As part of your job interview preparation, you need to make sure you read and review job interview questions, and how best to answer them.
Below are 50 questions, and my advice on answering them correctly.
Tell Me About Yourself
Eight out of Ten interviews will start with this question or a variation of the question. The key answering this question is first to remember where you are and secondly remember that the interviewer is not interested in your personal life. Keep your answer short, to the point and cover only your professional experience.
My Advice – Prepare in advance a 2-3 minute presentation covering the “highlights” of your CV that you can quickly present at the start of your interview. If you need further help, there’s a checklist here.
You Have An Impressive CV. I Noticed That You Play Football, Rugby, Squash
This type of questioning is an invitation to talk more on the subject and build rapport with the interviewer. If you’re lucky, the hiring manager will also have an interest in the subject allowing you to have a good conversation easily. Building rapport and getting the hiring manager on your side is one of the key challenges you’ll face in an interview.
My Advice – Hiring managers want to work with people like themselves. If you’ve built rapport with the interviewer in the early part of your interview, use it to your advantage.
Why Did You Go Back To School
If you’ve decided to go back to school after working for a few years, hiring managers will often want to know why, and more importantly, what you can now bring to the table to improve their business.
My Advice – This is an easy question to impress the hiring manager. In this situation, you need to explain how your qualification has prepared you for your new career. It’s slightly harder if you’re qualification is in a different subject to the jobs you’re applying. In this example where you have studied Geology, but are applying for roles in Marketing, it’s a great idea to focus on the positives and take away what you have learnt and how you can adapt this to your chosen career.
What Are Your Strengths?
99.9% of all candidates asked this question, will say yes, however less than 10% will back-up their answer with an example. Often when asked this question, candidates will list a few keywords such as Team Player, communication skills, or being able to think outside of the box. As a hiring manager, after a few interviews, these responses become pretty dull.
My Advice – You need to make sure that you separate yourself from the crowd by giving examples. Show how you’ve been a team player or used your brain to think outside of the box to help solve a problem. This is what impresses the hiring manager.
If I Asked Your Colleagues What Your Strengths Are, What Would They Say?
This is always a tough question as it makes you think about how others perceive you. The worst possible answer here is to say “I don’t know”. This shows you have no self-awareness or an idea of what other people think. The tough part of this question is to give the right answer without coming across as arrogant.
My Advice – Use words such as “Lead from the front”, or “team player”. While you’re doing your company research, take a look and see if there any keywords that come up time and time again in the “people we hire” section and make sure that you use these in your job interview.
If I Asked Your Manager What They Thought Are You Strengths, What Would They Say?
This question is very similar to the one above; only this time, it’s from your managers perspective. Often interviewers will ask all three questions one after another. If you cannot think of different answers, it’s perfectly fine to repeat the above.
My Advice – What do your recent appraisals or evaluations say about you? Also, remember critical competencies that the company is looking for and try to slip some of these into your answer.
What Are Your Weaknesses?
The obvious answer is to dress up a strength and use it as a weakness. For example, “I work too hard” or “I am too much of a perfectionist”. Recruiters and hiring managers have heard this type of answer so many times that it becomes more of a joke each time you listen to it.
A better answer would be to choose a real weakness and explain how you overcome it. Remember, everyone has flaws, but few people have the self-awareness to realise their faults. If you think you don’t have any weakness, more likely you’re arrogant or untruthful, both of which employers do not want.
My Advice – A great example could be, “I am very unorganised. This means I carry a diary and write everything important in it. I know that if it’s not in my diary, then I will not do it”. If you’re going to use this answer, make sure that you do have a diary with you.
If I Asked Your Managers What They Thought Your Weaknesses Are, What Would They Say?
This is not the place to admit all the mistakes that you have ever made, but it’s one of the few times where you can admit your mistakes. Remember, everyone has weaknesses, and you need to recognise yours. Your answer could be, for example, “In my last evaluation, my manager mentioned that my current weakness is X, Y, and Z. Over the last three months, I have taken a course to improve these weaknesses”.
