14 Common Interview Questions – What is Your Interviewer REALLY Asking…
Interviewing can be intimidating, but if you’re prepared, you’ll feel much better going into it. We’ve combined our experience, industry resources and candidate feedback to come up with a list of commonly asked interview questions, what they’re REALLY asking and the best ways to respond.
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1. “So tell me a bit about yourself…”
This is probably the most commonly used first question and is what’s known as an ice-breaker. The interviewer is saying I want to hear how well you speak and giving I’m you a chance to become more comfortable. They are NOT asking for a list of character traits.
The Answer: Should be absolutely no longer than 5 minutes in length and ideally be an overview of your career to date, your skills and qualifications. Focus on what you feel is the most relevant for the specific role and smile; this question and answer sets the tone for the whole interview.
2. “Tell me about your current role…”
The interviewer here wants to hear not just what you have been doing, but also how relevant your role is to the one they are hiring for.
The Answer: Make sure that you highlight using examples, the tasks you perform, what you do and most importantly, how this could be relative to the role you’re interviewing for. For example… “I imagine that for this role, you will need …….. In my current role, this is what I do that is similar….”
3. “Are you happy with how your career has gone so far?”
Be careful with this one. You are interviewing for a new role, so obviously something is amiss but the interviewer is really asking if you’re a positive person.
The Answer: Must be “yes” but you can qualify the reasons why you are interviewing. I.e. “my current company has been very good to me and has taught me a lot, but I feel as though there is no further room to develop. Your company could offer improvement to my skills in …….. areas”.
4. “What do you like about your current role?”
The interviewer here can be asking for many different answers. They might want to hear that you’re a team player and enable a good culture. They might want to hear that you work hard and enjoy challenges.
The Answer: Must be positive. This is actually a great question to show your personality. Talk about how important a positive culture is to you – one that incorporates working hard, with enjoying the atmosphere around you.
5. “What is most important to you in a new role?”
The interviewer here is generally trying to determine your personal motivations and if they will fit culturally with the those of the company.
The Answer: Should never be “the money” – unless it’s a commission based position where being money motivated is the be all and end all, answering with “money” will never place you in a good light. Since cultural fit is one of the biggest determining factors in hiring, a good answer is one that reflects their values and talks about teams, people and culture.
6. “How do you deal with a conflict situation?”
The interviewer is asking if you are logical and level headed. They need to know that if they hire you and a problem arises down the track that you can handle it.
The Answer: Should showcase you as someone that can be forthright but collaborates with the people around you. The best way to answer is through an example of when you’ve solved a conflict previously, what you did and the eventual solution.
7. “Tell me about your strengths?”
The interviewer is basically asking how you are going to bring value to the company. This is a great question to prove your worth – so be prepared for it.
The Answer: Should be as straightforward as possible. We definitely recommend showing ‘professional / technical’ strengths. (They don’t want to hear that you are a team player, or well organised.) They want to hear strong technical examples.
8. “What are your major achievements so far?”
People often dislike this question. It can feel awkward as you want to highlight your skills, but don’t want to sound arrogant. The interviewer however is asking if you’re an achiever. They want to hear that you are.
The Answer: Needs to be qualified. Select a recent achievement relevant to your role; describe why it was important and what skills you needed to achieve it. Describing this will make you feel more comfortable about highlighting what you do well.
9. “What has your toughest challenge been to date?”
The interviewer here is asking two things. How you define a challenge or what you think is difficult and whether or not you have a logical response to solving problems.
The Answer: Ideally, you want to pick a challenge at work that wasn’t directly caused by yourself. The focus needs to be on firstly; how you defined the problem, secondly; how you solved the problem and thirdly; what measures were put into place to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
10. “Where do you see your career in 5-10 years time?”
The interview wants to know that you are motivated but also realistic about where you expect your career to take you.
The Answer: Should probably not be – “in your job!” Even if that is your goal. The best answers are those that outline the areas of your skills that you’d like to develop in the future and where you feel that will take you. Of course you want to give the impression that you’ll still be with this company.
11. “What do you dislike about your current role?”
The interviewer here is usually trying to find out if the role that they are offering has responsibilities that you are not going to enjoy.
The Answer: This one is tricky – the best answer you can give is a little bit more general. Choose a characteristic of the company or people you work with (not your role, unless you know for certain it isn’t something the future role has) and give the answer as though it doesn’t really bother you – it’s just something it would be nice to not have.
12. “What are your weaknesses?”
Let’s face it, we all dislike this question. What the interviewer is asking though is not for you to be down on yourself, but more if you have self-perception.
The Answer: We usually find that presenting a ‘personal’ weakness as opposed to a ‘professional’ weakness is safer. Either way, a good response is one that states the weakness i.e. ‘sometimes I take too much upon myself’ with the solution – ‘this is what I’ve been doing to fix it’.
13. “Why are you looking to leave your current role?”
This question is both straightforward and a little bit tricky. The interviewer is really trying to find out what your motivations are for leaving and sometimes the interpretation can be taken negatively.
The Answer: Try to keep it as positive as possible – talk about how you are looking for more challenges or responsibility in the future and this isn’t on offer currently. Avoid speaking negatively about your current employer as the interviewer might not take it well.
14. “What salary are you looking for?”
One of the most dreaded questions interviewee’s often face and not because you don’t want to talk about salary, but you want to ensure you get the best deal for yourself without appearing greedy or pricing yourself out of the role (and this is exactly what the interviewer is trying to suss out).
The Answer: We recommend being as straight up as possible. Tell the interviewer “this is what I am currently earning and obviously if I can, I would like to improve on it.” If you are pushing to really raise your salary, ensure that you justify with strong examples why it’s a reasonable request i.e. you bring a certain skill set they require to the table, can bring clients across or fill an important hole in their business.