The ultimate guide to common interview questions and how to answer them
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The ultimate guide to common interview questions and how to answer them

Job interviews are difficult enough. So stay ahead by getting to know some of the more common interview questions and how you should answer them…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

This is one of the most frequently asked interview questions. And you’d think that the answer would be straightforward. I mean, who knows you better than you, right?

Surprisingly, this simple question trips up the best of candidates. What’s more, it’s usually one of the first questions to be asked, so it pays to structure your answer well in order to make a good first impression.

Refrain from diving into a painfully boring run-down of your resume. It’s also not the time to talk about your star sign or love of cat videos. Instead, use the question as an opportunity to set the tone for the interview. Sum up who you are in a few sentences, connect the dots on your resume and list some of your key qualifications, strengths, and skills, particularly that relate to the role.

How did you hear about this role?

The reason for this question is two-fold. Firstly, they interviewer is actually curious. They’ve probably posted the job on various channels and want to know what’s working to attract the best candidates.

They’re also sussing out whether you actively sought out the position and why.

The perfect answer to this question really does rely on how you heard about the role. But here are a few tips:

  • If you were referred by a past or current employee, be sure to ask the person whether you can name them in the interview. Many companies have employee referral programs, and these types of referrals triple your chances of getting the job! However, it’s not always appropriate to name names, particularly if the person who referred you is involved in the hiring process. So, check first.
  • Show intent. Make sure the interviewer knows that you didn’t just stumble across the role. Outline the keywords you used to find it and/or the research you did prior to applying.
  • Keep your answer short, simple and confident.

What do you know about our company?

The interviewer is trying to figure out whether you’ve done any background research about the company and if you understand how they work. Come prepared and be sure your answer highlights your interest in the company and the role.

Why do you want to work for us/Why do you want this job?

The interviewer is assessing your enthusiasm for the position and whether you’ll be a good fit for the company and the role. Be specific about:

  • What attracted you to the company (a bit of background research will help here)
  • Any personal beliefs or goals that match the company’s values and culture
  • Any knowledge, skills and achievements that align with the role

Can you describe your strengths?

Be confident without being arrogant. But, by the same token, don’t be too humble – a job interview is not the place under-sell yourself.

Come into the interview with a structured response that showcases:

  • At least one skill required to do the role
  • What sets you apart from other qualified candidates

In a way, be ‘humble arrogant’. Balance the benefits of humility (like understanding your faults and flaws so that you can improve) with the benefits of arrogance (like knowing that you have the confidence and skills to succeed).

What are your weaknesses?

Ahhh, the dreaded weaknesses question. It comes up in almost every interview, but how should it be answered?

Most candidates will rattle off fluffy answers that can also be seen in a positive light like “I work too hard” or “I take on too much” or “I’m a perfectionist.”

However, these types of answers often come across as insincere. It’s far better to talk about a real weakness and your action plan for improvement.

The interviewer wants to know how you face challenges, identify problems and whether you have a healthy level of self-awareness. So, providing a real answer isn’t going to cost you the job – in fact, it’s most likely what the interviewer is looking for!

Besides, everybody has weaknesses, it’s how you address them and grow that counts.

What did you dislike about your last role?

This is not an invitation to be negative, nor does it pay to lie. There will always be things that you dislike about a company/role, the interviewer knows this. The key is the manner in which you answer.

It’s important to remain honest and objective – focus on a task or situation and how you were able to manage it. Round off your answer with something positive, such as what you learned or why the job you’re applying for might be a better fit.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This may feel like a bit of a trick question but it’s designed to probe whether:

  • You’re genuinely interested in the role or whether it’s a stepping stone to something else
  • Your career aspirations align with the company
    Steer clear of hollow answers like “in this role” or “with your company.” Instead, focus on how your goal is to continue to develop professionally and (hopefully) grow within the position in question.

What do you consider to be your biggest professional achievement?

Again, not the time to be cocky, nor humble.

It’s important to be able to talk about what you’ve achieved with confidence and enthusiasm. And preparing in advance will give you the ability to do this without coming across as arrogant.

Where possible, talk about a workplace accomplishment. The interviewer is interested in what you’re proud of and about getting real life examples of your best professional work-to-date.

If you’re new to the workforce you can talk about life accomplishments. However, make sure that your answer highlights transferable skills that resonate with the job.

Tell us about a time that you needed to deal with a disgruntled coworker or customer. What happened and how did you deal with the situation?

Enter the behavioural question. Behavioural interview questions assume that the best predictor of future behaviour is how one has acted in the past.

