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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.
We should also point out – whilst these are the most common, there is likely to be questions not covered here. The best advice here is to remind you that no one knows you better than yourself.
Common Interview Questions
“So tell me a bit about yourself…”
This is probably the most commonly used first question. The interviewer is saying I want to hear how well you speak and giving 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.
“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….”
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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’.
“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.
At this point you have secured yourself and accepted a new position that offers you more of what you want in your next career move.
Whether it is Increased Title & Responsibility, Career Development Opportunities, New Clients, Better Team Culture & Management Team, Convenient Location, Better Perks, or simply New Beginnings, you’ve obviously made the informed decision that this is the right choice for you. So, time to tell your current boss you’re leaving…
Resign without Burning a Bridge
Keep it clean. Keep it professional. Call a meeting with your boss and hand them the following:
Resignation Letter – (Ask us for an example letter)
To Do List #1 – tasks you will complete throughout your notice period
To Do List #2 – tasks that need to be handed over once you have left
Sending a very clear and concise message that you have made your decision to move on goes a very long way to making an amicable split. Most of the time, a burnt bridge is based on emotions, not reality. Going down the route of counter offer opens up the gates to an emotional minefield.
Counter Offer – You will be Counter Offered
Sounds great! But why are more than 80% of all people who take a counter offer back on the job market within 3 to 6 months?
A counter offer is an INDUCED call to action by an employer, not VOLUNTARY. You have them backed in a corner with no other choice to offer you what you want or you walk. They will promise the world to get you to stay. They will tell you “You’re a valuable member of the team”, “We’ve invested so much into you”, “You’ll be letting down the team”, “Your future is so strong here”, “Here’s more money”. At this point, you start feeling guilty about your decision to leave because now they are giving you more money, going down memory lane and telling you how good you are (the emotional minefield).
QUESTION: If you’re so valuable, why did it take for you to resign for them to start recognising this?
Suppose the counter offer is taken, project yourself 6 months into the future and ask yourself if any of your original reasons for leaving can or will actually be addressed or changed? Chances are they will be unchanged. Money will not fix core issues within a company or personnel, nor will it satisfy career ambitions or provide access to new clients and projects. You’re now one of the 80% who take a counter offer and back on the job market within 3 to 6 months.
Helpful Tip: Limiting the information you give your employer about your new opportunity and the reasons why you are not happy presently will prevent any bridges being burnt and limit the avenues they can exploit with a counter offer.
Dangers of Taking a Counter Offer
- They’re Looking After Themselves; Not You
What employers don’t tell you is how much it actually costs to replace you. Even by offering you a $20K pay-rise, they are usually saving themselves over $50K in having to replace you. These include advertising, agency fees, loss of productivity and temporary staffing solutions. Unless they are offering you a $70K pay rise, you’re actually being short-changed.
- Value Recognition
It was only after making the threat to leave that anything was done to improve your working life. It defies logic that you should have to threaten to go elsewhere before your value is recognised.
- It’s a Financial Band-Aid
Very rarely is a decision to leave a job purely about the more material factors. Usually, when asked about why people want to leave it’s things like poor culture, personnel disagreements, not enough development and general frustration. None of these are solved with more money or a change in title. Even if they can remove you from people you don’t like, the culture cannot be changed for just one person. You’ll still be frustrated.
- The Honeymoon is Over
It sounds like a bad dating show, but when you quit a job, you’re basically breaking up with your boss and company after cheating on them behind their backs through interviewing elsewhere. That unspoken trust that existed previously is now gone. As a result, even if you accept the counter offer, that trust can never truly be what it was before. The relationship suffers and your work environment will too.
- Job Security? Not Anymore
You may have received a whole slew of new additions to your package, but guess whose name is at the top of the list to be let go if the company has financial problems? Yours. We’ve even seen examples where counter offers have been accepted and in a rather Machiavellian way, the company made the counter offer to give them time to find a replacement. The trust is gone, and so too is your job security.
- Credibility Damaged
You had already made the decision to accept a role with a different company. When you accept a counter offer you’re being indecisive with not just one company, but two. The offer you accepted will not remain open and in most cases they won’t interview you again in the future. That bridge will have been burnt as they remember you as the person who mucked them around last time.