My Advice – Make sure you use examples that end on a positive note and whatever you say, don’t say “I don’t know” or “I don’t have any”. Everyone has weaknesses, however, it takes a candidate that is self-aware to recognise those weaknesses and discuss them in an interview. Self-awareness is something companies really like as it shows that you’re aware of your surrounding team members and the company brand.
Tell Me About A Time When You Failed
Another competency-based interview question and one that you will need to prepare for otherwise, it will be tough to think of an answer on the spot. Given it’s a weakness, you want to pick a failure that you were able to salvage over time or at the very least learn an important lesson.
My Advice – Think of an answer that took place. It’s much easier to go into detail what you have experienced the failure in real life, than when you’re trying to make something up that sounds good during your job interview.
What New Skills Can You Bring To The Existing Team?
Often hiring managers are looking for candidates with a skill set that they don’t have in their team. This way, the candidate will join the team and be able to quickly value from day one. Hiring managers want to know what new skills you can bring in to the team that can separate you from the other candidates.
My Advice – Do your research and use your experience. “I have worked for your biggest competitor and can, therefore, help you avoid the mistakes that we made when launching new products.”
Why Is There A Gap In Your Employment Record?
Gaps in your CV are no problem if you can show that you have done something with them. If all you can say is that you sat on the sofa and watched TV for the last six month, this does not show that you’re committed both to work and the career that you have chosen.
My Advice – It’s easy to start a qualification, and this gap during your working career could easily be explained by the fact that you were studying towards the qualification.
What Were You Doing This Gap In Your Employment?
If you have a recent gap in your employment, there’s a good chance your interviewer is going to ask you about it. It’s important to remember that hiring managers understand people lose their jobs or take breaks during their career.
My Advice – “I got sacked and had lied around at home” probably is not the best of answers. You need to let the interviewer know that you have used your time wisely. Keep your answer short and to the point.
What Has Been Your Greatest Achievement?
In principle, it seems a straightforward question to answer. Off the top of your head, I am sure you could name a few good examples, however, to separate yourself from the crowd, you need to think deeper. It doesn’t have to be an Olympic medal or but you need to give an example where you have completed something challenging.
My Advice – Your degree, completed a marathon, wrote a book, completed the Duke of Edinburgh award, recognised as a top performer are all great answers that you can give. What are you proud of during your life?
What Has Your Biggest Disappointment In Life Been?
This question is very similar to your biggest weakness. However, the question has been designed to find out how quickly you become annoyed or unmotivated if things do not go your way.
My Advice – is to try to answer the question with a personal disappointment. If I were asked this question, my response would be the following, “My greatest disappointment in life has been the recent death of a sailing acquaintance Bart Simpson who recently died while trying to win The America’s Cup. This is my greatest disappointment because I saw him at a sailing event a few months ago, but he was busy, and I did not have time wait, so I left thinking I would get another opportunity to say hello. It’s a great disappointment that I will never get that opportunity”.
What Are Your Pet Hates?
This question has been designed to help the interviewer decide whether you’ll be a good fit for the company and their culture. There is no right or wrong answer, however, I would advise you to stay as neutral as possible.
My Advice – I think the best answer to this question would be something along the lines of, “I do not have any pet hates, however, if something is bothering me, I will think before I speak, and try to find a solution that works for everyone.”
Do You Prefer Working In A-Team Or On Your Own?
99% of candidates answer this question with the reply “I don’t mind”. To separate yourself from the other 99%, you need to consider what job you’re applying for and its responsibilities. If you’re going to manage a team, it’s a good idea to say that you prefer to work as a team if you want to have any chance of getting the job.
My Advice – Once you have thought about the job you’re applying for and worked out what the companies needs, tailor your response to the position.
Would You Have A Problem Working For A Manager That Is Younger Than You?
In the current working environment, you often find companies with very young managers or business leaders. Typically this will have happened when a candidate has joined a company a young age, performed well over time and the only way for a company to keep a candidate is to carry on promoting them. To answer the question, firstly you need to be honest with yourself – if you have a problem with this, now is the time to speak up and let the hiring manager know that this will not be suitable, however, you will run the risk that your application will go no further.
