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If You Think Interviews Are Hard for You, Probably You Haven’t Got Prepared for These 20 Questions

If You Think Interviews Are Hard for You, Probably You Haven’t Got Prepared for These 20 Questions

Job interviews can be daunting at the best of times especially when we worry about what kinds of questions will come up. That fear of something being asked that we haven’t prepared for or which throws us off in our nervous state, is enough to make anyone dread an interview.

But there are some standard questions that are always going to come up and if you prepare these answers well, you will feel much more confident in yourself and will transcend throughout the interview process.

Preparation Is the Best Way to Boost Your Confidence

Preparation creates the mindset of ability and gives us the confidence in ourselves. There’s an expectation that the typical interview questions require a high standard of answer without hesitation. Preparing your answers well doesn’t mean memorising them so you can recall it like a parrot, but giving good thought about what you want to say and how you’d like to present yourself.

The Top 20 Questions That Are Commonly Asked in Interviews

With this in mind, here are the most common interview questions and answers you can prepare for ultimate confidence.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is the typical open-ended question that an interviewer will start with. The main purpose is to break the ice and make the atmosphere feel more comfortable. It’s also a way to let the interviewer see a bit of your personality.

The key is not to go into too much detail or bring up irrelevant information. Start by mentioning a hobby you’re passionate about that can show off a positive side of you such as being a long-distance runner or an avid reader. Mention any volunteer opportunities you’re involved with to show your value and contribution.

After which, start to bring in your professional experience with a phrase like: “That being said, my professional life is a major part of who I am and I’d like to talk a bit about what I can bring to this role.”

Keep this quite brief though, as you don’t want to talk too much and save having to repeat yourself in later questions.

2. What responsibilities did you have in your previous job?

This is where your knowledge of your CV or resume is paramount as well as the job description for this role. Always try to relate this to the current role you’re going for.

For example, if you are going for a management role, talk about any projects you’ve led or people you had to manage – anything where you had lead responsibility.

This is also an opportunity to show your personality and stop yourself from being just a name on a page. Show them that you are responsible and personable – try not to recount bog-standard, boring answers.

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3. What did you find challenging about your previous job and how did you deal with these challenges?

This question is trying to see how you handle difficulties and how effective your problem-solving skills are. Talk about a challenge with a positive outcome and explain how you dealt with it and what you learned for future similar situations.

“When we came across a major glitch in our software system that would affect our workflow and ability to sustain smooth work processes, it was my job to get the software engineers together and problem-solve. I learned how to motivate and organise the team in order to get the quickest and most productive income.”

4. What did you like or dislike about your previous job?

Whatever your response, remember to keep this positive even if you disliked some of what you did in your previous role – they are trying to elicit how you typically react to a role. Remember to try and keep your answer related to the skills required for the current job vacancy and keep your answers engaging and descriptive.

For example you could say: “I helped streamline the company’s in-house workflow system and was recognised for saving significant time on daily operations.”

Any reward-oriented answers are particularly effective here.

5. What is your greatest strength?

This can be a difficult one because many of us try to be humble about our strengths but it’s important to be confident without showing off – a fine balance! It’s important to show the interviewer that you have the right qualities they are looking for.

Focus on the strengths needed for the job. For example, you can say something like: “I have great time-management skills due to working in such a deadline-driven environment. This caused me to finish projects way ahead of schedule and I was given recognition in my current role for finishing one particular project two weeks in advance.”

6. What is your greatest weakness?

This is another one that can trip us up. The best way to answer this is to be honest and show the ways in which you’ve overcome a particular weakness.

“Being organised wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organisation skills.”

7. How do you handle stress and pressure?

This is particularly relevant if the job you’re going for is high-pressured. They essentially want to know how you would react when faced with pressure and stress.

A good answer could be: “Pressure is a good tool for me as it helps me stay motivated and productive. I feel my strong organisational skills have allowed me to develop the ability to create small and manageable schedules in order to help me accomplish a project.”

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8. What was your biggest accomplishment in your previous role?

What accomplishment are you most proud of and what did you learn from it? Remember it doesn’t have to be something that worked out but what’s important is what skills and knowledge you got from the experience.

“I set up a major project for which I was the main project manager. It was a challenge but I managed to organise a large team, both an internally and an externally outsourced team. It was so successful that the client agreed to further ongoing projects that made a lot of money for the company.”

9. Describe a time when you were faced with a difficult work situation and how did you deal with it?

There’s not really a right or wrong answer here but be sure to use specific examples. It’s purely for the employer to see how you would approach a difficult situation and what you would consider difficult.

