Candidate Interviews

The most asked job interview questions (and how to answer them!)

Need some help preparing for those tricky interview questions? We've listed the most commonly asked questions, with best answers and red flags

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Tell me about yourself

This is a really common question, and is often the first to be asked.

Stick to a work related answer – never go into your personal life unless the interviewer asks you. Give a brief summary of your career history, how your career has developed focusing on your achievements.

Why did you leave your last job?

You should always try and give a positive response to this question, it’s a good idea to highlight that you are now ready for a better opportunity and a new challenge.

However tempting it may be, never ever bad mouth your current employer.

What are your strengths?

This is a question that you should always be prepared for when going into an interview. Be ready to give several examples of your strengths and have instances where you have demonstrated them ready. Don’t list strengths that aren’t relevant to the job you are interviewing for, and don’t be shy about your accomplishments!

What’s your biggest weakness?

We all have weaknesses – recognising them is what’s important.

A good trick for this question is to make sure you highlight how you’ve addressed any issues you’ve faced; perhaps you’ve attended a training course or worked with a mentor.

For example;

“I get quite nervous giving presentations and talking in front of a room of people, so I enrolled on a course to improve my public speaking.”

Don’t mention any faults that would directly affect your ability to do the job.

What do you know about our company?

Make sure you do your homework by browsing every part of the company’s website as that is the most authentic source of information to answer questions like these. If you happen to know someone who already works there ask them for some specific information.

Key points to make a note of are;

  • Industry/sector.

  • Goals.

  • Major competitors.

  • Culture and values.

Why should we hire you?

Make sure you have used the job advert to figure out the employer’s most sought-after skills, and come up with a brief example that explains how you have acquired that skill.

This question should be answered with a sense of bi-party need. Speak in a balanced tone to send the message that company needs you just as much as you want the job. Stay clear of comparing yourself with other applicants though!

How would your co-workers describe you?

You don’t want to merely give a list of adjectives your colleagues would say about you. Instead- focus on one attribute that describes your work ethic, and think of a time when you have demonstrated it in the workplace. When telling a story- it is crucial that you do not just make something up, and don’t be dishonest.

Try to use the STAR method for delivering your answers to questions you are asked:

The beauty of this is it allows you to elaborate in context and it opens the door for further questions about the topic you have chosen to respond with.

It’s a clear, structured and concise method and the best way of minimising the amount of questions that you just "don't know" so here is a recap:

Situation: The position I was in

Task: What I was asked to do while in that situation

Action: What I did after I was asked to do what I was doing in the situation

Result: What end product of the action.

 Written by Jenny Headington

Interview Horror Stories

We’ve all been there; it’s time for the big interview for that job you’ve been waiting for and nerves have got the better of you.

We have found some interview horror stories that will make you feel much better about yours this Halloween…..

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Too hot for socks

“A candidate complained during the interview that she was hot. She then said ‘excuse me’ and proceeded to remove her socks. After placing them on the desk, she continued as if everything was normal”

Mother Cupboard

“My mum’s story is better: she went for an interview at a prestigious law firm. All went well and she was confident she’d given her best and so shook the interviewers’ hands and exited the room. Only, she hadn’t exited the room, she had walked into a small utility cupboard. Instead of just popping back out and laughing it off my mum decided to stay in there!

“Quite clearly the three interviewers had watched her walk in there. It took a few minutes (probably as the interviewers expected her to emerge) until they opened the door and asked if she was okay. Instead of admitted her mistake at that point, she instead stuttered: ‘I was exploring my potential new company’ and then bolted out of the real exit. She got the job, too!”

References Pending

“One applicant handed over a list of three references, but then pointed to the first guy and said, ‘but don’t call this guy’. She paused for a moment and then indicated the second reference and said ‘You’d better not call this one either’.”

A leading fashion designer said I had ‘the wrong star sign’

“I was a fresh design graduate and had had two interviews already at a leading fashion designer. Their business partner loved my portfolio, so I thought I had the job. Third interview was with the designer’s husband, who came in the room and asked one question: “What’s your star sign?” After hearing my reply he turned around and walked straight out. I was stunned, turned to the business partner and asked what went wrong. He shook his head and said: “Same as his wife. He won’t have anyone who shares her star sign.” And that was that.”

Camel Woe

“During an interview they said they were going to do word association. It’s where they say a word and you say the first thing that comes to your mind.

For example… They said fruit, I said apple. They said transportation, I said car.Everything was going rather well until they said camel and instantly… Toe was my response.

Yes… I said Camel Toe in the interview.

Then tried to correct myself and say hump quickly. One of the men was trying not to laugh but the other didn’t find it entertaining.I, however, thought it was hysterical and started laughing. I excused myself and left the interview.

Let’s just say, I never received a call back but took a great story away with me.”

Story Time

“I was hiring for a position in my office. It was a final-round interview, and if I liked the candidate, she’d get the job.

I meet her and, like most candidates for jobs, she brings in a copy of her resume. I sit her down and ask as an opening question, “So, what caused you to take interest in this position?”

The girl smiles and says, “Well, I have a lot of experience that I feel I could bring to the table, which is on my resume.”

She then looks down at her resume and proceeds to read it to me in its entirety. For 15 minutes straight. No eye contact. She reads word-for-word every bullet point, every detail, every award and leadership position that she had in college, what she did at her last internship … most of which had absolutely nothing to do with the job.

After 15 minutes of her talking, I still did not know why she was interested in the job. In fact, all I knew about her was the information on her resume, which I had received and read prior to the interview. And she knew I’d previously seen it because I’d mentioned reading her resume before we sat down. I didn’t bother asking all the questions I was supposed to. We talked for a little bit after that, and then I thanked her for her time and called it a day.”

 Written by Jenny Headington

For advice on what to (and what not to do) in that all important interview head over to our Candidate Corner

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