My Advice – The best way to respond to this question is to explain that you do not consider age to be an essential factor in what you believe makes a great manager. I would then go on to define what you think makes a great manager and describe the ideal profile (such as leadership skills, product knowledge, communication skills and a long history of success within the company). Again, it’s a great idea to use examples of where you have worked well in the past with managers that have been younger than you.
When Was The Last Time You Lost Your Temper? What Caused This To Happen?
With this question, the interviewer is trying to find out whether you’ ‘re a manager of the future. Managers rarely scream and shout, even if they’re stressed and under pressure.
My Advice – Keep your answer short, concise and to the point. Don’t start talking about how you deal with pressure or give examples of times when you were stressed. Your answer needs to be more objective. An excellent response would be something along the lines of – “I very rarely lose my temper and cannot remember the last time that this happened. When I am under pressure, I take a step back and find a plan that will allow me to complete the task in the shortest possible time”.
What’s The Biggest Challenge You’ve Faced At Work
This question is easy to answer if you’ve prepared for the job interview. The question is designed to see whether you’re a problem solver and how you respond. Use examples of professional situations at work, however, make sure you finish on a positive note.
My Advice – Stay away from anything too personal such as workplace arguments. Great examples could include, software implementations, change management or maybe a high profile client who threatened to cancel their contract.
How Would You Describe The Speed Of Your Work?
This is a trick question where you need to be careful with your response. Companies want you to work fast, however not at the cost of the quality of your work. If you’re working so slowly that you never get anything completed on time, you’re also not the right candidate.
My Advice – This is another question where it’s best to stay neutral and explain that you work at a steady pace to complete any assignments ahead of time so that you can check for any mistakes. I would also go a step further and give some example where you managed projects to a schedule.
Why Should We Hire You?
Two key points to remember – it’s very easy to become arrogant “because I am the best”. You might be, but this makes you sound very arrogant. You also need to make a point of mentioning that you want to work for the company.
My Advice – Prepare an answer to this question. My answer would be something along the lines of “I want to work for this company because I have all the skills and knowledge that is required to complete the tasks assigned to this job and will be proud to work for the company.”
Would You Bend The Rules To Achieve Success?
This is one of the most common trick questions you’ll find during the hiring process. The correct answer is “No”. It’s tempting to explain that you might slightly bend the rules and try and back this up with examples, however, don’t do it. The company is far more valuable than an employee. Hiring managers will not take the risk a candidate who might make them look bad or worse still get themselves, and the hiring manager sacked.
My Advice – No Need for Advice, the answer is NO.
Would You Relocate To Another Country OR City?
This is another question where you need to be honest and to have done some preparation beforehand. If the job description says relocation is required, there is no point in saying that you will not relocate to another country or city. If it’s not mentioned in the job description, be honest. If it’s something you would consider, tell the hiring manager this, however, whatever you do, don’t say yes you will relocate when you will not. If six months down the line you’re asked to transfer to another country because you said yes in the interview, it will not look very good without a very good reason.
My Advice – There is no right or wrong answer, but you do need to be honest.
What Is A Typical Working Day Like For You?
Here the interviewer is looking at how your structure your work to see if you are an organised person or someone who is a little wild. Remember, it’s not a problem if you a person who is a little “wild”. Personally, I have to carry around a diary and write everything in it I have to do. Otherwise, I would not have a clue what I was doing from one day to the next. Forget looking at my desk – it’s a mess. I try to clear it most Sunday nights, so I am organised for the week.
My Advice – Review the company’s culture and try to focus on keeping your answers in line with the job responsibilities.
What Is A Typical Week Like For You?
The key to answering this question is to tailor each response to your future company and their company culture. If you are applying to a company that requires you to work long hours, then there is no point answering the question with “I work from 9 to 5, and then go home”. Most likely if you join a company that works from 9 to 9, then you will get tired and probably leave early.
My Advice – Do your company research.
Do You Thrive Working Under Pressure?
