10 INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

In this article I am going to provide you with 10 sample interview questions and answers. These are very common interview questions and the answers I have provided will go a long way to helping you prepare fully for your intervie.

Interview Question 1 – Tell me about you?

This is a common introductory question that many interviewers use to break the ice. It is designed to get you talking about something you know – You!

A big mistake usually made by the majority of people is that they focus on their family, children, hobbies or home life. Whilst you may have some interesting facts about your personal life you should either avoid these, unless specifically asked, or keep them very brief. Try to answer this type of question based around your own personal achievements, educational background and ongoing studies. It is good to say that you are motivated or enthusiastic but you MUST ensure that you provide examples or scenarios where this has been proven. For example you might say, "I am a motivated person – whilst working for my previous employer I achieved 'XYZ', which enabled the company to achieve its goal in relation to increased profit margins etc."

Giving specific, brief examples is positive. Remember that anyone can tell an interview panel that they are 'motivated', 'enthusiastic' or 'determined' but not everybody can prove it. Try to think about and use some of the following key words when structuring some of your answers:

- Motivated
- Self-starter
- Responsible
- Enthusiastic
- Dedicated
- Committed
- Reliable
- Trustworthy
- Initiative
- Team player
- Organised
- Focused

It is also a good idea to think of occasions where you have initiated projects or ideas at work, which have gone on to achieve results.

There now follows a sample response to this question. Once you have read it, use the template on the following page to create your own, based on your own individual situation:

"My strong points are that I am focused, enthusiastic and dedicated. For example, whilst working for my current employer I was successful in achieving my annual appraisal sales target with 4 months to spare.

I like to ensure that I maintain a healthy balance between my personal and professional life. This helps me to maintain a high level of performance at work.

I recently embarked on a Diploma course, which I am now halfway through. I enjoy new challenges and like to take care of my own self-development.

I am an active person and enjoy visiting the gym 4 times a week. Some of my other hobbies include art, walking and cooking.

I am a caring person and when I have the spare time I try to get involved in community events in my local town. I recently ran a half marathon raising £450 for a local charity.

Overall I would say that I am a reliable, self-conscious and hard-working person who always looks for ways to improve."

TOP TIP

Take any literature or evidence that you have along with you to the interview to prove to the panel that you are genuine.

Interview Question 2 – How was your journey here today?

This question is again an icebreaker. I have used it on many occasions during the initial questioning stage of interviews. This is an opportunity for you to engage with the interview panel, and also show them that you are organised and motivated. Whilst it is a very simple question to answer, there is an opportunity here for you to show them some of the qualities that you posses.

Take a look at the two sample responses to this question:

Sample response 1

"Yes I had a good journey thanks."

Sample response 2

"Yes the journey was fine thank you very much. I planned the journey a couple of days ago, just to make sure I knew exactly where I was going. The last thing I wanted was to be late. I got up early enough to check the travel details and arrived 30 minutes before the interview, just so that I could compose myself and read up, in my car, some information about your company and the role."

You will see that the second response is far more comprehensive. It also tells the interviewer that the candidate is organised, disciplined, motivated and conscientious. These are all good qualities that an employer would appreciate.

Interview Question 3 – What have you learnt about this company?

This question is extremely common during job interviews. Again, it is one that I have used time and time again when interviewing candidates for posts. I would personally expect an interviewee to have researched the organisation thoroughly before they come to interview. If you take onboard my advice in the earlier pages of this guide then you will be able to answer this question with relative ease. Try to state who their major competitors are, understand the vision and expectations of the company, and know internal information on the size, structure and organisation of the company.

Your research is paramount to your success and shows that you haven't just turned up on the day to make the numbers up. By learning all you can about the company, their products and services, you will demonstrate a commitment before you have begun.

Sample response to question 3

"In the build up to the interview I carried out lots of research about your organisation. I found out that there are 70 staff who work for the company in various roles, from customer service representatives to senior managers. The Head Office is centred in Reading, but the majority of business is carried out at the 26 retail stores you operate throughout the UK, in counties such as Kent, Lancashire, Berkshire and Yorkshire. The company has a very good reputation for delivering high quality services, and as a result, has received awards at a national level for delivering excellence. It has also received Investors in People status. I am a professional and skilled person who would love to work in a company like yours, which constantly strives to improve and deliver excellence."

Interview Question 4 – Would you say that you are a flexible person?

This question is designed to see if you are flexible in relation to working hours and also your level of commitment as an employee? It is an indication that the job or role that you are applying for requires you to work extra hours or that the company will rely on you to be available when required within reason.

