Common interview questions and how to answer them

Common interview questions and how to answer them

Common interview questions and how to answer them

Getting thrown by questions in interviews and application forms is not fun. But, the key to avoiding it is simple: preparation. Here are the best ways to answer the most common questions.

Once you’ve put together the perfect CV and blown away your potential new employer with a great cover letter, it’s time to jump the final hurdle of the job application: the interview.

It’s natural (inevitable, even) to feel nervous in interviews. If you’ve done your research, though, they will be so much easier.

While there are no guarantees, the below questions are some of the most common ones that crop up regularly in job interviews and application forms. Prepare some incredible answers to these, and you’ll be off to a very good start.

05 common interview questions and the best answers

Here are the most common interview questions and answers for students and graduates:

1. Tell us a bit about yourself

This question’s partly used to break the ice and give you the opportunity to introduce yourself. But, it can also show the interviewer how engaging, articulate and employable you are.

It’s your chance to make a good first impression and set the interview off on the right foot.

Tell the interviewer a little about any of your recent accomplishments, like your degree or relevant work experience. Don’t go any further back than a few years though, and keep this part informative and concise.

Example answer

I recently graduated with a History degree from the University of Hull. While studying, I was really involved in student radio, presenting and producing my own breakfast show for two years.

In my final year, I was elected as Station Manager which gave me the responsibility of running and managing the entire station. A big part of the role was marketing the radio station to students to boost our listeners, and that was when I decided to pursue marketing as a career.

Over the summer, I carried out a marketing internship with a local charity, where I helped run their social media, organise events and build partnerships with local businesses. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m looking to pursue marketing full time, and this is what led me to apply for this role.

Describe yourself in three words

This is your chance to show how self-aware you are. Prepare for this question by reading the job description really carefully beforehand. This will include an accurate description of the kind of person they’re looking for.

Draw out the key terms and use these as a guideline to think about how these apply to you personally.

You also need to be fairly honest with this one. Try to avoid over-used or more colloquial terms, and opt for something a bit different.

Example answer

Resilient  I love rising to challenges and facing tasks which push me out of my comfort zone. I had one particularly tough module at university, but I was determined to do well in it. From putting in the extra hours and working hard, I achieved a first in the exam.

Adaptable – I’m a quick learner and enjoy working in different environments. Whether I’m writing a Geography essay or dealing with customers at my part-time job, I approach each new task with positivity and enthusiasm.

Approachable – My part-time job is a customer-facing role so I work with a welcoming and approachable manner, listening carefully to what others have to say.

3. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This isn’t an easy question to answer, but the interviewer just wants to get an idea of what your ambitions are. Your response will help them to gauge whether you plan on making a long-term contribution to the company.

Avoid overly ambitious responses like, “I want to be CEO of the company”. You want to come across as realistic in your ambitions. But, you don’t want to imply that you’d trample over colleagues to get to the top.

Aim for answers that are in line with what the role offers and will suggest you plan to still be contributing to the company in five years’ time.

Example answer

I want to be making successful contributions in my role, with the responsibility of managing my own clients and generating substantial revenue for the company.

I’d also hope to progress to a position that involves management or team leadership, helping to direct the future of the company and develop new policies.

4. What are your strengths?

This question gives you the chance to demonstrate how perfect you are for the role. As with describing yourself, ensure the strengths you mention are tailored to suit the job.

For example, if you’re going for a role that involves dealing with customers, say you’re a good communicator and negotiator. Similarly, if your role includes using technology that you don’t currently have experience with, concentrate on telling them how quickly you can adapt and learn new skills.

Example answer

My main strengths are my ability to think on my feet in challenging situations, and come up with creative solutions when needed.

Both my part-time job and my role as president of the hockey society show that I’m comfortable with positions of responsibility, and that I know how to lead a team. 

Finally, the consistently high marks I achieved in my Spanish degree show that I have very strong language skills.

5. What are your weaknesses?

When it comes to weaknesses, stick to qualities that aren’t too disastrous, and focus on things you can easily improve on (and say you’re already working on them).

However, avoid the tactic of turning weaknesses into positives. Weaknesses such as, “I work too hard” or, “I’m a perfectionist” are seen as lazy and interviewers can see straight through them.

Example answer

I get quite nervous presenting or speaking in large groups, but from doing a lot of presentations at university this year, it’s starting to feel a lot less daunting.

However, I do know that there’s still room for improvement here. I’d love to work on my public speaking further in this role.

Courtesy / Credit: Save the Student

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