FAQs at interview

Interviewers are trying to establish whether you have the right skills for a job and whether you’ll fit into the company culture.

Often, they’ll use similar style questions each time so it’s a good idea to draft out your answers to these beforehand just in case.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Give a brief summary of your background, experience and skills. Be sure to tailor your response so you demonstrate skills that are of particular use to the job you are applying for. Keep it brief and always keep in mind the job description you were given. Be sure to concentrate on experiences that relate to the role you are applying for.

2. “Why have you applied for this role/to this company?”

It may well be the thirtieth company that you applied for and you’re just desperate for a job but don’t let that show. The research you’ve done will stand you in good stead. Concentrate on how this role or company fits in with your career aspirations. Show through your answer that you have knowledge of the company and the industry in which they work. If they have a good reputation as a place to work, then mention it.

3. “What are your strengths?”

Again, your answer should be determined by the role you are applying for. Explain what qualifications and work experience you have and how they relate to the job. You should also mention skills that you have learnt through your extra-curricular activities, such as your DofE. The skills that you’ll learn whilst doing your DofE are attractive to employers – learn how to showcase them here.

4. “What are your weaknesses?”

The question dreaded even by the most experienced worker. Don’t be tempted to say, “I’m a perfectionist”. Instead, try and think about a weakness that you have that is irrelevant to the role. Or think of a weakness that you have taken active steps to overcome.

5. “Tell me about a difficult situation you’ve managed.”

The purpose of this question is to find out how you problem solve. This question comes up a lot in interviews, so prepare your answer beforehand. Your DofE will no doubt prove an excellent example for over-coming problems – for example, during your expedition you may have had to resolve problems within the team or around your route or equipment in a pressured and unfamiliar environment without your Leader’s help.

Begin by explaining the situation, the options that were open to you and the action you took. Always mention what the outcome was – they want to see how you managed the situation. What skills you used to bring about resolution: did you demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills such as negotiation skills or communication skills? Were you able to keep calm under pressure? Did you use analytical skills to define the problem and solve it?

6. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Some people have a plan. Others don’t. That makes answering this question difficult. It’s ok not to have a plan, but it is always good to have direction. If you haven’t got a career path planned out, concentrate on the things you hope to learn. This tactic demonstrates your willingness to pursue new challenges. In an ideal world if the job is one you really want, focus on the goals that surround it. If it isn’t, it may be a sign that this role isn’t the one for you.

7. “What are you most proud of?”

This may well come up early in your career and it is your opportunity to shine, but again preparation is key. There will be an achievement that you will always hold dear. Completing your DofE Award is a great example – it’s a huge accomplishment and one employers’ rate. Or it may be an achievement from a professional situation, an academic qualification or a personal one. When you tell them about it, don’t just explain the situation. Tell them what you gained from it and try to fit this to the job description.

8. “Tell me about a situation where you worked as part of a team.”

This can be a tough question to answer, particularly if you have limited work experience. Fortunately, your DofE will have given you the opportunity to work within a team. Give examples. Teamwork is hugely important to companies. If you’re a team player, then it shows you are committed to working well with others to achieve common objectives – you’re prepared to share responsibility when things go well and when things are tough. It also shows you are willing to co-operate on projects. Make sure you show these things through your answer.

9. “How would your friends/past managers describe you?”

Be honest. They’re looking for a candidate who will fit within the company culture. If that isn’t you, then you’re not right for the company and they’re not right for you. Just because you’re being honest doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything, though. Focus on the positives and if you really are desperate for the role, be sure to include adjectives from the job description.

10. “Do you have any questions for us?”

At the end of every interview, you’ll always be asked this. Make sure you have prepared one or two – it shows that you’re interested. The one main thing to remember is that you should not ask about salary at this stage.

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