10 most common Job Interview questions, and how to answer them
The point here is not to go into the job interview with a strict script. We don’t suggest that you answer these questions like a robot. However, to have guidelines that you can leverage, and answers that you have practiced, can prove extremely beneficial and supportive throughout the job interview process. By practicing your delivery, you will actually become more confident, free-flowing, and relaxed, because you know that you have a framework to fall back on, should you come up against a difficult obstacle. Typically speaking, the most effective way to answer questions throughout a job interview is to always tie your answer to a recent and relevant example in which you have demonstrated the traits in question. A professional context is preferrable, but if not, a personal context is also acceptable in most situations.
When you inevitably get hit with a tough question during a job interview, if you have practiced and prepared effectively, it won’t be so bad. You’ve faced this challenge before, you’ve handled it effectively, answered the question successfully, and are now very comfortable in addressing it. This knowledge offers you well founded confidence. That’s the goal. So, let’s look at a handful of specific questions here. Take the time to detail your own answer and begin rehearsing your delivery.
1. Can you tell me about yourself. Or, can you take me through your Resume?
A very general question, and one usually asked at the beginning of a job interview. Paradoxically, the employer is not overly interested in the actual content of your answer to this question, because they already know all about you. They have read through your resume, are very clear on your history, and are well aware of your notable achievements, which is why you have been called in for the job interview. Remember, there is only one question going through the mind of an employer at all times – how can this person help my business? So, they’re not interested in your life story. They are interested in your confidence, enthusiasm, and passion for a wonderful future, something that they are considering sharing with you. They want to get to know the real you a little more. The person behind the resume. We suggest that you focus on your growth and development, both professionally and personally. Which experiences have defined you, and what traits do you now carry with you as a result of these experiences? Of course, the more you can demonstrate evidence of traits that you know will be valued in the given role, the better.
2. What are your strengths?
In other words, how positively do you think about yourself? This question revolves around your self-image, which is something we discuss regularly throughout our content. There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Be honest, as long as you hold a healthy view of yourself. Stay away from generic answers, and instead, focus on the details, and more importantly, back these details up with specific examples. Again, remember to focus on those strengths that relate to the position in question.
For example – I am an excellent communicator. I have undertaken a significant amount of study in the area of psychology, which has allowed be to better understand peoples emotional states, and thus, to act appropriately in a variety of diverse situations. Or, others have told me that I am very approachable and easy to talk to, which is demonstrated by example x. Or, I consider myself to be an extremely organised person. In my previous role, I took project x from y to z, and to do so, I did x. Or, I am an excellent leader. In my previous role, I was promoted to lead a fresh marketing campaign focused on an entirely new target market. To do so effectively, I did x and y.
3. What are your weaknesses?
While it is very important that you do not speak negatively about yourself, it is equally important that you are open, honest, and vulnerable about your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses, you simply must explain them in the correct way. Please avoid common clichés like – 'I work too hard.' This is a ridiculous approach and will only ever work on the poorest of hiring managers. Instead, use examples to explain where you have fallen short, and how you have grown from these challenging failures. Here, the hiring manager wants to understand whether or not you are self-aware enough to recognise your weaknesses.
For example – In my previous role, I led project x. However, I spent far too much time on certain tasks that turned out to have very little impact on the end result, not leaving quite enough time for the deliverables that truly mattered, the items that were most important to the project. I have recognised this tendency within myself, and now, when I begin a project, I am working hard on establishing priorities, alongside a very detailed plan, right from the beginning, and revisiting these guidelines regularly throughout the process, in order to keep myself on track. It is certainly a work in progress, but I feel like I am really making strides here. I have learnt to move on from things quicker, rather than attempting to perfect them. Then, if I find that we have some time at the end of a project, when all major aspects have been completed to our satisfaction, I will come back to revisit the smaller impact items where necessary.
4. How do you see yourself progressing in this role? Or, what are your long-term career goals?
Here, the hiring manager is analysing your commitment to the role, and to the company. In today’s environment, people are continuously changing roles, and even entire industries. This is very bad news for an employer as it leads to a high turnover rate, and a significant waste of resources in terms of the time and money dedicated towards training someone up. If a person decides to leave shortly after they are hired, the company is left with no return on their investment in the person. Instead, they are forced to go through the entire process, once again, with a new individual. A strong answer to this question will revolve around experiencing and learning as much as possible, and then gradually progressing within the company. You have chosen this interview because you genuinely like the company, so we will assume that you truly want to remain there for an extended period of time.
