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How NOT To Answer Common Interview Questions

Interviews

Some questions crop up again and again in interviews- but what is the right answer to them? Here is how to answer three of the most common interview questions and some more handy tips on how to nail an interview.



"Tell me about yourself"


Don't say:

'Erm, me. Well erm I'm from Kent but now live in London because I needed to move out of the family home- parents were driving me mad! Did sociology at uni- don't really know why to be honest! And yeah now I need a job. Erm, yeah. I like cats and Breaking Bad?'<br/>

Do say:

'I'm originally from Kent but have now moved to London to start my career search and be nearer to the professional centre. I have just graduated from Southampton University with a 2.1 in Sociology. I chose this subject because I'm really interested in how society has an impact on wider issues such as the corporate world. I feel my degree and previous experience has stood me in good stead for a job in [insert industry here] and I'm really looking forward to starting my career. Outside of work I'm a bit of TV and movie buff?'<br/>

Why?

Employers don't actually want to know your life story. 'Tell me about yourself' is an open statement designed to let the addressee answer it how they please. The information you choose to include says a lot about you. Obviously, as you are at an interview they are primarily interested in you as a professional, so make this the focal point- introduce your degree, grade and any experience you have along with why you want to work in that industry. Include some personal information too- background, hobbies, anything of particular note to make you stand out and come across as friendly and approachable yet career minded.<br/><br/>



"Where do you see yourself in five years?"


Don't say:

'Pfft, five years- I don't know really! Kind of a long way away. Hopefully in a good position in my career and the company- maybe even your job! As long as I'm making lots of money I don't mind.'


Do say:

'In five years' time I hope to have progressed in my career with a company who can offer exciting opportunities for engagement and growth. As I have not yet embarked on a set career path I am not sure of an exact title or role I am aspiring to but, being a motivated, ambitious high-achiever I know I will be looking for the next stage of my career with a company I have established a bond with.'<br/>

Why?

With this question employers want to know that you are a committed employee and will be the sort of person who strives for growth in their career. There is nothing wrong with not knowing the exact path that your career will take, especially as you have not got a professional title yet. In fact, naming a specific title may harm your chances as there is a risk you might mention a label that is not within the career path at that company leading the hiring manager to think you might leave to pursue that position elsewhere. Also, mentioning their role can come across as threatening even if you think it is a compliment. Employers want someone who shows genuine passion in making a difference and commitment to their company so there is no harm in keeping your answer vague as long as you convey this key message.<br/><br/>



"What interested you in this position?"


Don't say:

'I was looking for jobs on a job site and it came up as the top listing. I'm not really sure what I want to do but it needs to be near where I live and obviously you are just a few tube stops away. Also the salary isn't bad either! I think I will be good at the job and I had a look at your website and you look like quite a cool company to work for.'<br/>

Do say:

'Having completed a degree in [subject] and hence acquired relevant skills such as [skills] I feel that a career in [industry] would be a brilliant fit for me. I have also completed work experience in [placements] and found the roles stimulating and rewarding, especially [specific task]. In regards to this position specifically, I feel that the job description perfectly fits what I am looking for as a recent graduate, especially here at [company]. I'm familiar with the work that your company do and appreciate the principles and work ethic that you instil in your employees so I think that this is an environment I could really excel in.'<br/>

Why?

Employers know that job seekers are looking for jobs in convenient locations with decent salaries- this is no secret however it should not be mentioned unless they bring it up and definitely not used as reasons for wanting that position. Employers want to hear that you want to work for them specifically because they are amazing, you like and are familiar with their work and you are a perfect fit for them and their team. Not only that, but you come from the perfect background to excel with them and benefit their company. Therefore, make sure you do your research on the company and their work as more specific follow up questions are bound to follow from your answer to this question. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by mentioning something you can't elaborate on or back up!<br/><br/>Other questions will crop up in the interview and your answers to these need to be well researched, thought out and appropriate too. Take your time over the answer, ask for clarification if you need it and use the STAR technique (situation, task, action, result) to answer any aptitude questions. Good luck!
anna pitts grb author

Anna Pitts studied English Language at the University of Sussex and was a marketing assistant and online researcher at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau. She now works in Marketing and Advertising for Hearst Magazines UK.

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