Approximately one third of our adult lives are spent at work.
With so much at stake when it comes to finding the right role, it stands to reason that improving your interview technique can be one of the most important things you will ever do. And while we can’t help you deal with all of your pre-interview nerves, we can help you with the preparation.
To coincide with the launch of James Reed’s new book, ‘Why You: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again’, here are five interview answers to help you get over ‘the fear’:
What would your co-workers say about you?
OK, we admit it: some people are just good at interviews. Sometimes, in fact, regardless of their ability to do the job. You could call them lucky (also, probably a lot worse), but somehow they always seem to manage to think on their feet come interview time. If you’re one of these people, we’ve got bad news for you: this question is essentially your Kryptonite.
A classic interview question, this can also trip up the most modest of candidates, who doesn’t feel comfortable singing their own praises. However, always avoid reciting long lists of favourable-sounding adjectives (‘hard-working’, ‘reliable’ and, dare we say, ‘nice’). Testimonials are what recruiters really want.
Use real-life examples to try and give the interviewer a true picture of what you can do.
Right answer: ‘They’d call me dedicated, and goal-orientated. After a recent project, I was nominated for an award by my peers which represented some of the values the business strives for. I’ve also brought along a few testimonials, if you’d like to see them’
Wrong answer: ‘I’m not too sure, to be honest. My co-workers and I aren’t really on speaking terms’
What motivates you?
What’s known as a career goal question, the purpose of determining your motivation is surprisingly simple.
Essentially, a recruiter wants to know why you’re applying for the role, and what about it appeals to you. Will this position motivate you to do great work and keep your productivity high? Or are you just in it for the pay cheque?
Think about why you’re applying for the job and what excites you about it. Avoid excessive flattery when answering, and try and build a story as to why you’ve made it to this point in your career. Forming a narrative around your choices will be your key to success, so make sure you’ve properly prepared your story beforehand.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, it is ok to say money, especially for a sales role. Being target-driven never hurt anyone…
Right answer: ‘I went into IT straight out of university, and while I enjoyed helping people solve their computer problems, what really motivated me was when I got to work on projects analysing which software programs best met a company’s needs. I really love translating people’s requirements into technical solutions, and that’s what excites me about this position’.
Wrong answer: ‘I just really need a job’
What are your hobbies and interests?
It doesn’t matter what type of job you’re applying for, one thing consistently harms a candidate’s chances: they don’t know how to answer character questions.
One of the most common character questions comes around hobbies outside of work. Some people refer to it as the airport test. In other words, if you were stuck in an airport with this person, would you be able to pass the time together? And, by extension, would they fit into your company culture?
The trick to this question is being able to talk passionately about something, without looking like it’s all you live for. DJ-ing every weekend is fine, but when you start bringing your decks to work it could become a problem.
Why do you think Judge Jules has never been able to hold down an office job?
Right answer: ‘I write a fashion blog in my spare time, which I’ve been doing for about three years. I only write features once a week, which makes it manageable, but it’s really helped improve my writing skills. And editing too, if I’m honest. I definitely think that’s something I can bring to the role.’
Wrong answer: ‘I like to party. I like, I like to party’*
Can you tell me about a recent situation where you used your own initiative?
Translation: will you go above and beyond in the call of duty? Or will you simply do as you’re told?
While this question is relatively straightforward, don’t rush your answer. Where some people struggle with ‘tell me about’ questions is being able to bring it back to the situation at hand. So don’t just think about how you’ve taken initiative. Think about how this has directly resulted in a positive effect on the business.
Demonstrate that you can identify problems and not just solve those handed to you, and you’ll ace this competency question without any trouble.
Right answer: ‘When I started at my last company, there was no real induction process, and it took quite a while for me to get up to speed on the way everything worked. Once I had settled in, I collected all the information I had and created a training document, which included a step-by-step starting process. The company have now rolled it out to all new starters, which has saved them both the time taken getting new starters up to speed, and also money.’
Wrong answer: ‘I often come up with my own daily schedule. I don’t really respond well to authority’
If you were an animal, what would you be?
Finally, the interviewer may throw in a curveball question at some point, to try and throw you off your game.
It could be about animals. It could be about biscuits. It could even be lying in your CV. Whatever the question, what the interviewer really wants is a glimpse into your personality. So it’s important not to rush your answer.
A simple ‘give me a moment to think about this one’ will buy you a few seconds of thinking time. Then try and think of an answer which brings in some necessary skills for the role, whilst also showing off who you really are. And remember: there really is no right answer.
If all else fails, say you’re a Kestrel. Always go with Kestrel.
Right answer: ‘I think I’d be a duck. They’re always calm on the surface, but hustling like crazy to get things done underneath’.
Wrong answer: ‘Definitely a Tiger. Grrrr…’
Need more interview questions?
Unfortunately, we can’t help you predict exactly which interview questions will come up on the big day. However, we can help you prepare for every eventuality and avoid any interview nightmares.
Buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again to find out how.
*Unless you’re one of the Vengaboys.