5 typical interview questions – and what they’re really asking

Picture of multiple interview boxes being tickedSo you’ve got a job interview – congratulations! It’s a competitive market, so now you need to research the role and do some interview preparation.

Knowing what questions to expect is a great start, and you’ll find lists on any decent recruitment website… but too many people then try to learn ‘the right answer’ off by heart. Result? You’ll sound stilted and robotic… or worse still, like every other candidate who read that same website. It happens.

In the real world, there is no ‘perfect answer’ you can wheel out at every interview. But understand why the recruiter’s asking those questions – what they’re really looking for – and you can target your response every time. These are my top 5…

Why do you want to work here?

I’ve asked this question at practically every interview I’ve ever run. Real question? What do you know about us – have you made the effort to learn anything about us at all? – and what motivates you? Every organization I’ve ever worked for wanted to hire proactive, well-informed staff, who shared their values and goals. Do your research.

Why are you looking to move on?

If you’re still working, I want to know why you’re looking for a new job… and if you’ve already left, I want to know the reason you moved on. Why? I want to know more about your attitude, and specifically, what you’ll be like to work with. Will you be someone who’s keen to learn and take on new challenges, or the kind of person who’ll bump heads and blame everyone else? Who would you want to work with?

What are your weaknesses?

This is a perennial, so prepare for it. What I’m really asking: Are you self-aware and accountable for your own behaviour… or will you be a liability? Show me that you’re able to reflect – on the good, and the not-so-good – and demonstrate how you’ve already taken positive steps to improve. Think about it. What have you done to make yourself a better person to work with?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I know you can’t predict the future…  I’m looking to see how serious you are about your career. Have you got goals? What type of things motivate you? And how do your goals fit with our reality? For example, it’s great if you’re ambitious and want to progress, but if we’re a small company, realistically there’s nowhere to go…

And the standard interview closer… Do you have any questions for us?

When I ask this question, I’m inviting you to take the stage. I’m really asking, are you actually interested in us? Are you enthusiastic, engaged, curious about what we’re doing? Have you thought about this, prepared, done any research? This is your opportunity to shine, and to interview us a bit. Step up – we want to see you.

If you’ve got a job interview coming up, you need to prepare… and the better you understand what the panel’s looking for, the better you can showcase your fit.

Find out more about how I can help you with Interview Skills training

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