The obvious answer here is a simple “yes or no” however, to make yourself stand out from the crowd you need to back up answers with examples.
My advice – the best answers are when candidates explain why they can work under pressure, but then go one step further and explain how they try to stop having to work under pressure. An example could be, “I try to plan and use my time management skills to reduce or stop the pressure surrounding work deadlines. If I have to work at weekends to get my responsibilities completed, then I will”.
Do You Think You’re Over Qualified For This Job?
The dreaded “overqualified question”. This question often comes up when candidates are on that line. In all honesty, if you’re overqualified, then it will not be by much. No one is going to waste their time interviewing you if they did not think that you could be right for the role before the interview read the job description and do your interview preparation. If you believe you are too experienced but want the position, tone down your answers to show, you had fewer responsibilities.
My Advice – The best way to answer this question is, to be honest, and tell the employer that you have “worked for big companies and small, in larger jobs, however at this stage of life you’re looking for a job that allows me to get my work-life balance right”. As a further level of commitment, you are happy to sign a commitment letter that you will stay working for the company for a minimum period.
Where Else Are You Interviewing?
This question will usually be asked when you visit a recruitment company or are starting your career. Recruiters want to know where you’re interviewing to find more clients potentially, while companies want to know that graduates are committed to a specific position and industry.
My Advice – Always to try to give a few relevant companies where you’re interviewing or even if you need to bend the truth a little, mention companies that you’ve interviewed at but were rejected from. It looks great when candidates are interviewing elsewhere. If one company is interested in you, others will want to know why and probably be more interested in you, therefore, giving you a greater chance of being successful.
You Mentioned, You’re Interviewing With Our Competitors. What Would You Do If They Offered You A Job?
This is a typical question where the interviewer is trying to find out if it’s their job and company that you’re interested in or whether you just need a job. In reality, most candidates will compare both offers, see which one has a higher salary and a better career path. However, do not mention this in your interview.
My Advice – You need to say NO. “No, I am not interested in working for another company in this industry. Company xxx has the best products or services, and I want to be proud of working in this company. My knowledge, skills and experience fit perfectly with the requirements for this role and the career progression means that I will have a long successful career with company xxx.”
Why Do You Want To Leave Your Current Employer?
Remember the very first section of this job interview questions and answers, there are three reasons why someone leaves a job, they are bored, they feel, and they hate their manager. All three, you cannot say in an interview, but all three, every interviewer knows.
My Advice – Be honest, but remember the above. You’re not looking to leave, however, you’re looking for career progression and to continue learning.
Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
This is one of three questions you’re guaranteed to be asked in your job interview. The biggest fear for any hiring manager is that you will let them down at some point. If you have been sacked, it’s okay to give this as the answer, but try to put a positive spin on it. You don’t want to be saying “I was sacked because I could not do my job” The best answer to this question, is to tell the hiring manager that you left either due to a restructuring of the department or because you felt that you needed a change responsibilities.
My Advice – Make sure you sound positive even if your role did not work out as you expected. It’s also a great idea to acknowledge what you’ve learnt from your past employer. A sample answer could start with “I loved my job, however, I feel it’s time for a change.”
Why Did You Not Find A New Job Before Leaving Your Last One?
Hiring Managers will often dig deeper to find out what happened. If you have left your job and are interviewing to find a new job, there will always be that dreaded doubt in the mind of the hiring manager – Were you sacked because you’re not very good. The key to answering this question is to be loyal to your last company and remember – A job is generally not a 9-to-5 thing. Use this to your advantage.
My Advice – Keep your answer brief. A great answer could be “I really enjoy my work and my company, and thus out of respect for my current manager it did not feel right to take time off to interview at another company”.
What Are You Going To Do If You Don’t Get This Position?
This question is common when you’re moving internally within a company. While it’s perfectly okay to mention that you will be disappointed, you need to get across that you’re still committed to the company and want to build your long-term career.
My Advice – When this question comes up in an interview with a new company, you need to make sure that your answer involves looking at companies within the same industry and similar position.
Are You An Adaptable Person? Can You Deal With Change?