For example – Long term, I see myself in a managerial role, or a leadership position. I would like to learn as much as possible up until that point, but I do believe that I possess excellent leadership qualities, and once I understand the ins and outs of this business, I would like to put those qualities to use.
5. What do you know about our company?
This is a very easy one if you have come prepared. If not, that’s on you. Obviously, this question analyses your genuine interest in the role. We suggest that you only apply for roles in which you are genuinely interested. This will naturally lead to extensive research before the interview begins. Simply explain what you have learnt about the company and highlight certain aspects that you feel resonate most strongly with you.
6. How well do you handle change?
Here, the hiring manager is assessing your level of adaptability. Do not respond with a simple answer. Again, everything is much more powerful when tied to a specific, and preferably, recent, example. How have you effectively handled change in the past, and can you provide an example that demonstrates this ability? Please remember that your answer here need not necessarily be tied to changes within your professional career. You may have undergone significant personal changes throughout your life, and if so, don’t be afraid to delve into these.
For example – Being from Spain, leaving everything I have ever known to come to Australia was a very big change for me. I had no friends, limited resources, and no idea how to land a suitable role. It has been 5-years now, and I have accomplished x and y. Furthermore, these experiences have taught me x and y.
7. How well do you work under pressure?
In today’s environment, everybody is over stressed. We can blame it on a specific job, a boss, or the nature of a given industry. Whatever the case may be, employers need employees that they can rely upon to get the job done when it matters most. This is a fair expectation, and common in every walk of life, not just in your professional career. This question is analysing your ability to effectively handle stress, whilst simultaneously producing extremely high quality work, amidst a great deal of pressure. Again, the best answer here will offer one of more specific examples, and again, these examples need not always be tied to your professional career. To help you formulate an answer that works for you, consider how you have effectively handled stress in the past. What have these experiences taught you about your resolve, strength, and adaptability and which skills have you developed as a result of these experiences? Please consider if you have become much stronger as a result of these experiences.
8. How do you make important decisions?
A difficult question, for which we would suggest a very simple answer. For most of us, we fear important decisions because of the potential consequences that lie waiting for us, in the future. As a result, we tend to put them off, attempt to analyse them from multiple angles, and in some cases, avoid them all together. Eventually however, a decision must be made, and every time it is, we look back on these situations and question what we actually feared so greatly in the first place. In hindsight, everything looks extremely simple, very obvious, and not nearly as difficult as we projected it to be within our own minds. This is because life is always happening for us, never against us. It’s just that this truth is very difficult to see when standing in the eye of the storm. It is only when we finally step out of this storm, stand on the other side of what was a seemingly impossible situation, and see that we have survived, we are comfortable, and in almost every case, much better off than we were before this decision had to be made.
In light of this truth, we suggest that you face difficult decisions as soon as they arise and choose your path forward as quickly as you can. There really is no right decision, for you have the ability to make any situation a wonderful one. Of course, you will look back on your life and see where you could have done better, but it is only in making the wrong decision that you can learn from a particular experience. In other words, as we have touched on, you either succeed, or you grow, so how can you actually make a mistake? Here, we have taken a step outside of the job interview process, because making difficult decisions is a skill that we must continually work on throughout our lives. This is not about impressing the hiring manager, but about understanding the process, truly understanding it, for yourself. Please reflect on this truth within your own life.
Additionally, while there are certainly times in which you must lead from the front, many important decisions within the workplace should involve your team. A business will run at its best when the people within the business are working together, not as individuals, each with their own agenda. The power of multiple individuals, all on the same page, working towards one common goal, cannot be underestimated. Hiring managers want to know that you can both lead the way, as well as listen to the opinions of others, with openness and maturity.
9. What salary are you expecting from this role?
You must be very firm. Completely unbashful. If you do not ask for something, the world will not give it to you simply because you are a nice person. We all deserve to reach our goals, whatever they might be. So, ask for them. However, when asking for the salary that you want, remember to give strong reasons to support your number.
For example – I currently earn x, so for my next role, I would expect y. Or, after my discussions with the recruiter, I was expecting x. Or, based on the responsibilities discussed, I would expect x. Or, looking at what similar positions within the industry offer, I was thinking x.
10. Do you have any other questions?
This is yet another question of preparation. If you have questions prepared, you can look through your list and proceed to ask any that have not yet been addressed. Remember, if you don’t have any more questions, that’s also fine. There is no advantage in asking additional questions, just for the sake of it. Your level of interest in the role will have been clearly displayed throughout the job interview process.
For example – no, I think that I have now asked all of the questions that I had prepared, and I feel comfortable that I have a clear understanding of both the role, and this company.
Do you still need some help?