The obvious and most appropriate answer to this question would be 'Yes'. It is then best to follow your answer up with evidence that you are flexible. You may have been required to be flexible in your previous post or job and therefore you can give examples to demonstrate your flexibility.

There now follows a sample response to this question. Once you have read it, use the template on the following page to create your own, based on your own individual situation:

"Yes I am very flexible and I fully understand that the role will require me to be available when required. In my previous job I made the manager aware that I was available to work extra hours if required. On one particular occasion I volunteered to stay behind after work to take delivery of some stock. The delivery driver was stuck in traffic and he called to say that he would arrive at 6pm, two hours later than scheduled. Even though it was a Friday afternoon, I realised how important it was that the delivery was accepted. I stayed behind, took delivery of the stock and checked the contents before locking up and going home."

Interview Question 5 – What are your strengths?

This is an extremely common interview question and one that you must prepare for. When answering this type of question I would advise that you give work-related examples. You should try to think of at least three good strengths that you possess, and provide an example of when you have used those strengths.

You may be able to give an answer along the following lines:

"One of my strengths is that I have the ability to implement change in difficult circumstances. For example whilst working for my previous employer I implemented a new policy under difficult and adverse conditions. The team were not happy with the changes that were being implemented, but I managed to motivate them by holding regular updates and team meetings. I have the ability to understand that the needs of the company will always come first. My strengths include an ability to inspire and motivate a team, as and when required."

This type of answer demonstrates to the panel that you are able to prove your strengths as opposed to just saying that you have them. Anyone can say that they are motivated, enthusiastic, dedicated or reliable, but proving that you have those strengths is a different matter.

Being able to demonstrate that you have strengths will give you higher scores.

Interview Question 6 – What are your weaknesses?

Possibly the worst answer you can give for a question of this nature is that you don't have any weaknesses. Being able to identify that you have weaknesses is a strength in itself. Obviously it is important that you answer this question carefully as you could reduce your chances of success if you portray yourself in a negative light. For example, if you are applying for a job as a mechanic and you are always losing your tools then you're probably not the right person for the job!

Here's an example of a response to this type of question:

"In my previous job I found it difficult to delegate work to others. I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times and I like a job or task to be done correctly to a high standard. Unfortunately this lack of trust caused problems within my team and a member of staff approached me to tell me they were not happy with the way I was working. I took their comments onboard and decided to ask the rest of the team if they felt the same. The feedback I received was along the same lines – that the majority of people felt I should delegate more work and responsibility to them. Following this feedback I decided to change my style of approach and began to delegate more work, placing greater trust on my colleagues. This had a very positive effect and the workload increased dramatically as a result of this change. Morale within the team improved too and now I hold regular feedback meetings with my colleagues to see how we can improve."

This type of response identifies that you have a weakness, but also identifies a number of strengths. It shows that you have the ability to look at yourself and make changes where needed. Accepting constructive criticism is one thing, but doing something about it is another. This also leads on to another possible 'strength' quality in the fact that you can identify your weaknesses and do something about them.

Here's another example of how this type of question might be answered.
"Yes I do have one weakness. If somebody is late for a meeting or an appointment I usually have to say something to them when they do eventually arrive. This can sometimes be taken the wrong way. I personally don't like lateness, but I am trying to understand that some people are just late as a rule and I have to be accepting of others."

This response is again demonstrating that you have a strength that most employers cherish – punctuality. The key to responding to this type of question is making your 'weakness' a 'strength'.

Interview Question 7 – Do you enjoy working in a team environment?

The answer to this type of question depends on the type of job you are applying for. If you are applying for a team role then obviously you need to answer this in a manner that shows you are a team player. Conversely if you are applying for a position that involves a lot of 'lone working' then it is a good idea to say that you feel comfortable working on your own. Possibly the best answer for this type of question is to state that you are adaptable and can work in any environment. Again, if you can give examples of situations where you have been an effective team member or achieved results independently then this is far better.

"In a previous role I was required to work as part of a 30-strong sales team. I really enjoyed the atmosphere within that team and managed to learn so much from other members. Yes I do enjoy working in a team environment but conversely my adaptability allows me to work in any environment. I would say that I can work either as one of a team or an individual depending on the requirements of the role. If I am required to work as part of a team then I will always listen carefully to the provided brief, keep in communication with the other team members, support those people who need supporting in the team, and also learn from any mistakes that the team makes so that we can improve next time.

