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How to Answer Common Job Interview Questions

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As a job seeker, it’s crucial that you know how to answer common job interview questions when you sit in front of an interview panel. Know that the panel of interviewers are ready to judge you on every answer, the impression created, subtle comments, body language and reaction to their questions. This is why it is usually not easy as a job seeker to keep calm and not get nervous during job interviews. “Many job candidates are usually nervous about participating in any type of job interview.

What can take care of that nervous feeling is the 3Ps – Plan, Prepare and Practice“. As there are no second chances when it comes to making that first impression, so it’s important to know how to answer common job interview questions in order to smash the job interview and get hired. Up to the point of entering the job interview room, your well written CV or Resume gets you there, but your performance and how you deal with the questions in the interview room is what will get you the job offer. Hence, it’s imperative to lock your answers down once you know how to answer common job interview questions correctly so that they roll off your tongue effortlessly. That way, you can prevail among all the other job-seekers. However, just knowing how to answer common job interview questions is not enough. Remember that during a job interview, you have two ears and just one mouth! First, be  aware of these four general tips:

1. Listen carefully with your pair of ears. If asked a direct question give a direct and clear answer to the question;

2. Try not to tell long self-implicating stories

3. Always show your interest in the company at every opportunity and the reasons why you are the right candidate

4. Ensure that you ask sensible questions when appropriate and when it’s your turn to do so. While it’s difficult or impossible to anticipate every question you might be asked by the panel in any interview, you can get a head start by developing strong, concise  answers to commonly asked job interview questions. Most interviewers will ask similar questions like the ones below to gain an insight knowledge to your abilities, qualifications, compatibility and your knowledge of the role  or what you know about the company.

These are some tips that can help you to know how to answer common job interview questions and succeed through an interview: How to Answer Common Job Interview Questions. These are common job interview questions:

1. Tell me about yourself;

2. Why should we recruit you or why are you the best person for this role?

3. What are your strengths?

4. What are your weaknesses or improvement areas?

5. What do you know about our organisation?

6. Why did you leave your last job?

7. How do you deal with pressure?

8. What sort of salary do you expect for this role?

9. What qualities do you look for in a boss?

10. Do you have any questions for us?

11. Do you need further clarification on anything regarding the role?

Question 1: ‘Tell me  about yourself’.

What the hiring managers are thinking: Convince us; let’s know a bit about you, tell us if you are the ‘one’, set the stage for us by giving us your opening statement. • This is a very popular opening to an interview. The invitation to answer this question often comes within seconds of your arrival in the interview room.

This is often the opening question in an interview. It’s also one of the most difficult if you’re not prepared.  Do not be caught unawares like a deer caught in the headlights. Don’t provide a waffling or muffled response. This is not an invitation to ramble on. Remember, this is a great opportunity to set the scene and fully outline your capabilities and attributes. So, to prepare for this question, write a two-minute elevator pitch that embodies each of your skills and tie them to the skills needed for the role.

Keep your message short and to the point detailing your experience, proven results and desire to contribute in a succinct and clear manner. Do not include unnecessary information that will make the panel more interested in what is happening outside the window of the  interview room.

Once you have your elevator speech nailed down, then, practise aloud until it rolls off your tongue! Whichever direction your answer ultimately takes, be sure that it has some relevance to your professional endeavours. You should also refer to one or more of your key personal qualities, such as being a team player, honesty, integrity and determination. Remember, the interviewer does not want to hear about the football team you support or your unusual hobbies. This question calls for your one-minute advert that summarises your years of experience and skills and your personality in the context of the job for which you are being interviewed. Get to  the point and sell your professional capabilities.

Question 2: Why should we recruit you or why are you the best person for this role?

