You have just landed a job interview for a seemingly wonderful job. Great! Now what?

A successful interview is essential in order for you to make a great impression and stand out from the crowd.

While no two job interviews will be identical, there are certain interview questions that most job seekers are most likely to encounter.

Arming yourself with well thought out answers that you can deliver with confidence will help you master the interview process. Asia Skifati, Manager Business Support of Walters People, reviews 7 of the most common interview questions and how to best answer them.

1. Where do you see yourself in five years?

The interviewer wants to understand more about your career goals and how this role would fit into your short, medium and long term plan. Consider not just the job you are applying for today, but what role you might want to evolve into in the long run.

Emphasise how your previous roles have helped you progress in your career and how your past experiences have helped you increase  your knowledge and further develop your skills.

Always tie your answers and examples back to the position you're interviewing for and be realistic in terms of your aspirations. Telling the interviewer that you want their job is never a good idea.

2. What are your strengths/weaknesses?

For someone who is unprepared these questions can be a huge stumbling block, even for some of the most experienced professionals out there. However, if you have well prepared your answers, you’ll be in a much better position to come up with an answer that not only covers the questions, but makes you appear polished, well prepared and confident.

  • Strengths

Avoid 'bragging' when discussing your strengths. Look for three key qualities in the job description the employer is looking for  and provide examples of times you have used these strengths at work. Ideally, include a mixture of tangible skills, such as technical or linguistic abilities, and intangible skills, such as managing stakeholders or being an good communicator. 

  • Weaknesses

Avoid coming across as negative when talking about your weaknesses. Think of areas where you have taken steps to improve your weakness. "Discuss skills that you have improved during your previous experiences, you will show the interviewer that you are able to make improvements when necessary” says Asia.

Have you taken training courses or spent time outside work to be a better public speaker and give effective presentations? Give this as an example of how you have worked to improve your weakness.

3. Why should we hire you?

This is your chance to demonstrate why you want the job and why you would be a perfect fit for the company.

“Focus on what sets you apart from the crowd and where your greatest strengths lie. Highlight what you can bring to the table in terms of experience, personality and enthusiasm.” 

The job description should be your first reference point when identifying what the interviewer is looking for. Address the specific qualities relating to the job and provide examples of what you have done so far in your career that demonstrate why you are particularly suited for the role.

4. Tell me about yourself / your past work experience

What seems like such a simple question can sometimes be one of the toughest to answer for most professionals. As it is often the opening question for interviews, it is one of the most important since first impressions are key. When asking this question, the interviewer is looking for an answer that is pertinent to the job you're interviewing for.

“Avoid sharing too much information or too little. Focus on delivering a one to two minute advertisement for yourself, highlighting key achievements in your employment history” says Asia.

Know your CV inside out and start with an overview of your highest qualification then run through your past jobs. Give examples of your achievements and the skills you've developed in your career so far.

“Keep your answer brief - the interviewer will ask you to expand on any areas where they'd like more information." 

5. Why do you want to work for us?

When answering this question, you need to prove to your interviewer that you are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the job.

Preparation is key here. Show you’ve done your research and make sure the interviewer knows that you understand their business. Discuss all you know about the job and emphasise how well this particular position fits your interests.

"In addition to the latest news about the company you should be familiar with their values, mission statement, development plans and products. Your answer needs to prove that your goals and values are similar to the organisation’s" Asia explains.

6. What are your salary expectations?

While salary discussions should be avoided unless prompted, it's important to be aware of the value of someone with your skills. Indicate that you are willing to be flexible for the right opportunity and confirm that you value the position highly. "All too often, problems arise from salary expectations being either too high or far lower than what a company is willing to pay for" says Asia.

If a guideline salary has been provided with the job description, mention that it is around the amount you're looking for, reinforcing why you think you are a good fit for the role.

7. What skills or experience will help you succeed in this role?

Use this opportunity to highlight the skills and experience you have acquired that relate to the role in question. Explain how these skills will help you effectively complete the duties listed in the job description. Remember that interviewers like to hear how you have demonstrated your key skills, so be prepared to provide them with specific examples.  

Here are some examples of the key attributes employers look for:

  • Project management skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Managing stakeholders
  • Demonstrating sound technical knowledge, backed up by good business understanding
  • Delivering on targets or goals
  • Do your research.

Above all, gathering information on all aspects of the role and the company is crucial to a successful interview preparation. Have a look at the company website and understand as much as you can about their business and how they operate, as well as the products or services they provide.

Go prepared with questions to ask them – after all, the interview is a two-way process. Writing down questions ahead and taking them with you may be easier and shouldn’t be perceived negatively by the interviewer.

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