popular interview questions

Winning answers to popular interview questions

winning-answers-to-popluar-interview-questionsThe start of the New Year often prompts many of us to consider our career options and start looking for our next role. If you have decided to move on and have been successful in the first stages of your job search, you may find yourself preparing for what might be your first interview for quite some time. Or maybe you are regularly being invited to interview but not making it to the next stage? Performing well at interview is crucial. Failing to do so will undoubtedly take you out of the running for the role.  Being prepared and well rehearsed is the first step to succeeding in an interview. Our career transition partner, Renovo shares their expert advice on how to tackle some of the most commonly asked interview questions.

#1: Tell me about yourself

What appears a harmless ice-breaker is actually a critical component of your interview. Your answer is often the first opportunity (after body language) to create a positive impression. The interviewer wants to hear you talk, so that they can assess you as a person and gauge how confident you are. They will not want to hear a 20 minute rambling life history or lots of irrelevant information about your interests, hobbies or personal life.

How to structure a great answer

Be concise and relevant. Aim for a few sentences and no longer than 5 to 6 minutes.  There are 5 key stages that you can include in your answer:

  • Skills – Find out in advance the key skills required for the job. Structure the first part of your response to match the skills and back up with evidence.
  • Background- Provide a brief snapshot of your career or background, focussing on the most recent. You could pick 2 examples of relevant achievements.
  • Personal Qualities – Include key personal qualities such as committed, hardworking, loyal, reliable, responsible, team player.
  • Aspirations- What are you looking for? State your aspirations and why the company AND industry is very attractive to you.

Remember, they are looking for where you can add value to the company, so sell yourself!

#2: What do you know about us?

This question can set the direction of your interview. This is your chance to demonstrate the skills you have. Too many interviewees make the fatal mistake of treating this question lightly. Giving a great answer will demonstrate your ability to research, prepare, analyse, understand business issues and communicate concisely.

To deliver a great answer you need to spend time preparing and spend it wisely. For each and every interview use the tips below to help you research. Use a range of sources to search for information (ie. Not just the company website), use reliable online news and trade press sources alongside social media.

  • Who is the company? – Consider location(s), structure, ownership, key dates, number of employees, turnover etc.
  • What do they do? – List and understand the products, services, industry they operate within.
  • Who are the clients? – Sectors they come from, examples of specific clients, understanding of why they buy.
  • Who do they compete with? – Company names, market share, anecdotes about how they compete.
  • What current news or economic issues affect the company? – Identify appropriate magazines/journals/newspapers and review company and industry news.
  • What key skills are needed? – As required by the company and the industry.
  • Who are the key people? – Leadership team, structure, hierarchy.
  • What is the culture? – Typical employee, demands of clients, style of work.

Researching the above thoroughly should give you a couple of pages of notes and will give you a great knowledge base to refer to throughout the interview. When asked “What do you know about us?”, remember the 4 critical components of a good answer:

  • Clarity
  • Conciseness
  • Structure
  • Logical flow

Stick to the above structure, pick the best points from your notes and practice delivering your answer in a maximum of 8 sentences.

#3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Be careful how you answer this question because if you give a specific goal which the interviewer knows the company cannot fulfil, they may be put off hiring you. Keep the answer open but demonstrate that you have ambition and that you will keep increasing your value to them. You could say something like ‘I would love to still be working for the company in a role that is rewarding and where I feel challenged.’

#4. What do you like and dislike about your current position?

This is asked to give the interviewer an indication on how suited you may be to the role on offer. Make sure that your likes correspond with the position you are applying for. A flaw in the ‘I enjoy everything’ answer is that it may be followed with the question ‘Why are you looking for another job then?’

Whendescribing dislikes try not to be too specific as this could help highlight your weaknesses to the interviewer. Highlight that you take problems and frustrations in your stride and as part of the job.

#5. What are your strengths?

The interviewer wants to know what you are good at and how you are going to add value to the company. What are your unique selling points?

Think of 2 or 3 strengths that are really important to the role that you are applying for and make sure you say why they are relevant to this role and relate them back to the job description.

#6. What are your weaknesses?

This is where the interviewer wants to know about your self-awareness and self-perception. Saying you have no weakness is the worst answer you can give in this situation and the interviewer may assume you are arrogant.

You need to highlight a weakness which can also be considered a strength. For example, ‘I get bored easily, however, to compensate for this I always ask for more work and ensure I always have something to do’.

Or identify a weakness that you had in the past and then describe what you did to overcome it and why you don’t consider it to be of importance.

#7. What is your reason for leaving your previous position?

If the real reason is that you cannot stand your boss or that you are paid a low salary, keep it to yourself. The interviewer is looking for a positive reason for moving forwards. Avoid being negative about your previous employer and reasons for leaving. Say that you are simply looking for new challenges and progression.

If you have been made redundant, be honest, there is no stigma attached to this and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

#8. Describe a difficult situation you have been faced with and how you tackled it.

The interviewer is trying to establish your approach to problem solving. Be careful, ensure you do not use a situation caused by you.

Define the problem, what action you took and the outcome (choose a situation with a positive outcome).

The interviewer is also trying to find out what you consider to be a difficult situation/challenge so think carefully about the example that you want to pick.

#9. What attracted you to apply for this position?

Try not to waffle about challenges and prospects but talk in terms of benefits to them. The interviewer also wants to know how much research you have done about the company and the role you have applied for. Make sure you have a good understanding about the role and organisation and describe the areas that interest you most. The employer wants to know why this job suits you.

#10. Why should I hire you?

In other words, what can you do that other candidates can’t? Your answer should be short and to the point. Try to relate your answer to current problems and needs within the company.

Taking the time to prepare intelligently and thoroughly before your interview will ensure you perform well on the day. You will need to be able to not only articulate your skills and experience but also sell yourself through your achievements, behaviours and attitudes. Role playing or practicing your answers out loud, really will improve how effectively and convincingly you answer questions on the day.  The interview is where you will win or lose the role, so make sure you are ready to go in there and shine. Remember the 5 Ps – Proper preparation Prevents Poor Performance!

Renovo is one of the UK’s leading providers of outplacement and career transition support. We work with both organisations and individuals to support all their career transition requirements. If you would like to understand how Renovo can help you please call 0800 612 2011 or email info@renovo.uk.com