Tag Archives: Interview questions

Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Article by Belinda Fuller

Common Interview Questions and How to Prepare for ThemCongratulations if you’ve secured an interview! Now comes the all-important preparation. Even the most confident and fearless individuals can be terrified of interviews. Whilst they can be nerve wracking experiences, taking time to prepare yourself can make all the difference to the outcome.

You have more than likely applied for a role you are qualified for, you think you have the experience and skills to succeed, and you like the sound of the role or company – so making an effort to prepare as best as you can prior to the interview will give you the best chance of success. Depending on the type of role, level, and company you’re interviewing with, the questions will vary, however to help you get started with your preparation, we’ve provided 10 common questions with suggestions on how to respond:

  1. Tell me about yourself. The recruiter is looking for a brief summary about you and is interested in your professional background – not your hobbies, relationship status, and favourite foods. Try summarising recent professional achievements in less than two minutes, and relate what you say back to the role you are interviewing for so the recruiter can immediately recognise your potential value. Include a summary of qualifications as well if that’s important to this role.
  2. Why do you want to work for us? It’s essential to research the company and role beforehand and have a good strong answer to this question. You could talk about the market the company is in, your interest in that area, the role itself, and what appeals to you. Relate your future aspirations to the position, then reiterate why you’d be an asset in the role. Make sure you understand the company and role and discuss specific aspects so the recruiter recognises you are genuine about working there.
  3. Tell me about a time you improved on something. This question is a great one to prepare for using the STAR technique. It could relate to anything – a process, a relationship, an approach, or a competitive situation. Identify a relevant example beforehand and make sure to include just enough detail about what you did, why you did it, and how you did it, then summarise the eventual positive outcome.
  4. Why do you want to leave your current role? Focus your response on the fact you are seeking new or greater opportunities, responsibilities and/or challenges. If you’re trying to break into a new industry, mention it and the reasons why, then try making a link to the new focus. For example, you could showcase why you think you’ll succeed in this new area, based on what you’ve achieved previously, and how you want to extend yourself.
  5. What are your strengths? The interviewer is looking for your strongest qualities that relate to the role you are applying for. We suggest providing three key strengths with examples that demonstrate those strengths in action.
  6. What are your weaknesses? Most employers don’t want to hear something basic like “I’m a perfectionist”, or “I work too late”! The most important part of this question is to emphasise what you’ve done to overcome and/or mitigate your weakness. This question is all about how you turn your answer into a positive.
  7. Describe a time when your best laid plans didn’t work out. Give a specific example of a particularly difficult situation you encountered in the workplace. Again, prepare for this question using the STAR technique so you can discuss what went wrong, how you went about resolving the issue, and the eventual outcome. Ensure the outcome is positive though – don’t use negative examples and show the interviewer what or how you learnt from the experience for next time.
  8. Do you have any questions for us? This is one of the most important interview questions you can prepare for. It’s essential you have some well thought out questions prepared. It not only demonstrates your interest in the role and the company – but will also help you decide if you want to work there. Your questions could focus on the company and its future direction, the industry, competitors, recent news or events, the department’s direction and how it fits with company strategy, why the incumbent is leaving or where the work has come from (for newly created roles), the expectations of the role, scope for expansion down the track, performance expectations, success measurements, company culture, the timeline for a decision and/or next steps in the recruitment process.
  9. Why should we hire you? The best way to respond to this question is with specific examples of your skills and accomplishments that relate directly to the role. Compare the job description with your expertise, maintain a positive approach and showcase the value you could provide.
  10. What do you know about us? Again, it’s important to research the company so you can respond in an intelligent way to this question. Check their website and social media pages to see the latest promotions and information being shared. Look up the person or people interviewing you on LinkedIn to gain some insight into their interests and background as well.

Preparing in advance by doing some research about the company, the role, and the people who are interviewing you will ensure you put your best foot forward in the interview.  Of course, interviews are two-way and while the interviewer needs to determine if you are right for the company, you should also assess whether the company is right for you. Feeling confident and in control is all about preparation, so do as much as you can.

Do you struggle with nerves or knowing how to answer questions in interviews? If so, Interview Training can help prepare you for your next job interview. Please see our Interview Coaching Services for more information.

How to Prepare for a Video Interview

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Prepare for a Video InterviewThis modern method of recruitment is becoming more and more common since it can save the company significant time, effort, and money in the process. So if you’re faced with the prospect of a video interview, what’s the best way to prepare?

