Applications / Job Interviews

How to answer the most common interview questions

To be in with the best chance of acing a graduate job interview, preparation is key.  Though you can never predict exactly how an interview will go, there are certain common interview questions that come up time and time again. By preparing and practicing your answers to these questions, you’ll feel more in control and confident throughout your interview. 

Jessica Ching, Digital Content and Marketing Executive from the graduate recruitment agency, Give A Grad A Go, shares her perspective on how to effectively answer the most common interview questions used by recruiters.

“Tell me about yourself”

Tell me more! Megaphone and textThough this seems like a very simple question, don’t be deceived – in a high-pressure interview situation it can be difficult to find the balance between saying the right things, oversharing, and not sharing enough. Employers ask this question to get you talking, to get a feel of your personality and people skills, and to use as a spring board for further questions – so mention the points you want to discuss (such as your university experience, your involvement in clubs or societies, or your passion for this particular industry). Avoid! Being too personal, being too vague (make yourself a memorable candidate!), or speaking for too long (keep it short, sweet, and to the point).

“Why do you want to work for us?”

Employers ask this question to find out how much you know about the company, gauge how eager you are to work for them, and to assess whether your goals match their objectives. It’s the perfect time to highlight the reasons why you’re a great fit for their company, and to show them how much you want to work for them. Avoid! Giving an uninformed answer which shows you haven’t done your research, giving the impression that you don’t care about getting the job, or focusing on finding ‘any’ graduate job.

“Why should we hire you?”

HIRING on blue speech bubble pinned to white surfaceThis tricky-to-answer question requires you to sell yourself without sounding arrogant. Essentially, it’s your chance to highlight what makes you unique, and show the employer why they should choose you over the next person. Employers want to see that you are confident in your skills – so support all your statements with solid evidence. Avoid! Being too modest, discussing skills that aren’t relevant to the role, or reeling off a list of skills without backing them up with evidence.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Employers ask this question to gauge how self-aware you are. There’s no harm in admitting a weakness, and by showing the employer that you are conscious of it you’re also indicating that you can take steps to turn it into a strength. Likewise, stating a strength implies that you are confident in your abilities and can offer great benefits to their company. Avoid! Trying to spin a strength as a weakness, claiming that you don’t have any weaknesses at all, or giving irrelevant answers.

“What has been your biggest achievement?”

Leadership conceptThis question can be particularly tricky, as it requires you to pick just one achievement that is relevant to this particular employer and their company – exactly why it’s so important to prepare your answer beforehand. The employer wants to know that you are a high achiever – so the best approach is to choose an achievement that is recent and unique. You’ll need to discuss how you went about accomplishing it, and the outcome or consequences of the achievement. Avoid! Choosing your degree as your greatest achievement, lying, or giving an unprofessional example.

“What are your hobbies and interests?”

This question is a chance for you to show the employer who you are outside of the workplace – as well as demonstrate your transferable skills. The best approach is to discuss genuine hobbies and the skills that they have taught you. For example, if you’ve been heavily involved in sports throughout university, discuss how you’ve worked well as part of a team, been involved in organising events, or have been resilient when things didn’t go your way. Avoid! Lying, mentioning hobbies or interests that are unprofessional, or being too generic about your interests (remember, a lot of people enjoy watching TV!)

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Dream of Tabby Cat: Being TigerWith this question, the employer is trying to ascertain whether your goals align with theirs, and ensure that this role fits into your long-term plan. The best approach is to show that you are ambitious (show how you’ll want to progress within 5 years) but also that you see yourself in this line of work. Avoid! Being unrealistic, under-selling yourself, or saying that you don’t know.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

Often asked at the end of a job interview, the questions you choose to ask (which should always be determined before!) the employer will be able to judge whether you’re a good fit for the role, and see if you have researched the company. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to find out key details about the role or the company you are applying to. Avoid! Not having any questions prepared, asking generic or vague questions, and not listening to their answers!

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