The Job Interview Questions You Need To Get Right!
often get asked to provide guidance to people looking for a career in
PR and communications and many of their queries focus on how to handle
recruiting for very different organisations and roles, I find most
interviewers tend to have a very similar approach to asking questions.
Job interviews are a bit like exam papers – the same topics are always
there, just sometimes dressed up in different ways.
I’m always surprised, therefore, when so few candidates shine in addressing the most obvious topics.
my experience there are six questions that are likely to appear, in one
form or another, in most interviews and if you prepare properly, these
questions should provide you with all the opportunity you need to sell
1. Why do you want the job?
unbelievably obvious question. So obvious, in fact, that candidates
seem to overlook its significance and don’t prepare a strong answer.
a very simple level, if you can’t explain really clearly why you are
interviewing for this role at this firm, you won’t get hired.
many people focus too much on “the job” part of the question rather
than the more significant “why” and “you”. This isn’t the time to talk
at length about all the great things the job would involve. The
interviewers already know that. It is the time to explain why you want
it more than anyone else.
is often the first question you will be asked in an interview and
should be your strongest answer. Use it to set the scene for themes or
arguments you want to develop in the interview, demonstrate your passion
and interest in the job, and highlight the key reasons why you would be
the perfect candidate.
2. Can you give a practical example of when you have done this?
jobs involve a level of technical knowledge or expertise that potential
candidates need to demonstrate. Sometimes in interview you will simply
be asked if you have a skill or not – eg. “have you got experience in
dealing with the press?”. However for each key skill you want to
promote, you should prepare a practical example of how and when you have
used it, to help bring your abilities to life.
you are applying to be a line manager, for example, it’s not enough to
say you have lots of experience in managing teams. Be prepared to give a
brief example of the sorts of team dynamics you have dealt with, maybe
an issue or two you’ve had to overcome and the skills you’ve developed
as a result. Similarly if the role involves budgetary control, be ready
to provide brief examples of the range of challenges this has provided
you with and what you’ve learned.
questions make for better interviews, both for the interviewer and the
interviewee. The employer gets more honest and grounded answers, the
candidate gets the chance to provide a more memorable response. Make
sure you take it.
3. Why do you want to leave your current role?
Interviews are a chance for candidates to tell their personal story – their narrative,
if you like. Providing a sense of the journey you are on, where you
have come from and where you are heading helps employers to see the
logic of why you are sat in front of them today.
many candidates find it uncomfortable to talk about their existing
role. Perhaps there are some frustrations about the role that the
question may bring to mind – i.e. poor pay, fallouts with the boss, etc.
In most circumstances, these aren’t relevant to why you should be hired
for the next job, so set them aside.
try and explain what you have gained from the role and how it has
helped you to progress your career on to the next stage. This could be
opportunities it has opened up (the chance to develop new skills or
experience) or avenues it has helped to rule out (confirming that you
would rather concentrate on one aspect of the work rather than another).
it is, how you talk about your current role says a lot about how you
think about your career and also the sort of employee you are. Don’t
miss this opportunity to continue to reinforce your overall story.
4. What do you want to be doing in five years’ time?
another question people often find tricky, this is actually the same
question as the one above, but framed in a different way. It is best
answered by going back to your core narrative. What is your overall
sense of purpose, professionally? What have you learned so far and where
do you want it to take you? Providing this context will help the
employer understand why you see this job as the important next step in
(though it does depend on the job you are applying for), prospective
employers don’t expect people to stay in their organisation forever, so
don’t feel the need to pledge the rest of your working life to your
would-be boss. You also don’t need to describe in detail where you will
be in the future (how could you know?), just the type of role and
activity you want to be involved in. So if you are applying to be a
press officer, saying you want to progress to the role of manager and
ultimately to head up a busy newsroom shows ambition, is a logical next
step and is a motivation most employers would see as a positive.
course there are some obvious watchouts here too. Where you are heading
in the future does needs to fit with the role you are currently
applying for. If you want to be an air hostess and are applying to be a
trainee accountant, a reasonable employer might think you aren’t likely
to be a good long term prospect. Also, whilst five years in the future
is a good timescale to think about your next move, be wary of bringing
that any closer. It takes a fair amount of time and investment to get
the most out of new hires and employers will see it as a negative if you
give off the impression you will want to move on too quickly.
5. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and what did you learn?
a less obvious question, perhaps, but it’s still not unusual for
employers to ask about your weaknesses, mistakes you’ve made or things
you’ve got wrong. Answering it successfully definitely requires some
thought and preparation. Unfortunately, saying nothing at all or
providing a poor example is just as bad as highlighting a major failure
on something that is key to the role you’re applying for.
employers are looking for here is honesty, self-awareness and the
ability to learn from mistakes. So talk about something you took
personal responsibility for, what went wrong and then, critically, the
learnings and insight you took from the experience. Even better, choose a
story that has an element of humour about it. Ideally they will come
away thinking you are human and occasionally mess up but, perhaps unlike
other candidates, you are open in admitting your mistakes and have
taken steps to ensure you don’t repeat them.
6. Do you have any questions for us?
final question of a tough interview and by this point, most people
simply want to get out of the room. Yet the invitation to ask the panel
questions is often the best opportunity of all to showcase your skills
and reinforce your key messages.
is because it is the main or only time the panel will talk without the
help of a pre-prepared script. By asking smart questions, it’s possible
to engage them in a conversation about something that accentuates your
also provides you with a chance to direct the conversation. So if you
didn’t get a chance to mention something that’s relevant to your
application, or didn’t do justice to a previous topic, a carefully
worded question could provide you with the opportunity to have another
addition, there’s more than one person doing the choosing at an
interview. Let’s not forget, you also need to decide whether the job is
right for you. Showing you have done your homework and have well
thought-out questions will give off the impression you are taking the
opportunity seriously and will also help you to make up your mind about
them as an employer.
questions for the panel in advance is a must, but try and make notes as
the interview progresses so that you have something fresh and relevant
to ask. That said, this doesn’t give you permission to grill them for 20
minutes. Two or at most three brief questions will suffice. Interview
panels work to tight schedules and they won’t thank you if your
interrogation means they overrun or have to skip lunch.
tend to find most hiring decisions tend to come down to the same core
set of issues. Who has demonstrated they have the best skills to do the
job? Who seems to be the best fit with our culture and approach? Who has
the most potential to grow in the role and organisation? And also who
wants the job the most?
the core issues about hiring are often the same, so the questions
actually used in interviews are also fairly consistent. Even if they are
dressed up in a different way, these six questions are common in
interviews and you should be certain your answers to each promote your
best qualities to the full.