How to answer common interview questions
Companies have different interviewing styles. You could have an interview that's:
- over the phone
- on webchat
- with a panel
Whichever interview method is used, the best way to make a good impression is to prepare well. This means doing your research, having good examples and practising your answers.
Questions 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.
Questions about you
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?
Your answers should 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 you're applying for a graphic designer role, you could talk about taking a desktop publishing course in your spare time.
Questions about your work history
Employers usually base interview questions around your work history to give 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 your work history is limited, you can use examples from outside of work. You can also use examples from volunteering experience.
Questions about your strengths
The strengths employers look for will depend on the job role. You may be asked questions like:
- what are your main strengths?
- why should we hire you?
Along with specific examples, you can also highlight your personal qualities as strengths, for instance:
- communication shows you get on with others
- problem solving shows you can find solutions
- enthusiasm shows you have a positive attitude to work
- flexibility shows 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.
Questions about your weaknesses
You should answer questions on weaknesses honestly and say how you're working to improve them.
Question - Do you have any weaknesses?
Answer - I struggle with time management on projects. I'm working on improving this by creating a timetable of steps at the start of each project and making sure I follow it.
Questions you can ask
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's 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?
Questions on why you left your last job
You may be asked 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.
Use our advice to plan your answers.
Left by choice
If you left your job by choice:
- be positive about why you left and why you want a new job
- describe why their company suits you better
If you were made redundant:
- explain the situation
- describe how you've responded positively since
Fired for misconduct or poor performance
If you were fired because of misconduct or poor performance, explain:
- why your standards had dropped
- what you've learned
- how you've improved since the experience