What the hiring managers are thinking: Convince us that we did the right thing by inviting you for this interview; demonstrate your abilities by telling us that you are the best candidate for this role. Let’s know that you will do the work that will add value to our services, products and processes. Let us know that you are the perfect fit. • This is a second popular follow on question to the first question. They will always ask this question to know what sets you aside from the other candidates. The key to answering this question is to be specific about your strengths and what you can add to the company to affect the bottom line. Point out how your  assets meet what the organization needs. Do not focus on the other candidates, write down and practice statements that will make you stand out more than the others. Give real achievement and accomplishments throughout your career that are relevant to the position, as well as your experience in dealing with different situations.

Pin-point the qualities you have that are truly valuable to the company and give examples that show them that you are the best candidate for the job.

Question 3: What are your strengths?

What the hiring managers are thinking: We want to know if your strong skills align with the ones needed for the role. Let us know how you’ve utilised your strengths in the past, don’t just name the strengths. Talk about why those strengths show that you are the right person for the job. • ‘What are your strengths?’ This is yet another popular and almost inevitable question. It may come in a variety of ways, but they all mean the same thing. Using the information you have prepared regarding your skills, the answer to this particular question should be dead easy and obvious. It’s important to discuss attributes that will qualify you for the job. The best way to respond is to describe the skills and experience that directly correlate with the job you are applying for. “My time management skills are excellent and I’m organized, efficient, and take pride in excelling at my work. When I work on a project, I don’t want to just meet deadlines. Rather, I want to complete the project well ahead of schedule and do a great job of it. “I pride myself on my customer service skills and my ability to resolve what could be difficult situations. Due to this reason, I exceeded my sales goals every quarter and I’ve earned a bonus each year since I started with my current employer.” Don’t lie, but give your answers without any hesitation; be sure to list your skills in order of importance for the job. List them one after the other and be sure to provide demonstrative evidence of when you utilised the skills.

Question 4: What are your weaknesses or improvement areas?

What the hiring managers are thinking: We know that you are not perfect. Let us know if you are aware of your weaknesses and what you are doing about them. However, they better not be weaknesses that will affect your ability to do a good job in the role that we are interviewing you for. • This is your ‘weaknesses’ question. There are both positive and negative aspects to any interview’s tactic. As expected, the first will explore your strengths to see why you are the right person for the job while the second will probe your weakness or areas of improvements to see if you are not a suitable candidate. The strategy here is to quickly satisfy the recruiter’s doubts, but also to immediately direct the interviewer to a relevant Prime Selling Point (PSP) that should diffuse your perceived weakness. Turn your weaknesses into strengths. For example, if your weaknesses include lack of patience for long drawn-out discussions or presentations, I would then state that because of this, I have learned to take special measures to ensure that I remain calm, jot down some notes to capture what’s been said and ask necessary questions in order to maintain focus. Just make sure that you do give a real answer to this question. None of us is without faults, so don’t pretend that you do not have weaknesses.

Question 5: What do you know about our organisation?

What the hiring managers are thinking: Let’s know if you have prepared for this interview and how much you know about us. Have you researched working for our organization or not? Do you know about our products and services? Let’s know how much you are interested in working for us. • This is a very popular interview question. The invitation to answer this question often comes within few minutes of your arrival in the interview room.

This question is one reason to do some research on the organization before the interview. Find out where they have been and where they are going. What are the current issues and who are the major players? Research is important in answering this question. Use this opportunity to show off what you know about the company and, more importantly, how you would fit in. Address issues and challenges you read about online or in newspapers regarding the company to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge.

Talk about revenue, numbers of employees, and also challenges in their type of business and how your experience relates to that. It’s also an opportunity to shine, point out things you have done in similar companies that could address their problems.

Question 6: Why did you leave your last job?

What the hiring managers are thinking: We want to find out the kind of person you are. What motivates you is our business because we need to know if you will stay with us or leave. Culturally, will you fit into our organisation and can we engage you? • This question can trip you if you haven’t prepared a good answer for it. The key here is never to mention anyone, slander any organisation or mention money as your reason.

