No one likes interviews. Together with moving house and having a baby, interviews rank highly on that list of things that cause us the most anxiety. Yet when you think about what an interview really is, at its most basic level, there’s no need to be afraid. Essentially, it’s a two-way (and this is the big point which is often forgotten) conversation in which you get to talk about yourself for an hour. If you’ve prepared well, then there shouldn’t be any reason for you to feel anything more than slightly nervous.
Okay, we know that’s easier said than done, especially when you can’t be sure what questions are going to crop up. That said, there are a few common ones which are used time and time again; ones that, even though we know they’re coming, can strike fear into the most confident interviewees.
Here’s how to answer those horrid interview questions:
Why do you want to work for us/ why do you think you’d be a good fit?
Ugh. What a horrible question. This is where you need to combine a bit of sucking-up with showing off, but be honest. Why DO you want to work for this company? Great examples might include the company’s reputation for being a leader in the field, that they’re known for being a fair employer, you are incredibly excited about the work they take on and/or that their strong family values align with yours. Remember to highlight your skills, too.
“[Insert company name] is known as the best in the industry, for its ambition and the way it challenges preconceptions. This is hugely exciting and something that I, with my …… marketing experience, would love to be a part of.”
What do you know about us?
This isn’t a trick question, the interviewers just want to make sure that you have done some research and that you are serious about this job. Find out as much as you can about the company, its history, its management team and some less commonly known information. Perhaps review their financial reports, follow the company on Twitter and Facebook and gain a better understanding of the specific department in which you want to work. Reading the company blog is a mine of useful information you can use to give a more tailored answer.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Oh no, not this one. It’s easy to talk about strengths, so we’ll bypass this one quickly – just remember not to come across as arrogant. Weaknesses are far more difficult. You don’t want to highlight a deficiency or cast any doubt over your suitability for the job. Be truthful, but then provide a solution – choose one weakness and then talk about what you are doing to address it.
For example, someone who is a little disorganised might say that they have started to use an online to-do list or colour-coded folders to prioritise tasks. Or someone who isn’t great at public speaking might be taking the opportunity to deliver a slot in the weekly team meeting. Don’t be worried, we all have weaknesses; the interviewers want to know what steps you are taking to deal with them.
Do you have any questions for us?
Yes, you do. Always prepare some questions for the interviewers. While doing your research and reading the job specification, it’s likely that you’ll come up with some queries about the role.
A few that are handy to have in your armoury include: “Can you explain the team structure?”, “What sort of training and development opportunities do you offer?” and “How would you describe the work culture?”
There’s no rule that says you must save your questions to the end of the interview, if something crops up during the conversation, then ask. It’ll make the dialogue flow much better and show that you are interested.
What’s your current salary / what salary are you looking for?
This is tricky, as all interviewees immediately assume that by telling the truth, they’ll be offered a lower salary should they get the job. It’s perfectly reasonable to talk about your ‘total package’ – which would combine annual salary, bonus and any other benefits you might receive. This then truthfully inflates the figure.
Alternatively, you could answer simply with the salary range you are looking for (which should correlate with the salary range advertised for the role). It’s worth remembering that at this point in the process, you don’t have to start negotiating – wait until you’ve been offered the job and get your recruitment consultant to help you.
Attending an interview is scary stuff, but knowing how to tackle some of the more horrid questions should fill you with some confidence. Now go and get that job!