While no two job interviews are exactly the same, we do know that most employers rely on certain common questions to better understand if the candidate (that’s you) is a good fit.
But even if you’ve been through multiple interviews in the past, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your interviewing skills to ensure you’re well-prepared to answer whatever is thrown at you. So, we’ve listed the 10 most common interview questions, and some suggestions on how to answer (or dodge) them:
1. Tell me about yourself
Truthfully, an interviewer has already looked you up – they’ve definitely Googled you and checked any public social media platforms. Now they want to hear things they might not know, plus observe how you talk about yourself and what you consider to be important information to share with them.
Focus on explaining relevant things to your career – previous roles or industries you’ve worked in, why you might have left them, and why you have any gaps (if you do) on your CV. The interviewer has some insight, but this is where you can connect the dots.
2. What is your biggest weakness (and strength!)
Too many people mistake a weakness as being a bad thing, and therefore choose something that isn’t really a weakness (“My biggest weakness is that I work so hard that I end up staying at work too late!”). This isn’t going to impress anyone. Rather, choose something that is a real weakness – but be careful about what you say – and explain how and why you are working on it. The interviewer doesn’t want to catch you out in proving that you’re not perfect – they want to ensure you’re self-aware enough to admit you still have things to learn.
3. What do you know about our company?
You better have done your homework, because this question could make or break the interview. Not only should you know the general ins and outs of what the company does, but you should have had a quick Google to see if anything has been in the news about them that you could bring up – such as the launch of a new product, for example.
Then, go deeper. Tell them why you want this job specifically at this company. What could you bring to the table? Why could your skills or experience help the business, given what you have learned about them? Then, ask them some questions about the business that you couldn’t find out online. This will be sure to impress.
4. Why do you want to work here?
This is to do with culture fit and your specific skills. You should be able to articulate why this job will help you achieve both short and long-term goals. If the company is one known for its amazing employee perks, don’t rest on this as your only reason for wanting to work there – the interviewer will be wanting to hear more than that.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
“This a question that many candidates struggle with, and because of that, end up giving a poor impression of themselves,” said Tiffany Zhang, Head of RGF Professional Recruitment, Beijing. “Often a candidates' answer shows a lack of realism, is ambiguous or too simplistic. The interviewer's true intention for this kind of questions is to better understand the candidate’s expectation for their career and then evaluate if that employee will be able to develop with the company in three to five years’ time. A good answer to this question focuses on how a candidate can improve performance and skills.”
Additionally, an interviewer also want to see that your goals are tied to this potential job, and how you might move up through their company from it. So, if you’re interviewing for a sales role, don’t say that in five years you’d love to be working in public relations, because then what are you doing there? Why would they hire you?
6. Why are you leaving your current job?
Be careful. You want to tread the line between being honest but also being respectful of your previous (or current) employer. No one wants to hire the person who badmouths the company – or boss – they’re currently working for.
Don’t focus on the negative things – like how much you hate your boss, or that you’re not getting paid enough, or that your colleagues are hard to work with. This will only make you look inflexible and ungrateful. Instead, focus on the positives and what a job hop will be able to teach you. Talk about what else you want to learn and explain why your current role doesn’t quite challenge you in the right way.
7. What’s your dream job?
You don’t need to be scared here of saying something like, “one day I’d love to run my own business”. Employers are realistic and know that you won’t be with them forever, but they do want to see how your longer-term goals might relate to this job. So, keep it relevant.
Tiffany adds that this question also allows employers to understand you better – with this question, they can get a sense of your ambitions, your values and some of your personality traits.
Because this is a question that is really meant to be one that allows the company to get to know you, don’t make something up that you don’t believe in – and don’t say “I don’t know”. If you don’t have a specific dream job in mind, you can instead focus on the fact that you’re still keen to learn and grow regarding specific skills or roles, and that you’re excited to learn where your career will take you.
8. What’s the toughest decision you had to make at work recently?
The aim of this question is to gauge your ability to problem-solve, use your judgement and reason. You must have an answer to this – if you don’t it won’t reflect well on you. Pick a scenario where you might have faced a tough decision or conflict, and explain to them how you overcame it, what you did, and how you followed through.
9. Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.
Again, you need to have an answer to this, and the interviewer wants to understand how you communicate and manage those interpersonal relationships. They want to see that you were professional in how you handled a disagreement, and what part you played in coming to an amicable resolution. How did you raise your concerns or objectives in a productive way? How did your boss react?
10. What are your salary expectations for this job?
Legally, you typically don’t need to provide this information, but it’s often expected that you share this and it could (but shouldn’t) work against you if you choose not to disclose it. To get around it, you can turn it back on the employer without being rude or specific, such as: “Ideally I would like something where I can earn between [enter salary range here]. Is this position within that range?” You will likely already have an idea of this, but it’s a good way to dance around this negotiating tactic in the first instance.
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Head of RGF Professional Recruitment, Beijing