You need to be cautious about this question and make sure you do not end up sounding bitter. Never criticise your former company, the boss, or former colleagues. You need to have a good understanding about the job for which you’re applying to turn this question into a positive one.

Smile and talk about leaving for a positive reason such as an opportunity, a chance to do something special or other forward-looking reasons. It is also good to say that you really enjoyed many aspects of your job, then focus on how this new job will challenge you and also give you the opportunity to contribute more in a particular area that is key to the position. Stay positive regardless of the circumstances. Never refer to a major problem with management and never speak ill of any organization policy. If you do, you will look bad.

Question 7: How do you deal with pressure?

What the hiring managers are thinking: We want to get a sense of how you handle the job stress. • This question will be commonly asked for a role that may usually be stressful.

Examples of good responses include are: “Stress is very important to me because it gets me going. With stress, I do the best possible job you can imagine. The appropriate way I deal with stress is to make sure I have the correct balance between good stress and bad stress. I need good stress to stay motivated and productive. Usually, I react to situations, rather than to stress. That way, the situation is handled and doesn’t become stressful.” “I actually work better under pressure and I’ve found that I enjoy working in a challenging environment with manageable stress.” “Prioritizing my responsibilities so I have a clear idea of what needs to be done when, has helped me effectively manage pressure on the job.” “I don’t have a difficult time with stress. When I’m under pressure, I focus, and get the job done.” “I did some of my best work under tight deadlines, where the atmosphere was very stressful.”

Question 8: What sort of salary do you expect for this role?

What the hiring managers are thinking: We want to know if we can afford to pay you what you think your skills and experience are worth. We also want to know if you are motivated by money and what your reaction to money will be. Is it the role that is of interest to you or what you think the salary should be? • This question will be commonly asked for a role that hasn’t specified the salary or specified just the salary range.

Be careful as this is a loaded question. You must never be the one to bring this up first. It’s a nasty little game that you will probably lose if you answer the question first. So, do not answer it. Instead, say something like, “That’s a tough question. Can you tell me the range for this position or how much you pay any candidate with my years of experience?” In most cases, the interviewers will be taken off guard, so they will tell you how much they want to offer. If not, say that it can depend on the details of the job. Then with the research that you have done on how much the job should pay, give a wide range.

Question 9: What qualities do you look for in a boss?

What the hiring managers are thinking: We already know who will be your manager. Now, let us know if you will get on with him or her. • This question will be asked to further have an insight into your personality. Be generic and positive. Safe qualities are knowledgeable, a great sense of humour, fair, loyal to subordinates and holder of high standards. You can also say all your former bosses were great and that even though they have different personalities, you got on with them all.

Question 10: Do you have any questions for us?

What the hiring managers are thinking: Show us that you are interested in the position by asking us few clever questions that shows your interest in our organisation and how you can grow with us. • Interviewers will always ask if you have questions for them. Create the right impression by preparing at least two clever questions for them. Waste no further opportunities to promote your keenness at securing the job. Get a question from your research into the company and its activities, and strongly connect it to your skills.
Your question can concern future training, technical matters, new products or anything to demonstrate your ability and illustrate your skills.

Question 11: Do you need further clarification on anything regarding the role?

What the hiring managers are thinking: Thank us and assure us again that you are the right one. • This is where you give your leaving statement. It is important to prepare the scene for getting off the interview chair. Visualise gathering your belongings, rising with a smile, a firm handshake with a friendly but business-like parting statement: “No, I have nothing else to add except to thank you for your time. I have enjoyed the interview and feel that it has been very useful. It has increased my interest in the job and confirmed my ability to be of value to your company.” Remember that you are still creating a lasting impression that will get you noticed and remembered.

To know how to answer common job interview questions, preparation is the key. It will allow you to answer any question with poise and confidence. Always keep in mind, whatever the question is, the interviewers are just trying to find out if you are a good fit and can make a positive contribution in the job.  

Contributed by Catherine Adenle
Agolo Uzorka
the authorAgolo Uzorka

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