Interview questions - guide to which questions may be asked in a job interview

interview questions
As you will most certainly be aware, the bulk of an interview usually consists of your interviewer(s) asking you lots of questions.

For many candidates this is often the most daunting aspect of an interview, but as long as you have done enough research into the types of questions that will probably be asked, there is no need to panic. Once again, preparation is key.
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Interview questions are often the most straightforward way for prospective employers to rate their candidates. In order to determine whether the information you gave on your CV 'stands up' in practise, it is understandable that questions are the quickest and easiest way for interviewers to do this. This way, they can ask the same questions to each of the candidates and make comparisons.

Questions can range from those about yourself; your past experience; your plans for the future and your hobbies outside of work.

The key to answering any questions successfully is by doing your research and by using evidence from your past experiences to bring your answers 'to life'.

List of the most commonly asked interview questions

  • What are you currently doing?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why do you want to work in this organisation/department?
  • What skills and experience do you have that fit our needs?
  • How will your skills help you to do this job to a high standard?
  • What kind of person are you? What stresses you? What delights you?
  • Give an example of a time when you encountered a difficult situation and how you dealt with it?
  • Give me an example of a time when you have had to be organised?
  • What are your interests outside of work?
  • If you have a lot to do, tell me how you would prioritise your workload?
  • What's the most important thing about a job for you?
  • What would you class as your biggest strengths?
  • What would you class as your biggest weaknesses?
  • Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?

If you are asked a hypothetical question, don't try to give an answer if you are not sure. Say something like, "It's difficult for me to say how I would react to that situation, without knowing more about the organisation and the system etc. However, I can tell you what I would do in my organisation or something similar..."

In general, when answering questions it's important to emphasise that you are a 'giver' and not a 'taker'. For example, when asked why you want the job or why you want to work in a particular department, be sure to answer this in a positive way such as, "because I feel I have x and y to offer" and give examples. Try not to say something like "because this looks like a great opportunity for a secure job with great pay and benefits".

Employers don't take kindly to being exploited, so it's important to convey yourself properly by demonstrating enthusiasm for the 'mission' or goal of the organisation; showing commitment and flexibility; displaying sympathy for the challenges of the organisation or department and by demonstrating your ability to solve problems using your own resourcefulness, rather than creating them.

Some questions may seem more difficult than others, particularly if there are different ways of interpreting them, or there are two questions wrapped up in one. If and when these types of questions arise, simply break them down into two. Don't be afraid to say to your interviewer "let me deal with the first aspect of that question first", or "I'll deal with these two aspects separately - firstly..."

Depending on the skill and experience of your interviewer you may find that an interview can 'ramble' a bit and you may not be certain of what point your interviewer is coming to. If this happens don't be afraid to bring them back to the point yourself and if you don't know what they are asking, ensure that you clarify whether you have understood them properly before attempting to answer.

If you find that your interviewer is talking a lot, as can sometimes happen with an in-experienced interviewer, try to find a way of getting your points across. Take opportunities to show how your experience fits the job in relation to the topics raised and ensure that at the end of the interview, you say a bit more about why your experience is suitable for the job.

Remember, interviewing can be tiring, not only for the interviewee but for the interviewer as well. Many employers pack too many interviews into the day because they want to hedge their bets, so it's important that you hold the attention of your interviewer by making eye contact, speaking in a lively tone and smiling.
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