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Posted on 8 July 2021

common interview questions explained

Your CV and covering letter have done their job and you’ve secured that all-important interview, congratulations! Now you have the opportunity to meet with your potential employer face-to-face (or remotely depending on the employer) and dazzle them with your wit and natural charm. But how can you ensure you present your best self at the interview and what will they want to know?

Below are 5 of the most common interview questions along with a quick explanation and example answer. Start preparing yourself to deal with these, and you’ll be well on your way to interview success.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

This is a classic ice-breaker style question. Here, the employer is giving you an opportunity to grow into the interview while getting a feel for your personality. Keep your response brief with a well-rounded focus on your interests and experience both personal and professional. While there’s no need to script your response, there is an opportunity to practice your response to common interview questions like this ahead of time.

“Having recently completed an internship with a local design agency, I’m now looking to develop my skills and gain further experience in the field. I studied design at college and have always been fascinated by all thing’s art and design. In my spare time, I love drawing, painting and photography”

Why do you want to work here?

This is a tough one as the impulsive response is usually “for the money”. While that may be the case, avoid saying it out loud at all costs. Instead, focus on your skills and how you feel they will benefit the company. You can also talk here about your ambitions and how they align with the role.

“I genuinely feel I could excel in this role and offer something extra to your business. I’m extremely passionate about design and want to continue developing my skills in this area. This role feels like a perfect opportunity to build on the skills and experience I’ve already gained through College and my recent internship.”

Can you give an example of a time when you had to cope with a difficult situation?

The key to this question is to prepare in advance. If you try and think up an answer on the spot, chances are you’re going to come up blank. A good approach is to use the STAR method to put together an effective response to this kind of question.

S – Situation: where/when did this happen?

T – Task: what were you expected/asked to do or what was the difficulty?

A – Action: what action did you take to complete the task or overcome the difficulty?

R – Result: How did your actions positively affect the situation/overcome the difficulty?)

Note: If this is your first job, try and think of a situation in your personal life where you’ve overcome a difficulty.

“During my internship, we had a difficult client who was sending a particular project back for multiple revisions. As you can imagine, frustrations were growing on both sides. In the end, I arranged another meeting with the client to look at the original brief. It turned out that a small miscommunication in the original brief was to blame. After talking it through, we were able to rework the design and get approval from the client”

What are your main strengths and weaknesses?

Common interview questions like these often come in pairs and are straightforward, provided you consider your response ahead of time. For strengths, try and focus on skills that apply to the role you’re applying for. While it’s great that you can juggle, it likely won’t improve your performance as a receptionist. You can expand upon one or more of the ‘key skills’ listed on your CV here as a simple shortcut.

With weaknesses, people often fall into the trap of trying to disguise strengths as weaknesses in an attempt to impress. “Sometimes, I work too hard” or “Sometimes I’m just such a great employee, it makes other people feel bad”. These types of responses will likely fail to deceive the interviewer. Instead, focus on a genuine weakness or area you’d like to improve. The key is to discuss how you’re planning to overcome this weakness within your response. This shows the employer that you’re humble but also ambitious.

“I think interpersonal skills are probably one of my greatest strengths. I’ve always been able to develop solid working relationships with clients and colleagues.

My knowledge of InDesign is still a little lacking and certainly one of my. On the plus side, I’ve enrolled on a 6-week training course early next month, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to getter a better understanding of the software and build on my skills.”

Do you have any questions?

This is as close to a nailed-on certainty as it gets with interview questions. It’s often asked right at the end of the process and can come across as quite informal or insignificant. However, this is one of the most important questions an interviewer will ask. It provides you with an excellent opportunity to do two things 1) show you’re interested in the job/business 2) find out valuable information.

As with most of the questions so far, the key here is prep. Study the company site and the job description noting any areas of interest or confusion as you do so.

Not fully clear on what the day-to-day tasks are? Ask!

Wondering what the companies bold new product/service is all about? Ask!

“I was just wondering how you manage your portfolio of existing clients. Are these split equally among designers? How many clients would I likely be looking after initially?”

Dealing with Unexpected Questions

While the above are common interview questions that are likely to crop up at an interview, there will always be a rogue question that catches you by surprise. The best way to deal with unexpected questions is to arm yourself with as much information as you can ahead of time. Make sure you understand the job role and have a solid background on the company. This information can help you tackle any unexpected questions and demonstrate your interest.

Take a breath, take a sip of water and try to think clearly. If you’ve done your homework, the answer is likely in your brain somewhere. Just give yourself the time to fish it out.

Need help getting ready for your interview? Contact Thrive for free impartial support.