Common interview questions

Tell me about yourself.

This is often one of the first questions in an interview, and it can be a tricky one to navigate because it is so broad. Resist the temptation to tell the interviewer your life story, and focus instead on succinctly outlining how your experience to date equips you for the role and why you are interested in it.

A common approach is to start by talking about your current role and situation, a little about your prior experience and then finish by focusing on the future, why you are interested in it, and why you think you are right for this position.

Why are you interested in this role?

What is it specifically about this role and organization that interests you? It might be the breadth of responsibilities, the opportunity to learn new skills, or the types of clients you would work with.

There could be many reasons you are interested, but make sure you are clear on your reasons. A vague answer will give the impression that you are actually not that interested.

What do you know about our organisation?

This is where your research and preparation pays off. Demonstrate that you have done more than just glance at the company website by making reference to something you have found in your wider research (e.g. in an industry publication). Showing you have taken the time to research the organisation shows your enthusiasm.

Why are you looking to leave your current role (or why did you leave your last role)?

Your interviewer will want to understand what it was about your previous position that has prompted you to leave. You need to answer truthfully, but try to frame your answer in a positive way, for example that you are looking to challenge yourself in a more senior role rather than you found your prior role boring. It is also important that you don’t speak negatively about your previous employer or manager.

Why do you think you are the right fit for this role?

This is your opportunity to sell yourself, so be prepared to articulate exactly why your strengths, skills and experience make you the right fit for the position. The preparation you did in defining your strengths will help you answer this question.

Can you tell me about your responsibilities in your most recent role?

Be prepared to succinctly outline exactly what you were responsible for in your most recent role. Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘we’ so it is clear that these were your responsibilities. It is a good idea to highlight the responsibilities most relevant to the position you are interviewing for first (you will have gathered this information from the job description).

What are your career goals?

It’s important to be honest here, but be careful not to come across as overly ambitious. Many employers like people who are keen to progress their career, but they need to be confident that you will be committed to the role for which you are interviewing for a reasonable time frame. Focus on your desire to learn and add value in the role for which you are applying, with the prospect of adding new responsibilities in the long term that will build on this experience.

What are your strengths?

Your answer will have the most impact if you are specific and provide evidence to back up your claims. Identify your key areas of strength, provide a practical example where this has been demonstrated, and then outline how this strength will help you in the new role.

What are your weaknesses?

This can be a tricky one, and many people struggle with it. First, you absolutely have to identify a weakness – no one is perfect, and saying you don’t have any weaknesses will show that you lack self-awareness. The trick is to identify a weakness that isn’t critical to the role you are applying for and then outline what you have done (or will do) to overcome it.

For example, you might say that your weakness is your limited experience with a particular software package, however you have proven your ability to learn new systems in your prior role, and you are also willing to undertake some online training to up-skill. This response answers the question but also shows your strength (quick learner) and demonstrates how you will overcome the weakness you identified.

What’s been your greatest work achievement to date?

Be as specific as possible and remember to use ‘I’ statements so the interviewer knows exactly what your role was. Try to think of an achievement that showcases the strengths and experience most relevant to the role you are applying for.

What did you like/dislike about your previous role?

This helps the interviewer determine if you will enjoy the day to day work of the role on offer. Focus on what you particularly enjoyed in your last position, what you learnt from it and how this equips you for the new role.

When discussing your dislikes, be careful not to identify anything that is critical to the new role. Avoid topics like salary, hours or overtime, and focus on something that highlights your strengths, such as limited opportunity to use your initiative. You also need to avoid speaking negatively about your past employer.