How To Answer Interview Questions

Posted October 13, 2011, by Helen Isbister
Front up to an interview unprepared, and you might as well have arrived wearing your pyjamas – your chances of landing the job aren’t looking all that flash. Unless you’ve been given a politician’s gift of the gab, winging it is never a good idea. The advice here is simple: do your homework. 

Although there is a chance you’ll be thrown a doozy, like Microsoft’s infamous ‘why are manhole covers round’, it’s more likely that you’ll be on the receiving end of your typical self-reflexive and evidence-based line of questioning.

This is your opportunity to show the company that you have what it takes to do the job. The interviewer will want to suss out what you can bring to the position, including your particular skills, knowledge and experiences. They’ll also want to get some idea about your character to assess whether you’re the right person for the job and if you’ll mesh well with the company’s culture.

By learning what employers are looking for when they ask common interview questions and then preparing answers for these, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of success.

So before you find yourself in the interview hot seat, do anything and everything you can to prepare yourself for the oncoming interrogation. We’ve compiled a series of some common and a little more left-of-centre questions you might come across, to help you stay brave in the face of fire.

Common interview questions

How have you demonstrated your excellent communication skills?

Tell me about yourself

What do you know about this company?

Why are you applying for this job? Why do you want this job?

Why should we give you this job?

What are your strengths?

What’s your biggest weakness?

What do you like about yourself?

How would you describe your current boss?

What did you most enjoy about your last job?

Would your current boss describe you as the type of person who goes that extra mile?

Why should we hire you?

Why did you choose this career path?

How do you handle criticism?

Why did you leave your last job?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Why do you want to work here?

What motivates you?

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

What do you like to do outside work?

How would your friends or colleagues describe you?

How do you handle pressure?

Why haven’t you used your last boss as a reference?

What do you dislike about your current job?

Do you prefer to work alone or in a team?

What salary do you expect in this position?

What characteristics do you think make a successful manager?

How do you deal with problems?

What can you offer that no one else can?

What do you see yourself doing in the first 30 days of this job?

What did you earn in your previous job?

How would you go about learning to use new software or programs?

Discuss your resume


‘Outside the box’ interview questions

If someone was making a movie about your life, what genre would it be, who would play you and what would be the title?

If you could be any colour, what colour would you be?

How many people are there flying in airplanes over the US right now?

If you were hosting a dinner party and could invite three people, dead or alive, who would you invite?

If you only had six months to live, what would you do with the time?

If you were a car, what type would you be?

Why are manhole covers round?

If you were a piece of fruit what would you be?

On a scale of one to ten, how in control of your own destiny do you believe you are?

If you were a brand, which would you be?

If you were an animal, what would you be?

What are your pet hates?

Do you see yourself as an ethical person?

Who is your role model?

What are your new year’s resolutions?

‘Tell us about a time…’ interview questions

Describe a time when you were faced with a difficult situation and how you handled it

Describe a time when you had to deal with conflict

Describe a situation when you were under pressure

Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it

Describe a situation where you had to show leadership

Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person

Describe a situation where you demonstrated flexibility

Describe a situation where you demonstrated negotiation skills

Describe a time when you have worked as part of a successful team. What do you think contributed to your team’s overall success?

Tell us about a goal that you have set yourself and worked towards, of which you feel truly proud or satisfied. What did you learn about yourself?

Tell us about a time where you have demonstrated the company’s values to achieve a positive outcome

Tell me about a time you experienced failure and how you handled it

Can you describe a time when you have taken initiative? What was the result?

Questions for you to ask at a job interview

At an interview, you may have the opportunity to ask questions to the interviewer. It’s important to have some questions planned.

Even if the interviewer does not ask you if you have any questions, before the end of the interview, make the point that you would like to ask a couple of questions about the job or the company. This shows that you have thought seriously about the position and the company.


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Helen Isbister

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