You are on page 1of 18

Applying job questation:
The trickier application questions are not as daunting when you know how to answ
er them. Take a look at our examples and give yourself a great chance of getting
an interview
Some sections of an application form contain questions that require straightforw
ard, factual answers. These include those that enquire about your personal detai
ls, interests and work experience.
However, you'll find that there are also competency-based questions; these requi
re you to provide examples of situations where you made certain decisions.
Employers will be looking at how you explain the reasoning behind them, as this
brings your key skills and personality traits to the fore.
Here are ten job questions that you're likely to face, along with typical respon
Why do you want to work here?
How to answer: The employer is trying to figure out your motivations and whether
you've given serious consideration to your application.
You need to show that you've done your research and understand exactly what the
job entails. Explain how it fits your long-term career plans.
For example:
Your company clearly stood out when I was researching the leading electronics co
mpanies in the country.
I am aware of your dedication to the development of innovative consumer products
and I believe that this role would be the perfect fit considering my strong des
ign background.
Why do you think you are suitable for this role?
How to answer: You need to describe how your skills, knowledge and experience ma
tch the job outline, while also explaining your motivation and goals.
For example:
I have always wanted to work as an exhibition designer for a museum that embrace
s cultural changes and provides a sensory experience for its visitors.
My degree helped to develop key artistic and organisational skills, while the e
xperience that I gained from working at my local museum has been the ideal prepa
ration for a career in this field.
I would relish the opportunity to be part of the team that works on the concepts
for your upcoming exhibits and collections.
Briefly outline your relevant skills and experience?
How to answer: Even if you haven't had any direct experience, you can still high
light any transferable skills that relate to the role.
Turn your answer into a positive by making it clear that you want the job in ord
er to gain experience in the area.

For example:
Although I haven't had the chance to gain work experience at an advertising agen
cy yet,
I have already created high level concepts that have been used by leading brand
s such as Marks & Spencer.
At university, I was the copywriter for a number of students' union marketing ca
mpaigns and have generated interest in my work through my website, which I desig
ned myself.
Give an example of when you have worked under pressure
How to answer: You need to prove that you've handled deadlines successfully in t
he past. Describe how you overcame obstacles that you had no control over.
For example:
During my work placement last year I faced various conflicting demands on my tim
e due to the fact that my role was inter-departmental. One particular week,
the pressures did threaten to get overwhelming as a number of key staff members
were off sick. However,
this allowed me to show that I could rise to the challenge. I left the company w
ith praise from my peers as I always gave my best no matter what.
What is your greatest achievement?
How to answer: Choose something outside of your academic life that's uniquely si
gnificant to you.
This is an assessment of your attitude and motivations, to find out if your valu
es are compatible with those of the organisation.
For example:
When my mother was diagnosed with a serious illness last year, it was obviously
a traumatic and stressful time for the whole family.
Even though I hadn't done any sport since school, I decided to sign up for a ru
n and raise money to increase awareness of the disease.
I trained hard for a number of months and kept to a strict eating regime. I man
aged to raise nearly 3,000 for the charity and finished the race in a time I coul
d never have dreamed was possible.
Give an example of how you made a positive contribution to a team and wh
at the outcome was
How to answer: The employer is checking that you've experience of working in a c
ohesive team environment.
Describe a scenario where you had to draw on strengths and qualities in order t
o accomplish a group task.
Explain your particular role, how weaknesses were overcome and what you learned.
For example:
During my time in the university film society, we decided to run a series of wor
kshops for the local community.
My role involved planning the daily activities, ensuring that the intensive cour
se covered everything we wanted to include.
While some tasks did overrun, the event was a resounding success with attendees
remarking on how well it had been organised.
Describe an occasion when you've had to communicate complex information
How to answer: This is a test of your ability to analyse complicated information

effectively, and communicate it in a way that the audience can understand.

