Preparing for a job interview may be a nerve-wrecking task if you are not fully prepared. Although no two interviews are alike, there are some key popular questions among employers when screening potential candidates.
By preparing confident answers to some of these more common interview questions, you can give yourself the edge over other potential candidates.
We take a look at some of the more common interview questions as well as how you can best answer and prepare your responses.
1. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
This question is perhaps the one most candidates think about and expect in their interview. Although it is often seen as a challenging question, even for those with significant experience, if approached correctly it is easily possible to avoid 'bragging' when discussing your strengths or seeming excessively negative when talking about your perceived weaknesses.
Based on the job description, choose three examples of traits the employer is looking for and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a work situation. Ideally, include a mixture of tangible skills, such as technical or linguistic abilities, and intangible skills, such as management experience.
The best approach here is to pick a trait that you have already made positive steps to address.
"When it comes to listing your perceived weaknesses, it is important to reflect on your past and what you have done to address them," said Martin Fox, Managing Director at Robert Walters.
"For example, if Microsoft Excel skill level is not as high as it could be, state this as a weakness before telling the interviewer about additional training courses you may have taken or time spent outside work hours developing your skills."
2. Why should I hire you?
Focus on your assets - what makes you different and where do your major strengths lie? Outline what you can offer in terms of experience, personality and skills.
"The job description should give you a good indication of what they are looking for," added Fox.
"Make sure you address the particular qualities the employer has stated they are looking for and provide specific examples of what you have done so far in your career that demonstrates how you are particularly suited for the role."
3. Tell me about yourself and your work experience
This is usually the opening question for most interviews and can be one of the most important. First impressions are key, so keep it brief – know your resume inside out and focus on delivering a one to two minute advertisement for yourself, highlighting the key achievements in your employment history. Know what you want to say and how you are going to say it beforehand.
"You should start your answer with an overview of your highest qualification then run through the jobs you've held so far in your career," added Fox.
"You can follow the same structure as your resume, giving examples of achievements and the skills you've picked up along the way. Don't go into too much detail - your interviewer will ask you to expand on any areas where they'd like more information."
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
An interviewer will be impressed if you have considered your short-term and long-term goals. Talk about the kind of job you'd eventually like to do and the various steps you will take to get there.
Show that you have the ambition and determination to make the most of every job you have held to get where you want to be.
Always relate this back to the position you're interviewing for and be realistic in terms of your aspirations. Avoid telling the interviewer that you want their job.
5. Why do you want this job?
Do your research - this gives you the chance to discuss all you know about the job and the company and why you are a good match for them. The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you've given this some thought, so do your homework properly.
"You should have a good inside knowledge of the company's values, mission statement, development plans and products. Describe how your goals and ambition match the company ethos and how you would relish the opportunity to work for them," advised Fox.
6. What are your salary expectations?
While you should never mention salary unless asked or prompted, it's important to understand the value of someone with your skills. Be flexible - indicate that you are willing to negotiate for the right opportunity and confirm that you value the position strongly.
Feel prepared for your interview? Take a look at competency based questions you should be ready for.
Or, find out what you're worth using the Robert Walters Salary Survey.