Whether you're in your first job or being interviewed for the role of CEO, interviewers will use certain questions to understand your strengths, weaknesses and current situation. While every role is different, there are always common interview questions that arise, so if you’re one of the 32% of interviewees surveyed by Randstad that feel they’re out of practice, it’s important to do your homework and tailor your answers.
There’s a near-certain chance that the typical interview questions below will feature in your next job interview. Read on to form answers that boost your confidence, impress prospective employers and ensure job-seeking success.
1. Why are you leaving your current job?
This is one of the most common interview questions interviewees are asked as your answer can illuminate a wide range of things. This includes your previous work experience, attitude to work, relationship with employers and future career plans.
There may be several reasons why you might want to leave your current job or left a role in the past. Research by CEB in 2015 found the most common were a lack of future career opportunities, poor compensation, negative people management, few development opportunities and a lack of recognition.
Given there are so many answers, it's wise to prepare your answer before heading to your interview.
Try to focus on the positive move forward in the future rather than making negative comments about your former role or employer. Negativity can come across as unprofessional or present you as someone who complains but doesn’t consider solutions. Mentioning compensation is best avoided too – this topic can be broached later, during salary discussions.
When it comes to the interview, answer this common question with confidence – being able to answer clearly and directly will show the interviewer you’re serious about your job change.
2. Why do you want to work here?
This typical interview question is usually a test to see if you've taken the time to research the company and role, and as a means for the interviewer to work out if you would be a good fit.
Here, preparation is key. Make sure you research and take your time to learn about the business’ services, products, history and workplace culture.
A great way to make an impact when answering this common interview question is to talk about how the company appeals to you and aligns with your career path and goals. The interviewer could also ask why these things are important to you so be prepared to explain why.
3. What interests you about this role?
You may end up covering this typical interview question in your answer to the previous one in our list, but managers will usually include this to make sure you fully understand the position.
This is a great opportunity for you to highlight the skills covered in your CV. In your answer, focus on a few things you find particularly satisfying or excel at, then relate them to the skills and knowledge requirements listed in the job description.
4. What are your goals for the future?
This is a very common interview question that calls for a detailed answer as the interviewer is trying to understand if you're looking for a long-term role.
It’s easy to understand why. Work Institute’s 2017 Retention Report found that replacing a member of staff can cost up to 33% of their yearly salary, and 2014 Oxford Economics research calculated the average loss of an employee earning £25,000 or more cost employers around £30,000.
If you’re asked this question, explain what your future career aims, ambitions and expectations are. Correctly position how the role will help you reach your end goal. And describe your underlying thinking to show the interviewer you have a strategic mindset.
5. What are your greatest strengths?
Here, the interviewer wants to know more about how competent you are and whether you have other soft skills befitting of the role.
Now, while it might seem easy to talk about all the things you’re good at, don’t go in guns blazing when answering this typical interview question.
Take time to think about your strengths and relate them to the job specification you're interviewing for when answering. Try to avoid cliched answers and consider how your strengths will be perceived by the interviewer. Always keep it professional and related to the role, even when talking about softer or more transferrable skills.
Such competency-based common interview questions often call for the STAR technique:
- Situation – where did the experience occur?
- Task – what were you asked to complete?
- Action – how did you respond?
- Result – what did you achieve?
Knowing a few of these structured answers off by heart and being able to tie in statistics when discussing the result (such as sales performance, efficiency savings or otherwise) can help impress your prospective employer.
6. What are your greatest weaknesses?
Even though you might be expecting this typical interview question, it's still a difficult one to answer. That is because you may end up focusing too heavily on making a good impression and hoping not to say the ‘wrong’ thing that may lose you the opportunity.
There’s no reason to feel anxious and guarded when discussing your weaknesses, however. Being able to give an honest answer and show you're self-aware is an attribute many employers find attractive.
Choose something significant but solvable that you're working towards overcoming. Then, describe how you're tackling the issue. That way, you will show you're not just aware but proactive, and end the answer on a positive note.
7. Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?
Your answer to this common interview question should display your problem-solving capabilities. What’s more, your interviewer may also wish to understand your ability to cope with stressful situations in a productive, positive manner.
Presenting through stories can be a good strategy when answering this sort of question, as they are easier to remember compared to answers awash with facts and figures. Show how you went above and beyond to help solve the situation and what the results were – the STAR technique mentioned above can be helpful here.
8. What is your salary range expectation?
Most employers will ask this typical interview question as they need to understand that your expectations align with their budget for the role, and indeed the role itself.
To answer it well, start by working out what the budget for the role is so you can align it with the money you are looking for. Even if the salary range is listed in the job description, conduct extra research online to get a better idea of the typical salary for the role, seniority and location. This will ensure you're paid a fair amount within the sector.
Once you are aware of the range, try to position yourself at the middle-to-high end of the spectrum. If you wish, you may indicate to the interviewer or hiring manager that you may be flexible with your rate versus other benefits like holiday, hybrid or flexible working, and other perks.
However, it’s crucial to remember that this is the interview, not a salary negotiation. Feel free to simply provide a general range and the thinking behind it in response to this common interview question, and defer discussing specifics until a later stage.
9. Why should we hire you?
You may find this question intimidating, but try to frame it as simply another opportunity for you to sell yourself as the best candidate for the position.
Address your skills and previous experience, tying this in with how it fits within the role. This way, you can be more confident of persuading the hiring manager sitting opposite.
10. Do you have any questions?
One of the most important questions of them all – and certainly an area that you should pursue at the end of an interview regardless of the interviewer asking it. That’s because doing so shows you're excited about the job. It's also a great chance to find out about the company and working for it.
Make a list of all the things you'd like to know more about before the interview, but try to keep things professional and away from the information described in the job description – you should know this already. You might want answers to common interviewee questions like:
- What is the company culture like?
- What is the team like?
- Is the post new or existing?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What’s the company’s approach to training and development?
- What are the business’ future plans?
Lastly, be sure to ask when you can expect to hear back from the interviewer – the answer is useful both to show how much you want the role but also to protect your post-interview sanity!
How to predict and prepare for other interview questions
Naturally, some questions won’t follow the ones we’ve listed above. Thankfully, though, you can use the steps below to prepare strong answers to practically any question.
- Job description – The job description is your ticket to strong, considered answers. By studying and memorising it fully, you'll automatically know what your interviewer is going to ask you about and what they’ll value you putting in your answers.
- What you want – If you don’t truly know why you want the job (aside from a raise), you’ll find it difficult to provide enthusiastic answers. A good deal of soul-searching can go a long way.
- CV and cover letter – Once you’ve written an effective CV and cover letter using our helpful templates, be sure to memorise what’s on it. The interviewer will almost certainly use them as a basis for some questions and a lack of knowledge can mean you’re caught out.
- Attitude – Adopting the right attitude to your answers and delivery can work wonders for your chances of securing a role. That’s because practically all employers want their teams to comprise personable and solution-oriented staff who will work well with others. To show off the best version of yourself, be positive, stay calm, sell yourself and remember structures like the STAR technique so you don’t ramble.
Interviews aren’t easy, but if you know what questions to expect, you have a much greater chance of acing them. Just remember to be on time, smile, dress smartly and be present in the room. Randstad wishes you the best of luck!