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Job Interview Preparation: 19 Questions & Answers

Preparing for a Job Interview with Common Questions

Finding a job can be really difficult. You can send your CV in numerous times with no response or feedback whatsoever, so when you do get called for an interview, it is important to be prepared and be able to put your best foot forward. Let's look at some of the most common questions asked by recruiters and hiring managers, with some tips on the types of responses expected.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

This is often the first questions asked and often the one that catches everyone up. The person interviewing you has seen your CV, they do not want a blow by blow of your work history, nor an epic saga of your personal life. What they do want to hear is why your experience to date makes you a good fit for this particular position. Tell them about your accomplishments and experiences that relate directly to what you would be doing in the position and why this makes you the right candidate.

2. How did you hear about the position?

This question might also seem rather simple, but instead of mumbling something about the internet or social media, you can use this question to show a connection. If you have a professional contact or friend that let you know about the position, this is a great time to let the interviewer know that you already know something about the business and their culture. If you found them through any other means, elaborate on why the particular position appealed to you or why you wanted to work for the company.

3. What do you know about the company?

This is where your research comes in. Yes, go check out their website and read their “About” page, but don't stop there. Do you have any idea about the company's missions and goals? If not, find out as much as you can and use this question to explain how you can help the company achieve their goals and how you identify with their mission. Each industry and company make use of specific phrases and keywords, which you should try and include without sounding like you have memorized their websites.

4. Why do you want this job?

Do not answer this question with: “Because I need the money”. Yes, most of us do work to earn a living, but your interviewer wants to know the passion you will be bringing to the position. What aspects of the job appeal to you and why? You can integrate your personality, goals and experience with what the company would be looking for in this role, but leave them feeling that you are excited and genuinely interested in the role you are applying for.

5. Why are you the right candidate for this position?

This is where you really have to sell yourself. Why are you the person best suited for the position and the company? Demonstrate that you can do the job effectively, you may even be able to improve on results achieved (use examples where you have done this before). Indicate how you can fit in with the company's culture and team and why hiring you is in their best interest. Don't be afraid to let the interviewer know of achievements in the past that may be related to what you could achieve in this company should you be hired.

6. What are your greatest strengths?

This question requires honesty and you should relate this to relevant skills required for the position. Be specific instead of saying something like “being proactive” instead detail your forward thinking and how you take initiative instead. You can use actual examples that demonstrate your strengths in the workplace.

7. What are your weaknesses?

Another question that needs some measure of honesty. The hiring manager will not be wanting to hear that you are perfect and have no faults. This question assesses how self-aware you are, your honesty and your ability to focus on correcting or improving on these weaknesses. You don't want to focus on negatives that are not relevant to the position, but rather on those that you have identified and how you plan to correct them in your role.

8. What is your greatest professional achievement?

There may be many achievements that you can list in this instance, but pick the one that relates closest to the company's mission and goals that you are interviewing for. Detail what the situation was and what specific task you were trying to achieve to give context to the achievement. Then explain how you went about achieving the goal and the results achieved in a specific time period. These achievements must be quantifiable to be valid.

9. Tell us about a challenge or conflict you've faced, and how you dealt with it.

This question looks at conflict management and resolution. In an interview people will be putting their best foot forward, but how will they cope in the position if there is a conflict with other staff or challenges that are faced. Detail one specific incident that you have handled professionally and preferably ended up with a good result at the end. Detail how you overcame the challenge or how you reached a resolution to the conflict.

10. Where do you see yourself in two / five / ten years?

Your interviewer is trying to judge if you set realistic goals and expectations for yourself in your chosen career and your level of ambition. They also want to see that you have a plan and have aspirations and goals that you are working towards. It is also helpful if your career path could be promoted in the position you are applying for so that the role may be a long-term prospect for you.

11. What's your ultimate dream job?

Don't answer that you want to be an Olympic figure skater or a rockstar as this may get you a laugh, but could also fall flat. You want to tailor your dream job to suit something along the lines of the role you are applying for or something that could be achieved in the role over time. Would this position be your dream or at least a step closer to your planned ultimate position?

12. What other companies have you interviewed for?

This is often asked if you have been headhunted. The interviewer wants to see if you are serious about the role or just exploring options in the industry. You can mention that you have been interviewed with other companies in the industry without being specific while relating your specific credentials that translate well to roles in the industry.

13. Why are you or did you leave your previous job?

This is one that is asked 99% of the time. You will want to keep answers positive and avoid being negative about your current or previous employers. It is better to phrase this answer in a way that shows your willingness and eagerness to pursue your goals and take on new opportunities. If you were retrenched or your contract ended, you can also just state that as an answer as long as it is the truth.

14. What are you looking for in a new position?

Try and be specific and relate what you are looking for to what the position is offering. Avoid the materialistic side of things and answer in relation to the goals and challenges of the position.

15. What type of work environment do you prefer?

Another place where your research will come in handy, try and answer this question and relate it to the environment and culture of the company you are being interviewed with. Avoid stating requirements that go against the role being offered and the working environment of the current business.

16. What's your management style?

This is usually asked if you are applying for a supervisory role or have been in one in the past. You need to show that you are flexible but firm and know how to deal with employees as individuals. Share anecdotes about how your managerial style has improved relationships and performance in the past. You can also include examples of leadership in a team situation. Add some colour and detail but don't go overboard.

17. What is the toughest decision you have had to make in the past year?

This question is to assess your problem-solving skills, judgement and reasoning. You need to have an answer to this question as it is a red flag if you cannot recall a single incident that was tough to handle and cannot explain how you dealt with the situation. The best answers would revolve around difficult decisions made under duress, showing what considerations were taken into account, including other people as well as the ramifications of your decision. Show you can look at the facts, consider the implications for other people as well and then make a logical decision from that point.

18. How do you deal with stressful situations?

If possible, use an anecdote which shows how you persevered in a positive and productive manner even under pressure. You can also describe your stress reduction tactics to reduce its impacts.

19. Do you have any questions for us?

Make sure you use this time to ask smart questions that show your interest while helping you decide if the position is a good fit for you as well. You can actually ask the interviewer questions based on their personal experience or related to the company's future plans and growth. You can also ask questions related specifically to the role such as what they would want you to achieve in your first 3 months with the company or what the main performers do in the company to achieve results. Showing that you are interested in how to get results in the role is very important and shows that you have a drive to succeed.

There are many more questions that may be asked, but this will give you a guideline into what the interviewer is looking for. Answers that show that you have done some research and that you have specific qualities that make you perfect for the position will get you a lot further than off the cuff answers or not being able to give a coherent answer to the questions asked.

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