Sometimes preparing for the most common interview questions over and over again can seem tedious. But as these questions are so common and to be expected, not having a well-prepared answer can seriously hinder your chances in an interview. Read on for the worst answers to the 5 most common interview questions (and what to say instead!)...
1. Tell me about yourself.
- “My name is … and I was born on …”
The interviewer is not asking for your life story. Rather, they want to see that you’re a skilled, bright person who is fit for the job.
In your answer, you might include what you studied at university, plus a skill you have, and maybe a hobby you enjoy. The key here is to not ramble.
Telling them about something you’ve achieved is an effective way of impressing them whilst also revealing something about your interests. For example, you could tell them if you have a qualification for a specific skill i.e. lifeguarding. This will show you’re a hard worker and also presumably enjoy swimming, killing two birds with one stone.
2. Why do you want to work here?
- “It pays really well”
- “I need a job”
When answering this question, you need to express excitement about the company you’re applying to. Appearing desperate will only make you look weak and could put the interviewer in an uncomfortable position.
This is really an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the company. Make sure to look up the company’s values. Discussing some of their key values will prove you’ve done your research. Impress them with your understanding of the job description, and provide clear examples as to why you’re perfect for the role.
3. What is your biggest weakness?
- “I don’t really have any”
- “I’m a perfectionist”
- “I’m too hard-working”
Try to avoid the clichés that your interviewer is sure to have heard before. This question is a tricky one as you obviously need to try and present yourself in a positive light in an interview. Think of it as a test of your self-evaluation.
An easy place to start when preparing to answer this question is to think about what your friends and family would say about you. Are you stubborn? Blunt? Self-critical?
Make sure none of the flaws you come up with are permanent hindrances that will affect your job performance. An employer needs to know you’re taking steps to overcome your named weakness.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- “At a better company”
Assuming you’re applying for an entry-level role after finishing university, it’s important to communicate your ambition. However, you obviously also need to be respectful and polite. The employer doesn’t need to know if you’re simply using this job as a stepping stone for better opportunities.
When answering this question, you could express your intentions to move up through the ranks of the company you’re applying for. Loyalty and commitment are key qualities employers look for in candidates. Or, if you want to be more vague in your answer, you could speak about your goals to lead a team or enter a management position in the future.
5. Do you have any questions for me?
Always come prepared with a few questions for the interviewer. View this as a test of your interest in the position and in the company.
Even a simple question about the interviewer’s favourite thing about their job will effectively demonstrate your enthusiasm.
You can also use this last question as a final opportunity to impress them with your knowledge. Research any current news stories that may affect them as a company or the market they operate in. Check on their website for new schemes and initiatives they’ve introduced.
About the Author: Jasmine Bascombe is a History and American Studies student at the University of Manchester.