Those Pesky Interview Questions

Congratulations! You’ve been invited for a job interview! But you are now close to panic because you haven’t been to an interview for years, what if they see how nervous you are, what if they ask you about the career gap on your CV, what if they ask you what hours you want to work and it’s not right?

The trick to calm those nerves, and to perform best at the interview is to prepare well. Check out our other blogs on Preparing For The Interview and Nailing The Interview which will help. But how do you answer those tricky questions?

Here are some commonly asked interview questions and how to answer them.

1.       What do you know about us?

This is really “have you done your research?” and if you have you have nothing to worry about. Just answer in a methodical way putting more emphasis on the present and recent history than the distant past.

2.       Tell us about yourself.

A pretty common question and usually one of the first as the interviewer tries to build up an understanding of you and start a discussion. Keep it relevant and when preparing your answer think about the company values and how they relate to you. Remember that this is not small talk and don’t start answering this question with when and where you were born.

3.       Why do you want to work for us?

In many ways this is similar to “What do you know about us?” and is again an opportunity to demonstrate that you have done your research. Keep your answer focused on what you know about the company and the role and how that relates to your strengths, your experience and what you enjoy doing.

4.       What are your salary expectations?

If you are working with a recruiter they should have already communicated your expectations and it is probably worth checking with them so that there is consistency in the number. Usually, it is best to give a fairly broad range (e.g. a full-time equivalent salary of £30,000 - £33,000pa), just make sure it is within their budget (check the job ad or with your recruiter) and be prepared to justify your answer.

5.       Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Most of the time the interviewer is assessing your level of ambition, just remember that not all jobs are suited to highly ambitious “I want your job” types. Simply put, answer this question honestly and in a way that shows that whatever your plans are they are with the company you are interviewing with.

6.       Why is there a career gap in your CV?

Don’t ever feel bad, or apologise, for having a gap on your CV. Most gaps are created by choice or through circumstance such as redundancy so be honest and keep your answer relatively short. For example - “I made the decision to be a full-time parent for 3 years. My son/daughter has now started pre-school and I want to return to work”.

7.       What are your strengths/weaknesses?

Strengths is an easy question to answer, just put some thought into which of your strengths are most relevant to this job and company.

The weaknesses question is not a trap so don’t panic and avoid the back-handed compliment, saying “I’m a perfectionist” will not impress. It is simply to see how self-aware you are – do you know what your weaknesses are and are you doing something about them. E.g. “I find it hard to say no, so end up with too many things on my plate but I am learning to say no and focus on the more important tasks and enjoy the extra time saying no has given me”.

 8.       What motivates you?

Again, not a trick question. If you are in sales and you are motivated by money and recognition, say so. If you are in accounting and it is getting the job done right the first time, say so. Don’t be afraid to give your personal motivations either such as being a role model for your children, but as always relate your answer to the job.

9.       How do you manage stress?

This question is becoming more common as more people and companies start to understand the importance of wellness. Again, just be honest. It doesn’t matter if it is yoga, meditation, time with friends, marathon running or sky-diving, the important thing is to show that you have a mechanism to actively manage and reduce stress.

10.   Is there anything you would like to ask me?

Yes! This is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself and many of the hiring managers we work with place as much value on the questions you ask as the answers you give so make sure you prepare some great ones. Where possible, relate your questions back to your research or what has been discussed in interview. Generally speaking, avoid questions around salary, working hours and benefits until the final interview as this will give the wrong message.

Clearly these aren’t the only questions you will be asked but put some time in to preparing your answers to these and you will increase the chances of impressing at interview. Good luck!

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