Tips on Answering 5 Common Interview Questions

So you’re through to the interview stage. Having presented to many directors and board members over the years, a meeting to discuss a career opportunity shouldn’t feel daunting. However, even the most self-assured executive can feel a degree of apprehension when facing something outside their immediate control. Not knowing what will be asked could be an unwelcome distraction to your otherwise confident enthusiasm. Glance over five of the most common interview questions to prepare for your next big interview.

Fotolia_72421894_S_Tips for Answering Common Interview Questions

Regardless of seniority, the purpose of all interviews is to establish capability and compatibility. So although answers may evolve with career progression, fundamentally questions vary surprisingly little.

With this in mind, many of the most common interview questions can be predicted and answers prepared. Here are tips on answering five common interview questions.

“Tell me about yourself.”

This unstructured, almost casual question is a common opener and provides the perfect opportunity to instantly grab the interviewer’s attention from the start.

So in advance, prepare a short ‘paragraph’ overview of your career to date. Rehearse this out loud and remember on the day, some inflection of spontaneity would be advised! Focus mainly on your most recent and relevant roles.

Use active, engaging language to highlight achievements that demonstrate the required skills, experience and understanding of the role.

“Strengths and Weaknesses”

This classic interview question can be phrased in a myriad of ways – What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your strong points? What skills are you lacking? If they are ever asked together in one question, always of course, address the weakness first.

The ‘weakness’ question can become one of your most positive answers. It’s how you answer the question that counts. Self-awareness is an attractive attribute in a prospective employee and a well thought through answer will demonstrate this.

Never, of course, use a strength as a weakness, no doubt you’ve winced yourself when interviewing a candidate who gave “perfectionist” as their answer. We would recommend that you choose a development objective for your weaknesses, something that is not prerequisite for the position you are interviewing for; for example, knowing more about investor relations or running a company level project.

This makes the answer positive by showing ambition, together with a strong interest in continued learning and increased responsibility.

The ‘strengths’ question should be met with a compelling answer. To develop one, pick one or two personal strengths that align most closely to the job description and emphasize their relevance, for example, “my strengths which are particularly relevant to this role would be…”.

It’s an ideal moment to reiterate your excellent match; ideally accompany this with a short one or two sentence example. This will then be a much more powerful and memorable answer than a list of hackneyed adjectives.

“Why you? Why us?”

These two common questions can throw most interviewees, yet they are straightforward to prep for and your answers could really help you stand out. These broad, open-ended questions offer an invaluable place in the interview for you to deliver your ‘pitch’ for the position.

Why you?

Why should we select you for this job? – other forms of this question are: What unique skill can you bring? Why should we hire you? How will you contribute to the company?

Develop a four to five sentence answer; state clearly why you are a particularly strong match, the benefits your experience would bring, which skills equip you to excel in the role and what difference your personal qualities would make. Ensure that you also have a tangible achievement to include that exemplifies these areas.

Why us?

Why are you interested in this role? – also phrased as: What attracted you to this role? Why are you interested the company? What aspects are most interesting to you?

This is where you can express your genuine interest, even passion for the opportunity. Prepare an insightful answer that combines your research of the company with your own ability and motivation; therefore illustrating that this could be a good match for both sides.

These five broader, more searching questions take time to think through; no-one can deliver them well on the spur of the moment in a high stakes interview. When you do walk out knowing that it couldn’t have gone any better, you’ll have good preparation and practice to thank!

About the Author:

jenny hargraveJenny Hargrave is the founder of Interview Fit, a full interview preparation service that encompasses everything from bespoke CV writing to company-specific research. She has a particular interest in future professions and the candidate experience within disintermediated recruitment. Her previous experience includes establishing a boutique executive search firm.

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