Set the scene and describe your thinking process in a step-by-step way.
For example:
For my scientific research project, I had to present the ideas behind my thinkin
g to the rest of the class.
While presentations were common at university, this was a particularly complex p
I had to filter the relevant information and summarise my work, delivering this
at a level the other students could appreciate and understand.
Tell us about the biggest change that you've faced and explain how you handled i
How to answer: The employer will be looking to find out about your attitude to c
as well as your ability to problem-solve and overcome obstacles,
so you need to provide a significant example that demonstrates your adaptability
in this area.
For example:
In my summer job working in a busy aftersales department I inevitably had to dea
l with some tough customers.
This was my first real job, and I had to learn to successfully negotiate and int
eract with many people throughout the working day.
On many occasions, I was the only staff member manning the desk so I had to cope
with the pressure that this role demanded.
I now feel that I am better equipped to handle whatever challenges come my way.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
How to answer: Describing your strengths may come more naturally,
but when it comes to your weaknesses, it is important to be honest and reveal th
ings you are genuinely looking to improve on.
Your answers need to be well-considered and tailored towards the role you are ap
plying for. Show them that you are actively looking to learn and grow.
For example:
I'm a driven person who works hard to attain my goals.
The ability to overcome obstacles and follow things through to completion has a
lways been a strong point of mine,
which is why I've managed to thrive in such a competitive degree subject. Howev
er, I am aware that as a perfectionist my delegation skills could be improved.
I would welcome training in conflict management as well as any other opportuniti
es to develop in this area.
Tell me about a time when you failed to complete a project on time
How to answer: Your response should adequately justify the reasons for missing t
he deadline.
While there are various ways to approach this, you'll need to give a good explan
ation and demonstrate that you've learned from this setback.
The employer is looking to determine whether you'll manage your time effectively
in the future.
For example:
In my first year, I failed to hand a history assignment in on time as I had unde

restimated how long it would take to complete the project.

I got carried away with the gathering of information and left the write-up to th
e last minute.
I lost marks on my final grade, but fortunately still managed to pass the year.
This has never happened since, as I've made a point of allocating sufficient tim
e to each task.
I certainly learned a valuable lesson from the experience.
Please provide further information in support of your application
Placed at the end - if there isn't a personal statement - this is one of the mos
t important sections of the application form,
as it gives you the chance to show the employer why you are the best candidate f
or the job.
You'll need to relate your skills directly to the role that you're applying for.
Application forms are irritating. They ask difficult questions, some of which yo
u may consider impertinent, others just silly. Why do employers use them?
While most employers still rely on CVs, large organisations that receive huge nu
mbers of job applications generally prefer to use their own application form.
By using these forms they get answers to the questions they want answered not ju
st the information you decide to give. They can also more easily compare one app
lication with another,
which is much more difficult with CVs.
Over the last ten years there has been a steady growth of on-line application fo
rms that are often tricky to complete and sometimes
have word limits (usually around 200 words) for each question. Some employers al
low you to partially complete the form and return later.
Remember that they can read even your half completed form.
Selection criteria
But let's start at the beginning. For most jobs there is a Job description. Once
that has been written it is a relatively
straight-forward task to write a person specification with details of the educat
ion, skills and experience necessary.
This leads to selection criteria, some of which are regarded as 'essential' and
others considered desirable'.
The application form is designed to discover evidence that you have all the esse
ntials and perhaps some of the desirable abilities as well. Your task is to demo
nstrate that you have these.
Key tips:
Be sure to read the questions carefully and answer them. If a question includes
two or three sub-questions answer all of them.
Write your first draft independent of the application form and check it for spel
ling and grammar
Use spell checks, but be wary of them. If you write from' instead of form', for ex
ample, it will not be picked up. For UK applications avoid those that introduce
American spellings like organize' and center'.
Cut and paste your answers onto the form.
Be careful if you are taking material from another application not to include th
e name of the other organisation. This is the quickest way to the reject pile.
Don't waffle. Keep your answers succinct. Edit them for unnecessary words.
Include key verbs relating to the job like organised, supervised, and liaised. S
ome employers scan for key words and reject forms not including them.

Your final check should always be to read it through in every detail

Personal Details and Education
Forms start with the easy bits: name and contact details. They then move on to q
ualifications. This section is not usually a problem unless your education was g
ained abroad. If this affects you, try to translate your grades into UK terms, p
erhaps using percentages. Some employers are not familiar with the American grad
e point average or qualifications graded 1 to 7. If you have difficulty you migh
t consult NARIC who will translate qualifications for you for a fee.

Why?' Questions

One question that nearly always arises in some guise is Why do you want to do thi
s?' Always avoid negatives on application forms. Don't say you want to do this b
ecause you're bored with what you are doing now, don't like the people, they hav
e not treated you well or paid you enough. Be positive and represent this as a m
ove that offers the opportunity to better apply your skills and develop your car
eer. Your cup must be half full, not half empty.
Arguably the most significant question is Why us?' Don't go on extensively about
how wonderful they are and what they are going to do for your career. Your answe
rs should place more stress on what you can do for them than what they can do fo
r you. When you apply you are attempting to start a relationship. Relationships
are built on common ground. Research their web site and any other material you c
an find to discover what you have in common with the employer and highlight thes
Items to include when answering the Why them?' question:
Direct knowledge of their organisation
Experience in the area of work you are applying for
Experience of their industry, competitors, suppliers
Knowledge of their products and services
Familiarity with their location
Work in firms of a similar size
If they have operations abroad, some interest in countries in which they operate
or linguistic skills.
Competencies - Skills in Action
It is usual these days to include competency questions which seek evidence of sk
ills such as teamwork, organising, supervising or managing, problem solving,
communicating, initiative and others. Naturally the relevant skills list arises
from the job description and you can often guess what it includes.
The STARR method is the best way to answer competency questions.
S - describe a situation
T - tell them what your task or role was
A - say what action you took
R - always mention the result; employers like results driven employees
R - sometimes it is appropriate to say that you reflected on what happened and d
ecided how you would tackle the problem next time
If your answer includes at least the first four of these points you will be prov
iding what they want. Omit them at your peril.
Strengths and Weaknesses

