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Not every job interview will be the same or follow a set format, although there are some frequent questions that pop up time and time again. Here are our top five most asked interview questions and some tips to help you answer them appropriately.
1) Why do you want this job?
This question is bound to come up in your interview. A common misconception that most candidates have is to tell the interviewer why they have applied for the job such as: salary, location, training, benefits and personal development. Candidates should really utilise this question and see it as an opportunity not only to explain why they want the job but to clarify why they have the appropriate attributes and skills required to do the job.
Four examples of ways to answer the question:
- What is it that you like about the company? (Culture, Beliefs, Values, Mission): I think NRL is a great company; I admire how their values revolve around nurturing success and I was impressed to learn about the culture-fit policy they have in place when recruiting candidates. That’s the sort of recruitment company I’d like to be in, one that not only focuses on the client but also cares about the candidates they place.
- Describe the challenges of the role to emphasize that you’re aware of them: I recognise that the recruitment industry has always suffered from high staff turnover and I know you’re looking for someone who wants to progress and develop their career long term within the company
- Tell them what makes you tick, highlights of your recent career and what challenges in particular you have enjoyed overcoming: I am a people person and in my previous job working at a retail shop I really enjoyed talking to customers, helping them find things and offering advice when needed.
- Think about reasons why the company might not want to hire you and counter their arguments: I know I haven’t had a career in recruitment before but I do have transferable skills from my experience of working in retail which I think would be beneficial for and applicable to this role.
2) Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?
This question is often asked as a way to find out more about your career goals and ambitions. It is always important to remember that you are being interviewed for a specific role. The reason why interviewers care and want to know about your career goals is because they want to hire someone who is motivated, proactive and likely to stick around and work hard if hired. As such it is important that you highlight that you do have a solid career plan and know what you want to do. In your response you should think about making it clear that you understand what the position you’re applying for entails and outline how you’d define success as an employee.
A few tips to bear in mind when answering this question:
- Be ambitious but remain realistic – It’s good to be ambitious when it comes to your career but be careful not to be too eager when talking about your career progression in an interview scenario. Responding to this question in a humorous manner by saying something like ‘in your chair’ may seem like a good tongue-in-cheek answer but to some interviewers this may come across as arrogant.
- Focus on your professional development – Unless the interviewer specifically asks you to comment on your personal ambitions don’t bring them up. Focus on your professional development and try to remain realistic in terms of how quickly you plan to progress through the ranks. After all, some interviewers could be intimidated by the fact that your career ambitions may negatively impact on their own.
- Be specific but flexible – Try to steer clear from making your answer sound too vague. The interviewer wants to know how you see their role fitting in with your overall career plan and your response should encompass how the position is important to you as part of your long-term strategy.
- Emphasise your value – Although this question may seem like it is probing your career goals and ambitions it is also a good opportunity to emphasise what you can bring to the role. Your potential employer will want to hear how you can make a marked difference to their company, help to secure and add to its reputation as a leader within its industry and contribute to the company’s overall growth and success.
3) What are your strengths?
This question is often asked at interview to determine what assets you as the candidate have that will help you to succeed in the role you’re applying for. Even if the interviewer doesn’t directly ask you this question you must be able to answer it in order to be considered for the job. The key when answering questions about your strengths as an employee is to describe the skills and experience that you have gained using examples that directly correlate with the position you are interviewing for.
Utilise the following points to help you prepare your answer:
- Know your strengths – Most jobseekers don’t know what their strengths are because they don’t take the time to properly evaluate them. Start by writing a list of your key strengths and then narrow the list down by focusing on those that you’re comfortable talking about. Think about what will set you apart from other candidates and be sure to prepare some examples that are relative to the position that will illustrate each of your strengths.
