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How to Prepare for an Interview: Interview Q & A

Jill Wells

Job interview preparation tends to cause people more distress than any other aspect of the search.

For many, it is even more distressing than preparing a resume or learning how to dress for a job interview. That won’t be the case if you are prepared for some of the most common interview questions and have ready questions you could ask the employer during the interview.

Our specialists at WellsGray Recruitment help you prepare for your interview by providing an extensive guide on the common interview questions you might expect, along with some practical advice for answering them.

#1. Tell us a little bit about yourself

This is one of the most popular interview questions which many interviewers start off with. Accordingly, how you answer this question will likely affect the rest of your interview. A common mistake people make is to answer the question by talking about their personality, interests, etc. But a better solution would be to “hook” the interviewer with personal traits that tell why you are a good fit for the role. For example, you could list a couple of your past accomplishments and then relay how they would help you in your new role.

#2. How did you hear about this opening?

It’s pretty easy to give just a standard answer by saying you saw a listing on a job advert. However, we recommend going a bit farther and talking about what stood out to you. Doing so will let the interviewer know that there was something about this company that caught your eye. This is important because they do not want to feel as though you happened upon their opening by chance.

If you heard about this role from a partner or mate, now is the time to drop that person’s name. It may help you and certainly won’t hurt. Of course, you should always make sure the individual whose name you are using is in good standing with the company first.

#3. Why do you wish to work here?

What they are looking for here is to see if you have done your homework. Hopefully, you’ve talked a bit about how your past accomplishments would benefit the company as this will show you already have done a bit of research. Now is the time to crank it up a notch by mentioning specific things that you like about the company. This should not be pay or benefits, but rather the company’s culture, vision, mission statement, etc. Talk about ways in which your skills would benefit the company as well.

#4. What are your strengths?

Be prepared to provide some solid examples and relay how they might benefit the interviewer. Don’t just mention experience, but instead mention ways in which your past experience has helped you develop your own strengths. Whenever possible, tie your personal strengths back to ways in which you would use them in your new role.

Avoid stating strengths that are too general such as “I’m a good listener.” Instead, you might say something like “I have a knack for listening to subordinates and understanding their needs.”

#5. What are your weaknesses?

Everyone loves talking about their strengths, but most would rather not mention their weaknesses. However, you do have an opportunity to turn those into positives as well. For example, rather than just mentioning a negative trait you could also expand on how you have learned from it or ways in which you are trying to overcome it. That way, your weakness isn’t much of a deterrent.

Employers know that no one is perfect. What they are looking for during an interview is a sense of self-awareness. That doesn’t mean you should rattle off a list of weaknesses as they do not want someone who is under-confident either. Stick with one solid attribute such as a tendency to take on too much work.

#6. Tell me about a challenge you faced and what you did in order to deal with it?

Behavioural interview questions and answers such as these are notoriously difficult. Your manager is probing a bit to determine how you might react to certain situations on the job. What he or she is looking for is times when you have prevailed with good common sense and a positive attitude. So this is not the time to talk about instances in which you have flubbed it. Rather, mention a time when you were able to navigate a highly-stressful situation (preferably one that was above your pay level) with ease.

In answering this question, you may also want to mention the techniques you use to help yourself handle stress. Doing so will let your interviewer know that you are already prepared should a stressful situation present itself.

#7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is one of the most common interview questions and is one people often answer with blatant honesty. This is probably not a good idea as the hiring manager definitely does not want to hear that you plan to use this role as a stepping stone for something bigger elsewhere. As such, you should never mention that you do not plan on being with the company for more than five years.

Perhaps you do plan on sticking around and have high aspirations for yourself. Again, this is not a good time to bring those up. Rather, what you should talk about is how you will have grown in your role and the new, positive traits you would be contributing to the company after more than five years of experience.

#8. Why did you leave your last position (or why are you looking to leave)?

Sometimes the answer to this question is easy. Maybe the company is downsizing and you need to find employment elsewhere. Perhaps you’ve relocated and can no longer make the commute. In those instances, stating the facts will likely not lose you many points.

