The Most Common Interview Questions - And How To Answer Them

There’s no denying it – interviews are scary. As the questions have no definite right or wrong answer, very few people ever leave in total confidence that they wouldn’t have approached a part of the interview differently. But practice makes perfect. For anybody that is an old hand at interviews, you will know there are some common questions that you will be asked time and time again – so here are a few top tips from our recruitment experts at CY Partners on how to answer them.

You might think that telling your potential employer that you are amazing is enough – but it’s far more impressive to demonstrate your ‘amazingness’ by using examples. Instead of saying “I’m great at being a leader”, use an example of a time when you have used this skill and performed it, well amazingly.
Think from your employer’s perspective. An example of how great you are, rather than a statement, demonstrates that you a) have the experience and ability in performing this skill in a real-life context and b) have communication skills and similar life experience to get along well with the team in the office.
But how do you think of the perfect example under the pressure of the interview? Our advice would be to prepare some good versatile examples beforehand that demonstrate that you have practice of the skills desired in the job description. Rehearse these so you aren’t stumbling over your words on the day.

With this advice in mind, how would you go about answering some of these really common interview questions:

“Tell Me A Bit About Yourself”

Often this question is used to start the interview off, but don’t let its broad nature scare you. It actually puts you in control. Don’t waste your first five minutes rambling on about what you had for dinner last night. Surprise your interviewer with examples of a few interesting things you’ve done in your personal and professional life to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded and interesting candidate. If possible, try and think of a few skills and experiences that aren’t on your CV – these are all facts that already got you to the interview stage, and now you need to show your potential employer that you have that little bit extra.

“The ‘biggest’ question”

This question and can range from “what is your biggest strength?” To “What do you think has been your biggest failure?”
Whilst everyone would prefer the more positive of the ‘biggest’ questions, try not to let a more negative question throw you. Admitting your biggest failure or biggest weakness might feel like the opposite of what you are supposed to do in an interview – but try and think about what the question is really asking you. This is a chance for you to show that you are a resilient, optimistic person that has the ability to turn a negative into a positive in a stressful situation. Everybody has made mistakes that they have had to learn from and your potential employer is asking to see that you have this ability. As much as you may want to say “I have no weaknesses” this answer will do more harm than good – the person conducting your interview knows that not everybody is perfect.

“Tell me about a time when you…”

The skills-based question does what it says on the tin. Regardless if this question asks for an example of a time when you had to act as a leader, or handled a conflict, give two or three examples in different situations that really show your competency.
Even though you’ll be nervous, try to give your answer confidently and clearly. You might state the best example in the world to show that you can demonstrate good communication, but you don’t want to then undermine this by ending your answer with “and … erm … yeah.”

“Out of all of the other candidates, why should we hire you?”

You may have already answered this question in a round-about way through the “what are your biggest strengths” and the “tell me a bit about yourself” question. A bit of a different approach you can take to this question is to show your interest in the company.
Say that from what you’ve heard so far in the interview, they are looking for a candidate that can do A, B and C, and explain (with examples) how and why you not only have A, B and C, but D, E and F as well.

Knock their socks off.

“What do you know about the company”

All in all this question is asking “have you done your research.” Anybody can just learn and recite the company policy from their website. Your employer isn’t looking for you to be an expert but wants to see that you are as passionate about the company as you are for the position.
A good approach to take is to think: “from my research, I have learnt X, Y and Z about your company. I was really impressed by X, and have some experience in Y, but I am really interested to develop my understanding of Z in a bit more depth.”

“Do you have any questions for me?”

This is your opportunity to fill in any blanks that you may have about the role. It’s generally advised not to discuss salary at this stage, but do feel free to ask questions about the rest of the recruitment process, of your potential employers own progression within the interview. If you’re brave, attempt to ask of their opinion on your own interview technique. Aim for three questions such as:

“What advice do you have for someone going for this role?”

This question also gives you a chance to show that you have really been engaged and listening throughout the interview – take a broader statement and ask a question that gives a more in -depth focus.

Think “you said before that your company is a big fan of dogs, but what do you think in particular of their paws” kind of question.

Emily Wilkinson

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