Interviews are a fact of life these days. There’s no getting away from them, and you can be guaranteed that at some stage in the near future, you’ll be invited to attend an interview.
But don’t panic, there are ways to prepare that will help you perform more effectively.
It’s very simple really – there are only 3 things that a potential employer wants to know about you.
- Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills, experience and personality for the job?)
- Will you do the job? (How motivated are you? Are you really interested in working for this company? Will you turn up on time everyday?)
- Will you fit in? (How flexible are you? Will you fit in with their way of working? Do you prefer to work alone or as a member of a team?)
There are many ways of asking these questions, but at the end of the day each question you’re asked will be based on one of the above.
We all form opinions of each other without even realizing it, in the first couple of minutes we meet.
How you perform in the first few minutes of an interview is crucial – first impressions can make or break your chance of success
There are a few things you can do to create a favourable first impression:
- Smile and look enthusiastic
- A strong firm handshake can make all the difference.
“When I had to choose between two candidates with similar qualifications, I gave the position to the candidate with the better handshake” CEO __ 500 company.
Do you have the firm strong type?
Or are you more of a ‘dead fish’ hand shaker.
Whose hand would you prefer to shake?
Think about it – there is no gesture so underestimated as the handshake. In the business world, this first approach to conversation and connection is of paramount importance. So it’s a very good idea to learn and practice how to extend and receive a good handshake.
- Relax - Sit up straight, make good eye contact with the interviewer. Don’t fidget or jitter
The following are some typical questions that often get asked in interviews. Read through each question and take some time to think about what your most appropriate response would be. Determine the overall impression you want to convey and what the employer is trying to find out by asking you this question.
Standard Interview Questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you applying for this job?
- Why do you want to work here?
- How much do you know about this organisation/company?
- What contributions do you see yourself making to this job/company?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why have you held so many jobs?
- Describe your personality?
- How would a friend (colleague, professor, supervisor) describe you?
- What is your greatest strength/weakness?
- What have you achieved that has given you the most satisfaction?
- Under what circumstances do you work best?
- Do you prefer to work alone or with others?
- What have you done in the past that demonstrates your ability to work in a team?
- Describe your style as a team player.
- What kind of people do you prefer to work with?
- Describe your ideal job.
- What have you learned from each of your past jobs?
- Which of your jobs was the least interesting/most interesting and why?
- Describe the qualities that you like most in a supervisor.
- How do you normally handle criticism?
- How do you normally handle stress?
- When you are supervising others, how do you motivate them?
- What motivates you?
- What would you look for in an employee?
- What are you long range career goals/objectives?
- Based on your resume and what you’ve told me, I think you’re overqualified/underqualified for this position – what do you think?
- Why should we hire you?
- What are your salary expectations?
- How long do you plan to stay?
Behaviour Based Interview Questions
The assumption behind a behavioural interview question is that the past behaviour predicts future behaviour. When answering a behaviour based interview question remember to
- describe the situation
- describe how you react to the situation and
- describe the end result of your action
Tell me (us) about a time when you….
.....delegated a project or job effectively.
.....had to adapt to a new and difficult situation.
.....had to make an unpopular decision.
.....handled a difficult situation with a co-worker.
.....won (or lost) an important contract.
.....made a bad decision.
.....overcame what seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle.
.....persuaded others to follow your suggestions.
.....showed creativity in solving a problem.
.....were disappointed with the way you handled a situation.
.....worked effectively under pressure.
.....anticipated potential problems and developed preventative measures.
.....had to deal with an irate customer.
.....prioritised the elements of a complicated project.
- Listen to the questions - think before you answer. Sometimes you’ll get a question that you can’t possibly answer – that’s OK: These questions are designed to see how you react under pressure. Stay cool, think and if you don’t know the answer say so – but try and come up with an alternative e.g. “I’m not sure about that but…”
- Don’t start rambling wildly on, you’ll just get confused and it won’t win you any points from the interviewer.
- Your answers must be clear, relevant and to the point.
- Whatever questions you are asked, relate your answers to future responsibilities of the job.
- Give concrete examples from your past activities to illustrate you skills and qualities.
- Never answer with just a monosyllabic “Yes or No”.
- If in doubt, ask the interviewer if they would like more details.
Your Rights in an Interview
You should not be asked, nor are you required to answer, any questions regarding: race, ancestry, political beliefs, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, membership of the traveller community or age.
General Interview Questions
- “Tell me about yourself”
Keep your answer to one or two minutes. This isn’t an invitation to tell your life story, but a chance to give the interviewer relevant information about your skills and achievements that are applicable to the job. Start with recent history – your degree, subjects etc. and don’t waffle.
- What do you know about our company?
Make sure you’ve thoroughly researched the company before the interview – the nature of the work their products, customers, competitors etc.
- Why do you want to work for us?
Don’t say that you heard the money was good! Talk about their needs – e.g. you would like to be part of a specific project, you can make a definite contribution to company goals etc.
- Why should we hire you?
Refer back to the job description or the company’s brochure. What are they looking for? Match your skills with the employers requirements and be sure to give concrete examples as evidence of these skills or qualities.
- What is your greatest strength?
Talk about something that highlights the positive aspects of your character and brings your relevant skills into focus.
- What is your greatest weakness?
Don’t say you’re a perfectionist – employers are sick to death of hearing this one. Try to be original. Choose a weakness that you can turn into a strength by showing what you are doing to overcome it. Only select one and end on a positive note.
- Do you have any questions for us?
This could be your last opportunity to make a good impression. If you do have any questions ask them, if not that’s fine.
Good questions to ask in first interviews are about initial responsibilities, job content, the company culture etc. It’s essential to express an interest in the company and the work being done.
You could also add anything else that you might not have mentioned earlier.
What not to ask in the first rounds of interviews?
Don’t ask about salary, holidays, or benefits.
Don’t ask questions that have already been answered, just for the sake of asking something
Think honestly about how things went – do you need to brush up on any aspect of your interviews technique?
Ask a Careers Advisor for advice if you identify any particular issues you want to discuss.
Talk to others if you can, who have had an interview too, but it’s a good idea to rely on your basic instinct about whether or not an organisation is right for you.
If you’ve got to this stage, it’s a great sign. They wouldn’t be interviewing you if they didn’t think there was a realistic chance of offering you the job.
These test how you assimilate information and cope under pressure. This will involve preparing a topic in advance and speaking to the selectors and other candidates, typically for between 10 and 15 minutes. The following is a typical example: You must make a decision about the proposed relocation of the head office of an electronics equipment manufacturer. You present your recommendations, fully explaining the reasoning, and are then questioned by the assessor about your decision. (SHL group).
Aim to make concise notes in your preparation time – don’t read from a script or lose eye contact with your audience.
- Video yourself giving a practise presentation. Watch out for ‘ums’, ‘ahs’ and poor body language.
- Stick to the time limit.
- Remember what it feels like to listen to a speaker – don’t bore them with too much info.
- Try to anticipate what questions you will be asked at the end.