“When the company was going through a redundancy process, I had to make some tough decisions about who was to be let go. I took the time to think carefully about all those involved, with the best interests and intentions for the workers and the company. I found the process hard but I didn’t shy away from making difficult decisions for the good of the company and all those involved.”

10. What was your starting and ending salary?

This question is asked in order to see how competitive you are in terms of salary. Remember to be honest about pay because your prospective employer can easily find out. Be ready to explain any inconsistencies such as a salary reduction.

“My initial salary was XX and over time I took on more responsibilities including line-management and project management. As a result my final salary was XX.”

11. Why are you leaving your current job?

There can be many answers to this such as relocation, redundancy or wanting more opportunity for growth. If it was for difficult reasons, try to keep positive and emphasise your goals for the future and what you want for your career development.

“There isn’t room for growth with my current employer and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge.”

12. How do you evaluate success?

This question is giving an insight into your work ethic and general career and personal goals. In essence, it will reveal a lot about how you operate. It’s a great opportunity to show your values such as motivation, determination, drive and enthusiasm.

“I evaluate success based on not only my work, but the work of my team. In order for me to be considered successful, the team needs to achieve both our individual and our team goals.”

13. Why do you want this job?

Everyone must have been asked this in an interview so your answer is expected to be confident and to the point as they want to know if the position is in line with your career goals. Make sure you demonstrate your knowledge of the company, emphasise what you can contribute and why you’d be a good fit.

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“I’ve found that your company is up and coming through reading several articles and press releases and I would love to be a part of your business as it grows and develops. I feel my extensive experience in project management will contribute greatly to your expansion during this exciting time.”

14. Why should we hire you for this position?

This is a chance to expand on what you can bring to the company. What kind of achievements can you see yourself making in this role? It’s time to sell yourself!

Make sure you know the skills and expectations required for the job and how your experience and qualifications can fit well into this. Try to keep it concise.

“I have high-quality management skills that I would love to apply to the role and I believe I’d be an asset to your company. From the job description, I feel my skill set is a perfect match for the person you’re looking for. I would relish the opportunity to be a crucial part of your team.”

15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

With this answer, it would be good to think about how the company can be involved in your future career plans and make sure you indicate that you’re intending to stay fairly long-term with them.

“I’m really looking to evolve within a company where I can see myself growing, developing new skills and taking on different responsibilities. I love that you invest in career development and I think these would be great opportunities for me to develop further my skill set and contribute fully to the future of your company.”

16. What are your salary expectations?

This can sometimes be an awkward question to answer especially if you’re unaware of the salary. Make sure you take time to research similar salaries online so that you have a ballpark amount but also take into account your worth. It’s important to not try your luck and go for a figure that’s way too high either.

“Taking into account the role and responsibilities, I would be expecting around XX (include a range) but I’m open and flexible to negotiating.”

17. Talk to me about what you’re passionate about.

This is to find out what kind of person you are. Your answer doesn’t have to revolve around work and career so feel free to talk about what you get up to out of work hours. Whatever is important to you is relevant here and be genuine as this will allow your answer to come across as enthusiastic.

“I’m passionate about making a difference to people’s lives and my community as a whole. I spend much of my time volunteering with children and young adults who are seeking extra support which allows me to bring a sense of value to them as well as myself.”

18. Who was your best and worst boss and why?

This is a way to find out what management style you lean to and away from. It’s really important to not come across as too negative about your worst boss, instead spin anything negative around to show what you learned from it. Negativity can leave a potential employer wondering how you would speak about them given the opportunity.

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“I’ve appreciated every boss I’ve had. The best ones have shown me what to do while the more challenging ones have taught me what not to do.”

19. General questions about your previous co-workers.

Another way to evaluate how you would fit in with the culture of the company along with your communication and interpersonal skills, is asking how your relationships were with your previous co-workers. It could range from “tell me about a time you worked with a challenging co-worker” to “tell me about a time you helped out a co-worker.”

These can come in many forms so it’s good to have a few answers prepared beforehand.

“I’ve had the experience of working with someone challenging as they were very unpredictable. However, I chose to focus on their positive aspects such as their skills and ability to problem-solve. This allowed me work well with them even though we were never considered friends.”

20. Do you have any questions?

This is always an inevitable question at the end of the interview. Never say no – always come prepared with a few in your mind otherwise it will show disinterest. It can even give you further opportunity to highlight any skills you didn’t manage to show during the interview.

“How would you describe the responsibilities of the position?”

“What are the prospects for growth and progression within the role?”

“What are the biggest challenges of this job?”

“In your opinion, what would you say is the best part of working for this company?”

“What sort of management style does the company adopt?”

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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