Eight popular interview questions and how to answer them

Preparing for an interview is fundamental as you only have one shot at making a great first impression. During an interview, you’re likely to be asked various questions that allow the interviewer to determine whether your skills, experience and education are suitable for the position and the company.

Knowing which interview questions you’re likely to be asked will allow you to present your skills, qualifications and character effectively, giving you the best possible chance of landing the role.

In this blog, we’ll cover a range of general questions typically asked during interview (regardless of what industry you work in), along with some guidance on how to best answer them to ensure you’re well-prepped for when your next opportunity comes along.

Tell me about yourself…

When asked this question, consider it an opportunity to highlight the most appropriate points in your CV and explain what you’ve achieved throughout your time in education and previous roles, why you decided to apply and why your experience is relevant to this position.

The Past-Present-Future method can be a helpful guide for putting together your response. This includes starting by talking about your current work situation, then discussing your previous work experience and/or education, and lastly, you would describe your career ambitions for the future.

How would you describe yourself?

This question aims to gain insight into your personality traits and determine how you fit into the company culture. Practising how you might respond to this question will help you answer it more confidently. Think about what qualities make you a good fit for the role, such as being punctual, working well in a team, and being proactive.

Describe a time when you overcame a difficult situation at work.  

Questions like this are typically asked to assess communication, critical thinking, time management and problem-solving skills. The STAR method is an excellent method to use when responding to questions like this.

  • Situation – the situation you were faced with
  • Task – the task at hand
  • Action – the actions you took
  • Result – the result of the action you took

Why do you want to work here?

The basis of this question is to reveal if you’ve done your research on the company. Learning about your potential employer and the role you’ve applied for is vital to prepare a good answer to this question. Get to know the company’s history, values and culture so that you can express you understand who they are and what they do. Demonstrating that your ambitions align with the company’s goals will help you stand out as being well-suited to the business and position.

What motivates you?

Employers are looking for candidates who are enthusiastic, driven and whom they can depend on. Provide real-life examples and experiences of times you’ve felt motivated at work and explain why.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

You may be asked this as a single question or as two separate questions. If you’re asked this as a single question, begin with your weaknesses so you can close positively.

Employers ask this question to learn how self-aware and truthful you are. They also want to see how you’ve developed your weaknesses and why you believe particular traits are your strengths.

When addressing your weaknesses, use an example of a skill, habit or personality trait relevant to the role you’re applying for. Then, state your weakness, providing context and an example of how it has cropped up in your professional life and how you manage or have developed from it. This gives potential employers insight into your level of self-awareness and your dedication to professional and personal growth.

Surprisingly, many people find it difficult to talk about their strengths during an interview, as finding the balance between being confident and coming across as arrogant can feel challenging. Similarly to weaknesses, use an example of a skill, habit or trait and provide context and an example of your strengths too.

Why are you leaving your current job?

Potential employers may ask this question to understand what you’re looking for in a new role and workplace. Regardless of the circumstances for leaving, you should avoid talking negatively about your previous employers or colleagues; it’s unprofessional and will likely lead to them viewing you negatively. Employers want employees who can manage difficult situations, so focus on what you’ve gained from your previous work experiences.

Do you have any questions for me?  

This question provides an opportunity to show how engaged you are. If you ask perceptive and relevant questions, the interviewer will know you’re interested in and have researched the company. It’s also a chance to find out anything else you’d like to know about the company or the role, and you can ask when you should expect to receive an outcome and thank the interviewer for their time.

If you’re thinking about applying for a new role or need to create or update your CV, our Candidate Hub has a variety of helpful resources available.

If you’ve got an upcoming interview, we hope this guide is helpful. Best of luck from everyone at Cogent Staffing!