On Wednesday, I talked about interview techniques, today I thought I would share with you some of the most popular interview questions recruiters will ask you and how to answer them.
The rule of thumb for answering any interview question is to be honest. Even if that means saying something that you feel isn’t what they are looking for, eg. if they ask if you have experience of using a certain program and you haven’t, there’s no point in lying. You will be found out when you don’t have a clue how to work the program, and this will look worse than just admitting the truth.
Where possible, turn a negative into a positive: eg, no I haven’t used that program, but I have used (insert program here) which works in a similar way, and I am more than happy to learn the new one.
The one exception to the no lying rule (there’s always an exception) is when you are asked the reason for wanting to leave your current role (or why you left your last role). If there’s a genuine reason, them by all means be honest, but if the reason is because you hated your boss, or the company where horrible to work for, then lie.
Saying bad things about an old boss or company won’t do you any favours. Recruiters will be left wondering if you will bad mouth them at some point in the future. Plus, to be honest, it’s unprofessional and makes you come across as inexperienced.
Interview Questions You Will Be Asked And How To Answer Them
Why do you want to work for this company?
Recruiters ask this question to see if you have done your research. They want to know if you really want to work for their company, or if any old job will do.
Bad answer – Because it seems like a nice work environment, and it’s doing well.
Good answer – I noticed the company was listed in the top ten places to work in (insert publication name here), and with your 25% increase on sales last year, it is a company that I feel I can excel in.
What are your biggest strengths and your biggest weaknesses?
I hate this question. There are so many ways to get it wrong.
Strengths – To list your strengths isn’t bragging, it is showing that you are self aware. Try to make the strengths you choose to mention ones that are key elements of the role.
Weaknesses – Don’t try to claim you don’t have any. And even worse, don’t try to pass off a strength as a weakness, for example, I’m a perfectionist. Recruiters will see straight through it.
On the other hand, don’t mention a weakness that would be majorly off putting eg, I’m always late. Choose something that isn’t a deal breaker for the role, and always turn it into a positive. For example, I get nervous talking in front of large crowds (where the job doesn’t remotely call for that), but I am working on that by joining a local debate team.
Tell me why you I should give you this job
This is the time to tell the recruiter how your experience ties into the role. A good way to answer this question is to use your elevator pitch.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Recruiters use this question to find out two things – are you looking to work for the company long term, and are you ambitious. Again, be honest. If you want to climb the ladder, don’t be afraid to say a role that is a level or two above the one you are applying for.
Obviously, the interview questions you could be asked are pretty much limitless, but I’ve tried to include the ones that people struggle with the most. There are lots of ways to word questions, but generally, recruiters want to know how well suited you are to the role, so they are looking for the basic information contained above.
The recruiter is not trying to catch you out, they are just trying to find out if you should get the job. Give them a reason to give it to you.
Some recruiters will throw you a curve ball or two. They might ask your opinion on an issue, or ask something totally random like “What animal would you like to be and why?” Generally, there are no right or wrong answers, they just want to see how your thought processes work, and how you deal with pressure.
The Main Interview Question That People Get Wrong
“Do you have any questions for me?”
The recruiter isn’t just being polite, or checking if they’ve forgotten to tell you something.
The answer is never no, or any variation of no. Not asking at least one question makes you look disinterested.
Never ask about something like holiday entitlement or salary, this makes it look like you’re only interested in perks rather than the role.
Here are a couple of examples of good questions to ask:
- What outcome would you expect after six months to consider the person in this role as successful?
- How do you see this role developing over five years?
- What opportunities are there for self development within the company?
Interview Questions Recruiters Aren’t Allowed To Ask You
Recruiters aren’t allowed to ask interview questions that could lead to discrimination within the selection process. Some examples are:
- Your age (unless the role is for sales of an age restricted product)
- Your marital status
- If you have children, or any questions regarding child care
- Your health
- Anything about your disability, assuming you have one, with the exception of finding out reasonable steps they would have to take to make your employment possible.
For all recruiters aren’t allowed to ask you these questions, if, for example, you are childless and have no plans to have children, feel free to work in a way to tell the recruiter that.
Whether they are allowed to discriminate or not, the truth is they do – they want someone flexible and who is able to be available when they’re needed. There’s no harm in making it clear that you are that person.
After The Interview – What Next?
There are two schools of thought on chasing up a decision. Some people believe that chasing a decision makes you look keen and proactive, others believe it makes you look pushy and desperate. This is a judgement call you can only make once you have a feel for the recruiter.
If you aren’t successful, it is ok to ask for feedback, although recruiters aren’t under any obligation to provide it, so don’t get angry if they refuse.
Always acknowledge a refusal with a polite “Thank you for your time and for considering me for the role”. You never know when you may want to interview there again, plus being rude about it makes you look petty and just confirms that the recruiter made the right decision.
Do you have any interview questions that you struggle with and any tips on how to answer them? Why not share them in the comments 🙂