It’s a tough time to be looking for a job: if you’ve landed an interview, congratulations! It’s always a big achievement but especially in such a challenging climate. When you’re preparing for your interview (which will probably be remote, so do check out our 5 tips for virtual interviews) remember that people fail to get past the interview stage for two main reasons:
- Lack of preparation and knowledge about the company and the vacancy
- Not displaying enthusiasm for the role
The internet is full of interview horror stories. Weird questions, bizarre behaviour and some questionable ethics. Back in the real world, most interviewers simply want to find out if you’re a good fit for the role.
We don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question. You don’t want to come across as an over-rehearsed, inauthentic robot. We do advise you research the company and the role, get comfortable with what you might be asked, and gather evidence and personal career stories so you sound prepared and credible.
Here’s how you can get ready to answer 11 of the most frequently asked interview questions.
1. How are you coping with lockdown/working from home/Tier X restrictions?
It’s normal to start an interview with a little informal chat to break the ice but, in current circumstances, this small talk is more likely to be about the pandemic than how easy it was to find the office building. For some candidates this might be uncomfortable or even risk bringing up some deeper issues. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re struggling with certain aspects of this situation (we all are!) but it helps to be prepared and think of how you can use this question as an opportunity to outline how you’re adapting, keeping to a routine or learning new skills.
2. Q: Tell me about yourself
A: This question seems so simple, yet many people fail to prepare for it. They end up floundering and not knowing quite where to start. Or, they launch into a complete personal and career history.
Instead, prepare a pitch, with two or three concise and compelling accomplishments that show exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Think about what you most want the interviewer to know about. Then wrap up by outlining how your experience has positioned you as the perfect person for this specific role.
If you’re asked about what you like to do outside of work, it’s normally because the interviewer is trying to see if you will fit in with the culture. You should still be authentic and honest. But, remember, it’s an opportunity to open up and display your personality, creativity or other attributes relevant to the role.
3. Q: How did you hear about the position?
This is another seemingly innocuous question. But, so many people respond with a really bland answer. This is missing an opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company.
Mention how you found out about the job, but that isn’t the important bit. Make sure you talk about what caught your eye in the job ad or why you were so excited when you heard about it. If you discovered the company at a conference or networking event, or read an article about them, share the specifics, and why you think the company is a great place to work.
4. Q: What do you know about the company?
A: There’s no substitute for pre-interview planning on this one. What’s their business model? Who are their main competitors? How are they positioned in the market? You’re not going to impress if you give vague details about the industry or obvious facts gleaned from a five-minute scan of their website. You’ll need to show you’ve done your homework and that you can analyse and evaluate what you’ve read to give some personal insights and views.
You can also talk about what you think the company could do better or differently. But, avoid attacking the company or named individuals. Share your thoughts and show how your interests and expertise would lend themselves to the job. If you do this in a positive way, you can convince the hiring manager that you can think critically and bring new ideas to the table.
5. Q: What are your biggest professional strengths?
A: You might dread the question, but hiring managers dread hearing another off-the-shelf response. Instead, be specific and choose strengths that are relevant to the role. For example, you could talk about how you communicate persuasively or nurture effective teams and networks. Always include examples of your achievements.
6. Q: What is your greatest weakness?
A: It’s tempting to try to dress up a positive as a negative. ‘I’m a perfectionist who works too hard’ is an answer any experienced interviewer will see straight through. Be honest about how you’ve taken constructive feedback on board and show how you’ve worked on your personal development. If you need a prompt, think about what you’ve learned about yourself and your working style during the pandemic and how you navigated your way through it.
7. Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Candidates may feel that saying they would still like to be in the same job is proof of commitment. But, hiring managers will see it as a lack of ambition. They’re really trying to assess whether the position and company align with your personal and professional development goals.
Talk about how you’d like to develop the role you’re applying for. You can also refer to other areas of the business where you’d be interested in working, or projects you’d like to be involved with. Always tie your answer in with your strengths and what you’ll bring to the organisation.
8. Q: Why do you want to work here?
A: Even if you’ve been made redundant from an industry that was badly affected by coronavirus restrictions, just saying you need a job to pay the rent is not going to inspire your interviewer. Brutal honesty isn’t always the best policy.
By all means explain how that experience shaped your decision to apply for this role, but hiring managers will want to see some commitment and passion. Identify some key factors or transferable skills that make you a great fit for the role and share what you love about the company’s product or service range, organisational values, company culture and future direction.
9. Q: Why should we hire you?
A: Many candidates are intimidated by this question. But, it’s the perfect pitch opportunity. They’re openly inviting you to sell yourself and your skills. This is your chance to prove how you can benefit the business.
Don’t be shy when answering this question. Draw on your great track record of achievements and make sure you show that you:
- Can do the work
- Deliver great results
- Fit in with the team and culture
10. Q: Why are you leaving your current job?
A: Keep it positive. You have nothing to gain by being critical of your current or past employers. Show that you’re eager to take on new opportunities and that this role is a good fit for you
11. Q: Can you explain why you changed career paths?
A: Never see this as a negative. Many of us have fluid career paths. But, do be prepared to articulate why you’ve made the career decisions you have.
Keep it up beat. Focus on how your past experience is transferrable to the new role. If you can demonstrate how your fresh perspective will benefit the organisation, you’re on to a winner.
Do you have any questions for us?
Of course, you’ll need to be prepared for this one at your interview. Interviews are a two-way process and key, insightful questions at this point will show your enthusiasm for the role and the company.
We’d like to know if you have any questions for us at City CV? Is there an interview question you’re not sure how to approach? Are you plagued by nerves and anxiety in interview situations? Or, are you simply struggling to articulate your achievements in a compelling manner?