Preparing yourself for a video or Skype interview is possibly even more involved than preparing for a face-to-face interview. The interview will still require face-to-face time with the recruiter, so everything you’d do to prepare for that is the same, but you also have the added technical aspects of using Skype or another software program.

Here’s our top tips to help you succeed:

  • Dress to impress. When it comes to clothing, treat your video interview like a face-to-face interview and dress professionally from head to toe. Don’t be tempted to leave your PJs on the bottom half just in case you need to get up for some reason during the interview.
  • Make a good first impression. If the video is being conducted over Skype, review your Skype profile to make sure your name and picture are professional. Unlike face-to-face interviews, the recruiter’s first impression of you is not actually you – it’s your username and photo, so check for suitability and simply create a new one if you think it’s warranted.
  • Practice. As we know, technology doesn’t always work properly. Familiarise yourself with the video platform if you don’t use it very often. Know your username, the recruiter’s username, and do a run through with a friend or family member beforehand if you can, so you can test all the different settings, audio volumes etc.
  • Check your background. Make sure your backdrop is clean, tidy and uncluttered. Keeping it neutral ensures the recruiter won’t be distracted.
  • Close other programs. Annoying sounds from emails arriving or Facebook notifications are distracting and unprofessional. To ensure this doesn’t happen, close all applications and programs down before the interview starts.
  • Avoid interruptions. If you are somewhere with other people or pets, make sure you arrange for a quiet space beforehand. It’s very unprofessional to have to shoo away a dog or respond to a child while you’re mid-sentence in an interview. If you have children, organise a babysitter like you would for a face-to-face interview. Likewise, with dogs or other animals, put them outside, or place yourself in a room where the door can be closed (but beware of barking or crying dogs!).
  • Check your body language. Since the recruiter can usually only see your head and shoulders, your upper body language is extremely important. Make sure to smile, maintain good posture and avoid stiffness or awkwardness. You should also regularly check the recruiter’s body language to ensure they are still engaged in the interview.
  • Keep notes in easy reach. Keep a copy of your Resume and any notes or questions you’d like to ask handy. It’s ok to look down from time to time, but it really will impact on your connection if you do it too often. If you need notes, it’s good to have them in front of you if you can – a few post-it notes around the screen can work well since they won’t require you to look down too much. Again experiment in your test call to see what works best for you.

Job interviews – whether they are face-to-face, via Skype or some other electronic format – are vital to the job application process. It is your chance to really stand out from other candidates and show why you’d be ideal for the role. In terms of the two different approaches – preparation is key and as you can see, a little more preparation is required for video interviews.

Do you struggle with nerves during interviews? Would you be interested in some Interview Training to help you prepare for your next interview (whether it be via video or face-to-face)? If so, please see our Interview Coaching Services.

10 mistakes to avoid in an interview

Article by Belinda Fuller

10 Mistakes to Avoid in an InterviewMost people admit to being nervous going into a job interview – in fact many would say there is nothing more nerve racking than a job interview. Recruiters don’t usually go out of their way to make candidates feel uncomfortable; however creating a tough interview experience can challenge candidates to perform under pressure. What are the biggest mistakes made, and how can you avoid them?

If your application was a success and you’ve secured an interview – congratulations! That’s a great achievement in today’s competitive job market! If you’re feeling uneasy about the interview, you’re not alone. Make these mistakes and it could cost you the job.

MISTAKE # 1 – Not knowing much about the company – you will most likely be asked what you know about the company and why you want to work there. This should be one of the easiest questions to answer – if you’ve done your research. Review the company website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other Social Media pages before your interview. Get a feel for the company culture and how it matches your values – workplace culture is very important and an area of increasing focus for employers to ensure candidates are a good long term fit. Use or review the company’s products if appropriate. Do a ‘google’ search so you can read recent media articles that are not controlled by the company. This often uncovers issues or situations that may be appropriate to discuss.

MISTAKE # 2 – Not being well prepared – it’s amazing how many people don’t recall what they did in previous roles. It isn’t acceptable to say “it was so long ago, I can’t really recall”. Under pressure, you can’t just ‘wing an interview’. Taking time to prepare by reviewing your job history and creating quick mental or physical lists of areas to discuss is essential. A better option is to prepare mini success stories that demonstrate the value you provided – have these on hand to help you articulate your experiences and accomplishments more clearly.

MISTAKE # 3Not dressing appropriately – dress neatly and ensure you are well groomed. The actual attire you wear will vary depending on the role and company but if you research the company first, you can decide what would be expected. If unsure, err on the more conservative side.

