10 Job Interview Questions You Should Know The Answers To
In the years that I’ve been advising people on job hunting, CV writing and interview coaching, I’ve collected some questions that most people are afraid to ask. I hope you find the answers useful.
1. I am going to an interview next week. I always find the question “Tell me about yourself” difficult to answer. How much detail do I need to give?
This does not mean tell me everything. It means tell me in a few sentences why you’re the most suitable candidate for the job. Talk about your relevant education and experience and remember to tailor your answer to the specific job using an example or two to back up your answer and finishing off by sharing what you consider to be your main strengths, why you are looking for the role and where you would like to see your career going.
2. I was at an interview yesterday and was asked if I had children. I know that it’s illegal to ask this. What is the best way to handle this question?
From a legal standpoint, the Equality Acts prohibit employers from discriminating on the grounds of gender, marital status, sexual orientation, race, age, religion and disability. However many interviewers outside HR have had no formal interview training and ask questions that are inappropriate. I would re-assure them that you have excellent child minding arrangements or that your parents live locally and are on standby to help out in case of emergency and you always give 100% commitment to an employer. Keep the focus on the job and how your skills match their requirements.
3. Why do companies use competency interviews?
Companies use competency interviews because they want to be sure that the people they employ have the necessary skills to be successful in their roles. Competencies are the key skills and qualities that you will have to display in the role. For example, it may be teamwork and organisational skills. Competency based interview questions are used in an effort to make the interview process as standard and as fair as possible and prevent personal impressions affecting final decisions.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time is the question I find difficult to answer. What should I say?
The reason an interviewer asks this question is to see whether you have given any thought to having a career as opposed to just finding a job. They want to know how ambitious you are and if you can think more long-term. It’s best to say away from specific job titles and say something like, ” in five years, I feel I will have continued to learn, to grow into a position of more responsibility and will have made a significant contribution to the company.” Then ask the interviewer what they see as the possible career paths for the successful candidate.
5. I have to give a presentation of myself and my CV to a panel. I’ve not done this type of an interview before and am not sure how to approach this?
Keep your presentation short, up to 10 minutes. If you’re using PowerPoint you should have 3 or 4 slides. Each slide should have a heading, for example, recent achievements, your main skills, strengths and qualifications, unless the interviewers have given you specific questions to answer. You should not give your life history, just a few interesting facts about yourself to help make the interviewer remember you. Make sure your presentation has a start, with clear aims and an introduction, a middle with clear content and supporting evidence and an end with a conclusion or summary.
6. How do I prepare for my internal interview for a promotion?
You will need to be able to clearly demonstrate your contribution to the company, backed up by specific examples. The interview panel will also be aware of your areas for development and you will need to overcome any concerns they may have. You will need to demonstrate how you will adjust to your new leadership role in the company. How will you make the transition from working alongside people to managing these same people? Also speak to key people in the department you would be working in to learn about management goals and objectives and find out who will be interviewing you and their interview styles.
7. How do I explain the gaps in my CV?
It doesn’t matter if the gap is six months or two years, this question is always difficult to answer. “I spent 2 years looking for work,” will raise concerns. You must have a solid reason for not working or having a big gap in your work history. The important thing to remember is that you do not have to defend your absence, you just need to explain it. Some examples could be caring for a sick family member, raising children, further training or travelling. Refer to skills such as budgeting, planning, organising and prioritising that you learned while raising your family. These all transfer to on-the-job skills.
8. How do I convince the interview panel that I’m the best candidate for the role?
If you can show at the interview how you have been challenged by difficult tasks, managed them efficiently and had great success in implementing them then the interviewer will gain a clear idea of the value you would bring. I would also say something like, “I really can’t compare myself to the other candidates, as I don’t know them however I can tell you ..” Then go on to highlight your key strengths.
9. How do I explain that I was fired from my last job?
Don’t give a long, rambling story or blame the company or your boss. A simple statement about a personality clash, a personal problem that has been resolved or a company that’s downsizing is a good place to start. Then emphasise what you have learnt from the experience. Tell the truth and have one story and stick to it regardless of how many people are interviewing you. They will compare notes afterwards! Also, don’t be angry. Feeling angry after being fired is normal. However, you need to leave that anger at home and not bring it to the interview with you.
10. I have decided to take a step back in my career so I can spend more time with my children and am over-qualified for jobs I’m applying for. How do I explain this in an interview?
The interviewer’s main concern will not be around your ability to do the job but around your commitment to the role. They will be concerned that you will get bored and leave as soon as something better comes along. Be clear about your reasons for applying and be honest. Talk about what you like about the position and explain about any changes in family life and desire for a less stressful job. These are all genuine reasons and will not prevent you from getting the job.