How to Master Common Job Interview Questions

How to Master Common Job Interview Questions

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How to master common interview questions - Your People Partners

Need to prepare for that important interview coming up?

No matter how many times we have had to experience them, a job interview can be intimidating.

But they don’t have to be!

We’re here to help you master the most common job interview questions so you can feel confident and prepared when it comes time for your next video or face-to-face interview.

You’ve got this!

1. Tell me about yourself

Don’t you just love this opening interview question?

When asked to “tell me about yourself,” you should answer briefly – 2-3 mins max.

A long answer here, and you risk the interviewer glazing over, and that wouldn’t be a good start.

You can talk about your journey so far… being careful to be succinct. This is why you need to prep your answer.

Keep in mind that this is a common interview question—so don’t be surprised if (or when) it comes up!

  • The interviewer wants to know more about who you are as a person.
  • They want to get an idea of what drives your work style and how well it fits with the company culture.

This type of question also gives them an opportunity to listen for enthusiasm on your part for the job being discussed during this interview process; if it seems like something else could be motivating you (like desperation), then maybe not so much enthusiasm there…

  • Another way to think about your answer as you do your prep before the interview.
  • What’s been keeping you busy lately?

This question might seem like small talk at first glance. Do not treat it like small talk though!

It’s your opening gambit.

So really rather important.

Answering well shows a potential employer what kind of person you are right away.

Do the prep – there is no excuse on this one.

And the great thing is that if you prepare for this question and they don’t ask it, don’t worry. Your prep will not be wasted, as I guarantee you will be able to use your prepped answer at some other point in your interview.

2. Why do you want this job?

Is it a trick question?

Only if you approach it in the wrong way.

The question, “Why do you want to work for our company?” is a great opportunity to highlight your commitment and passion.

Your answer should be tailored to the job you’re applying for, but if it isn’t, that’s okay!

Here are some things that hiring managers are looking in your response:

  • A desire to grow with the company.
  • It shows that you understand how this position will give you valuable experience and help advance your career goals.
  • An understanding of their core values as an organisation (and how they match with yours).
  • If there’s a disconnect between what the company does and what matters most to you professionally or personally, then this could be a good chance for them to explain where they see opportunities for growth based on their needs right now—or why certain aspects won’t be possible at all under current circumstances.

Ultimately, this is a great opening to show that you have done your research into the company. So, make sure you look at the company’s social media, blog posts, press coverage etc and make your answer personal to them.

There is always a risk in your answer that you end up telling them what they want to hear. Please try not to, no matter how tempting. Keep your answer true to yourself so if you’d like this job because it’s an uplift in career opportunities, a better brand, closer to home, better employer brand, then say so.

Highlighting that you have taken the time to look into the company shows that you are taking this career opportunity very seriously.

3. How do you handle stress?

Stress is a normal part of life, and it can help you think about the future.

Stress is a reaction to a change in your body’s homeostasis. The stress response is meant to help us deal with danger in order to survive, but sometimes we perceive threats where there are none. This can cause stress that doesn’t serve us well if it becomes chronic – when our bodies are constantly responding as if they’re under attack.

To deal with this kind of chronic stress, look for ways in your life where you can make changes that improve your health and well-being without being too difficult for you or taking too much time away from work or other responsibilities.

You will most certainly want to use an example from your own career of how you’ve responded to a stressful situation.

Stress can be deadlines, a pushy client, a project that went wrong, a difficult member of your team that you had to let go as part of a failed probationary period, redundancies where you were let go, or where you had to help with the redundancy process.

The key is to think of a time you were stressed at work, but still overcame and fulfilled your duties in a professional manner.

This can be a great way of demonstrating how you will deal with work tasks in your new role should you be successful.

4. Why did you leave your last job?

This question is likely to come up in almost every interview, so make sure you have a good answer ready.

The best way to answer this interview question is to talk about what your current career goals are, and how they align with the position for which you’re interviewing.

Do not under any circumstances badmouth your current or former employer.

Just don’t.

I’ve known someone do this, and their line manager at that other company was the job interviewer’s brother-in-law.

Badmouthing can quite simply bite you in the butt.

Plus if you are negative about your current boss or employer, this may make your potential new employer concerned you’ll do the same to them.

Do not be tempted to say you left because of boredom with your work or because someone else got promoted instead of you. If there were extenuating circumstances that forced your hand, such as redundancies or financial difficulties at the company where you worked previously, feel free to mention those in passing if it’s relevant.

The key here is that honesty is always best; if something negative happened at one job (like being fired), then don’t pretend like it never happened!

Your next employer is likely to find out details like this when asking for references, and lying during the interview process is no way to start a new job role.

5. What is your greatest strength (and weakness)?

Yes, that good old weakness question that everyone likes to answer with how terribly organised they are.

Don’t be so predictable… the interviewer won’t be fooled or impressed.

