Tips for Answering Interview Questions

Dealing with Tough Interview Questions

Job interviews are a way for employers to work out how well you you will fit into their organisation, and if you have the skills for the job. How you present yourself and answer their questions will help them decide who to hire - so what should you do to make the best impression?

First impressions

Employers will start assessing you the minute you walk in the door, so your presentation and attitude are very important. You should show you:

  • can add value to a company
  • appreciate being interviewed
  • want to work for the company
  • are willing to improve your skills
  • have something to offer the company, such as a willingness to work, pride in the work you do and a spirit of co-operation.

General tips for answering questions

Most interviews have a lead-in time of introductions and settling in, questions from the interviewer/panel, and then a chance for the interviewee to ask questions.

  • Speak clearly and vary the tone to show you are interested and enthusiastic.
  • Give yourself time to think about each question. Pause before answering so that you can think about the best response, and make sure you’re giving them the information they need.
  • Listen to questions carefully and let the interviewer lead the conversation. If you do not understand a question, ask for it to be explained or repeated.
  • Be diplomatic and discreet, particularly about previous employers or co-workers. Don’t badmouth anybody.
  • Speak from experience – give examples that can demonstrate what knowledge and skills you have, and what you have learned in the past.
  • Be positive about the skills you have and what you have done. Don’t give the employer a chance to downgrade your abilities by saying things such as “I only have…” or “I don’t have direct experience in that area”. Instead, tell the employer what you do have or can offer.

Types of questions

Can you tell us about yourself?
What to cover in your response:

  • Give a brief summary about the study or work you have done which relates to the role you are interviewing for.
  • Talk about about personal and professional goals.
  • Talk about some of the things you like to do in your free time.

Why do you want to work for this organisation?
Use your research about the job and the company here.

What made you apply for this particular job?
Talk about your interest for the job and organisation.

What makes you the right sort of person to work for this company?
Give examples of the skills and experience which make you right for the job.

Have you done this kind of work before?
Discuss the skills and experience you have that will transfer to the job you are applying for.

How will you fit into our business? How will we benefit from taking you on?
Use your research about the job and the company here.

Behavioral/situational questions

What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you deal with conflict?
Tell me about a time when…

  • you experienced failure
  • you resolved a problem
  • you achieved a goal
  • you took a leadership role within a group.

Stress your good points and turn your weaknesses in to a positive, such as ‘I’d really like to learn more about computers.’ Be able to describe a specific task or situation, what you did, and what the result was.

Questions you can ask at an interview

You will usually get the opportunity to ask questions at an interview. Though you may think of questions during the interview, it pays to have some prepared in case you need them.

Make sure you know why you are asking a question. If you ask an idle question, and the interviewer asks why you want to know the answer, you will have to justify yourself.

Ask genuine questions about information that is not readily available. For example, don’t ask about things that are on the organisation’s website or in its promotional brochures. If you do, you’ll show the employer that you haven’t done your research.mRemember, some of the questions you have prepared may be answered during the interview. You’ll need to keep track of these, as you don’t want to ask them again.

Examples of questions that you could ask

What type of work will you be doing?

  • What are the duties and responsibilities of this position?
  • What would a day in the life of a _______ with your firm typically involve?
  • What will be biggest challenge I will have in this job?

What training and progression opportunities are there?

  • What kind of induction or training programme will I complete when I begin the job?
  • Will the organisation support ongoing study?
  • Will there be opportunities for increased responsibility and broader experience?
  • Is there a periodic employee appraisal or performance review? How is this organised?

What are the people like?

  • How much contact will I have with management?
  • Who will I report to in this position?
  • How big is the team I will work with?

What’s the organisation like?

  • I find it interesting that you are expanding into ________. Could you tell me more about that?
  • How does your organisation show that it values its employees?
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