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The most common interview questions (and how to answer them)

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

There are a number of questions you can expect Employers to ask during an interview. Some are easy and straightforward while others are aimed at challenging you to see how to react and respond, although it may sometimes feel like they are being asked in order to trip you up.

But that isn’t their aim. Rather, Employers could very easily be interviewing several people for the role and it is their job to identify the best person for that position. Here we take a look at some of the most commonly asked interview questions and how you can answer them.

Question 1: Tell me about yourself?

This is a question for which many people fail to prepare. Avoid providing a list of your employment history - they have read your CV and application so you don’t want to tell them what they already know. Focus on a few career highlights, how they relate to the role you are applying for and how your experiences to date make you suitable for the role.

Question 2: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Try and give at least two strengths and weaknesses. If you struggle with this ask friends or family members what your strengths are and think about what skills are needed and what skills you have that will make you great at that job.

When talking about a weakness, take an aspect of your current job that you have sought to improve upon over the last few months. For example, suppose you struggled to prioritise your workload and, to improve this, you adapted a Google Sheets template that enabled you to schedule tasks and diarise the times and dates for each project. This enabled you to stay on top of your work and meet deadlines.

The question about weaknesses can make people feel uncomfortable, but Employers aren’t trying to catch you out here, they are more interested about how self-aware and how open and honest you are.

Question 3: What do you know about the company?

Make sure you do your research and find out as much as you can about the company. Find out who the senior management team are, where they are located, what products or services do they provide? Who are their customers or clients? How long have they been established? Also take a look at the news section on their website, have they won any awards recently? Take a look at their social media platforms, have they carried out any campaigns recently? How engaged are their social media platforms? Knowing this information will impress the interviewers and it also creates a good opportunity to ask them questions.

Question 4: What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?

This question gives you a chance to shine and talk about an aspect of your work you are most proud about. It also shows Employers what you are passionate about. Remember to give an overview of the task or project, what actions you took and the measurable results that you achieved. If you have had a few achievements that you are proud about, prepare a couple because sometimes you may end up talking about one before they get to that question, also prepare and talk about the achievements most relevant to the role you are interviewing for.

Question 5: Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Employers tend to ask this question to find out a bit more about your personal goals and how motivated and ambitious you are. If you’re just looking for a job to keep you going in the here and now then that is fine especially if the role you are applying for is a Temporary one. If it’s a Permanent position, they will be keen to learn more about your career goals and, in doing so, they may be in a position to support those ambitions in terms of training development and development.

Question 6: What do you like to do outside of work?

Employers like to get to know you as a person and whether your personality will fit with the culture of the organisation. There’s no right or wrong answer here so be honest. You don’t need to list a whole range of ‘impressive’ hobbies, so think about how you spend your evenings and weekends, whether it’s cooking, going out with friends, spending time with your family, going to the gym or reading a book.