MISTAKE # 4 – Arriving late and/or flustered – work out where you’re going and how you’re getting there before you leave. If you’re catching public transport, catch the earlier service. If you’re driving, know where the parking is and allow extra time in case of last minute problems. There is nothing worse than arriving red faced after running to make it on time or, worse still, arriving late. It really does give a lasting negative first impression.

MISTAKE # 5 – Lying or stretching the truth – not knowing your true value could lead to the temptation to stretch the truth. Be prepared to talk about yourself, recent projects, and accomplishments so when you are asked, you have some accurate things to say. Focus on achievements made for current or past employers and demonstrate how you’ve handled different types of scenarios. If you’re asked if you’re good at something that you’re not – be honest, but give it a positive spin if you can. You could say something like “Well I wouldn’t call myself a whiz, but I have been learning more recently, and have been able to solve some fairly complex issues.”

MISTAKE # 6 Making non-verbal mistakes – body language is one of the most important aspects of an interview with many psychologists believing non-verbal communication can reveal more about what we are thinking than what we actually say. It is therefore essential to pay close attention to your body language – so it supports what you are saying. In summary, pay attention to the following: smile, limit hand gestures while talking, retain good posture, maintain eye contact (but don’t stare), don’t cross your arms, match your facial expression to what you’re saying, and avoid fidgeting. For more information, read our previous article – Body Language – 8 Tips for Interview Success.

MISTAKE # 7 – Bad-mouthing a previous employer – this is never appropriate. All it does is make you look like someone who might be difficult to work with. If you accidentally say something negative about a former employer – simply say “Let me re-phrase that” and move on with a more positive approach.

MISTAKE # 8 – Talking too much about what you want – and not about what you can offer. Ensure your answers are succinct and to the point. Research common interview questions and practice appropriate answers before-hand, so you have an idea of what you might say in response to different questions. Understanding the company, the role, and the needs you meet is key to being able to successfully talk about what you can offer in the role.

MISTAKE # 9 – Failing to differentiate yourself – being able to set yourself apart is essential. Identify your unique skills and qualities and again practice talking about them. You’ve landed an interview and now it’s time to impress. Don’t come across as bored or uninterested – make an effort to show your positive approach and explain why you’re different to others.

MISTAKE # 10 – Not asking for the job – if you’re interested, show it, and say so. You could also follow the recruiter up with a short email to reiterate your keenness.

Securing an interview is tough these days, so being prepared is essential. Recruiters use interviews to test candidates’ performance under pressure because people who think quickly are an asset in business. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count.

Would you like some assistance to prepare for a job interview? Are you keen to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate? If so, please see our Interview Skills Training service.

Asking intelligent questions in an interview

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to ask intelligent questions in an interviewDo you get tongue tied in interviews when asked ‘do you have any questions?’ Are you worried about asking the ‘wrong’ question? In an interview, you want to make sure you ask questions when given the opportunity – but they need to be well thought out. You want to show that you’d work well in the role and you’re compatible with the company culture.

If you’re afraid of looking foolish by asking the wrong question, read our tips and take the time to prepare prior to your interview. Asking informed, well thought out questions will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are interested in the role and the company – while helping you to gather some information that’s going to be useful in making a decision about whether or not you really want to work there. Asking questions in an interview won’t make you appear rude or arrogant – quite the opposite in fact – it’s the perfect way to show off several of the most important traits that recruiters are looking for. Here are some areas to focus on:

  • The Company: even just a quick Internet search will provide you with enough information about the company to formulate some intelligent questions. This shows interest and preparation and will help you to better understand some of the challenges the company might currently be facing. Questions could be quite general, or focus on a specific area of concern or something currently/recently in the news. Examples: What affect has ‘the recent issue’ had on the company? How does this company differentiate itself from its competitors? What changes do you anticipate in the industry and how will these impact the role?
  • The Role: You want to gain a good insight into the position, the expectations and what you’d be doing on a day to day basis, but you should also try to gain an understanding of where the role is headed and its scope for expansion down the track. Examples: What are the essential capabilities/qualifications/experience to achieve success in this role? What is the company’s vision for this role? What were the strengths/weaknesses of the previous incumbent? Why is this position vacant – has the previous person left/been promoted? Will I have an opportunity to meet those who would be part of my staff/my manager/my team during the interview process? What do you see as the most important performance criteria for this role in the next six months/12 months/2 years?
  • Success Factors: You want to understand how the company measures success and what impact this role has on the company’s overall success. This demonstrates that you are able to think strategically and understand that every role has an impact on the company’s bigger picture. Examples: How do you evaluate success here? How would you describe the company’s culture?
  • The End Result: You will be keen to understand the timeline for the company’s decision making process and you shouldn’t leave without gaining this. Walking out of an interview without this understanding can be very frustrating. Waiting isn’t fun, and not knowing when to follow up a recruiter is hard. You could also offer the best way to contact you and confirm your enthusiasm to progress to the next stage. Examples: What is the company’s timeline for making a decision? What are the next steps that need to be taken before you make your decision about who to offer the role to? When can I expect to hear back from you? Is there anyone else I need to meet with? Is there anyone else that you would recommend I talk to? Is there any other information I can provide?

