Job seekers, we hear you. Job interviews can be nerve-wracking even for the most seasoned employees.
But like many phases of your career journey, early preparation can help ease nervousness and set you up for a confident and successful interview.
Here are 11 of the most common questions employers ask during a job interview and tips on how to best approach them so you can impress employers while staying true to yourself:
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
A seemingly simple question can actually be one of the most difficult ones to answer. In situations like this, we recommend preparing an “elevator pitch” – a quick summary of your background, interests, goals, and relevant experiences. We get into depth on preparing an elevator pitch in this article.
Feel free to mention what you do in your current position and even slip in a recent achievement you’re proud of. This will also be a good time to let them know why you think you’re a good fit for the role.
You don’t need to provide your entire employment history because introductions are best kept short and sweet. If they’re curious to find out more, they will ask you. It’s also best to avoid mentioning personal details that employers don’t need to know.
Here is 1 way you can answer this question;
Keep your sights set on your goal and secure that job by positioning yourself as the right person for the role.
2. “Why do you want this job?”
Tailor your response to the job posting’s criteria and relate it back to your own skills and experience. Since you’ll be focusing on convincing the employer why they should hire you, let them know why you think you’ll be a great asset to the company.
It’s absolutely fine to let the employer know aspects of their company that drew your attention. This can include what you admire about the company’s products and services or their mission and goals. Mention how you’d like to contribute and participate.
The purpose of this comment isn’t flattery but to demonstrate your genuine interest in the company and role.
Avoid answering in ways that suggest you’re aiming to benefit from the company as opposed to how you’d like to contribute to the organization. Doing so will present you as a person who is out for their own personal gain. Keep the focus on what makes you a great addition to their team.
Here’s a example of how your answer can sound like:
3. “Why should we hire you?”
Though slightly intimidating, this question gives you the perfect opportunity to get straight to business. Just like the previous answer, let the interviewer know how your skills, experiences, and qualifications match what they are looking for in the job criteria.
However, most job seekers go wrong by giving a vague answer that isn’t backed up by any track record or point of reference. Don’t stop short at saying “I’m a problem solver” – tell them an actual experience in which you demonstrated this. Not only will it be more convincing and memorable, but it also lets the interviewer know you’re not just paying them lip service.
4. “What are your strengths?”
Instead of listing a series of adjectives that only repeat the qualities needed for the advertised position, tell the interviewer strengths that are unique to you and how they will be a great addition to the role and organization. Stick to one strength if you need to, and really flesh it out. As usual, pair this point with a real-life story of how you showed this strength.
If you have trouble knowing what your strengths are, it can be as simple as asking your colleagues, friends, or family. Sometimes it’s difficult to see something right under your nose. You might even be surprised to find out that your strength is something you never noticed or appreciated about yourself!
5. “What are your weaknesses?”
A tried and true companion to the previous question, this question is infamous for receiving humble brag answers in the form of “I’m a perfectionist.”
Avoid trying to spin an answer into something that makes you look good and be honest instead. Interviewers ask this question to quite simply understand your weakness as a candidate so they can make the best hiring decision for their organization. They also want to see your level of self-awareness and willingness to improve.
Strike a balance by being truthful without drawing negative attention to yourself. Inform them of a weakness that you are actively working on.
For example, if verbal presentation is a weakness of yours, mention the steps you’re taking to improve on that forefront, such as attending classes or picking up new habits that give you more confidence to speak.
6. “Tell us about a challenge you faced at work and how you overcame it.”
This is a type of behavioural interview question employers ask to gauge how you were at your previous job and predict how you will do at their company.
Having a few stories of your previous experiences up your sleeve is very important for this. We’re sure you already have a good one ready, but to tell it well and avoid rambling, a good trick to remember is to use the STAR method to structure your story. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results.
Firstly, lay out the situation so the interviewer can easily understand the context of your story. Then spell out the task you set out to do based on the challenge you faced. After this, explain how you took action and the results that came from this.
This method is a great way to tackle other behavioral questions such as “Tell us about a mistake you made and how you handled it,” or “Explain a time you demonstrated leadership at work.”
Here’s an example of an effective way to use the STAR method in your answer:
7. “Why are you leaving your current job?”
Employers ask this question to understand if the role they are offering will be a better fit for you than your previous one. If there were any negative experiences in your previous company, your answer will help them gauge whether you had a role in that experience too.
Avoid providing negative details that tell of your grievances – even if you had a bad prior incident. Instead, emphasize the positives such as your current goals or values and why the new role is better suited for you at this time.
8. “Why was there a gap in your employment?”
A gap in employment history is a lot more common than you’d think and shouldn’t deter you from getting back into the workforce. Most hiring managers understand that life happens.
Whether the gap was due to health issues, needing to care for a loved one, or being laid off or let go, it’s important to remember to keep your answer confident, honest, and brief. You don’t have to go into too much detail especially if it makes you uncomfortable.
Steer your answer into focusing on things you’ve done during the gap. Mention any freelance work, volunteering, or classes you’ve taken to fill that gap, and let the interviewer know how these experiences will help you in the new role.
9. “What do you know about our company?”
Employers ask this because they want to narrow down the candidates who are genuinely interested. So it pays to take the time to do your research on the company before you send in your application.
Before the interview, we recommend going on their Hiredly company profile to learn more about what they do, their mission, and have a glimpse of their company culture. On Hiredly, we encourage employers to make their company profile as media-rich as possible, so you as job seekers have an easier time understanding what they’re all about!
For an even more memorable answer, go on the company’s website or social media accounts to find out if there are any recent activities or accomplishments you can mention.
10. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
This is a common interview question asked by employers because they want to know if you intend to build your career with them in the long term. It’s also one way to see if you are the type of employee that has drive and ambition.
Although it’s difficult to be sure what the future holds for us, we strongly suggest that you reflect on your personal interests and ambitions then see if the position and company values align with them.
Depending on your position and industry, you might have ambitions of reaching a leadership position or honing certain skills the position and company can support you in.
11. “How soon can you start if you are hired?”
Although it’s tempting to jump and say “immediately!” you’ll most likely need to take a breather and think about a realistic time frame.
If you’re currently employed, you will need some time to send in your resignation notice. The hiring manager will understand that you’d like to end your employment respectfully.
There are other factors that might delay your ability to start your new job. Take into account when you will be graduating, whether you will need to relocate, and how long your notice period is if you are currently employed.
Be honest about the time you need, more often than not, hiring managers will understand that you need time to sort things out before fully committing to the role. If the employer needs you to join earlier, you can proceed with negotiating a time that suits both of you. It’s better to be honest about your situation instead of promising something you can’t keep.
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