How to tackle common interview questions

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Preparing confident answers to common interview questions will give you the edge over the competition.

Although there is no set format that every job interview will follow, there are some questions that you can almost guarantee will be asked.

Here's a list of the most common questions and a guide on how to structure your answers.

 

Tell me about yourself

This is usually the opening question and the most important as first impressions are key. Begin your answer with an overview of your highest qualification then running through the jobs you've held so far in your career.

Don't go into too much detail - your interviewer will ask for you to expand on any areas where they'd like more information.

What are your strengths?

Pick the three biggest attributes that you think will get you the job and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a work situation.

Ideally these will be technical skills, whereby you can demonstrate how your knowledge in certain areas can benefit the company. Soft skills are also important so ensure you have given thought to what personality attributes make you a good hire.

What are your weaknesses?

This question is best handled by picking something that you have made positive steps to redress. For example, if there is particular software you’ve not worked with in some time, state it as a weakness but tell the interviewer about training courses or time spent outside work hours you have used to improve your skills and keep them up to date.

Why should we hire you? or What can you do for us that other candidates can't?

What makes you special and where do your major strengths lie? You should be able to find out what they are looking for from the job description. "I have a unique combination of strong technical skills and the ability to build long-term customer relationships" is a good opening sentence, which can then lead onto a more specific example of something you have done so far in your career.

What are your goals? or Where do you see yourself in five years time?

It's best to talk about both short-term and long-term goals. Talk about the kind of job you'd eventually like to do and the various steps you will need to get there, relating this in some way back to the position you're interviewing for. Show the employer you have ambition, and that you have the determination to make the most of every job you have to get where you want to be.

Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you've given this some thought. If you've prepared for the interview properly, you should have a good inside knowledge of the company's values, mission statement, development plans and products. Use this information to describe how your goals and ambition matches their company ethos and how you would relish the opportunity to work for them.

What salary/hourly rate are you seeking?

You can prepare for this by knowing the value of someone with your skills. Try not to give any specific numbers in the heat of the moment - it could put you in a poor position when negotiating later on. Your interviewer will understand if you don't want to discuss this until you are offered the job. If they have provided a guideline salary with the job description, you could mention this and say it's around the same area you're looking for.

Get up to date and check your market rate with our Salary Checker App to ensure you’re prepared for those hard to answer interview questions.

For what to do once you’ve been offered a new role check out our advice on accepting a new job offer.

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