Do you have an interview coming up soon? Are you wondering how to prepare for the questions? Don’t worry, we have you covered!
At Head Hunt International we understand that interviews can be nerve-racking and we strive to ensure that our candidates feel as prepared and supported as possible before their interview with a prospective employer. In this article, we explain the two most popular styles of interviewing and provide 14 commonly asked questions to help you ace your upcoming job interview!
We recommend practising the questions below with a friend or family member, or even out-loud to yourself, but note that it is not necessary to prepare and memorize scripted answers for any interview question! In fact, reciting learned off paragraphs may cause you to come across artificial on the day. Interviewing expert, Pam Skillings, recommends using the bullet-point method instead, which involves listing and familiarizing yourself with your most relevant and interesting speaking points for the interview. This will allow you to appear natural and authentic, while still displaying structure and professionalism in your answers.
Behavioral and Situational Interviews
The two most common structured interview techniques are behavioral and situational, with the former focusing on the candidate’s past behaviour and the latter on hypothetical situations relevant to critical aspects of the job role. The candidate is normally assessed using pre-formatted rating scales for each question to ensure each interviewee is held to the same standard. The questions will always be based on the job description and person specification for the particular job you are applying for, and will be closely tied to the competencies required for that role. So if you are familiar with the requirements, there should be no surprises on the day! Let’s have a look at the example below for a customer service role:
It is therefore important to identify the competencies specific to your job and think about times during your career when you showed those competencies. Even where the question is hypothetical in nature, the ideal reply will draw on past experience as that adds credibility to your answer and strengthens it. Use the STAR technique below to address the question in a comprehensive way:
If you do not have an immediate answer for the question being asked, don’t rush in. Remember, that it is perfectly acceptable to take a few moments to gather your thoughts during the interview, just say: “That is a great question. Please just give me a short moment to think of a specific example for you.” Taking this approach is much better than rushing to answer with the first reply that comes to mind without considering its relevance to the question being asked. Furthermore, be aware that the interviewer may ask supplementary probing questions, such as “What was your role, specifically, in this project?” or “Why would you choose this approach to solve the problem?” so always be as truthful as possible about your experience and/or consider the rationale behind any actions you would take.
14 Commonly Asked Interview Questions
Below we list some commonly asked interview questions, including several behavioral and situational ones for you to practice, together with useful tips for preparing your speaking points on each one. Remember, that this is by no means an exhaustive list, and we emphasize that you should anticipate questions by examining the specific requirements of your job.
- Tell me about yourself/ Can you walk me through your CV?
- Tip! Avoid talking about your personal life here – the answer should relate to your professional journey only i.e. your education, career history, relevant interests and career goals, which should be neatly summarised in under 2 minutes. You will be asked a variation of this as an opening question, so practise it several times in order to start the interview on a strong note!
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Tip! Give one weakness followed by two strengths – you want to end the answer with your positive traits! Your strengths should match the key competencies that the company is looking for, and when giving your weakness, make sure to include what you are actively doing to improve yourself.
- Why did you leave your last job/ Why do you want to leave your current job?
- Tip! Avoid criticising your previous employer; instead focus your answer on the exciting opportunities you are looking forward to with the new company and your desire to improve your skills in a new and challenging position.
- Why do you believe you’re the most suitable candidate for this position/ Why do you want this job?
- Tip! This question requires having knowledge of the company history, culture, CSR projects, social media, its products and services, and any other significant and unique aspects of the organisation in order to explain how you would be the perfect fit for their team - so do your homework! You must also be aware of the requirements for the position in order to highlight the relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes that you possess, and how they would add value to the organisation. You can also mention your career goals and what new skills and experiences you believe you can gain from this position in the company.
- What is your biggest accomplishment?
- Tip! This question refers to your greatest career accomplishment and is a great opportunity to use the STAR method in answering the question, as it will comprehensively walk the interviewer through the background, challenges and actions that led to the outcome you achieved. Choose an accomplishment that has made your career more meaningful to you, and, ideally, that has left a lasting positive impact on something or someone else.
- Describe a difficult problem you faced and what you did to overcome it?