  • When asked this question, it’s important to lead with your greatest strength. If you have one area of expertise that sets you apart from other candidates, it’s best to get that out on the table early. For example:
    • “My greatest strength is leadership. I’ve been in charge of several large projects throughout my career, and I always strive to help others achieve their goals.”
  • Next, tell them about a weakness you’re working on improving.
  • This can be an area where you struggle or something unrelated to work—it doesn’t matter as long as it gives the interviewer insight into how self-aware and adaptable you are (and will be).
  • Make sure not to choose something like:
    • “I’m too hardworking” or “I don’t know how successful I am” unless those things actually hold true for your personal life!
    • Otherwise, try saying something along these lines: “I’m currently working on being more focused during meetings.” Your goal should be telling them something they don’t already know about yourself but wouldn’t be able to deduce from looking at your resume alone.

6. What are your long-term goals?

This is one of those interview questions that can be hard to answer because it’s vague.

It’s important to remember that this question is not asking you what you want to do with your life in 20 years. It’s just asking about your professional career. The easiest way to answer this question is by thinking about where you want to be in the short to medium term i.e. 2 years or so.

If someone asks you what your long-term goal is in a job interview, you could say something along the lines of:

“I hope I’ll be working at a fast-growing tech company who are making a difference to the X community whilst also progressing in my career to be managing a team of software engineers”

This response shows that your short-term goals have been achieved and that you’re setting new goals for yourself based on your values (working for a company making a difference in the X community).

The second part of this answer shows some level of ambition and commitment towards a specific skill set or activity rather than simply achieving another rung on the ladder or stepping into another role within an organisation.

7. What challenges are you looking for in a position?

If your interviewer asks this question, they are looking to see how you tackle problems, not necessarily what the challenges are. You want to demonstrate that you’re someone who thrives in a fast-paced environment and wants to contribute to the growth of an organisation.

For example, if a company is undergoing rapid growth, you might explain how you’d like to help it become even more successful by supporting its expansion into new markets.

Perhaps there’s an opportunity for teamwork at another department within the company that could improve efficiency and effectiveness for both teams if integrated into one process and improve employee satisfaction.

8. Where would you like to be in your career in five years? Ten years?

Although similar to the long-term question above, this one can also crop up.

I want to be clear that I dislike this interview question with a passion.

Why?

Look back 5 years, or 10 years… are you where you wanted to be 5-10 years on?

This question lends itself to you answering what you think the person interviewing you wants to hear and not your truth.

Please give this question careful consideration. Your response should be specific and realistic.

Think about what your ideal situation would be at a more realistic point in the future. This could be an opportunity that would allow you to take your career in a direction you’ve always wanted to go. Be ambitious, but also honest about what is possible for someone with your current skill set and experience level.

When answering this question, keep these things in mind:

  • Be prepared with a thoughtful response that has been well thought out beforehand—not just something off the top of your head when the interviewer asks it.
  • Don’t tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear. That is not being you or authentic, and usually, it shows!
  • Be prepared to say:
    • “I am not sure about 5 or 10 years time, however, I do know that I’d like to have developed in a fast-growing tech company where my impact as a manager has been recognised and rewarded, and I’ve become a subject matter expert in our primary product offering”.
  • Your future plans will likely play into how the company views your fit for this job opening; if they don’t like what they hear, that is okay… it means they’re not the right place for you this time around.

9. Get what you want from your job interview

The key to answering these questions is being able to show that you are a good fit for the role, current team and company.

Here are some considerations for you ahead of all your job interviews:

  • Tell them what you can do and give measurable results and evidence to back it up:
    • Interviewers want to hear about your accomplishments, not just your skills and qualifications.
    • They want to know why they should hire you instead of someone else, so show them how you fit their company in this role based on the evidence.
    • Such as: I feel I could add value as your new Business Development Manager as last year I closed 238% of my target within the target market for your new tech solution. I have a ready-made network waiting for me to call and introduce them to my new company which would allow me to lean on my relationships for quick wins if I were to join you.”
  • Be specific when describing these accomplishments and responsibilities, but don’t go overboard with numbers—the interviewer will be impressed by more than just sheer volume!
  • Know your numbers – think Dragon’s Den… if you don’t do the prep and know what you’ve achieved in quantitative terms, you’ll sound woolly and vague.
  • Show that you’re a good communicator by speaking clearly and slowly enough for everyone in the room (including yourself!) to understand what’s being said at all times throughout the hiring process so far.

The bottom line is, these are all common interview questions, and they won’t be going anywhere. So, you might as well get used to them—and learn how to answer them effectively.

The more comfortable you feel talking about yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, the smoother your interviews will go.

If nothing else..

“Keep in mind that there’s no one right way to answer each question; just make sure you’re focused on telling the story of who you are and what makes you a great fit for this position and company.”

And if you would like an extra confidence boost in order to nail that next interview, why not grab your Free Interview Guidebook?

Good luck!

Still need help?

If you would like more advice ready for your interview or some further assistance with your job search, feel free to get in touch with the team at Your People Partners. We love to help!

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Helen Sanders Managing Director and Chief People Partner
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