What you’ll get asked in an interview

Job interviews are often one of life’s more nerve-wracking experiences. There’s a lot to consider, with so much on the line. 

How do you express your enthusiasm for the role without sounding like a grovelling mess? How do you tell them enough about yourself without descending your audience into sheer boredom?

Here are some of the answers to the most burning interview questions.

Tell us about yourself

Such a broad question isn’t it! When there is so much to say about yourself and your life to-date it can be hard to pick the most important key points straight off the cuff. The secret is, as it always is, to prepare a concise little script in your head before you turn up. Include:

  • some key accomplishments and achievements
  • a brief summary of relevant past experience, without reciting your CV word for word, that demonstrates key skills and abilities
  • some anecdotes - again building on your CV - reflecting the professional development and attributes that make you so perfectly suitable to this role.

Dealing with failure

A common question in a job interview is how you dealt with an adverse situation in a work setting where you may have failed somehow, and how you learned from that failure. It’s not a trap. This question is an opportunity for an employer to gain insight into how professionally you can deal with failure and, importantly, how you turned it into a positive learning experience.

  • Before the interview, practise giving an objective, factual account of this failure, the result for you and your employer and how you learned from it.
  • In the interview, admit what your error of judgement or oversight was and explain how it occurred without giving excuses, being defensive, putting yourself down or blaming others.
  • Give an example of how you could have prevented the failure.
  • Talk about ways in which you have learned from it.

Competency questions

A lot of interviews are, unsurprisingly, based around trying to figure out how competent you are. This means you’ll be asked for specific examples of situations and how you applied your skills to those situations. For instance, how did you lead your team, deal with a conflict, manage a workplace change, achieve your successful result?

  • When preparing your answers, refer mentally to your CV and build on examples you gave.
  • Try to anticipate what the interviewers may ask for by going back through the job description.
  • Try using the STAR technique to structure your responses:
    • Situation – start out by briefly outlining the situation
    • Task – describe what your responsibility was within that situation
    • Action – what actions you took
    • Result – what was the outcome of your actions

Long term plans

Not everyone knows where their careers will be in five years but a favourite interview question is just that. In your answer, you can demonstrate drive, determination and ambition. Ensure that you:

  • keep your ultimate career goals realistic
  • frame your own professional targets and career trajectory in a way that makes it clear it would also benefit the company
  • be honest if you really don’t know where you see yourself in five years, but add that the experience you’ll gain from this position will help you to progress towards finding that answer.

Why do you want this job, and why should we hire you?

So much to say, so little time! Again, this is a question you can anticipate and prepare for so you can present a succinct and well-formulated answer. Because of course you want the job, otherwise why would you be here?

  • Having done your due diligence in the form of deeply researching the company and the job description, you’ll be well-placed to show your enthusiasm for working there and why you like how it works. Perhaps name one of the company’s key projects or achievements.
  • Include reasons why the position itself is so well suited to you, your skills and maybe some future goals within the company that show you’re not going to be there for just a quick interlude.
  • Name a couple of your key abilities or background experience that this company will allow you to put to great use.