On the other hand, you may have problems with your supervisor or simply loathe your current role. In that case, you do not want to let the interviewer know that. Instead, you should focus on what you hope to accomplish in the new role that you cannot make happen in your present one. You could also mention ways in which your new role would help you expand on the skills you have already honed at your present job.

#9. Why are there gaps in your resume?

Ideally, your resume should account for all time periods. But if you were unemployed or took time off to care for a family member, there might be “gaps” in your resume. And the interviewer will probably want to know something about those gaps.

Give an honest answer for the gaps, while at the same time reassuring the employer that the situation will not arise again. For example, if you were caring for a loved one you might talk about how that person has fully recovered and no longer needs your assistance. If you went back to school, be sure to mention that you have now graduated.

What if the reason was due to unemployment and it took you a long time to find a new role? If so, the last thing you want to do is let your interviewer believe you were looking and looking but could not find anyone willing to hire you. This only makes you seem desperate and undesirable. Instead, let the interviewer know that you have been actively looking, but just haven’t found the right fit yet.

#10. Why have you had so many jobs in the past?

Maybe you are someone with no gaps but an abundance of jobs on your resume. How do you explain the fact that you haven’t stayed at any one position for a significant amount of time? Perhaps matters were out of your control and you suffered a series of layoffs or business closures. If so, explaining the situation really isn’t all that difficult.

Things are different if you left these jobs of your own accord. In that case, you’ll want to make it seem as though you were looking for more experience or an opportunity to hone your skills. Then turn the conversation around to how you can use that experience to benefit the company. Do not under any circumstances talk about conflicts with employers or co-workers. It will only make you sound like the kind of petulant child they will want to avoid.

#11. What would your first 30/60/90 days with our company look like?

When asking this question, what the interviewer really wants to know is what you plan to accomplish. Again, this can be difficult to answer unless you have done some significant research on the company. It will also require you to do some preparation beforehand to get a sense of what you can realistically expect to accomplish during that time frame.

Your answer should sound ambitious, yet not too cocky. In other words, do not give the impression that you would like to completely revamp things right off the bat. This will make the interviewer feel as though you have a poor impression of the company-something that will not serve you well in the long run.

#12. What type of salary do you expect?

You’ve probably heard that it’s never a good idea to bring up salary first. But when the interviewer mentions it, you had better be ready to talk about it. Of course, you’ll need to do so as tactfully and gracefully as possible.

Perform some research on similar positions in your area to get an idea as to what the salary range is. Then, rather than giving a hard-and-fast number, you can provide a figure between x and x. Aim toward the higher end of the pay scale, but end by letting the hiring manager know you are flexible with the amount. Your final offer will probably be somewhat lower than the amount you stated (yet hopefully still exactly what you had expected).

#13. Why are you the best candidate for the job?

This is normally asked near the end of the interview. This question provides you with an opportunity to recap the skills and accomplishments you have highlighted during the rest of your session. It is also your last chance to bring up anything you would like the employer to know but haven’t had a chance to discuss yet.

When recapping your experience, be sure to restate how it is a perfect match for the company and how they would benefit from the unique experience that only you have. You may or may not know who some of the other prospects are. If you do, you should never directly compare yourself to them, nor should you speak negatively of them in any way.

#14. Do you have any questions for me?

If the interview has gone well, you should have a few questions for the hiring manager. However, those questions should not be ones that you could easily find online after doing some research. They should also not involve salary, benefits, vacation time, or anything similar. Likewise, do not ask about breaks, lunches, or how many hours you might work each day. This makes it seem as though you are less interested in performing work than you are getting out of it.

Some good questions to ask can revolve around the position itself. For example, you might ask whether this is a new role or if someone has recently left the company. You might also want to know what managers are looking for in a successful candidate and what their expectations are. This makes it seem as though you are focusing more on how you can benefit the company rather than how the business can help you.

Find Work in Melbourne with WellsGray Recruitment

We understand that job interview preparation is difficult.

Our experienced and highly-qualified team at WellsGray Recruitment is here to help you find answers to some of the most common interview questions or any other aspect of the job search.

With so much riding on your job search, why do it alone?

Get in touch with us for professional assistance in finding temporary work or permanent work, and allow us to connect you with some of Melbourne’s leading employers in the job market.

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