No matter how confident you may be in the run up to an interview, many job seekers feel their confidence levels drop as soon as they sit in front of that hiring manager.

A response to the most standard query escapes you, and you struggle to provide a solid answer.

A typical interview will give the hiring manager insights into your ability to do the job you’re vying for and your capability to fit in to the culture of the organisation.  Responses to these questions will require you to expand on your CV and cover letter.

A skilled interviewer will also expect you to field a few behavioural and situational questions too.  These are used to establish how you may you think and what you’ve done or would do in certain circumstances.

It is likely that you have prepared for these types of questions.  Often forgotten though are the more common, basic questions.  It is these that candidates have reported they struggle to answer.

This blog looks at the “Big 4”; the 4 most common interview questions. We will let you know what they are, and give you some hints and tips on how to answer them.

What are the most common interview questions?

Can you tell me more about yourself?

The aim of this open ended question is to give the hiring manager an insight into the type of person you are.  it is not just a throwaway icebreaker to put you at ease.  An insightful interviewer uses this opportunity to assess your levels of confidence and how you may present yourself to colleagues, clients and customers should you get the job.

When faced with this question…

Don’t

  • Launch into a biographical dissection of your life so far, offering up masses of personal details.
  • Unpack your current employment situation, and why you are unhappy with it.
  • Summarise your CV

Do

  • Use this as an opportunity to showcase and spotlight the key skills you hold that are relevant for the job in hand.
  • Highlight your professional goals and priorities
  • Review the job description and craft an elevator pitch which clearly and succinctly lays out how you are suitable for the role, and why you want it.
  • The pitch script should include the job relevant abilities, strengths and areas of expertise. Follow this with the reasons you’re applying for the job. Focus on career-related motivations such as the desire to build your experience and take on added responsibilities. Conclude with a brief statement explaining why working for this specific company appeals to you.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This is one of the most common job interviews out there.  A hiring manager will often break this analysis up…strengths first and weaknesses later, or vice versa.

When asked about your strengths, you should always keep the job description in mind. Highlight the skills and qualities you hold that will allow you to perform the job well.

When tackling weaknesses, honesty is the best policy. Don’t try to disguise a strength as a weakness…think “I work too hard”. A seasoned interviewer will spot this tactic.  A far better step is to identify a specific weakness and then focus on the steps you are taking to address it.

For example; “I tend to struggle with time management as I get lost in a specific task, so I have taken to setting a timer throughout the workday to help me stay focused on priority tasks and keep my daily schedule on track.”

Why do you want to work here?

Another common interview question and one that a hiring manager is needing a substantial answer to.  Fluffy answers such as “I have heard great things about the company” or “I thought the job sounded interesting” won’t cut it.

Instead, you should use this as an opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve researched the organisation before the interview. Try to aim for about 3 solid reasons why you believe the job and company are a great fit for you, your skills and your personality. For bonus points, you could also establish how you think you can add value to the business.  To help, here are some smooth lead ins….

  • “I see this opportunity as a way to contribute to a forward-thinking, fast-moving industry, and I feel I can do so by … ”
  • “I feel my skills are particularly well-suited to this position because … ”
  • “I believe I have the type of knowledge to succeed in this role and at the company because … ”
  • “I’m excited about this job opportunity, as it would allow me to … ”

What is your expected salary?

Money talk…this is far and away the most nerve-wracking question faced by job seekers in an interview.

Of course, you want to negotiate the best salary possible, but shooting too high will lead to questions about you in the hiring manager’s mind.  Similarly, you don’t want to aim too low…this demonstrates that you aren’t market aware and don’t know your worth.

Start by researching the latest market and salary trends for roles of your experience level, skills, and region. This will help you to be well informed and confident in your discussions about salary.

Timing and tact are key here. We would recommend not mentioning salary until it is raised by the hiring team.  It is tempting to slip salary into the “have you got any questions to ask us?” section of the interview, but don’t. Yes, it fills a gap at this point, but to use it is ill-advised.

Some candidates find it hard to answer this key interview question. If you are one of them, you may find our article “Questions to ask at Interview” helpful.

Takeaways.

  • These interview questions are not just fillers or ice breakers. They are strategic, and designed to give your potential employer insightful intel on the type of person you are, your professional ambitions and what they can expect from you in the future.
  • Think like a hiring manager.
  • What questions would you ask a candidate who is trying to land the position you want?
  • This can give you another perspective, and puts you firmly in the shoes of your audience; a key skill when thinking about presenting well.  It helps you better understand why such “bread and butter” questions are valuable tools for evaluating candidates.  After all, the more you know about the why behind the questions for a job interview, the easier it will be to compose complete and compelling answers to deliver to hiring managers.

For more interview tips and guidance, head over to the employee advice section on our blog.

Just in case you have a specific need, here are some quick links should you need them

How can I improve my Presentation Skills?

How do I answer “Why are you leaving your job?” at an interview?

How to ace your Remote Interview.

How do I bounce back after not getting a job?

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

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