Many of our clients think of interviews as a chance for recruiters to grill them relentlessly to test their suitability for a role. However the best interviews are two-way streets. Be prepared and ask some of your own well thought-out targeted questions and listen to the interviewer’s responses so you can clarify areas that don’t make sense. By doing this, you will demonstrate just how much of an asset you could be in the role. Make sure not to ask about something that has already been addressed, since this may hinder rather than help your chances.

Do you struggle with formulating intelligent questions to ask in an interview? Would you like assistance deciding what areas to focus on? If so see, please see our Interview Coaching and Interview Training Services.

Interview mistakes that could cost you the job

Article by Belinda Fuller

The process of interviewing candidates has changed significantly in recent years. Where previously, you could have potentially predicted the types of questions you’d be asked and prepared by learning some great responses, this is no longer the case. Make these mistakes and it could cost you the job.

Most people would agree they get nervous before a job interview – in fact many would say that there is nothing more nerve racking than job interviews. Recruiters don’t generally go out of their way to make candidates feel uncomfortable; however creating a tough interview experience can challenge candidates to think and perform under pressure. Despite this, many job seekers make it worse by not properly preparing. Many of the following common interview mistakes can be avoided:

1.  Not knowing much about the company: Being asked what you know about the company should be one of the easiest questions in an interview – if you’ve done your research. Always review the company website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other Social Media pages. Use or review the company’s products if appropriate. Do a ‘google’ search so you can review media that is not controlled by the company. This could highlight issues or situations the company is currently involved in. Try to also gain an understanding of the company culture and how that matches your own values – workplace culture is very important in terms of the interview and this is one area the interviewer may focus their attention on to ensure you provide a good fit for the company.

2.  Not being confident with your own information: It’s amazing how many people don’t recall employment dates or what they did in previous roles. Review your resume and make sure you have a good recollection of your experience, the timeline of roles, skills you’ve developed and successes in each role. It isn’t acceptable to say “it was so long ago, I can’t really recall”. Put together a list of accomplishments in each role that you can quickly and confidently discuss. Don’t just focus on the roles that interest you or that you feel are the best fit. Be prepared to discuss any part of your background if pinpointed by the recruiter. Taking time to review your history and create a quick list will refresh your memory and help prepare you to discuss experiences and accomplishments that you may have otherwise forgotten in an interview situation.

3.  Turning weaknesses into positives: If you’re asked about your weaknesses – resist the temptation to say “I’m a perfectionist”, “I work too hard” or something equally as clichéd. A better way to approach this question is to think seriously about a weak point or something you have previously struggled with and what you’re doing to improve it or enhance your skills in that area. Interviewers are not really trying to trip you up with this question – they just want to make sure you’re a good fit for the role.

4.  Not asking questions: At some point during most interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions. Having none can make you appear uninterested and unprepared. Before the interview, put together a list of relevant questions. It’s acceptable to take some notes in with you to refer to if you think you may forget. Ideas for your questions could include areas of the role you’d like to know more about, the current or previous person in the role and their career, the interviewer’s career, how long they’ve been with the company, what they like about working for the company, a current situation with the company or market, what the recruiter sees as the biggest challenge in the role etc.

5.  Being negative and/or switching off: Make the effort to show you are positive and enthusiastic by remaining attentive and upbeat – don’t come across as bored or uninterested. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count. If you find yourself becoming distracted, make a conscious effort to re-engage with the interviewer. Maintain eye contact, lean forward in your chair and sit up straight – this takes more effort and concentration and helps you to remain alert. Also remember that no matter how much you disliked your last job, boss or colleagues, this is not the time or place to discuss it. You should never criticise or undermine a past supervisor or company as the recruiter may get the impression that you’d be difficult to work with.

