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Interview Questions You're Likely to be Asked - and How to Respond

If you're at an interview and you get asked something that is seemingly random, it's tempting to think that the interviewer doesn't know what they're doing. Whilst that could be true, it's far more likely that they are trying to build a wider picture of you the person, rather than you the worker.

Added on 06.04.2016

If you've done a good job of your CV and any cover letter or application, and have a good LinkedIn profile, then the organisation will already have a fairly good idea about your professional ability and experience. They're pretty sure that you can do the job in hand.

That's not really what an interview is for these days. Especially in digital, an interview that seems unusual will have been designed to see if you are the sort of person that will fit into their existing team: a person that the organisation are wise to invest in.

So, expect to be asked questions that will address your future career plans, your ability to reflect and to think on your feet, and - above all - your personality and ability to communicate and express yourself. Working out what you'd say to the ones listed below could come in handy.

Why are you looking for a new job?

The most important thing here is to answer in a positive way that reflects well on you. Even your boss is a sex pest and your co-workers put drawing pins on your chair, complaining to someone who hasn't seen what it's like where you work will create a bad impression.

You need to show that your decision to leave is a carefully considered one made from the desire to grow your experience and face new challenges. For bonus points, relate this desire to something that the organisation does, to show that you have done your homework and chosen them as the place to progress your career.

If I asked your manager to describe you, what would they say?

Remember that the person you're answering on behalf of is almost always going to be approached for a reference. This question is intended to show the sort of relationship and communication you have with the person who supervises you, and where you think they see you in the team.

If you have niche skills that they find handy, mention those. The most important things to get across are a positive attitude and the ability to share work and responsibility.

Tell me about a mistake you made in your job, and how you put it right

Mistakes happen - its part of life in a fast-paced work environment - but not everyone is capable of fixing their mistakes by themselves.

The best answer needs to demonstrate four things: first, responsibility and accountability (you took ownership of the mistake); second, decision-making (you worked out how to fix things); third, determination and resolve (especially if it wasn't easy or quick to fix); and last, wisdom (what you learnt about stopping it from happening again).

Tell me about something you're proud of achieving at work

The important thing here is to understand that you're being not being asked to state an achievement; you're being asked to explain an achievement.

'I doubled a client's Facebook engagement' is a statement. 'I organised a year's worth of Facebook posts by things like topic, post length, image use and call to action to try to establish why certain posts got shared and liked more than others, and used this information to double the average likes and shares over the next three months' is an explanation.

Do remember that if you're interviewing for a managerial role then your achievement has to include other people.

Do you have any flaws?

This is an area to stay away from false modesty. The word 'perfectionist' has been hammered to death on LinkedIn in the past and actually just says 'picky'.

Instead, demonstrate some self-awareness and honesty with an answer that really says something about you but that is also harmless, maybe 'sometimes I speak too fast' or 'giving presentations makes me nervous'.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you're interviewing for a permanent role, then the interviewer wants to be satisfied that you will stay with them for the forseeable future. So talk about what you want to get out of the job: the experience you hope to get, any qualifications you want or are interested in, and any skills you want to develop. You're at the interview because the organisation thinks you could have value. The right answer to this question shows a person determined to increase their value to their employer.

Is there anything you'd like to ask me / us?

If you get to the end of the interview and you do still want the job, then the most important thing here is to show that you have an interest in the organisation and that you are picturing yourself there.

Basically, you have to have some questions, and you should have prepared these in advance. If you're not sure that you will remember them, it's fine to pull out a piece of paper at this point.

Even if the interview has answered those questions, you will be seen to be checking off things on a list, and you can explain that to the interviewer(s): "I did have some questions, but I think they've all been answered as we've gone along." Then you can quickly recap the list with them and clarify a few points.

Be sure that you personalise your questions to the job and the organisation. Good topics for questions include:

Training and development opportunities

Allows you to demonstrate interest in progression. Be specific: mention particular skills or qualifications.

Workplace culture

Ask your interviewer(s) what they enjoy most about the organisation.

Note that both of these also give you the chance to turn the tables a little, because you are effectively asking 'will I like it here and will I be given opportunities to learn more?' These two questions subtly imply that the interview process is a two way evaluation and show confidence.

One of our more confident candidates was so sure that the interview had been a total success that they simply asked "When can I start?" They got the job, but please note we're not neccessarily recommending that approach!

Good luck.