The best way to respond to this type of question is to answer in three parts:

  • Give context – describe the task or situation you were in
  • Outline your actions – mark out the steps you took to tackle the task or address the problem
  • Define results – describe the professional outcomes that were achieved as a result of the actions you took.

In regards to this particular question, the interviewer is probing into how you deal with interpersonal conflict. So, describe the situation you were in and how you were able to handle it in a professional manner so that the issue could be resolved between the parties.

What type of environment do you work best in?

This question examines whether you will be a good fit for the company and culture.

Regardless of your “dream environment”, be sure to connect your unique qualities with the company and the role. Stay confident and truthful, but structure a response that demonstrates that you’re adaptable and understand the role and company culture.

Are you interviewing with other companies at the moment?

Again, it’s good to stay honest about this – especially if you’ve applied for jobs within the same industry.

Don’t boast about how many interviews you have lined up. Rather, outline that you have some other interviews in the pipeline but the position you are currently interviewing for is your first choice.

Why are you leaving/did you leave your job?

When this question pops up, try not to think about everything you dislike about your current role – the negativity is likely to leave a bad taste in the interviewer’s mouth. What’s more, thinking about negative past events could affect your mood. And an interview is no place for a bad mood.

So, instead, lean towards more common answers such as the desire to:

  • Reduce or increase responsibilities
  • Change your career trajectory
  • Improve on or learn new skills
  • Reduce commute time or relocate
  • Improve work/life balance

What do you look for in a manager?

Resist the temptation to talk about what you haven’t liked about your old bosses. We cannot stress this enough.

Complaining will only make you look bad. So, remain objective. Talk about management qualities that empower you to be the best you can be!

Tell us about a successful team project that you were involved in. How did you contribute and what made it a success?

Another example of a behavioural question, this time examining whether you’re a team player. Remember to answer in three parts:

  1. Give context
  2. Outline your actions
  3. Define results

The interviewer is looking for clues about whether you work well with others and if you’ll be a good cultural fit. So, If possible, provide an example that mirrors the type of teamwork you’ll be doing in your new role. And talk more about how the group worked together to attain a result rather than just your own accomplishments.

Can you tell us about a time that you disagreed with a decision or process at work? What was it and what did you do?

Another behavioural question, now assessing your conflict management skills.

Most people do not like conflict. Nonetheless, disagreements are an inevitable and normal part of the working environment. And the way you deal with them says a lot about your character. So, answer in three parts – give context, action and results. Speak about the interaction in a positive light and emphasise how your better qualities helped resolve the issue.

How would people you’ve worked with describe you?

Saying nice things about yourself can be hard. So, be sure to prepare for this question in advance.

It’s important to respond with how past colleagues have actually regarded you. So, think about previous experiences where you were complimented for your work. What words were used? You might also check past reference letters, performance reviews or LinkedIn recommendations.

Tell us about a time that you had to deal with a high-pressure or stressful situation. How did you deal with it and what was the result?

Yet another behavioural question, this time measuring how you work under pressure or handle job-related stress.

Try to focus on a situation that was beyond your control but turned out successfully. Ideally, use an example where you can single out a moment of personal growth – that is, a time when stress actually helped rather than hindered your work.

What are your salary expectations?

This question is bound to pop up. The interviewer is sussing out whether they can actually afford to hire you. They may also be interested in how you value yourself.

Here, quoting a number that’s too high could cost you the jo. A low-ball figure, on the other hand, may mean that, if you do land the job, you’re not properly compensated. So, what’s the answer?

It’s certainly tricky, but you can prepare for this question by first doing your research – how much does someone in this type of role typically make in your location? This should give you an indication of a reasonable salary range to quote in the interview.

What do you think we could do better or differently?

Hiring managers are obviously interested in what you think about the company. But they are also looking to hire people who take initiative and think creatively. So, for this one, be sure to touch on both the positives and negatives.

Do your research beforehand and start by talking about what you know the company does well. Then, talk objectively about one or two things that could be improved. Be careful not to nitpick or harp on. Answer the question. But shift the focus onto the skills and knowledge that you can bring to aid their business success.

Do you have any questions for us?

Interviews almost always wrap up with this question, so come prepared. Your response to will hinge on:

  • The person/people who are interviewing you
  • What was spoken about during the interview.

So put together a handful of go-to responses beforehand.

Let us match you with the right job

Trojan Recruitment Group brings over 25 years’ experience in the Australian recruitment industry. We’re the right people that will help you find the right work with the right company.

Browse for and apply for jobs through our website and our specialised recruitment consultants will be in touch if you’re a good fit.

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