How to answer the most common interview questions

Employer and candidate in a job interview

Interviews can be nerve-racking, especially if it's for a job you really want. Making a good first impression during a job interview can very well get you the job of your dreams. Although no two job interviews are alike, there are some questions that you can almost guarantee will be asked. Preparing well thought out answers that you can deliver with confidence can help you calm your nerves and master the interview process. 

Here are 7 of the most common job interview questions and how to best structure your answers.

Tell me about yourself

This is usually the opening question and first impressions are key. Begin your answer with an overview of your highest qualification then run through the jobs you've held so far in your career. You can follow the same structure of your CV, giving examples of achievements and the skills you've picked up along the way. Don't go into too much detail, your interviewer will ask for you to expand on any areas where they'd like more information.

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. 

What are your strengths?

Read the job description again, and pick the three biggest attributes that you think will get you the job and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a work situation. They could be tangible skills, such as proficiency in a particular computer language, or intangible skills such as good people management.

What are your weaknesses?

This question is best handled by picking something that you have made positive steps to redress. For example, if your IT ability is not at the level it could be, state it as a weakness but tell the interviewer about training courses or time spent outside work hours you have used to improve your skills.

Why should we hire you? What can you do for us that other candidates can't?

What makes you special and where do your major strengths lie? You should be able to find out what they are looking for from the job description. "I have a unique combination of strong technical skills and the ability to build long-term customer relationships" is a good opening sentence, which can then lead onto a more specific example of something you have done so far in your career.

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in five years time?

It's best to talk about both short-term and long-term goals. Talk about the kind of job you'd eventually like to do and the various steps you will need to get there, relating this in some way back to the position you're interviewing for. Show the employer you have ambition, and that you have the determination to make the most of every job you have to get where you want to be.

Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you've given this some thought. If you've prepared for the interview properly, you should have a good inside knowledge of the company's culture, values, mission statement, development plans and products. Use this information to describe how your goals and ambition matches their company ethos and how you would relish the opportunity to work for them. 

What salary are you seeking?

Find out how much someone with similar skills and experience is worth by using one of the many job market resources available today such as our Salary Survey. Try not to give any specific numbers in the heat of the moment - it could put you in a poor position when negotiating later on. Your interviewer will understand if you don't want to discuss this until you are offered the job. If they have provided a guideline salary with the job description, you could mention this and say it's around the same area you're looking for.

More advice?

Consult our career advice section or download a free copy of our complete interview guide for all our best advice.

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