part of [e.g.] operations, it is reasonable to expect that other exciting opportunities will crop up in the meantime.”