Common interview questions: how to answer
Practice your answers to some of the main interview questions often asked.
About the employer
Employers want to see that you have a genuine interest in working for them by asking questions like:
- what do you know about our company?
- why do you think you're a good fit for our company?
- why do you want to work for us?
To prepare for questions about the employer, you need to research the company. You should look at their website and 'about us' pages to find out more about their products, services and values.
Employers will want to get to know you and may ask things like:
- what do you do in your spare time?
- what are your hobbies and interests?
Show what kind of personal qualities, interests and skills you have. For example, you could talk about:
- cooking - to show you're organised and can follow instructions
- travel - to show you're adventurous and flexible
- team sports - to show you're a team player with good communication
- music - to show you're creative
If the job requires certain skills, you should demonstrate these in your examples.
If it's a graphic designer role, you could talk about taking a desktop publishing course.
Work history questions
Employers usually base questions on jobs you have done in the past. This gives you the chance to talk about your experience. For instance, they might ask:
- when have you faced a challenging situation?
- can you tell us about a personal achievement at work?
- have you ever taken the initiative?
- have you ever failed at a task?
Your answers should reflect the skills the employer wants. Be positive and tailor your examples to the job description.
If you don't have much work history, you can use examples from outside of work. You can also use examples from volunteering experience.
The strengths employers look for will depend on the job role. They may ask you questions like:
- what are your main strengths?
- why should we hire you?
You can use specific examples to highlight your strengths, such as:
- communication - to show you get on with others
- problem solving - to show that you can find solutions
- enthusiasm - to show that you have a positive attitude to work
- flexibility - to show that you can adapt to different ways of working
Plan your answers around 2 or 3 examples that are relevant to the job. You can back these up with qualifications or training you've done.
You should be honest when answering questions on your weaknesses. Say how you're working to improve them.
Question - "Do you have any weaknesses?"
Answer - "I struggle with time management on projects. To make sure I stick to the time frame I'm creating a timetable of steps at the start of each project".
At the end of a job interview, employers will usually ask if you have any questions for them. This is a good chance to show your interest in the company and your enthusiasm for the job.
For example, you could ask:
- what is it like to work here?
- what does a typical day involve?
- how do you see the company developing over the next few years?
- will there be any training opportunities after I start?
Why you left your last job
The employer may ask you questions about leaving your last job.
If you've been out of work for a long time, explain why. Talk about the positive things you've done while away from work. For example, networking, retraining, volunteering or keeping fit.
- left by choice: be positive about why you want a new job and describe why their company suits you better
- got made redundant: explain the situation, be positive and describe how you've responded since
- were fired for misconduct or poor performance: explain why your standards dropped, what you've learned and how you've improved since the experience
Filling in an application form
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