The world is continuously changing, and as an employee, you need to keep up with the changes. Companies will often do the same thing in an entirely different way. This question aims to explore how you deal with these changes. Keep your answer simple and give examples of the situation and the outcome.
My Advice – Either talk about moving companies or better still countries with different cultures. If you’re a graduate and have little or no work experience, then the obvious answer is to talk about technology and how you have kept up to date with the latest developments.
What Is Your Current Salary?
As always, you must be honest when answering salary questions. Too often candidates lie about their current salary, only to find out that as part of their job offer, they need to give a salary certificate. It’s complicated to explain why your actual salary is very different from what you said it was.
My Advice – If you refuse to answer this question, or come up with an excuse such as “it’s against my company rules”, a hiring manager will think that you have something to hide. Candidates often want an increase in salary when they move jobs, however, no-one is going to pay you a 50% increase.
What Are Your Current Salary Expectations
Don’t sell yourself short. Telling an interviewer that your salary expectations are 20K when they’re 30k will cause you problems in the long-term.
My Advice – Give an accurate figure of what you are looking for and back it up with examples. Realistically companies will pay 10-20% on top of your current salary if they want you. Your answer should be something like “currently I earn £30K, however, the average salary for a sales manager working in an International company £35K, and therefore I am looking in this region.”
What Do You Think Will Be Your Main Goal In Our Company?
This is a tricky question to answer. However, it will usually, it will be asked in a final interview with the department head. The key to answering the question is to view it from the perspective of the company and understanding what it needs to grow.
My Advice – What do you think the company most needs to grow? This should form the basis of your answer.
How Do You Define Success?
Success for different people means different things. My 90-year-old grandfather would define success as waking up each morning. This is another question where the interviewer is trying to find out what motivates you and how your brain works. Success for one person might be entirely different for another person.
My Advice – I would answer this question with explanations of both “success at work” and “success outside of work”, while trying to tailor your answer for a specific career. Success at work must always be something like “I have met all the Key Performance Indicators that my manager has set for me”.
Where Will You Be In Five Years’ Time
This question is often used to test how ambitious a candidate is. Being ambitious is okay, but there is a very fine line between being ambitious and being downright stupid. If you a graduate and your meeting the CEO and your answer is “I want your job”, it probably will not go down to well.
My Advice – Watch out for being too general or vague. “I want to develop as a person and take more responsibility” would be an answer that does not say very much.
How Would You Like Your Career To Grow Over The Next Five Years
The best answer for this question would be to show that you have completed your career research on the routes that are both open to you and are realistic.
My Advice – The right answer would be to combine the career route, with some form of qualification that you could realistically achieve over the next five years.
How Are You Looking For Your Career To Develop?
This is another trick question where the interviewer is trying to find out how ambitious you are and whether you are going to be here next year. Employers want candidates that they can invest into, but also get a return from their investment. If you sound too ambitious, then an employer could be put off as it’s likely you will have moved on next year to a new company.
My Advice – Don’t mention job titles that are ten years down the line and instead try to focus on the skills that you will need for a realistic next job. This will show that you have prepared for your interview and are both ambitious, but realistic.
Would You Rather Work For Money Or Job Satisfaction?
This is a trick question. Everyone wants to be paid what we’re worth and more, however, don’t fall into the trap and say money. Yes, money is important, but you need to remember that companies what candidates that want to work. If you respond that you work for money, the hiring manager will know that the minute you feel that you’re not being paid enough, you’re off.
My Advice – It’s okay to talk briefly about money, but you need to speak in detail about job satisfaction. At the end of the day, if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re likely to want to work harder. Hiring managers know this.
What Are The Reasons For Your Success?
The key here is to watch out for the “because I’m the best” at everything answer. Employers will most likely want a team player rather than a lone wolf, and an answer that is self-centred or arrogant will not help you.
My Advice – Yes you want to come across proud of your achievements but given there is a very fine line between being proud of your success and arrogant, I would always include other team members and managers that you have learnt from during your career.
How Are You Planning To Achieve This?