- Believe in yourself – In most cases candidates don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves and articulating what it is that their good at. Preparation is the key to overcoming this problem. Ask a trusted friend or colleague what they think your greatest strengths are as this will help you to build your confidence and will reassert where your strengths are. It can be hard to sell your skills in an interview especially if you’re introverted. Practice in advance by recording yourself and playing it back, standing in front of a mirror or talking in front of your family and friends. These tips will help you to get over any hesitations you may have and will make you feel more comfortable when it comes to talking about your skills and abilities.
- Be unique – One of the main points of a job interview from an employer’s point of view is to understand more about what you could do for their organisation and to determine why they should hire you instead of someone else. Most of the time jobseekers will choose to talk about strengths that don’t make them stand out, aren’t relative or important for the job at hand or they don’t back up their claims with specific examples. This will raise a red flag for the interviewer as although ‘the ability to show up on time’ may be seen as a strength almost anyone can say this because it should be a given. Not being able to back up your strengths with examples will also raise concern as if you can’t talk about how you’ve utilised your strengths in a working environment. It raises the question are your strengths accurate and are they appropriate?
4) What are your weaknesses?
This question is one of the most aggravating interview questions you can get because you can guarantee that it will come up at interview and it goes without saying that candidates aren’t going to reveal their biggest flaws in the middle of a job interview! So why does it come up so often? Well interviewers like to ask the question because it can be tricky to respond to and candidate’s answers can often be very telling when they are put on the spot.
Some mistakes that you should try and avoid are:
- Trying to make a positive sound like a negative – When do working too hard, caring too much about your work or being a perfectionist class as weaknesses? They don’t and if you try to turn a positive trait into a weakness the interviewer will see right through your tactics and are likely to follow the question by asking you to go into more detail about how the weakness has negatively affected you. The key is to be sincere, don’t select a weakness that sounds good. Instead choose a weakness that is minor and can be fixed through work and motivation i.e. speaking in front of large groups
- Avoiding the question by not providing an answer – Some jobseekers are completely thrown by this question and many cannot list a weakness when they are put on the spot. It is important to always bear in mind the requirements for the role and not to cite a weakness that will impede your ability to do the job.
- Never reveal a debilitating weakness – Another mistake is to be too forthright and confess to a weakness that would hinder your ability to perform in the role you’re applying for. Don’t let your honesty become your weakness!
5) What sort of salary are you looking for?
This is a question that often throws people off-guard when it’s asked in an interview scenario because most people don’t feel comfortable talking about money. It’s often felt that if you state a figure that is too low you may miss out financially whereas if you disclose a figure that is too high you may miss out on the offer of a job. The good news is that you don’t actually have to state a specific figure if you don’t feel confident in doing so instead you can deflect the question onto the interviewer or provide a broad salary range.
Four top tips to bear in mind when answering this question are:
- Do some research and be prepared – If you know that this question is likely to come up at interview make sure you are prepared by researching the average salary rates for the role and rehearsing your answer before the interview. Then if you feel comfortable doing so you can acknowledge your awareness of the industry standard to influence the salary brackets by putting forward an average range.
- Think about deflecting the question – Don’t feel pressured to give too much away. If a salary range wasn’t included in the job description you are entitled to ask the interviewer what salary range they are considering for the role. As well as telling the interviewer you are open to their thoughts on salary you may want to emphasise that you’re sure they will be consistent with the average market rate.
- Be comfortable in your answer – However you decide to respond to this question the key is to do so in a respectful, diplomatic and confident manner. Bear in mind that your biggest tool for negotiating your salary will be in your ability to show your potential employer that you’ve got the skills and abilities needed to do the job.
- Don’t be too specific or rigid – When you are being asked about your salary expectations the best way to respond is to be broad and to remain realistic with your expectations. Never describe your salary demands as what you actually need but rather as what the job is worth. Use your current salary as a guideline (including any bonuses, annual raises) and research the average market rates for the role.
Author: Jennifer Young works with www.assignmenthelpuk.com as an academic writer and a blogger. She loves writing on subjects related to psychology, management, and education.