Interviewers aren't always the most original bunch and often fall back on the same sorts of questions. Which is handy, because it means you can prepare answers to the type of generic interview questions we’ve listed below (along with some suggested answers).
Question: "Why do you want this job?"
- You believe you've taken your current role as far as you can and you’re looking for a fresh challenge.
- You believe this is an organisation in which you can make your mark and take your career to the next level.
Show off your knowledge about the business – make all that research count (you know, the stuff we told you about in our interview prep guide? What do you mean you haven't read it yet?
Question: "Where does this job fit in with your career plans?"
This role offers you a new challenge where you can not only put your existing skills to good use, but expand upon them as well. Show ambition – you think this is a great opportunity for you to progress your career. Might be a bit cheesy, but it works wonders.
Question: "What are your strengths?"
Your answer should be directly related to the key skills in the job description. Back up your answer with examples of how you have demonstrated these skills in your current role.
Question: "What are your weaknesses?"
Your answer should be a positive one – perhaps you work too hard or you have a maddening attention to detail. Don't blurt out the fact that you might be a bit slow or you're often hungover on a Wednesday because the pub quiz is on a Tuesday night.
Question: "What's been your most significant success at work?"
This question relates to you personally – not how you worked as part of a team. Use examples where you've been the project lead or manager, for example, and state how much your current organisation benefited from this success, with figures if possible. Ensure your answer is related to the job you're applying for.
Question: "What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?"
The answer the interviewer is looking for is more about how you dealt with the mistake, rather than the mistake itself. Demonstrate how you snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Question: "What’s the greatest challenge you have ever faced?"
Again, this needs to be relevant to the job you are applying for. Give a specific example detailing the challenge, how you handled it and what action you took. Highlight whether you would handle things differently and why, should you encounter a similar challenge.
Question: "How do you cope with difficult colleagues?"
Emphasise your ability to view things from your colleagues' perspective and your flexible communication skills – establish what you can do to help them or adapt yourself to rectify the situation. NB. this does not include politely offering to go deodorant shopping with them.
Question: "You've changed jobs three times in the past five years, why should I think you are more serious about this one?"
If you have a valid personal reason for moving around, explain. Alternatively, you made offers you just couldn't refuse. Or you achieved the goal you aimed for when taking on a new position and it was therefore time to take on a new challenge.
Question: "What do you do outside of work?"
This is about personality as well as commitment. You should have active interests outside of work, but nothing that would interfere with your work, e.g. hobbies that might land you in hospital every now and then.
Question: "What's your current salary?"
Include all your bonuses and any perks. Don't fib - this information will be checked with your current employer and lying just makes you look greedy.
Question: "Do you have any questions?"
At the end of an interview, that most dreaded question of all is likely to rear its ugly head. Do you have any questions for the interviewer? Of course you do! At least, you will after reading this. We've provided some suggestions below, but you should also try to pick up on points made during the interview to prove you've been listening and ask relevant questions:
- What's it like to work here?
- Why has the position become available?
- What are the career and training prospects?
- If I was offered the job, how would my success be measured?
- What behaviour is desired and rewarded (not financially) in this position?
- What's the turnover of staff like throughout the company?
- What elements of the job offer flexibility and variety?
- I do like a challenge; does this role involve me being able to use my initiative?
- If I'm successful, where would you like to see me within the company in five years?
- What's the structure of the team this position sits within?
- What do you like most about working here?
- What is your management style?
- What is the working atmosphere like? Is it relaxed, silent, work hard/play hard?
- Do colleagues socialise together outside of work?
Keep in mind, you are interviewing them as well. They need to entice you to join their company as much as you need to impress them. You've been invited to sit in that room because they are as interested in you as you are in them so feel confident. Use the opportunity to find out as much as you can because you have a decision to make as well, i.e. is this the role for me?
- Interview techniques
- Top 5 interview tips
- Interview checklist
- How to dress
- Find an IT job