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How to Answer the Most Common Interview Questions

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Do you feel as though you get asked the same interview questions in every interview?

That’s probably because you do. And while many of these questions seem tired and hollow, there’s actually a good reason why employees ask them again and again.

Behind each question is a strategy designed to reveal the best and worst qualities of a candidate. With that in mind, here’s how you should be preparing to answer to some of the most common job interview questions.

“What’s your biggest weakness?”

Why do they ask you this?

If this question feels like it’s designed to trap you – that’s because it is.

The interviewer is trying to figure out if you’re capable of self-reflection and self-improvement and also if you have a healthy ego.

But, say something too big and you risk looking underconfident or underqualified.  Say nothing, and you look like you lack self-awareness, or are possibly arrogant…

How do you answer it?

The trick here is to pick a small (but not too small) flaw of yours.  Don’t pick a skill or personality trait that’s crucial to the job. Instead, pick something fixable, and in an area that when improved, will move you from being good in that area to being great in that area.

Tell a story that explains how and when you noticed your flaw and most importantly – the practical steps you’re taking to improve it.

“Why did you leave your last job?”

Why do they ask you this?

Here, your interviewer is trying to suss out a few things; your ability to maintain good professional relationships, your expectations as an employee and what kind of career direction you have.

How do you answer it?

Whatever you do, don’t say anything too negative or personal about your former company or boss. Your interviewer will assume that if you’re prepared to say bad things about your former employer, then you’ll be prepared to say bad things about them as well.

Whatever your reasons for leaving were, explain why it was important for your personal and professional growth to move away from that position and angle towards the position you’re applying for now.

Be fair about your former employer and give specific reasons for leaving such as, ‘I enjoyed the practical elements of my last job but the role didn’t offer me the opportunity to use my leadership skills.’

“Why do you want to work here?”

Why do they ask you this?

Here, they are trying to find out how much you know about their company and how your work style and skill set will be a good fit for them.

How do you answer it?

Use this question to demonstrate your understanding of the objectives of the company you’re applying with.

First, speak about your personal qualities, professional skills and passions. Then explain how they match up with the goals and culture of the organisation you’re applying with.  The idea is to demonstrate that the reason you want to work with them is basically, because you’re a perfect match for each other!

“Do YOU have any questions?”

Why do they ask you this?

This often comes right at the end and unfortunately, it’s something many people don’t prepare for.

Or, an interviewee thinks that they should answer ‘no’ so as not to look stupid.

How do you answer it?

Never answer ‘no’. A good employee is curious, wants to learn, and wants to know how they and the company can help each other achieve more.

There are any number of things you can ask about.  You can ask broad questions about the company’s strategic direction, current projects, current problems or what kind of workplace culture they try to foster.

You can also ask more specific ones like; ‘what would be the number one thing you would like the person in my role to achieve?’

Whatever you ask, always have some pre-prepared questions at hand.

“How would you describe yourself?”

Why do they ask you this?

Describing yourself should be easy, but this question can leave a lot of people dumbfounded! You should definitely come knowing how you’re going to answer this.

How do you answer it?

First, resist the temptation to make yourself sound perfect. Often, people are afraid to let their personality show because they think they’ll reveal a flaw. But it’s important to let your personality show, not just because the interviewer will sense that you are being genuine, but because they’re much more likely to remember you at the end of a long day of interviews.

When describing yourself, you want to keep in mind the desired qualities listed in the job description and highlight the qualities of yours that are similar.

However, when doing this, don’t just list personality traits. Tell a small ‘story’ of yourself. Explain how you’ve grown professionally and personally and the direction you’re heading towards.