Application forms often ask about strengths and weaknesses. Most people have lit
tle difficulty with strengths but struggle with weaknesses. Never give one-word
answers. Try to suggest situations where your strengths were employed.
We all have weaknesses but so many people say that they are perfectionists that
employers get tired of this response. Think of your weaknesses as areas for deve
lopment. Consider also your personality. Extroverts are good at talking but ofte
n speak before thinking things through. Introverts reflect of issues but are oft
en not good at communicating their thoughts. If your attention to detail is good
you may need to remind yourself of the big picture, the overview. But those wit
h a vision of where they want to get often find it hard to attend to the detail.
Odd Questions
If you were stranded on a desert island what two things would you want to take?'
This question is currently being asked on an application form. Employers often a
sk such questions to see if you have ideas and can express them lucidly in prose
. Alternatively they may ask about your knowledge of current affairs. If the fir
m is listed on the stock exchange know their recent share price history. Conside
r how the current economic situation will affect their business.
The Catch-all Question
Forms often have a question that says If there is any other information you wish
to give put it here'. You are under no obligation to answer this question but ca
nnot subsequently complain that you were not given the opportunity to mention so
Monitoring Questions
Inevitably most forms have a list of standard questions relating to ethnic backg
round, health, disability, criminal records, and gender. Some are designed to de
fend the organisation from accusations of discrimination. Others may have legal
Choose referees who you know will say good things about you. Academics like acad
emic referees and business people prefer those from a commercial background. Don
't use relatives.
And Finally...
Never tell a lie. You could be sacked.
Include only items you can defend or speak about at interview.
Before you press the send button print a copy for future reference.
Get someone else to read it to discover any mistakes or typos.
Sample Job Interview Questions
Typical Interview Questions and Answers
Why do you want to work for this company? Why are you interested in this job?
The interviewer is trying to determine what you know and like about the company,
whether you will be willing to make a commitment to the job, and if your skills
match the job requirements. Your research will be a big help in formulating you
r answer to this question. Say as many positive things about the company as poss
ible, show your interest in whatever products/services they sell and explain why
the position fits with your career goals.

Have you done this kind of work before?

The interviewer wants to know if you can learn to do the job in a reasonable tim
e and how much training you will need. Never say "no" to this question. Instead,
stress the experience you do have that will assist you in learning the new job
quickly and efficiently. No two jobs are alike and you never do exactly the same
work. In all jobs, new skills, rules and details have to be learned. Be sure to
mention the following:
Your past work experience.
Your education and training related to the job.
Volunteer work that might relate to the job.
Any transferable skills - e.g. organizational skills, people skills.
Your ability to learn quickly and how quickly you learned that type of work in t
he past.
What kind of training or qualifications do you have?
The interviewer is trying to find out what school credentials you have. If you h
ave no formal school qualifications but have a lot of experience, you might say:
I didn't get formal school training for this job but I have (number) of years of
experience in the field. I'm willing to learn new skills or go to school to get
further training if I am offered the job. I learn quickly and I like to keep up
grading my skills.
If you have just completed a training course but have little work experience, yo
u mightsay:
I took a one year training program in (name of program) at (name of school) whic
h is related to the job I'm applying for. I look forward to working in the field
and putting into practice what I learned. I don't have a lot of work experience
in this area but I learn quickly. I know you will be happy with my work.
Tell me about yourself. Why should we hire you?
The interviewer is trying to find out about you, your job skills and how well yo
u express yourself. Do not dwell on personal issues. State your best qualificati
ons for the job. Be specific and include examples to support your statements. Tr
y to show that you meet the employer's expectations. For example:
I am punctual, dependable and can be counted upon to finish what I start. I get
a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that I have done something well and on
time. For example, at my present job, I was given different work orders every d
ay. It was my responsibility to finish the orders and make sure they all met qua
lity and safety standards within a specific deadline. On occasion, I had to fami
liarize myself with the product and the production process. I was always able to
learn quickly and carry out my job responsibilities. Our company was known for
making excellent processed food products. In 1990, it received an award for bein
g on of Canada's top companies in the field. I feel I can use the same skills an
d hard work to do well on this job too.
What do you do in your spare time?
Interviewers ask this question to see if your activities and hobbies might help
the company and to get an idea of what kind of person you are outside your work
life. Describe any volunteer work you do and any hobbies or interests that might
relate to the job in some way. Stick to active hobbies, such as playing sports,
carpentry,gardening, etc. Avoid mentioning inactive and non-creative activities
such as watching television.

