The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

How to answer the 5 most common interview questions

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interview answersYou walk into the interview room, shake hands with your interviewer and sit down with your best interviewing smile on. They are likely to have a full list of questions for you, apart from going through your CV and seeing if you have the skills for the job at hand.

So do you “wing it”? Will you spend the next 5 minutes rambling on about what an easy-going, loyal, dedicated, hard working employee you’ve been? If this is the case, you stand a good chance of having bored your interviewer to death thus creating a negative first impression. It’s far better to consider the potential questions and try to prepare the best answers to make your best impression possible:

1. Tell me about yourself.

Because it’s such a common interview question, it’s strange that more candidates don’t spend the time to prepare for exactly how to answer it. Perhaps because the question seems so disarming and informal, we drop our guard and shift into ramble mode. Resist all temptation to do so.

Your interviewer is not looking for a 10-minute dissertation here. Instead, offer a razor sharp sentence or two that sets the stage for further discussion and sets you apart from your competitors.

2. What is your greatest strength?

The best way to respond is to describe the skills and experience that directly correlate with the job you are applying for.

For example:

  • When I’m working on a project, I don’t want just to meet deadlines. Rather, I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule.
  • I have exceeded my sales goals every quarter and I’ve earned a bonus each year since I started with my current employer.
  • My time management skills are excellent and I’m organized, efficient, and take pride in excelling at my work.
  • I pride myself on my customer service skills and my ability to resolve what could be difficult situations

3. What is your greatest weakness?

There are several different ways you can answer, including mentioning skills that aren’t critical for the job, skills you have improved on, and turning a negative into a positive.

Another option is to discuss skills that you have improved upon during your previous job, so you are showing the interviewer that you can make improvements, when necessary. You can sketch for employers your initial level of functioning, discuss the steps you have taken to improve this area and then reference your current, improved level of skill.

If you use this strategy be sure not to mention anything that you improved upon that is related to the job for which you are interviewing. You don’t want your qualifications for the job to be questioned.

4. Why should we hire you?

Your answer to this question should be a concise “sales pitch” that explains what you have to offer the employer.

The best way to respond is to give concrete examples of why your skills and accomplishments make you the best candidate for the job. Take a few moments to compare the job description with your abilities, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other positions. Be positive and reiterate your interest in the company and the position.

Keep it short, specific, and positive.

5. Why are you leaving this job / Why did you leave your last job?

Be direct and focus your interview answer on the future, especially if your leaving wasn’t under the best of circumstances. Regardless of why you left, don’t speak badly about your previous employer. The interviewer may wonder if you will be bad-mouthing his company next time you’re looking for work.

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Written by Cathy Richardson

April 21, 2015 at 9:23 am

Posted in Recruitment

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