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Ask an Expert INTERVIEWS / DEC. 12, 2016
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What are the most common interview questions and how to answer them?

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What are the most common interview questions and what is the best way to answer them? I have been asking my friends who have already had a few interviews the same question, but no one has a definitive answer for me. I even went to a career adviser, but that didn’t help me much. I am starting to believe that no one can give me the advice I need, and that’s a problem because I have no clue how to answer questions like ‘what’s your greatest weakness’, ‘why should we hire you’, and others that ask me to talk about myself. What am I supposed to say? What if I give the wrong impression? Also, what is it with those brainteasers? Some of the questions they ask are insane. Can you please help me out?

Kyriaki says:

I feel your pain, most of us have been through this pretty stressful, but necessary process. Hopefully, some of the information here can ease your suffering.

Perhaps the biggest fear people have is saying the wrong thing that can cost you the job. But, you shouldn't think like that, that can lead to self-doubt and ultimately failure. Interviewers can ask lots of different types of questions so you should focus on preparing your answers. The purpose of these questions is to test your knowledge on the job and the employer, your experience and skills or simply help them get to know you better.

There are many types of interview questions:

  • Behavioural questions: aim to find out how you react in specific situations.
  • Competency questions: aim to test your skills, knowledge and experience relevant to the job.
  • Brainteaser questions: aim to test creativity and logical reasoning skills through a series of unusual questions.
  • Technical questions: aim to test the skills that you possess and relate to the position.  
  • Informational questions: aim to help them get a specific answer to a certain question e.g. expanding on a topic.
  • Personality-based questions: aim to help them get to know you better as a person.

To help you out we have the answers to three of the most common and challenging questions because they force you to talk about yourself:

‘What’s your greatest weakness?’

Many jobseekers struggle with this question, but it’s a lot easier than it seems. Just like other personality-based questions, it is designed to reveal specific personal characteristics. When preparing an answer, you need to keep in mind that everyone has weaknesses and admitting to it only makes you more human. This means that you should avoid the ‘I don’t have any weaknesses’ response at all costs.

Here are a few ways to answer this question:

  • Talk about a weakness that is not an actual weakness and one that the interviewers can empathise with e.g. sharing your ideas in public.
  • Choose a weakness that you can turn into a strength. For example, being disorganised might indicate that you are creative, being shy shows that you are introvert, and an introvert is needed in any office environment.
  • Focus on the fact that you recognise your weakness and you are working on a plan to improve. Getting this question right, not only shows that you are self-aware, but also that you are interested in self-improvement.

Don’t forget that your goal here is to stand out. Employers are not interested in people who give the same boring answers, so it’s important to avoid clichés such as ‘I am a perfectionist’ and ‘I work too hard’. Before you go to the interview, prepare a minimum of four weaknesses. Most demanding interviewers will ask you to talk about three weaknesses, and if you can’t provide a clever and appropriate answer, you might lose your chance of getting the job altogether.

‘Why should we hire you?’

This question is designed to discover the motives behind your job application and why you are interested in the position. It also looks at cultural fit and goes deeper into identifying and matching your skills, personality and work values with the job requirements. While it sounds like a difficult one, this question gives you the opportunity to choose what the topic is going to be.

You can either talk about your competencies, experience in the field, or – what I would say the most effective way to go is to talk about your goals and how these relate to your interest to work for this company. Alternatively, you can turn the question around and give an answer as to ‘Why shouldn’t you hire me’. This can help you give a very strong impression if you manage to do it right and avoid coming off as arrogant.

‘Describe yourself in 3 words’

Interviewers are quite fond of questions that ask you to talk about yourself. As such, there are many different variations of ‘Describe Yourself’ questions including ‘Talk to me about yourself’, ‘What are your strengths?’ or ‘What do your friends say about you?’ All of these questions, including ‘Describe yourself in 3 words’ need some preparation in advance because they are trying to assess what you think about yourself. The best way to answer this one is to come up with a couple of adjectives that don’t brag or lessen your value in any way.

What’s important here is to give an example that can go along with the adjectives you choose to be more convincing. If you can’t explain how you meet your skills or support your own arguments, you are going to have a hard time getting a job. In this case, you might want to think about what your tutor, previous boss or coworkers have said about you while in your last job or in school, that helped you identify those qualities.

Here’s a list of good adjectives to refer to during the interview:  

  • ambitious
  • confident
  • easy-going
  • hard-working
  • honest
  • loyal
  • team player
  • reliable
  • motivated
  • methodical
  • punctual
  • organised

While it can be difficult to talk about yourself, don’t be embarrassed too. The interview offers you the opportunity to showcase your skills, and it might be the only time when you get 15 whole minutes alone with the employers. The only real struggle is spending time preparing some good statements that can present you as the ideal candidate.

Job interviews are as difficult as you make them, although with some proper preparation you have little to be afraid of. You really don’t need to stress much about it or worry about what you are going to say because this combined with nerves can make things worse. Just be yourself and treat it as an opportunity to meet some interesting people within your chosen industry.  

If you would like to get more information about job interview questions and the most common ones asked you can check out the following articles:

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