What do you think of working in a group?

The interviewer is trying to find out about your ability to get along with other
s.Focus on the following:
The advantages of working in a group. Explain how the various individuals in a g
roup complement one another in carrying out certain tasks.
Give specific examples of your personal experience in a group
How do you react to instruction and criticism?
The interviewer is trying to find out how you get along with Supervisors and how
you feel about authority. You might say:
I appreciate getting instruction and criticism when it is done fairly and constr
With the kind of work experience you have had, do you think this job would bore
The interviewer may think you are over-qualified and want this job only until so
mething better comes along. Stress that no job is ever boring because you always
learn new skills. Mention how you would benefit by working for the company and
vice versa.
Why did you choose this line of work?
The interviewer is trying to find out about your commitment to your career choic
e. In other words do you do it because you love the work or just take any job yo
u can get for the money. If you did this work for many years and stopped due to
a layoff,you might say:
I have done this for (number) of years. I like my work. The only reason I left m
y last workplace was because I was laid off.
How well do you work under pressure or tight deadlines?
This question indicates that the job you're applying for will involve working un
der pressure. Give examples of volunteer and paid work that involved pressure an
d deadlines. You could mention that we are always faced with pressure and deadli
nes in our lives and you do not mind the stress. Stressful situations are a lear
ning and challenging experience. You might mention the following:
How you handled large rush orders at your last workplace.
How you prepared for exams and homework assignments while working full-time and
attending school part-time.
How you managed a crisis situation. (For example: a car accident)
How often were you absent from work in your last job? Have you every had any ser
ious illness or injuries? Do you have any health problems?
The interviewer is trying to find out if you have any health issues which will c
ause you to take a lot of sick days. You do not have to go into your health hist
ory for the interviewer. If you have health problems that do not interfere with
your work performance, do not give the interviewer details about them. If you ha
d a previous health problem that interfered with your work in the past, but is n
o longer a problem, do not volunteer this information. It no longer affects your
work, therefore the employer does not have to know.

If you have a health problem that will affect your work performance, explain you
r situation briefly and stress the positive points. I will be helpful to have a
positive reference letter from your previous employer. This letter should explai
n the type of duties you did and stress that you are a steady worker who is resp
onsible, hardworking and punctual.
Are you bondable?
This question indicates that the job involves working with money or valuable mer
chandise. Very likely the employer's insurance company requires that only bondab
le people be hired as a condition of their insurance policy.As long as you do no
t have a criminal record, and you have not previously been denied a bond, you sh
ould answer "yes" to this question. Caution: If you answer yes when you are not
legally bondable it is very likely that the employer will discover this.
Have you ever been fired or quit a job?
The interviewer is looking for clues to any problems you have had in previous jo
bs and if you may have the same problems in a new job. Try to:
Avoid saying anything negative about yourself or your previous employer. If you
had problems, explain them without being negative.
Be careful not the use the word "fired" or "quit". Instead use words such as: "I
changed jobs", "I was laid off", or "I needed a more challenging job".
If you were fired and are not on good terms with your previous employer, explain
the reason why you were fired. Stress that you learned something from the previ
ous situation.
Why haven't you worked recently?
The interviewer is looking for clues to serious problems or job difficulties tha
t could carry over to a new job. You might say:
Since I was laid off from my previous employer, I have been actively looking for
a job. However, as you know, there are many people looking for work and applyin
g for the same jobs. I have always worked steadily but I haven't been able to fi
nd a job in the present job market.
After I got laid off from my previous employer, I decided to go back to school t
o upgrade my skills so I can get a better, more secure job.
What are your long-term goals or career plans?
The interviewer may want to know if you are ambitious, plan ahead, or if you set
goals for yourself. The interviewer may also want to know what expectation you
have of the company. You might say:
I hope to become very good at my job and perhaps take some schooling to become m
ore skilled in my field of work.
I intend to learn (name of area or skills) very well so that I can be promoted t
o a higher position in (name skill or department).
What do you feel are your greatest strengths?
This is your opportunity to brag a little bit. It is important that you have don
e your research about the type of work that you are applying for. For example if
you are applying as a production labourer and from your research you understand
that this type of work required people that have the ability to meet quotas, wo
rk as a team and make improvement suggestions, then it is important for you to i
ncorporate this into your strengths.