Securing an interview these days can be tough, so make sure you fully prepare for it. The bottom line is that you don’t get a second chance to impress at an interview. Recruiters use the interview to test candidates’ thinking and performance under pressure because people who can think quickly in business are an asset. If you want to succeed in an interview, preparation is key – it will help you feel more confident and will show in your performance.

If you would like assistance from an Interview Coach with preparing for a job interview, to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate, please see our Interview Coaching and Training service.

Tackling Tricky Interview Questions

Article by Belinda Fuller

You will usually be asked questions you may find difficult to answer in an interview. We have talked before about taking time to effectively prepare for an interview by researching the company, preparing possible interview questions and practicing appropriate responses. Interview questions vary depending on the role, industry, company culture, seniority, and what’s expected of you. Many recruiters will take the opportunity to incorporate difficult or uncomfortable lines of questioning in order to put you under pressure. How you handle this pressure provides them with a great insight into your true capabilities and if not handled well, may cost you the job.

Whilst these difficult questions can be challenging, they also provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the role, as well as your ability to perform well under stress. If you take the time to prepare for these difficult questions, you’ll be far more confident at the interview.

An important way to prepare answers is by brainstorming situations you’ve been involved in to demonstrate your point. Interviewers often use behavioural based questions which focus on your past behaviour to determine potential future success. These questions can be applied to many different areas and they help the interviewer analyse how you’ve handled situations in the past. We recommend using the S.T.A.R. model (read more about that here) to brainstorm examples and develop suitable responses. I’ve provided six tricky interview questions that are commonly disliked amongst candidates:

1.  What is your greatest strength? Many candidates feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in a positive way. You need to remove that barrier and remember this is a job interview. This is your chance to stand out so focus your answer on areas relevant to the role. Talk only about work related strengths and don’t just say (for example) “I’m really organised”. Tailor your response to fit the role and use a specific example that supports your point.

2.  What are your weaknesses? Don’t reveal your worst weaknesses – instead prepare two or three minor work-related flaws. There are different approaches to take with this one. You could choose something that doesn’t matter for the role, identify a weakness that could be seen as a positive, or use a fault you are working to improve. The important point is to answer honestly and remain positive. If there is an obvious gap in your experience or knowledge, you could use that as your weakness and address it directly by saying something like “I’m aware of my lack of experience in this industry, so I’ve done some research online and spoken with some of your competitors. I am confident I can learn everything I need to know in a short time frame and quickly become an asset to the organisation.”

3.  Why are you leaving your current job? Stay positive and don’t criticise your current or previous boss or company. Talk about new challenges/responsibilities, career progression, long periods in the same role having achieved significant success and the desire to develop new skills/knowledge. If you were made redundant, be honest and up front and say so, something along the lines of “Unfortunately the company had to downsize a number of roles including mine.” Practice your response so you don’t become emotional or stumble over your words – be brief and stay positive.

4.  Tell me about a time you missed a deadline? (or something similar where you have to talk about a negative situation). It’s important to clearly explain what happened, then focus on the positives in terms of what you learnt and how you do things differently now. For example, you could talk about how you have improved your prioritisation and time management skills after missing a deadline.

5.  Why should we hire you? Don’t just say “Because I’m great at what I do”. Think about your abilities, skills and accomplishments, match those to the job description and focus on why you’re a good fit for the role. Give examples and demonstrate success. Don’t forget to show interest in the company. For example, you could mention something about the opportunity the role offers to further develop some special knowledge you’re particularly interested in.

6.  What do you like least about your current job/the people you work with? Again, try to think of something that may not apply to the role you’re applying for. Answer the question, but focus on the positives such as the fact that you stuck with it or learnt something new even though the task may not have matched your strengths. If you are asked specifically about individuals, never be negative – again remain positive and if you can’t think of something in a positive light, you could just say, “I get along with most people, and I don’t usually have problems developing good working relationships with colleagues.”

Remember, there are often no right or wrong answers with interview questions – the recruiter is simply trying to gain insight into the value you can bring to the organisation. No matter what the question, try to tailor your answer to suit the job you are applying for, always answer honestly, and remain upbeat and positive – that way the interviewer will gain a good sense of why you’d be a great fit for the job.

If you would like assistance from a Career Advisor to help you prepare for tricky interview questions and increase your success rate at interviews, please see our Interview Training and Coaching service.