Getting the Basics Right at an Interview: Questions and Answers
In preparing for an interview it is natural to devote a lot of energy to preparing for the hard or unusual questions that may arise. It is however critical not to do this at the expence of being poorly prepared for the predictable or basic questions which arise in most interview situations. Often, it is here that you can set yourself apart from the field.
1. Tell me about yourself?
This is arguably the most common interview question. A well thought out answer can get you off to a great start and grab the interviewer’s attention. This straightforward three-pronged approach can act as a suitable framework:
- Describe your personality: depending on the role, describe attributes that are suitable for the job. For example, for a customer service job – “I have a bubbly, people oriented personality with excellent communication skills”. Be ready with an example of your personality in action if asked.
- Academic/work experience: briefly describe your academic/job history. Make sure to include any outstanding or distinctive achievements. For example, a high mark in a particular subject or “I was nominated employee of the year in 2010”.
- Leisure: pick out a few of your interests that are not job related such as sports and hobbies. For instance, if you play for a football club it shows that you are a team player and dedicated. It is useful to think through a particular event or achievement you could discuss. Aim to convey enthusiasm as much as achievement.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: Another chance to shine with a well thought out answer. It is vital to discuss specific traits/skills that are relevant to the job. Mention a number of them such as being creative, a good motivator and attentive to detail. Be prepared to give an example to illustrate each point. The STAR (situation, task, action, result) technique can be useful to structure your answers.
Sample Answer: “I care about attention to detail. In my last position I managed our social media presence (situation/task). I carefully researched relevant material to upload onto various social media platforms. Before publishing posts online I proofread for grammar and spelling mistakes (action). Although these actions took a little time it meant that errors were avoided and a professional impression was created (result).
Weaknesses: With this question the interviewer is assessing your self-awareness and insight. Turn the weakness into a positive by describing them as an area for development and what you are doing or planning to address it.
Sample Answer: In the past, I was reluctant to delegate. I have had to re-evaluate this as I was creating a large workload for myself and not motivating my team. I am now assigning each person a specific, manageable task and then following up to be satisfied that it is being done correctly. So far it’s working out well and morale has improved.
3. Why do you want this job?
This is where you can show off your knowledge of the organisation. To prepare for this question Google the company’s website along with any relevant articles or social media pages. This will show that you are seriously interested in the job. Compare (and align) your goals with those of the organisation. Also, make sure you are on top of the job description.
Sample Answer: Being a HR graduate with 3 years experience working in the food industry. I am keen to pursue an international career in one of the world’s fastest growing food companies. In the role of HR manager I strive to play a key role in recruiting and developing talent to help the firm achieve its goals.
4. What are your goals for the future?
For this question, refer to the job you are doing the interview for. Don’t discuss goals that are not related to the job such as returning to college, travelling or starting a family. To prepare, research a reasonable career path which would follow from the position you are applying for.
Sample Answer: After a few years, I see myself as a top performing sales agent in a well-established sales company. In time, I would love to establish my own sales agency.
5. Do you have any questions for us?
The right answer is yes. If you say no you may risk appearing uninterested. Have some questions prepared to show that you have done some research and are eager to know and learn as much as possible. Also, make sure that you bring a notebook to the interview so you can jot down any questions that may occur to you.
Sample Questions: (normally ask 3/4):
- More about the organisation - How would you describe your corporation’s personality and management style?
- Being new on the job - What are the most challenging aspects of the position?
- Responsibilities – Could you give me a sense of a typical day on the job?
- Last question - When shall I expect to hear back from you?
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