My greatest strength is that I have a lot of initiative. I am always looking for
a better way to do things at work that I feel would save the company money and
I can always achieve my production quotas. For example one time I was working at
my station and I felt that I was wasting time by always having to walk to the o
ther side of my station to get some parts. So I reorganized the station and my s
upervisor was really impressed as it increased my quota.
What do you feel are your weaknesses?
You never want to give any indication of any weaknesses that you have. Turn you
weaknesses into strengths by working it to the employer's advantage.
I am the type of person or is very hard on myself. I am always expecting myself
to do a little bit more. However, I guess this works out well for my employer.
I never like to leave work until I have every thing finished completely. Sometim
es this bothers me but I feel inside that it is important.
I am the type of person who always takes my work home with me. This sometimes in
terferes with my personal life but I feel that work comes first.
How would you describe your last employer?
Never run down or say anything negative about anybody or anyone. The employer wi
ll feel that you will do it to them. You should state the positive things such a
s he had high expectations and I really respected him for that. He was down to e
arth and really knew the job I was doing, if I had any problems he was approacha
ble and would always give me suggestion or he gave the responsibility to do a go
od job.
I liked my employer. He/she treated me fairly and respected my work
I appreciated my previous employer having given me the opportunity to acquire a
lot of skills and experiences in (name area of work skill).
What five words would be describe you?
These should be your transferrable skills such as reliable, punctual, organized,
friendly, honest, cooperative, outgoing, easy to get along with, hardworking,ene
rgetic, take pride in my work, responsible, respected,dedicated.
What did you like about your last job?
Say only positive things that you feel could transfer across to the position you
r are applying for.
I liked my last job because I got along well with my co-workers and the work was
challenging, fast paced and I was given a lot of responsibility to do a good jo
Why did you leave your last position?

Keep this answer simple. If you were laid off simply say so, If your company dow
nsized, simply say so. Do not go into a lot of detail. If you were terminated yo
u will have to say you were let go but always follow up that as a result you hav
e learned how to overcome this and feel it will not affect you in the future.
What are your long range goals?
The interviewer is trying to figure out whether or not you are going to be a lon
g term employee or whether or not you will be using this job as a stepping stone
to another objective. So, you should try to assure him/her that your intention
is to stay with the company and to grow in your career within the company. You s
hould respond "I am looking for a position with a company where I can stay and g
row with and I feel this position would give me this opportunity."
What kind of machines or equipment have you worked with?
This is your opportunity to give some detail of what actual work skills you have
. Don't be vague, supply all of the information that you have to offer.
What type of salary are you looking for?
Do not get into this subject unless you are forced to. Even then you want to lea
ve an impression that you are flexible in this area.
What do you know about our company?
This is your opportunity to show them that you have taken the time to research t
heir company in particular.
Do you have any other skills of experiences that we have not discussed?
List any other skills that you have that are related to the position. You can al
so discuss any hobbies or volunteer experience you have and discuss any interest
courses or educational upgrading you have.
BPO services
Two categories BPO is often divided into are back office outsourcing, which incl
udes internal business functions such as billing or purchasing,
and front office outsourcing, which includes customer-related services such as
marketing or tech support.
why are you applying this position?
There are
course of
, ability
d to know

several questions that an interviewer asks the interviewee during the

the interview. While some questions are asked to assess the experience
and the personal attributes of the candidate, other questions are aske
more about the natural instincts of the interviewee and to get more in
about his/her job search and job target.

One of the most common questions in this category is

s job?

Why are you applying for thi

Answer to why did you apply for this position

If you are wondering how you should reply to this query, here is how you should
answer the question:
The employer actually tries to ascertain if you are ambitious, energetic and ent
husiastic toward the position they offer. He wants to find out and learn how ser

ious you are about the position they offer

how committed you are to it.

The question can be asked in many ways:

Why are you applying for this role?
What motivated you to apply for this position?
Why are you interested in this job?
Why do you want to apply for this job?
Why Do You Want This Job?
In general, the best way to answer the question is by talking about the positive
aspects that the job you are applying for will have on your career and your fut
ure prospects.
You can speak about the compelling aspects that getting the job would have to yo
ur professional life:
You believe that your skills, qualifications and experience are tailored to the
position you applied for and therefore you think you can utilize your abilities
to the maximum.
You consider this job opportunity (i.e. the offered position) to be perfect for
enhancing your career as you will learn a lot about your line of work and profes
Another point you can stress is that you would always have liked to work in thei
r (successful, resourceful, initiative etc) company and the enormous amount of k
nowledge and information that you would get and develop while working with them.
Remember that, one of the best ways to prepare your answer for any question of t
he job interview is to make a mock up question/answer session.
First, ask yourself the same question
what motivated you to apply for this positi
on? . Once you think about the answer for yourself, you can easily reply to the qu
estion asked by the interviewer.
Then, you can either take your friend s help or you can even say the answers aloud
to the mirror. This helps you in gaining confidence before the interview and al
so gives you a better idea of how your answers would hear.
common question?
The most common interview question at graduate job interviews (and in fact at al
most all levels of job interview) is "why do you want to work for this company?"
. Most interviews feature a set of frequently used common interview questions ju
st like this one, that help interviewers to find out as much as possible, in as
little time as possible, about the candidate.
You must be able to give comprehensive, well researched and well thought-out ans
wers. There is no excuse for poor preparation. Almost all job interviews are hig
hly standardised and vary little from company to company, so you can work out wh
at type of interview questions will be coming up, and consequently perform to a
consistently high standard.
Employers conducting many interviews will often have a list of around 20 to 30 c
ommon interview questions, and ask each candidate a random selection of about 10
. These questions will almost always refer to and ask you to discuss your: stren
gths and weaknesses, aspirations / drive / motivations, hobbies and skills, educ
ation / academic ability, analytical / problem-solving ability, salary / travel
expectations, work experience and competencies (most notably Teamwork, Leadershi
p and Communication). It is very likely you will also be asked about the job/ in
dustry/ employer you have applied for.

The best way to prepare is by reading as many interview questions and answers as
possible. Interview Gold can help you with a method of preparation that almost
guarantees success.
Common Interview Questions and Answers
You should prepare yourself for these most common interview questions before att
ending any interviews. It is highly likely that you will be asked some, if not a
ll of the following questions, during your job search process.
Job / Industry / Employer
Even before making a job application, an ideal candidate knows exactly what a co
mpany does, what they will be doing in the job, and why they want to do it. It i
s important to spend time finding out about these things before you begin your j
ob search, but even more important to undertake this research before an intervie
Graduate level job seekers will almost always be asked the following interview q
Why do you want to be a ....... ?
What do you think you will be doing in this role?
What draws you to this industry?
Why do you want to work for us?
What do you know about us - or - What do we do?
Make sure you have spoken to a member of HR at the firm you have applied to befo
re your interview, and found out exactly what the job entails. If you can, talk
to people you know who already do similar jobs, and find out what a typical day'
s work involves for them. Think about your skill-set and why you would be good a
t doing this job. Think of examples and experiences from your life which demonst
rate your skills, and you can use to impress your interviewer and help promote y
ourself at interview.
When an interviewer asks you to tell them what you know about their company, you
must be able to show extended knowledge. Every candidate has access to the inte
rnet and will have read their website. Just using this basic level of informatio
n as your resource is not good enough if you want to set yourself apart from the
Make sure you research the firm in relation to their future plans and recent dev
elopments. Think about how they are placed in the industry they work in. Find ou
t who their competitors are and what relationships they have with them. Read rel
evant trade/industry press to learn about current industry issues you can discus
s at interview. The more information you have at your disposal, the better place
d you are to answer difficult interview questions.
You are also likely to be asked questions such as:
Who are our competitors?
What do you think of our competitors?
Where else have you applied to?
Where else have you interviewed at?
Make sure you have researched the industry. If you are making applications to se
veral companies in the same field, any research you do now can also be used for
interviews in the future. Be prepared to give critical analysis of a firm's comp
etitors. Do not criticise them for no reason, and if you like them then do say s
o, but always remember to mention that you prefer the company you are interviewi
ng with most of all!
A tough interviewer may ask a candidate:

How many applications have you made?

