Answering interview questions

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Most professionals have had both good and bad interview experiences. What these are likely to have in common is the questions as the same ones tend to come up time and again.

If you prepare your answers in advance, you’ll be able to make sure that they showcase the qualities that make you right for the job.

Here are some questions that are regularly asked in interviews, and suggestions on how to answer them.

Tell me about yourself

This is usually the opening question and it’s your chance to tell the interviewer about the highlights in your career history and any relevant qualifications. Don’t feel you have to cover every point in this answer. It’s much better to give an overview of what you’ve done and achieved than to go into lengthy detail about your responsibilities.

You can follow the structure of your CV, giving examples of achievements and the skills you've picked up along the way.

What are your strengths?

This question should be easy to answer, but make sure you use it to your advantage. Pick the three attributes that you think are the most important for the job you’re applying for and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a work situation. They could be tangible skills, such as proficiency in a particular computer programme, software system or a foreign language, or intangible skills such as good team management.

What are your weaknesses?

Don’t answer this question as it’s been asked. Instead, answer the question ‘what are your weaknesses and what have you done to overcome them?’. This means you can turn a negative into a positive. So don’t give examples of things you’ve not done well if you don’t also have an example of how you’ve learned from it or worked to improve your skills as a result.

You don’t have to list every single weakness you think you have either. Just highlight one or two that are relevant and how you’ve taken steps to address the problem.

Why should we hire you?

This is where you get the chance to tell the interviewer about the skills, experience and attributes you have that make you perfect for the job. When preparing for the interview, check the job description and try and include some of the phrases in your answer (if they are relevant). Whenever you talk about a skill or attribute you have, make sure you relate it back to the company or the role. Don’t just list your experience without explaining how it could benefit the organisation.

If you prepare your answers in advance, you’ll be able to make sure that they showcase the qualities that make you right for the job.

What are your goals?

You should answer this question in terms of both short-term and long-term goals unless it’s asked in specific terms such as ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’.

Tell the interviewer about the kind of job you'd eventually like to do and how you plan to get there. Show the employer you have ambition, and that you have the determination to make the most of every job you have to get where you want to be.

Why do you want to work here?

This is a real chance for you to spell out how well your skills, experience and attributes match the requirements of the role and the company or organisation’s ethos.

Make sure your answer is really powerful. Practice what you’re going to say so that your answer is clear and that the interviewers are left in now doubt that you should be hired.

What salary are you seeking?

You can prepare for this by knowing the value of someone with your skills but don’t provide a figure in the interview as it could put you in a weak position when you come to negotiate later on. If they have provided a guideline salary with the job description, you could mention this and say it's around the figure you're looking for.

For more hints and tips, visit the Career Advice section of the Robert Walters website.

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