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Preparing for interview questions
The most nerve-wracking but key part of an interview is answering the questions fired at you throughout. The fear that you will freeze on the spot and be unable to answer the most generic interview questions can cause your voice to quiver and knees to shake.
But the key to a successful interview is in the preparation.
While you can never know the exact questions that will be asked of you until you are there, you know that that they will all be centered around your career so far, your personality and your ability to do the role you have applied for. Therefore, you can always prepare yourself to some extent.
Before the interview you need to prepare as much as you can. To do this you can start by looking at some commonly asked questions, such as:
- Tell me about yourself?
- Why did you apply for the position / company?
- Why should we hire you?
- What are your strengths / weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in X years time?
- Tell me about any accomplishments that you are proud of?
- Why did you leave your last position?
It’s very likely that you will also be asked common competency questions, to ensure you are capable of actually doing the role. You can prepare for this by considering the following skills and traits and how you embody or have experience in these:
- Communication skills
- Decision making
As well as preparing answers to common questions, look over your CV and think about your experience - make sure it is fresh in your mind so you are ready to answer any question that may be asked about it. Perhaps make yourself some notes alongside each job role, of any stand out experiences or achievements.
Ensure you research the company at the same time as preparing your answers, so that you can ensure that they are relevant to the specific role you are applying for.
Now you have your answers ready, it is time to practice. You might feel silly, but you know what they say; practice makes perfect. Sit in front of the mirror and say the answers to yourself or get a friend or family member to ask the questions to you. The more you practice beforehand, the easier it will be when it comes to the real thing – the answers will come far more naturally and you will feel much less nervous.
During the interview – take a deep breath and don’t panic, you have prepared for this. That being said, do not be afraid to go off script. You don’t want to look like you are reciting memorised answers, even if you are. Think before you answer, the question could be looking for something slightly different to what you have prepared.
Likewise, there may be questions that you haven’t prepared for. Don’t let these throw you. If you need to, take a few seconds to think and compose yourself, rather than just blurting out the first thing that comes into your head.
Finally, don’t be thrown by curveball questions, these can be asked to put you on the spot – so be prepared for them and again, think carefully before you answer. You can always ask the interviewer to repeat the question or explain a little more if you don’t quite understand.
Once the questions are over you can breathe a sigh of relief and then, if you wish, ask some questions of your own.
While ultimately it is down to the employer whether they offer the job to you or not, you should ask questions that may determine if you actually want it should the opportunity arise. Remember, if you are offered the role, you don’t have to accept it if it isn’t what you were expecting it to be. It might have looked like the perfect role on paper, but asking the right questions in the interview will help you work out if it is actually as good as it sounds.
This is also an opportunity to build your relationship with the interviewer and to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role.
Some good questions to ask include:
- What are the biggest challenges facing the company right now?
- What can you tell me about the team I will be part of?
- What type of training opportunities do you offer?
- How would you describe the work culture here?
- In what way is performance measured and reviewed?
But, don’t ask questions for questions sake and make sure they sound natural rather than rehearsed. Similarly, make sure you don’t ask questions that have already been covered in the interview or that could have been found out by researching the company.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company itself and your development opportunities there, this may feel like you are getting ahead of yourself when you haven’t actually got the job yet – but you need to know that this will be a stable job that is going to help you and enable you to grow your career.
Likewise, if you leave the interview and think of a question you wish you had asked, send them an email. While you don’t want to bombard them – a follow up will show that you are keen and really do care about whether you get the role or not.