Why haven't you applied to more firms?
Why have you made so many applications?
(If you have applied to lots of places) Why haven't you had many interviews?
(If you have had interviews) Why do you think you haven't been offered a job yet
(If you have been offered a job) Are you going to take the job?
These are difficult questions to answer. Each forces candidates to give revealin
g answers about themselves and their job search so far. If you say you have made
lots of applications, it may suggest you do not know what you are doing, or are
trying too hard to get a job. If you have only made a few, it suggests that you
are not serious about finding a job. Similarly, if you have been to lots of int
erviews but not received many offers this can be seen as an indication that comp
etitor firms do not want to hire you.
What other careers have you considered/applied for?
It is also advisable to tell your interviewer that you are only applying for job
s in one particular industry, even if you are really applying for jobs in many.
For example, if you are applying for jobs in accounting, consulting and the medi
a, it suggests that you are not dedicated to any one field and may lack directio
n. Recruiters like candidates who are passionate about one single industry, beca
use these candidates are usually the most highly motivated and enthusiastic.
If you re applying for jobs and want to get an edge in the application process, th
is free ebook on interview success secrets is worth downloading. Alternatively,
JobTestPrep has a range of test packages you can practice before the application
process begins.
Key competencies: Leadership, Teamwork, Communication
Competency questions do not just come up in competency interviews. You may be as
ked this type of question in any interview, most commonly in relation to Leaders
hip, Teamwork and Communication skills.
Employers are keen to find evidence of Leadership skills in job candidates, part
icularly for managerial positions such as management-focused graduate schemes. I
t is also important for employees to possess Teamwork and Communication skills t
o work in teams and discuss problems and solutions with other people.
Examples of common interview questions you may be asked are:
Are you a leader? (Leadership)
Describe a situation in which you have lead a team (Leadership/Teamwork)
Describe a situation where you worked as part of a team (Teamwork)
Describe a situation in which you influenced or motivated people (Leadership)
Describe a situation in which you dealt with confrontation, for example a diffic
ult customer (Communication)
To answer these interview questions you must give a pertinent example from your
life to prove to your interviewer that you possess these important Key Competenc
ies. You need to make sure that you have looked through your CV for examples of
where you have demonstrated these skills before the interview.
You may be asked several competency questions at interview. Try to use a differe
nt example to answer each one.
Analytical / Problem-solving ability
Interviewers ask this type of question to find out about a candidate's logical a
nd analytical approach to problems, and to work. You may also be given a work-ba
sed problem scenario and asked what you would do, requiring you to visualise a p
roblem and a way of solving it.

How do you go about solving problems?

Your interviewer wants to see that you understand how to go about solving proble
ms, even if you are not always able to solve them yourself. Show that you are a
careful planner, who uses research and other people's advice to tackle issues th
at you face.
If asked how you would go about solving a problem, think about how you would con
duct any necessary research, who you would talk to, how you would allocate your
time, the resources you would need and anything else you think necessary.
Aspirations / Drive / Motivations
Employers want to hire competitive people because they tend to accomplish more w
ork, and their work is of a higher standard. You should certainly tell your inte
rviewer that you are competitive, and use lots of high quality examples from you
r life and university experience to prove this.
Would you describe yourself as competitive?
Try to demonstrate that being competitive is natural to you. If you have been in
volved in sports teams this is a very good opportunity to talk about them. They
are a great way to describe team and individual competition. Make sure you talk
about your competitive successes also, and how other people see you/value you as
a team member.
What motivates you?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What has been your greatest achievement?
You could say that you enjoy challenges and love the feeling of satisfaction you
get from producing great work even though it may have been difficult and there
may have been intense pressure. It would also be good to mention that you enjoy
working as part of a productive team and contributing to successful projects.
You could also relate what motivates you to the specific requirements and duties
of the job you are applying for. Think about what key skills are required by th
e job you are applying for and try to demonstrate that your motivations are the
If you can, try to show that you
n you have motivated yourself to
sity coursework, setting up your
do not want to appear as someone
to do to get you motivated. Show

are self-motivating. Give examples of times whe

achieve success, for example: completing univer
own business, or organising a sports team. You
who always needs someone else to tell you what
that you are prepared to push yourself for succ

What do you expect to be doing in five years' time?

Describe your ideal job?
To answer this interview question, try to think frankly about where you want to
be in five years. Be realistic about where your career could go. Show that you a
re motivated by success and promotion. Many people say that they would like to b
e managing a team and having more input into work processes and company policy.
It is a good idea to suggest that you can see yourself at the company you are in
terviewing at in five years, rather than a competitor firm.
Strengths and Weaknesses
When your interviewer asks you these common interview questions, you should prep
are to start selling yourself.
What are your strengths?
How would you describe yourself?
Before any interview you should make a list of your "Unique Selling Points" - th
e key skills and competencies that make you a great candidate for this job. Thes

