Types of interview questions

Interview questions come in all shapes and sizes…

Preparing for an interview can be a difficult task. Why? Because coming up with answers to all the possible questions you could be asked is easier said than done. But almost every interview question can be categorised – making it much easier to figure out why an employer is asking it, and how you should formulate your answer.

We’ve already covered the types of interviews you might have, but here are five of the most common types of interview questions (and our top tips on how to answer them):

 

Classic interview questions

What are they? Classic interview questions form the basis of almost every other interview question. Whilst they come in all shapes and sizes, they’re generally asked to put the ball in your court. In other words, the interviewer is saying they want you to do the talking. So nope, one word answers won’t cut it here.

When are they asked? Classic interview questions are likely to come up in almost every interview – making them the most common across all fields and interview types.

How to answer them: Answering a classic interview question well comes down to your ability to talk about how your skills, experience, and personality match up with what the employer is looking for. Many also require you to talk about certain aspects of your CV in more detail – so take this as the perfect opportunity to prove you’re a good fit.

The worst thing you can do: Tell your entire life story, complete with why you stopped believing in Santa at age 6.

Examples:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why is there a gap in your work history?
  • Why did you apply for this position?

Common interview questions and answers

 

Career goal questions

What are they? Career goal questions are asked to let employers know where you are in your professional life, and what your future plans are. Your answers will tell them whether you’re a good fit long-term, or if their role is simply a stepping stone to something else (and/or a second choice).

When are they asked? Career goal questions are likely to be asked in a number of circumstances, but are mostly commonly aimed at recent graduates, career changers or serial job hoppers.

How to answer them: Preparation is key. Aside from creating a clear picture of your professional outlook (see: a career plan), you also need to make sure your future aligns with theirs. This means doing your company research – not only to understand what they’re looking for right now, but also what they’ll need to have further down the line.

The worst thing you can do: Tell them you want to be doing their job (or similar, cliché answer).

Examples:

  • Why do you want to work at this company?
  • Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
  • What’s your dream job?
  • What motivates you?

Five career goal questions, and how to answer them

 

Character questions

What are they? Character questions are a reliable indicator of what we’re capable of achieving. After all, even the most intelligent person on earth won’t get anywhere without a solid character to match. Your answers will reveal everything an employer needs to know about your morals, integrity, values, and generally speaking – who you really are.

When are they asked? Character questions could feature at any kind of interview, but will often be asked when the role involves team work, difficult situations (e.g. with customers or clients), and making quick, fair judgments.

How to answer them: Focus on demonstrating your appreciation of values (both your own and the company’s), positive work ethic, ability to work well with others and handle tough situations. Show you can do the job, and fit in (without breaking anything), and you’ll be on the right track.

The worst thing you can do: Lie.

Examples:

  • What are your core values?
  • Who do you admire, and why?
  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult person
  • When were you last angry, and why?

Five character questions, and the answers that will get you hired

 

Competency questions

What are they? Competency questions (or behavioural questions) focus on finding evidence of your ability to do the job, requiring you to provide real examples of ‘times you’ve demonstrated [blank]’ or ‘how you’d react in [hypothetical situation]. Their purpose? To weed out the candidates who are all talk, and shortlist the ones who can actually back up their claims.  

When are they asked? Competency questions are often asked when practical ability takes precedence over previous experience, achievements, or qualifications. Because competency can be demonstrated in any area of your life, these questions are particularly common for entry-level roles.

How to answer them: Three words: Prepare. Your. Examples. Interviews can cause the best of us to draw a blank, and relying on thinking fast is unlikely to yield the best results. So before the interview, highlight the key skills in the job description. Secondly, think of an example that proves you have each attribute. Then, use the STAR technique to give context to your answer.

The worst thing you can do: Make it up as you go along.

Examples:

  • Tell me about a time you’ve worked to/missed a deadline
  • Tell me about a big change you’ve had to deal with
  • Tell me about a time you supported a member of your team who was struggling
  • Give an example of a time you’ve had to improvise to achieve your goal

Five key competency questions: revealed

 

Curveball and creativity questions

What are they? These questions are designed to put you under pressure, whether it’s to throw you a curveball and see how eloquently you can dodge it, or test your ability to be creative on the spot. Although these two question types aren’t exactly the same, they have one key similarity: there’s no one right answer.

When are they asked? It’s not uncommon for a curveball or creativity question to be thrown into just about any type of interview – but will be most prominent in roles that require a high level of ‘thinking on your feet’ and creativity. They’re also used to spot talent in group interviews.

How to answer them: Remember: your answer isn’t as important as your reasoning. So instead of looking at the question literally, take a deep breath and think about why they’re asking it. It might seem irrelevant to discuss what type of biscuit you’d be – but since the employer’s looking for someone who can improvise on abstract subjects, that’s exactly what you should focus on doing.

The worst thing you can do: Cry.

Examples:

  • If you were an animal, what would you be?
  • Every CV has one lie in it. What’s yours?
  • Tell me about the last good idea you had
  • Sell me this pen

How to answer curveball questions

 

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