Updated: Jul 28, 2019
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Absolutely everyone going for a job interview must have their answers ready and perfected. This blog (part 1) will cover some of the most easy questions that you may be asked and potential model answers that you should consider adapting to your personal circumstances. I have also published a part 2 to this blog which covers some of the most difficult interview questions that you may be asked and potential model answers. Make sure you do not skip the easy bit as you need to master this one first to be ready for more difficult questions. Otherwise, you will fall at the first hurdle.
If you are invited to a competency based interview, I suggest that you read my blog on how to do these type of interviews well and suggested technique which can be found HERE.
Now, let's move onto the actual questions:
1. Can you tell me/us a bit about yourself?
This question may seem so simple to many of us, however, most candidates do not prepare to answer this question and fail to make that very positive first impression. Also, make sure you answer this question from a work experience, skillset and qualification point of you, there is no need to share your private life details. You do not need to say too much. You should prepare a clear, concise and relevant answer that builds a connection between you and the interviewer or in some cases you may have more than one person interviewing you i.e. interview panel that really demonstrates as to why you are the perfect person for the job.
The suggested formula to answer this questions is as follows:
Start with the present
Follow with the past
End with the future
The present bit is where you are right now. For the past touch on where you were before and the skills and experience you gained. For the future show how excited and eager you are for this new opportunity.
For example, I am currently an HR administrator intern at [insert name of company] where I am being mentored by the senior HR adviser. Before that, I was studying for an HR degree at [insert name of University] and working as a receptions at a local Hotel [insert name of hotel] where I developed my administration and customer skills. I really enjoyed working with customers and making sure our systems were up to date. I would now like to work in a corporate environment in a full time position and take on more responsibility which is why I am so excited about this HR adviser position.
Note: Please there is no need to tell them your name, your age and where you are from. They will be able to get this information from your CV. Make sure you do not waste their time.
2. How did you hear about this position?
Most people think that organisations want some feedback on job websites they usually advertise on. However, you need to show that you are not applying for any roles that come up, show them that you are quite selective and make sure you find a link as to why this particular organisation stood out for you.
If the role was suggested to you by someone who works there as a friend or family member, it is ok to mention this and drop in their name. However, make sure you do not go overboard with this one as it may show you are using them. You can say as an example,
I was excited to find out about this opportunity by a friend who works in your HR/IT/Finance etc department.
If you searched for the organisation specifically, emphasise that. It will show how keen you are to work at this specific company.
If you discovered the role through an event or article, you can also share that.
If you have found the role on social media or job platform, share what caught your eye about the role and make it stand out amongst the rest. For example,
I was looking for job opportunities on [LinkedIn/Indeed or similar] and when I saw an invitation to apply from this company, I was really keen to apply. The job description and requirements matched my profile and career aspirations perfectly.
If you do not mention where and how you have heard about the role or completely forgotten about it, you are very likely not to do well on the rest of the questions.
3. Why do you want to work here? OR What prompted you to apply for this role?
This is a brilliant opportunity to show the interviewer how passionate you are about the company and the position. You need to demonstrate how much you know about the company based on your research, external and internal factors/challenges they are facing, their size, industry, how it started, their values, mission and vision, how it aligns to yours, clients/customers, projects, target operating model, literally everything. If you want to score well, you need to research, research and do some more research. The more research the better.
For example, if you are applying for a sports swimming assistant role at a sports centre hub, you could say following:
I have always been passionate about sports and helping people excel in swimming. When I was a teenager I volunteered as a life guard at a small local sports club where I developed my passion for swimming. I love helping people and keeping them safe. I have always wanted to be a part of a bigger sports team and swimming club where I could develop further and become a full time swimming assistant. I find it particularly rewarding when I see how I can positively impact on people, their swimming skills which keep them safe and healthy.
You should always align your skills and experience to the role you applied for. You should take key parts from the job description and requirements and add them to your personal profile.
