15 Common Interview Questions
Sam Wilson, February 2, 2015
You’ve most likely been told again and again how important it is to prepare for an interview, but how exactly do you go about this? It is obviously practically impossible to predict exactly what’s going to happen but, as part of our 15th anniversary celebrations, we’ve put together a list of 15 common questions that you should start to think about.
Tell me about yourself
Not technically a question but a regular fixture in an interviewer’s arsenal. If it comes at the start of the interview then you are being given the opportunity to get things rolling. Use the opportunity to talk about your recent experience and how that has brought you to apply for this vacancy.
If it comes later in the interview then the interviewer is looking for some more personal details about your hobbies and interests outside of your professional life. Try and use examples that demonstrate positive qualities and skills that could be applied to your work.
What is your best quality?
Another classic, this is a somewhat sneaky one as you can quickly show yourself to be unoriginal and cheesy with an answer like “I’m a really hard worker” or “I’m a great team player”, answers like this are generic and don’t give the interviewer any useful information.
Think about what you have received praise for in the past and use that along with an example. This gives your interviewer solid information that will work to your advantage.
What is your worst quality?
Honesty isn’t necessarily the best policy here and you should try to avoid words such as ‘punctuality’, ‘attention span’ or ‘temper’.
With this question, your interviewer is looking for evidence that you are self-aware and ready to improve. Identify something that you not only know you can improve but also have an idea how you can do it. No one is perfect and demonstrating that you are someone who actively works to improve your weaker areas will definitely work in your favour.
Why do you want to work here?
This is your opportunity to show off all the research you’ve done into the company. Explain what it is about the company, whether it be their client base, ambitions, values etc, that makes you feel that they are the right fit for you.
Describe the day-to-day of your last role
This is an opportunity to go into further detail about your last position and demonstrate the ways in which your role may have changed, how you adapted to that change and ways that you may have actively developed your role. If at any point you took on extra responsibility or were promoted then this is the perfect opportunity to bring this up.
What is your greatest achievement?
You are being handed a golden opportunity to show off here so take it! This could in theory be anything as long as you can justify it. This could be a professional achievement whether it’s breaking a record, receiving an award or being promoted. Personal achievements might include any competitions you may have won, an academic achievement or charitable activity.
If you can make the achievement relevant to the position you are applying for then this will particularly work in your favour however it is not a necessity.
What are your career goals?
This is an opportunity to demonstrate your ambition whatever it may be. You obviously don’t want to give the impression that you would be looking to move on too soon if you were to be appointed however most employers will consider ambition to be an attractive characteristic.
This is also your chance to gauge whether the organisation you are applying to matches your ambition. If you get the impression that there wouldn’t be opportunities for you to progress in the future then it may well be worth looking for one that can offer this.
How do you deal with multiple deadlines?
This is an assessment of your organisational skills and how you go about prioritising your work.
If you feel that you have a system that you feel works for you then use this with examples of how it has worked in the past. If you don’t have a system that you use already then take some time to think about how you might go about it. In the interview you could then explain that it’s not something you’ve had to deal with in the past but that this is a system you think would work well.
How do you respond to criticism?
This is another one where you need to be careful with the truth, an answer along the lines of “I really dislike being criticised” is unlikely to go down too well.
The best way to respond to this question is to recognise the merit of constructive criticism and the role it can play in helping you develop in your role.
How do you deal with confrontation in the workplace?
It is common sense that a peaceful, harmonious workplace is likely to be a productive one, therefore with this question your interviewer most likely wants to hear that you recognise the importance of promoting and maintaining this.
An answer that demonstrates your understanding of the importance of remaining calm during any form of confrontation, making an effort to see things from the other person’s perspective and, if needs be, seeking the intervention of a more senior colleague or HR representative is the best course of action.
What do you know about this company?
This is another opportunity to show that you have made an effort to do some research before your interview. Avoid the pitfall of just regurgitating a lot of bland information, the interviewer is well aware when the company was founded, how many employees they have and their main functions.
Take the opportunity to demonstrate some more in-depth knowledge that shows that you have actually hold a genuine interest in the organisation. Sentences that begin with “what first brought you to my attention was…” and “I was particulalrly impressed with…” are a good way to go.
Can you give me an example of a time when you have had to use your initiative?
With this question, your interviewer wants to know that someone will not have to look after you every minute of every day, that you are capable of being left by yourself and you will find ways of working without direct instruction.
Prepare an example of a time when you took it upon yourself to do something without having to be told.
Can you give me an example of a time when you have had to perform under pressure?
Anyone can perform when things are quiet and easy but what happens when things start to go wrong or the deadlines begin piling up?
Give an example of a time when things didn’t necessarily go to plan or were particularly stressful and you were required to stay calm, get your head down and achieve the desired result.
How do you work as part of a team? How do you work by yourself?
For many jobs you will be required to work as part of a team and by yourself on different occasions. For these questions, your interviewer wants to see that you recognise the importance of communication, empathy and understanding when working in a team and can work individually without supervision.
How would your friends describe you?
Questions of this sort are the interviewer’s way of throwing in something that you might not necessarily have expected. This tests your ability to think on your feet and be creative with your answers.
In these instances, stay calm, be honest and think about the impression that you’re answer will give. At the same time, don’t over-think it.
This is by no means a definitive list and each interviewer is different in terms of the questions they like to use. Hopefully this should provide a good starting point for your interview preparation. All that’s left is to wish you luck, you’re going to be great!