You've submitted your CV, made it through the initial screening process, now you're ready for the interview. With so much competition in the job market, this is your opportunity to demonstrate you're the best person for the position. The way you handle yourself during the interview is only one of several factors that ultimately determines whether you get the job, but it is one of the most important nonetheless.
The good news is you can generally prepare in advance for questions you may be asked. Following are some typical interview questions, and some insights on what a hiring manager may be looking for in your answers.
"Tell me a little about yourself."
This is the ice-breaker of the interview world, and it's always a challenge to answer because it's so broad. The best approach is to narrow the scope of the question by focusing on those aspects of your background that make you qualified for the position. From there, you can talk about your interest in this particular job and company.
"Tell me about your last job."
Most interviewers are looking for a direct link between your responsibilities in your most recent position and the job they have open. This is your chance to highlight your transferable skills and talk about specifics, including who you reported to, the number of people you managed, how your position fit into the company's big picture and the contributions you made. Make sure you aren't general in your answers. Tell the interviewer what your job entailed day to day and how those responsibilities have prepared you for the current position you're seeking.
"What are your strengths?"
For many positions in today's market, the requirements have changes so it is important to have broad skill sets. While you'll always want to tailor your most applicable skills to the job description, companies also value people who demonstrate flexibility and can fill in where necessary on occasion. You'll also want to mention those strengths that are relevant in almost any position, such as solid communication skills and your ability to work well on a team.
"What are your weaknesses?"
This one can be the bane of the interviewee's existence. After all, it's difficult enough admitting your downfalls to those you know well, much less someone whom you've just met. This isn't the time to beat yourself up: Don't talk about all those projects you started but didn't have time to finish at your last job. Instead, be candid and brief. Maybe planning wasn't your strong suit in the past, but you've found an organisational system that keeps you on track.
"Why should I hire you?"
Don't get caught up in what may appear to be an easy answer ("Because I'm the best person for the job"). Instead, hone in on specific qualities that make you a good fit for this position. Talk about what you know about the job from the description and how you can make a significant contribution. Then relate examples of your skills to back it up.
"What's the biggest problem you faced in your last job, and how did you solve it?"
An interviewer who asks this question is looking for insight into what you consider a challenge and how you would handle a difficult situation. Come prepared with two or three examples of difficulties you overcame on the job that are relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.
"What kind of salary do you require?"
Generally, it's better to postpone discussions about salary until you have a thorough understanding of the job responsibilities and what the employer is willing to pay. But in case it does come up early in the interview process, be sure you know your monetary requirements and market value. Your perceived 'value' is generally the basis of most companies' salary decisions. Use a salary guide to research what you're worth.
The questions covered above are not all encompassing, but you will probably encounter many of them during the interview process. By practicing your answers in advance and knowing what not to say, you'll be well on your way to a successful meeting, and maybe a new job as well.
How to answer competency-based interviewing questions
Many companies now employ a method of interviewing called Competency or Behavioural Based Interviewing. Using this method they will start the interview by asking you to talk about your background. They will then ask you some questions that will require you to give examples from your past. We have included a list of questions below that are representative of the types of questions they may ask. The key to answering these questions is to be as specific as possible and to bring examples out from your past. If you cannot think of an example ask them to rephrase the question.
We also encourage you, as the candidate, to ask as many questions as possible. This should be a give and take conversation.
Sample competency-based interview questions: