Decoding interview questions

Employers use interviews to evaluate how well you match the job specification; they also allow you to ensure that the organisation is a good fit.

Your CV and/or application will have provided the employer with an indication of your qualities and skills, but you must confirm in person that you have the skills and experience to successfully perform in the role. It’s inevitable that you’ll get some questions from the employer in your interview. Therefore, it is essential to prepare answers to some common interview questions.

These questions will come up at any interview, regardless to the job role, position and company you apply to. So, we’ve included a couple of common questions to help you understand what the recruiter is really asking and how you should answer.

· Can you tell me about yourself?

This is your chance to give a great first impression. Your answer should summarise, your skills, characteristics and successes and how they make you an ideal candidate for the position.

Start with your highest qualification, followed by your most recent experience and give examples of the skills you’ve developed. If you have little employment history, give examples of skills you have learned throughout college, and demonstrate how they relate to the job.

Also include your hobbies and spare-time activities linking in with skills which are relatable to the job.

· Why do you want to work here?

Show that you have done some research about the company, and that their aims match yours. Tell the interviewer what aspect of the job advertisement enticed you.

· What are your strengths?

Show that you have thought about the job and how you will be able to use your relevant skills and abilities. Pick three of four skills attributes desired by the employer within the job specification.

· What are your weaknesses?

This is an opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength. You can positively frame your answer by picking characteristics that you've taken steps to improve. An example of this being a perfectionist. If you take time to get everything correct, it may take you slightly longer to perform a task.

· Give an example of how you coped with a difficult situation

You’ll find this question comes up regularly in interviews, as it is one of the most popular competency-based interview questions. It allows the employer to assess how calm and reliable you are under pressure. Outline an instance where you've coped with an unexpected problem, discussing how you reorganised and managed your time. An example could be handling multiple deadlines.

· What are your greatest achievements?

Ideally, your answer should evidence skills relevant to the job; teamwork, communication, determination and organisation, for example. For inspiration, think about a time when you've received an award, organised an event, learned something new or overcome a major fear. Always prepare several examples.

· Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

This is your chance to show the recruiter that you're ambitious and professionally determined. The employer is likely to be looking for someone who wants to progress within the company. Don’t give the impression that you see this job as a quick stepping stone to something else.

· Do you have any questions?

To answer this question, see our guide to questions to ask at an interview.