The Top 10 Interview Questions

Make sure you are well prepared!

Here are the top 10 interview questions that I have come across from my clients, from my experience as a recruiter and from being a job applicant myself!

While I cannot guarantee that they will come up in your interview, they are amongst the most common interview questions and so the chances are pretty high that at least some of these will be asked. The wording may be slightly different, but the purpose of the question is the same.

My top job interview tip is to think carefully about what the recruiter is trying to get at when they ask these questions and plan your answers accordingly.

Here I have given you some tips and hints to help you when answering interview questions, to help you to understand what the questions are really about and indicate how you should tackle them.

Top 10 interview questions
Why have you applied for this job?

It is amazing how many candidates rush in to an explanation of why the job would be good for them. It will give them a rise in salary or responsibility. It will be a good next step up the ladder for them. It will give them the chance to do things that interest them and help them to develop their skills.

Well, that would be fine, if employers gave jobs away out of charity. But they don’t.

What they want to know is what they will gain from employing you. You need to turn this question around in your mind and think of it as asking about how you will add something when you join their team.

So your answer should be along the lines of ‘I have applied for this job because I believe I can bring x,y,z skills, knowledge and experience to your company’. Ideally you would then go on and pick a specific example and show how what you have done before is relevant to what you are now applying for.

Top 10 interview questions
Tell me about yourself

hen recruiting new staff aThis is a big bear trap of a question.

It invites you to fall in and ramble around without any clear sense of direction. Yes, employers want to know more about you, but there is not time to tell your whole life story here, so you need to bring a sharp focus to the question.

You must choose how you want to narrow it down. Maybe you were involved in a project a few years ago that is very relevant to this job. So your answer might start off with something like this. ‘Well, there’s lots I could tell you about, but it might be useful if I focus on some project work I was involved in’. You can then explain what you did on the
project and explain how that is relevant to the new role.

Top 10 interview questions
What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Another classic example from the top 10 interview questions where it is very easy to dig a hole for yourself. Some planning and preparation is essential here.

Between you and me, what are your strengths and weaknesses? The critical issue here is that you should not just put your cards on the table, but think carefully in advance about what you are prepared to admit in an interview.

Strengths are easy – pick things that you know are relevant to the job. It is the weaknesses bit that trips people up. Don’t admit to something that will damage your sales pitch here. Select something relatively small and indicate that you are very aware of it as a weakness and explain what you are already doing to overcome it.

And a final tip on this one. Start your response with a strength, go on to mention a weakness and then complete your answer with another strength. This way your answer is ‘topped and tailed’ with something positive.

Top 10 interview questions
What skills will you bring to this job?

You have done your homework, haven’t you? You have been through the job description and person specification with a fine toothed comb to tease out exactly what the recruiter wants? That is what provides the basis of your answer to this question.

Yes, they want to know what skills you have, but the ones you talk about must be relevant to the job you are applying for. Maybe you do speak five foreign languages, but if the job involves no contact with overseas clients or home based clients who might not speak English, then this skill is not relevant.

Keep your focus on the recruiter’s needs. This question should not turn into a general list of everything you can do. Keep it tightly matched to what they are looking for.

Top 10 interview questions
What has been your greatest achievement?

As ever, the trick with this question is to keep your answer linked to their needs. When asking about your  achievements, the recruiter is hoping to find out more about what motivates you to assess if that fits in with their own company culture.

If your greatest achievement was helping to teach your disabled brother to tie his shoelaces, that might go down very well for a care assistant job, but won’t cut the ice if you are applying to join an insurance sales team.

Think about what will impress this particular recruiter. What do they want to hear? Make sure that the chievement you choose to highlight will impress them and match up with the kind of person they are seeking to appoint.

Top 10 interview questions
Why are you interested in this company?

Here’s another one where they are checking up on how much homework you have done. This is where all that research you did finally pays off.

You need to show that you have explored beyond the homepage on their website. Show you are familiar with the company mission statement. Let them know that you are aware of their expansion plans into a new area or product. Explain that you are impressed with the new staff development and mentoring scheme you have heard that they introduced last year.

Amazingly few candidates who apply for jobs bother to do this level of research so this can provide you with a
perfect opportunity to show that you stand out from the crowd

Top 10 interview questions
Describe a difficult situation you have faced?

This kind of question usually focuses on a specific area of the work you will be doing. You may be asked to talk about areas like team work, managing difficult customers or clients, meeting tight deadlines or handling conflict. You should have some idea of the specific challenges that you will be required to handle from the person specification so make sure you scour it for clues.

Your interviewer will want to hear how you have tackled a problem situation successfully, so make sure you have got some examples from your previous work ready and waiting.

But how you present the challenge is also important. Your task is to concentrate on

a) what the challenge was,

b) what you did to manage the situation and

c) what the outcome was – preferably a positive one!

You may also wish to say something about what you learned from the situation. The outcome may not have been perfect, but that is OK as long as you can see that and can take some learning away from the situation.

Top 10 interview questions
What would you do if…?

You may get a scenario question designed to see how well you can think on your feet.

This is more difficult to plan for as you cannot really predict the kind of scenario that they will use. However, once again the job description and person spec may give you some clues. So when you are preparing for your interview, make sure you think about the difficult situations that the job may present.

Take your time over a response and ask for a minute to think about it if you need to. Don’t expect to come up with a perfect solution – most questions of this kind to not have ‘right’ answers.

It is more important to be ready to think aloud in the interview, indicating that you can identify what the key elements of the problem are.

For example, does any emergency action need to be taken, who needs to be informed and involved, how would you prioritise actions and what would the longer term impacts be? If you have limited knowledge of the situation, it is acceptable to say who you would turn to for help. Better to show that you are ready to ask for assistance than to try and soldier on in the wrong direction!

Top 10 interview questions
Where do you see yourself in x years time?

When recruiting new staff at any level, companies are making a financial commitment which they hope will pay off.So it is natural that they want to know how you see your future with them. They clearly do not want to find that you are planning to be with them for just long enough to gain some useful experience and will then be moving on to pastures new!

So your focus with this question is to show your commitment to this firm. If your career is still on a clear upward curve, indicate that you can see opportunities for your career to develop with them. Companies usually like to grow their people so they  will be impressed with if you show an interest in promotion over the medium term. They will not want to take on a plodder or a ship in the night.

Think about the nature of the role you are applying for and show the appropriate level of ambition in the way you respond.

Top 10 interview questions
Why should we appoint you?

This question is usually an indication that the interview is drawing to a close. It is your last chance to pitch to your interviewer. Remember not to fall into the trap of suggesting that they should appoint you because it would give you a great opportunity to develop and learn new skills.

This is where you sum up what you have to offer clearly and succinctly. Make sure you keep their needs firmly in mind as you remind them of the key skills, qualities and experience that will enable you to do the job well. Mention what it is that you think makes you unique, your USP.

Put this information across with enthusiasm and a smile and tell them that you are confident that you would be able to make a strong contribution to the organisation.

These are probably the top 10 interview questions that you are likely to encounter, although there are many more. But my job interview advice is that if you put the preparation in so that you get these ones right, you are well on the way to interview success.

And now read on to discover more successful interview strategies…

About the author

Amy Thomas

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