Common interview questions and how to tackle them

By Hannah Kingston

Wednesday September 9, 2020

job-interview

The average interview lasts somewhere between 15 to 90 minutes depending on the medium through which it is held and the stage of the interview process. Ahead of your interview, there is no way to know exactly which interview questions are going to come up.

The questions will depend on the role you have applied for, the position of the person asking them (for example, are they your potential direct manager or are they doing the pre-screening?) and your experience.

It may surprise you to hear that 60% of people spend less than four hours preparing for a job interview which when you think about it, is a very short amount of time considering that your professional future is at stake.

Interview preparation should include in-depth research of the company, a close read of your resume and cover letter and preparing how you would tailor potential interview questions to the specific people you will be speaking with.

Here are some common interview questions and how to tackle them:

  • How did you hear about us?
  • Tell me a bit about yourself
  • Talk me through your resume 
  • Tell me what you know about the company 
  • What specifically attracted you to the company?
  • Tell me why you would like to work for us
  • What do you think you could bring to the company?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • Describe how you would tackle X project 
  • What motivates you?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What are your greatest weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your broader career goals?
  • Tell me about a project you are proud of
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake
  • Can you describe a time when you overcame a challenge?
  • Can you provide examples of projects that you have completed that are in line with the role you have applied for?
  • What do you think makes you stand out from all of the other candidates?
  • What are your salary expectations for this role?
  • Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like to add?
  • Do you have any questions for me/us?

Warming up interview questions 

Whether you feel confident or nervous going into an interview, the initial ten minutes can always be challenging – especially if you are asked a broad question like “tell me a bit about yourself”, often you won’t know where to start. It’s a good idea to practice these questions with a friend or family member. Remember that you have an allocated amount of time to impress your interviewer so try to stay on focus, connect your skills and personality to the role from the get-go and you will be on the right track.

  • How did you hear about us?
  • Tell me a bit about yourself
  • Talk me through your resume 

Did you do the research? interview questions 

It’s very unlikely that you are going to get through an interview without being asked anything about the company or organization. If you are truly interested in working with or for the person you’re speaking with, you will put the time and effort in ahead of the interview. You don’t want an awkward moment in which it is very obvious that you know nothing about the organization that you are claiming you want to work for. Do the research and it will pay dividends.

  • Tell me what you know about the company 
  • What specifically attracted you to the company?
  • Tell me why you would like to work for us
  • What do you think you could bring to the company?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • Describe how you would tackle X project 

man-doing-a-zoom-interview

Getting to know you interview questions

The getting to know you questions allow for you to loosen up a little and show off your personality. During this phase of the interview, the hiring manager is likely trying to visualize how you would fit in with the rest of the team or department. It also gives them a chance to identify if you have a natural passion or flair for the role you are applying for. Of course, it’s still an interview, for a specific role that you would like to secure so showcase who you are but highlight how it relates to the job you would like. Even if you don’t know exactly what you will be doing in five years, it’s good to jot down a rough idea as it illustrates that you have goals that motivate you.

  • What motivates you?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What are your greatest weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your broader career goals?

Experience and skill set interview questions 

Experience and skill set questions are important for the interviewer. While you don’t yet have an in-depth knowledge into the organization’s broader goals or what your personal KPIs will be, they need to know that you have both the know-how and oftentimes, the proven experience to hit the ground running in your new role. Ahead of the interview, you need to look back and identify concrete examples of successes, challenges and examples of previous experience that show you are the right person for the job, if you have the data to back it up, even better.

  • Tell me about a project you are proud of
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake
  • Can you describe a time when you overcame a challenge?
  • Can you provide examples of projects that you have completed that are in line with the role you have applied for?
  • What do you think makes you stand out from all of the other candidates?

woman-at-a-group-interview

Off the cuff interview questions

Off the cuff questions like why you’re leaving your previous role, gaps on your CV or your relationship with a previous boss can be tricky to answer. It could be the first time that you have been asked this question, and it may throw you sideways. You know the real reasons behind the aforementioned examples, but you need to be able to answer them without missing a beat with a potential employer. Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t bad mouth anyone during the interview or it won’t reflect well on your character.

  • Why are you leaving your current role?
  • If I requested a reference, what do you think your previous employer would say about you?
  • What would you like to achieve in the first three months of working here?
  • If you could be the CEO of any new product, what would it be?
  • Why was there a gap in your employment between X and Y?

Closing scenes interview questions

No one enjoys the money question, but you need to be honest with your expectations. Don’t quote a salary that’s way more than you expect to receive in the hope that you will get what you would actually like, and don’t go below industry average in the hope that this will somehow make you the preferred candidate. Do quote what you would like and what is expected of the industry. When it comes to asking questions, make sure that you ask meaningful questions that you really would like insight on. You may be feeling tired by the end of an interview but you want to reinforce the fact that you are interested in the role. If you have no questions to ask at all, then tell your interviewer that all of your questions were answered in the course of the interview but if you have any further questions, you will get in touch.

  • What are your salary expectations for this role?
  • Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like to add?
  • Do you have any questions for me/us?

Read now: Ten simple yet effective ways to make your CV stand out

Read now: Five ways to beat imposter syndrome at work 

Which interview questions have you loved and loathed in your experience? Comment below! 

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