e could be: strong academic results, work experience or internships, evidence of

Leadership or Teamwork, foreign languages, creative skills or anything else you
think is relevant for this role.
Make sure you back up these points with relevant examples of where you have demo
nstrated these skills and competencies.
What is your biggest weakness?
What are your weaknesses?
How would your worst enemy describe you?
There are two good ways to answer this type of question. You can either try to d
isguise a strength as a weakness and use this as your example, or you can be hon
To describe a strength as a weakness, you need to say something like:
At times I fail to see the bigger picture, because I'm so focused on my own work
Once I get started I like to get the job done. I often stay at work too late, be
cause I simply can't leave until I've finished what I've set out to achieve.
Before I start a new project I tend to ask a lot of questions. I like to be sure
of the work about to be done, and how I can excel at it, before I get involved
with a new project.
If you give this type of response make sure you give specific examples to back y
ourself up. However, using this trick to answer this question is something of a
cliche. Interviewers hear these responses all the time, and your answers will no
t impress them.
Another strategy is of course, to be honest. However, there are reasonable limit
s on how honest you need to be. For example, you should never reveal something t
errible about yourself at interview, such as a chronic tendency to arrive late,
or that you dislike other people. Instead, choose a small weakness that you're w
orking to improve and describe the action you are taking to remedy it. By acknow
ledging that you are not perfect you are showing humility, which is in itself a
strong quality to posses. For example, you could say something like:
Before I got to university I was quite shy in social situations. However, I quic
kly realised that it was important to be more confident and consequently joined
several sports teams and groups to force myself to meet people and be more outgo
ing. In my second year I joined a drama society and my friends say that ever sin
ce then, I've never stopped talking!
Everyone has weaknesses and your interviewer will understand this. They will cer
tainly have their own. Be prepared to be truthful, albeit measured in your respo
nses to these questions.
Be positive when discussing your time at university. Talk about what you learnt
on your course (using specific examples of interesting things) and what you lear
nt about yourself (again, using specific examples from extracurricular activitie
s). Common interview questions include:
Why did you choose your university and what factors influenced your choice?
Did you enjoy university?
Why did you choose your degree subject?
Why do you think graduates in .. [your degree subject] .. would be good at .. [j
ob role you have applied for] .. ?
Before interview, think about the skills you learnt on your course which are app
licable to the job you are applying for. If the job you want is a departure from
the course you took (e.g. Accounting and a degree in English), be prepared to e
xplain what attracted you to this industry, and how you plan to transfer your sk

ills to another field. Talk about this in a very positive way; for example, you
bring an unconventional perspective to the table which will allow you to think o
n a different level to your peers.
Extracurricular / skills / hobbies
Talking about your interests and hobbies is helpful for interviewers to gain a d
eeper understanding of who you are and what you like to do outside work.
What are your hobbies?
Were you involved in any teams or societies at university?
Tell me about yourself
Talk enthusiastically about your hobbies, and talk in detail about specific skil
ls (such as a foreign language) that will set you apart from other candidates an
d make you a more attractive hire to your interviewer.
What are your computing skills like?
Let your interviewer know exactly what IT skills you have, and if possible give
examples of times when you have used different software packages.
Conscientiousness / Trustworthiness / Time
It should be obvious how to answer questions concerned with your conscientiousne
ss, time-keeping or trustworthiness. If asked questions relating to these issues
, you must make it clear to your interviewer that you are a reliable person who
is consistently early for work, prepared to stay late when required and someone
who they can trust.
Give me an example of a time when you hit a deadline
Give me an example of a time when you failed to hit a deadline
What was your biggest setback?
How do you deal with adversity?
What do you do when you are late for work?
Use examples of times when you have been given responsibility in the past, if yo
u need to prove to your interviewer that they can trust you in an employment sit
Travel / Re-location
Be certain about the travel requirements of the job, before your interview. Ther
e is no point interviewing for a job that you won't be able to accept because it
is based 300 miles away and you don't want to relocate.
Do you enjoy travelling?
How would you feel about frequent travel?
How would you feel about re-locating?
If you are prepared to relocate or travel frequently (for example, spending time
on secondment with company clients), discuss times in the past when you have do
ne this successfully (e.g. moving to university) or show your enthusiasm, saying
that you are looking forward to experiencing life in various new locations and
that you have nothing tying you to any particular place right now.
Salary is not always discussed at interview, but when it does come up, it is ext
remely important you know how to handle it.
What sort of salary are you looking for?
As a graduate, you can expect a salary of somewhere between 22,000 - 25,000 outsid
e London, and 24,000 - 30,000 inside London. Some industries do pay more than this
- starting salaries at investment banks will be closer to 45,000, and the averag
e for law firms is around 38,000. Some supermarkets also pay very well: Aldi pays
graduates for its area manager training programme an initial salary of over 40,0
00 plus a company car.

Before your interview you should already know roughly how much the job you have
applied for will pay you. If this figure is around 25,000, you should say that yo
u are looking for a salary of around 24,000 - 26,000. Your expectations should mat
ch the salary on offer. If your salary expectations are too low, or too high, yo
u will be seen as either devaluing or over-valuing yourself, and you will not ge
t the job. Saying you are interested in a very high salary also suggests to inte
rviewers that you are too motivated by money, and may leave if a better paying j
ob comes along in the future.
The only time you should ever tell your interviewer that you want to earn a lot
of money is during an interview for a sales job, or a job in recruitment. This i
s because salaries for these roles are based on commission; the harder employees
work, the more money they can earn. Employers want employees who want to earn a
lot of money because this means they are more motivated to work harder.
Candidates should never ask their interviewer questions about salary during a gr
aduate interview. Doing so gives the impression that you are interested in a job
purely for financial reasons and reveals that you have not researched the job a
nd company in fine detail - if you had, you would have found out the salary on o
ffer already!