- Tip! Even though the interviewer may be asking what you did, he/she is really looking for an example of how you worked with a group of people to solve the problem, so this is a great opportunity not only to show your problem-solving competency, but also your team-work skills. This question is very important because it highlights both your critical thinking ability and your understanding of what constitutes a difficult problem. When answering, use a lot of task-related verbs, such as, I analysed, created, discussed, considered, implemented etc. to ensure you answer the question comprehensively.
- Tell me about a time when you were given a major project by your manager and how you handled it?
- Tip! Choose a project that required strong co-ordination, organisational, communication, team-work and multitasking skills. How did you take initiative? This is an opportunity for you to show a “can-do” attitude and a “no-nonsense” approach towards difficult tasks – traits which are commonly sought after by employers. If you choose to describe a group project, make sure you clearly explain what your specific role and contribution was in your answer.
- Describe a time when you welcomed and embraced change within an organisation?
- Tip! This refers to significant changes in management, operations, equipment, business ownership etc. and the interviewer is looking for a positive attitude during uncertain times. Show your understanding of the change process that took place and explain what was difficult for you specifically, but also how the challenge has strengthened you as a professional. Emphasise that you understand the importance of change and innovation to organisational competitiveness, as companies always look for adaptability in candidates.
- Can you describe a situation where you had to communicate something complex in a short period of time?
- Tip! Good communicators have the ability to get information across quickly and concisely, and are able to choose an appropriate medium for the message. In your answer, include details of the type of communication you used and what tools assisted you. Provide details of how you tailored the message to suit the audience. Most companies look for excellent verbal and written communication skills, so remember to include these in your answer.
- What would you do if you were asked to carry out a task that you suspect might be unethical?
- Tip! Remember to check for and understand the values of the organisation before the interview in order to give the appropriate answer for this question. Emphasise that ethics are important in your job, and try to think of an example where you faced an ethical dilemma in the past. This answer should highlight your sensitivity and common sense on ethical matters which may not have explicit rules, but which a thoughtful individual would nevertheless consider.
- How would you prioritise your work during a particularly hectic period?
- Tip! Time management and an ability to prioritise work are two very important skills in every job. Show the interviewer how you stay organised – what programmes, systems, methods do you use? How do you plan your day? Are you able to delegate work where appropriate and necessary? Consider a time in your past when you were under pressure and how you used the resources available to you efficiently in order to meet deadlines.
- Where do you want to be in five years?
- Tip! This can be a tricky question to answer as you need to strike a good balance between your own ambitions and what the company would want from you in the long run. Presentation expert Chris Croft says the best way to answer this question is by showing your enthusiasm for career progression within the organisation, as long as you’re still learning and growing professionally. You may also communicate your interest in working in another sector within the same company in the future, and emphasize that you believe multiskilled employees are the most useful!
- What would you do if I asked you to make a change in your schedule in order to accommodate and prioritize a different obligation over your usual work tasks?
- Tip! This question is designed to test your ability to be flexible and adaptable in the workplace, and is an opportunity to show your organisational skills. It is also included here to highlight that some questions can be very specific in nature, therefore try to prepare broad examples for the competencies relevant to your specific job that you can then adapt to answer any specific question.
- Do you have any questions for us?
- Tip! Do not answer with a polite no. This is often an official interview question and the insightfulness of your own questions may be evaluated, together with your enthusiasm for the position. See this an opening to connect with the hiring manager and make the interview more conversational in nature, but also see it as an opportunity to show your personality and intelligence. For example, you can ask “What do you like most about working here?” or “What is the biggest challenge the company is currently facing and what part does this role play in overcoming it?” but avoid asking questions related to your performance during the interview, such as “Do you have any concerns about my suitability for this position?” You don’t want to put the hiring manager/HR in an uncomfortable position, and you certainly don’t want them to think about your weaknesses at the very end of the interview! The goal is to finish on a positive note – always.
We hope this article has provided you with a good understanding of the different styles of interview questions you may be asked and how to prepare for them, as well as useful insight into the kinds of responses employers are looking for. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be on the day, so remember to practise, practise and practise once more! We wish you happy interviewing. Good luck!
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