How to ace an interview

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While no two job interviews will be identical, there are certain interview questions that you are likely to encounter.

Making sure you are prepared with well thought out answers that you can deliver with confidence will give you an edge over the other candidates.

In this article we review some of the most common interview questions, how best to answer them and how you can prepare effective responses.
 

1. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time and what do you want to achieve?

Interviewers want to see that you’ve considered your short, medium and long term goals. Consider not just the job you are applying for, but what role you might want to progress into over time.

Highlight how your past jobs have helped you to develop your skills and how your experience in previous roles has helped your progress in your career.

Always relate your examples back to the position you're interviewing for and be realistic in terms of your aspirations. Avoid telling the interviewer that you want their job.

2. What are your strengths/weaknesses?

This is often seen as a challenging question, even for professionals further into their career. However, if approached correctly it is easy to give a relevant, balanced answer. You can avoid 'bragging' when discussing your strengths or coming across as negative when talking about your perceived weaknesses.

Strengths

Review the job description and choose three examples of qualities the employer is looking. Give examples of how you have used these strengths at work. Ideally, include a mixture of tangible skills, such as technical or linguistic abilities, and intangible skills, such as managing stakeholders or being an effective communicator. 

Weaknesses

When discussing your weaknesses think of an area where you have taken steps to improve your skills.

"Consider examples of areas you have struggled with in the past and the steps you have taken to address them," continued Sarah Owen, Director of Walters People Ireland.

"If you have struggled to give effective presentations in the past, give this as an example of a weakness and explain to the interviewer how you have taken training courses or spent time outside work hours to improve your skills."

3. Why should you get the job?

Focus on why you would be an asset to the company – what sets you apart from other candidates and where do your greatest strengths lie? Highlight what you can offer in terms of experience, personality and enthusiasm.

"The job description should be your first port of call when identifying what the interviewer is looking for," added Sarah.

Address the specific qualities the employer has mentioned and provide examples of what you have done so far in your career that demonstrate why you are particularly suited for the role.

4. Tell me about yourself / your past work experience

This is often the opening question for interviews and it can be one of the most important since first impressions are key.

Keep your answer brief. Know your CV inside out and focus on delivering a one to two minute advertisement for yourself, highlighting key achievements in your employment history. Make sure you know what you want to say and how you are going to say it.

"Start with an overview of your highest qualification then run through your past jobs," she advises.

"Follow the same structure as your CV. Give examples of your achievements and the skills you've developed in your career so far. Your answer doesn’t need to be too detailed - the interviewer will ask you to expand on any areas where they'd like more information."

5. Why do you want this job?

Doing thorough research is key to giving a great answer to this question. Take the opportunity to discuss all you know about the job and the company and explain why you are a good match for them.

The interviewer is looking for an answer that indicates that you’ve taken the time to learn all you can about the company, so do your homework.

"In addition to the latest news about the company you should be familiar with their values, mission statement, development plans and products." Sarah continues: "Consider how your goals and ambition match the company ethos and use this to shape your answer about why you would relish the opportunity to work for them."

6. What are your salary expectations?

While you should avoid mentioning salary unless asked or prompted, it's important to be aware of the value of someone with your skills. Be flexible – make it clear that you are willing to negotiate on your salary for the right opportunity and confirm that you value the position highly.

"All too often, problems arise from either pricing yourself out of the position or stating a figure less than what the company is willing to pay. If a guideline salary has been provided with the job description, you could mention this and say it's around the amount you're looking for as part of the reason why you think you are a good fit for the role," Sarah Owen continued.

7. What skills or experience do you possess that will help you succeed in this role?

Use the interview as an opportunity to say highlight the skills and experiences you have that relate back to the role at hand. Remember that interviewers want to see you demonstrate key skills, so prepare examples in advance that you can use during the interview.

Examples of the key attributes employers look for include:

  • Project management skills
  • Problem solving
  • Managing stakeholders
  • Demonstrating sound technical knowledge, backed up by good business understanding
  • Delivering on targets or goals


Do your research

Above all, doing thorough research on all aspects of the role and the company is vital. Have a look at the company website and understand as much as you can about their business and how they operate, as well as the products or services they provide. Go prepared with questions to ask them – after all, the interview is a two-way process. Wiring down questions ahead and taking them with you may be easier and shouldn’t be perceived negatively by the interviewer.

 

You may also want to read our article on how to do a proper follow-up after your job interview.

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