For example, the part that got me really excited is your large scale transformational project [insert name of the project] where I would manage projects and contribute to the successful delivery of it. I used to manage projects in my previous role, however, this opportunity would take my project skills to another level and give me a chance to contribute to something I am particularly passionate about.
4. What are your strengths?
I personally think the key to successfully answer this questions is not to list all positive adjectives you know. However, whatever you do decide to say, you need to justify it.
For example, I am very analytical and like analysing data. In my current role as an HR adviser, I have managed to review sickness data of one of the departments that I support in order to inform the management team of sickness levels, what was causing it and actions we could put in place to improve it. I had a meeting with relevant managers where I took them through the sickness data. I noticed that every time someone's annual leave request was declined, they would then go on sick leave. I suggested that we would speak to all managers and understand as to why they were declining annual leave requests. We found out that due to a big influx in orders, they did not have enough staff to meet the demand. It was agreed with the management team to use agency staff as and when they experience periods of influx so their employees can use annual leave they are entitled to. They now review sickness data on a monthly basis to monitor progress and wellbeing of their teams.
5. How would your colleagues/manager describe you OR how would you describe yourself in 3 words?
You have to be honest answering this question as they may ask this in their reference requests. Although, I would like to add that most reference requests in the UK sent to your employing organisations tend to be answered by giving a standard/factual reference. These references confirm your name, dates of employment and your job title only. They will avoid adding any more information than this due to various legal challenges that organisations ended up with in the past in the UK.
You could for example answer this question by referencing your recent performance review and when you asked your colleagues and customers to give you feedback. It makes it a lot easier when you can reference where it comes from and how you know what your manager would say about you. This should indicate how passionate you are about your personal development and that you take your career and job seriously without coming across you are boasting.
A suggested formula to answer this question is to start off with a positive story about something you have done that assisting your team/organisation and confirm how your manager/colleagues described you when you did your last performance review and asked your colleagues and customers to give you feedback on how you interacted with them and worked together on a project for example (usually asked on an annual basis: what should I start doing, stop doing and continue doing).
This is an opportunity to share an example that is relevant to the job you applied for.
if you are still not sure what to say, just think about 3 positive traits that you bring to the organisation and have a short description as to why you believe that is the case
For example, I am a good organiser. I was given a project to manage that did not meet its deadline and milestones for various reasons. When I was given this opportunity I was very pleased as I wanted make a positive impact and show my capabilities. I have reviewed progress to date, confirmed key stakeholders who were part of this project, organised a meeting with them where we agreed new timeline and milestones that they wanted to achieve over the next 6 months. I then organised monthly meetings to ensure we all share updates and progress to date and any risks that I could report on a regular basis to the business.
6. What is your dream job OR where do you see yourself in the future?
In order to answer this question, I suggest that you think about your skills, values and interests. Let's hope they do not ask you the most hated question - where do you see yourself in 5/10 years? To be honest, I think this question is outdated now and I would be surprised if this was still used to assess someones ability to do the job. However, you may come across it so better think about it just in case.
Talking about your skills will give you an opportunity to sell yourself, your interests will show your passion and what drives you, and your values can help you align yourself to the company and their values system.
For example, I have mentioned before that I am passionate about swimming and keeping people safe and healthy, so my dream job is certainly in the sports/swimming industry. In my career to date, I have valued having successful and productive relationships with my colleagues. This is one of the reasons why I am so excited to be here today. From my research and interactions to date with your company, I can see you have created a positive and vibrating culture and I would like to be part of your team in the long term.
Right! This brings to the end of this blog which I hope you fill helpful when you are preparing for job interviews. Part 2 which harder questions will be published shortly.
If you have come across any other questions that you struggle to answer please share below in comments or send me a message.
I also offer a range of Upgrade Yourself | Personal Development 1:1 services/programs one of which is to review and draft your CV together and start preparing you for upcoming interviews. You can find out more HERE.
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