As a follow-up question, interviewers will often try to find more details on how you are planning to achieve your career goals. The key here is to speak about what skills or qualifications you will need in your chosen career.
My Advice – A great answer could be “I Plan on taking classes outside of work to continue my education plan while at the same time attending conferences, seminars and any in-house training that can help my professional development.”
What Motivates You?
There is no right or wrong answer to the question, however, it’s important that you get across what motivates you and how that will drive you to success within your chosen career.
My Advice – The best answer connects both the job and company together with the responsibilities that you most enjoy and are motivated to work on each day. By doing this, you’re showing the hiring manager that you both enjoy what you’re doing and will stay for the foreseeable future.
An example answer for a candidate that is interviewing for a project manager role where they are leading teams to complete a project could be something along the lines of, “I am motivated by leading teams and directing projects to ensure they are completed on time and within budget. I enjoy the challenge of finishing project ahead of time while motivating and managing teams to ensure they perform at their best, while at the same time developing the staff to achieve more in the future”.
How Are You Motivated To Succeed With Your Career?
This question is designed to find out whether you’re a person who thinks about short terms goals, or whether you can think about the long-term and achieving your goals during this time.
My Advice – Don’t mention salary as a motivating factor in all but a very commission-based sales job. Companies generally do not want candidates that are purely motivated by money.
Would You Describe Yourself As A Lucky Person?
Often during your job interview, the hiring manager will throw up some surprise questions to catch you off your guard with one such question being, “Do You Consider Yourself Lucky”. Again like many interview questions, there is no right or wrong answer, but a hiring manager will use this question to find out if you’re an optimist or a pessimist. Generally, employers want candidates that come across with a friendly personality and are therefore unlikely to upset the balance of the team. To answer this question correctly, you need to ensure that you demonstrate that you aren’t quickly put off, especially under challenging circumstances.
My Advice – Try to demonstrate that you come across as a candidate that is balanced, but at the same time optimistic about life and your career ahead. You could reference a few reasons where you have been lucky such as family, fantastic managers in the past or even solid education, however, you also want to show that you’ve made your luck during your career by working hard and passing exams.
What Makes You Different From The Competition?
One of the most important part’s of writing your CV is to make sure that you separate yourself from the crowd. This same rule applies during the interview process.
My Advice – To answer this question, you need to have read the job description and therefore know the requirements of the role. Once you have these, very simply, you can compare each requirement to your knowledge and explain where you can add value to the company based on your career. You can also take this a step further and explain quickly areas that are not on the job description but might be able to help a company further. An example could be languages – If you speak other languages, you could add more value to a business than other candidates and therefore separate yourself from the crowd.
If We Offered You This Role, When Could You Start?
This is a great question to be asked, and one that means that you’re interview is going well. Often candidates assume that if they don’t say immediately they will be missed over, however, this is not the case and an employer will wait for you to finish out your notice period.
My Advice – Companies will wait for you, but they won’t wait forever. It’s a great idea to mention your notice period, but also explain to the interviewer that you would want to give your old company as much time as they need to find a replacement. This shows that you’re not going to “cut and run” if you choose to leave the company at some point in the future.
Is There Anything Else We Should Know About You?
This is likely to be one of the last questions that will be asked as gives you an excellent opportunity to finish the job interview with a great impression. To answer the question correctly, you need first to understand what you have to offer the company and where you can add value. Make sure that you take this opportunity to get these final points across to the hiring manager.
My Advice – Even if you have had a long, in-depth job interview and convinced that you have covered all your key strengths. You need to take this opportunity to thank the hiring manager for their time, talk briefly about your interest in the role briefly re-cap the key areas that you can add value.
Do You Have Any Questions For Us?
This is likely to be the very last question you’ll be asked. It’s crucial that you say yes, and follow this up with a minimum of three questions. There is no possible way you can know everything about the company and the role. The hiring manager knows this. No questions mean that either you’re not interested or have done no preparation.
My Advice – Make sure that you spend some time doing interview preparation. If you need help, here’s a list of questions that you can ask at the end of your interview.
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