Common interview questions: how to answer

Practice your answers to some of the main interview questions often asked.


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.

Show what you've learned about the company throughout the interview.


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?

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.

Example

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.

Use the STAR method to help structure your answers.


Strengths

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.


Weaknesses

You should be honest when answering questions on your weaknesses. Say how you're working to improve them.

Example

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".


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 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.

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

Redundancy

If you got made redundant:

  • explain the situation
  • be positive and describe how you've responded since

Fired for misconduct or poor performance

If you got fired because of misconduct or poor performance, explain:

  • why your standards had dropped
  • what you've learned
  • how you've improved since the experience

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