I’m thrilled to have a guest author writing for us this week.
Susan Wareham McGrath has been kind enough to provide some really useful advice on answering some of the most common interview questions. I think her practical approach can really help candidates at interview stand out from the crowd!
Susan has always been fascinated by the world of employment and careers and is passionate about helping people find satisfying well-paid work. She has over 15 years experience as a career consultant and job search strategist and holds qualifications in psychology, human resource management and public policy development. She’s also a nationally
Susan is a strong advocate for the personal and professional advancement of women and has served as an Advisory Board Member of the Australian Businesswomen’s Network since 2007. She currently heads up its Education Development initiative.
Many people find interviews challenging and at times quite daunting. Answering interview questions effectively is a crucial part of the job search process.
The good news is that with a little advance preparation and practice you can address the most difficult questions professionally and give yourself a strong advantage over applicants who walk into an interview unprepared.
It’s important to remember that if you’ve been invited to an interview your résumé and covering letter have already done the hard work for you!
I’ve prepared some common interview questions with suggested answers to help you present at interview in the best possible light.
“Tell us a little about yourself”
This question can be easily responded to if you plan ahead. Spend a maximum of 3-4 minutes talking about your qualifications, career history, skills and achievements relevant to the job or that present you in a positive light.
Remember, you’re not expected to discuss your personal life at a job interview so it’s best to steer away from responses that include detailed information about your family or your religious and political preferences. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to mention hobbies, sporting interests and community work that you do. But make sure that you don’t give your personal life so much emphasis that it sounds as though you’re more interested in outside activities than you are in the job.
“So, why are you planning to leave your current job and employer?”
The interviewer is testing two things with this question:
- what drives you to move on in your career and
- your employer loyalty.
Unless you have an obvious reason for moving on (such as the closure of the company or your job being made redundant) respond in general terms.
Speak well of your employer and then add a reason for leaving that reflects your skills and experience. For example, “I enjoy working for the company but I’ve reached a stage where there’s nowhere to progress my career”, or “I enjoy my work with the company but now that I’ve obtained a higher level qualification I’m seeking a more senior role which the company isn’t able to provide at the moment.”
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
When you prepare for this question look carefully at the job description then make a list of strengths you can bring to the job that match the profile of the ideal applicant. For example if you’re applying for a job as a nurse, there’s no point focusing on your mathematical ability. But you can certainly highlight your patient care focus, professional expertise, integrity, punctuality and attention to detail.
When discussing your weaknesses choose a relatively innocuous trait that has little to do with the job you are being interviewed for and try to end on a positive note by talking about the strategies you use to overcome it.
For example you could mention your tendency to be a little disorganised when working on several different tasks at once. Follow this up with an explanation about how you overcome this by making up to-do lists which help you prioritise your tasks, tracking your workflow and keeping your diary up to date to avoid missing appointments or meetings. You can also mention that you return phone calls and respond to emails as soon as they’re received.
“What do you dislike about your current role?”
This is one of the most difficult interview questions to answer because you don’t know enough about the new role at interview stage to be sure you don’t mention one of its elements in your answer. Therefore try to keep your response very general. For example you could mention your current employer’s location, organisational structure etc. (after making sure they are different to those of the interviewing company).
Don’t respond by saying you like everything about your current role because that answer will work against you. Your interviewer will know that if you really felt that way, you wouldn’t be looking for another job. Also don’t ever speak badly of your present employer because a prospective employer will see that as an indication of the way you might speak of them in the future.
“Why are you the best person for this role?”
This is a great question! It gives you the opportunity to highlight all the skills, experience and qualifications you can bring to the job. Prepare for it beforehand by comparing your background with the job description and also be ready to discuss relevant achievements from your previous positions. This will demonstrate that you’ll be able to hit the ground running in the new role.
Sound and practical advice from Susan.
It would also be great to hear what you think about interview questions and how to answer them so feel free to get back to us here at InterviewIQ and share your thoughts by providing a comment below.
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