I can remember one particular occasion when I was required to work as part of a team. Sales figures for the month were low and we were required to work as a team in order to generate new business leads. We all came together as a team and discussed the different options available to us. My role within the team was to source potential new clients over a two-week period whilst others sent out promotional materials once I had created the new leads. As a team we managed to increase sales and revenue by 50% in just a short space of time."

Interview Question 8 – Are you a risk taker?

A tricky question to answer but it all depends on the type of company or organisation you are applying to join. If the company is a well-established, steady organisation that has achieved its success over a long period of time, building a reliable name for itself, then it is wise to veer on the side of safety and state that you are not a great risk taker.

However, if the company of organisation has recently started up and is competing in a highly competitive industry then a level of risk taking may be commensurate to this role. If you do decide to say that you are a risk taker then it is a good idea to give examples of calculated risks that you have taken. Make certain that you emphasise that you would not take a risk unless you were positive of a successful outcome, and that you would never jeopardise the company. It is always best to seek advice from Senior Managers if unsure and this is something that you would always do unless you were certain of the outcome.

Sample response for a company/role that requires a level of risk-taking

"If the situation requires then I am not averse to taking risks. However, the risks that I do take are always carefully thought through and focused on achieving the goal. I would always look, wherever possible, to consult my manager before taking the risk. In a previous role I was required to take risks on a weekly basis. However, those risks were always carefully calculated and veered on the side of caution. With regards to Health and Safety matters I would never take any risks and I would certainly never breach confidentiality."

Sample response for a company/role that does not require a level of risk-taking

"No I don't take risks, especially when work is involved. I always follow company rules and procedures and if I'm ever unsure of something I will always seek clarification first from a line manager or senior member of the team. I've seen people take risks at work before, and they usually end up going wrong. In terms of Health and Safety, I would never take risks. I would hate to be part of a situation at work where a member of the team became injured because somebody was taking risks or shortcuts. If I witnessed somebody doing something that they shouldn't be doing, then I would have to say something and inform my supervisory manager."

Interview Question 9 – What are you like at time management?

Time management is undoubtedly a skill not everyone possesses. Being able to manage your time effectively is not easy but there are some great ways of demonstrating your time management qualities. When you get into work, do you already know what you are going to achieve by the end of the day? During the final 30 minutes of your working day do you plan the following day's activities and tasks in order of priority? Do you keep a list of important objectives and tasks and cross them off when they are completed? If you are chairing meetings then do you keep irrelevant discussion to an absolute minimum and always ensure you finish on time? Are you acutely aware of others' valuable time as well as your own and do you make certain that time is not wasted unnecessarily?

The company's objectives are key to your time management. The above information gives you a number of time management tools to use when constructing your answer. It is also important to remember to emphasise that you are flexible with your time when needed, and that you reorganise appointments, meetings or tasks in order to meet specific important deadlines.

"I am very effective at time management. I am the type of person who is extremely organised and knows what they want to achieve during each day. I like to keep lists, which act as a reminder of what I want to achieve and in what timeframe. For example, if I have a busy schedule planned for the forthcoming week, I will always write down what I want to do during that week, the week before. This allows me to plan ahead and also makes sure that I have everything in place so that I can achieve each objective. I fully understand that the role I am applying for will require me to be competent at time management, and I am fully prepared for this."

Interview Question 10 – What are you like at taking criticism from senior managers?

Regardless of how you think you would react, it is important to tell the interview panel that you look at this in a positive manner. Of course you do not want to portray an image that you are a pushover, but an answer along the following lines would be acceptable:

"Whilst working for my current employer, a situation arose where I was criticised for a mistake. At the time of the criticism I felt disappointed in my own performance, but knew it was important to learn from my mistake and improve for next time. I understand that not everybody is perfect and when we make mistakes it is the ability to move on and improve for next time that is important. I spoke with my line manager after the mistake was made, apologised and made certain I improved my performance in that particular area."

The above type of response identifies that you have the ability to accept criticism but also that you are sensitive to it too. Nobody likes criticism of any kind but in this response you have shown that you did not get angry, defensive or arrogant but instead you turned a negative situation into a positive one.

Now use the template on the following page to create your own answer to this question based on your own skills, qualities and experience. Try to think of a situation where you made a mistake, and provide an example of what you did to improve. When constructing your response try to include words such as 'reflect' and 'evaluate'.

CareerVidz.com | Suite 2 | 50 Churchill Square | Kings Hill | Kent | ME19 4YU