Part 1: 26 questions every interviewer & interviewee should consider; why they’re asked; and how to answer them
A good job interview gives confidence to both employer and employee that the candidate is a good fit for the job. The employer will feel confident that they have identified an individual with a good mix of skills, experience and personality to deliver against the role; while the prospective candidate should feel confident that they understand what will be expected of them, the key challenges they are likely to face and how success will be measured. A thorough examination will give the candidate confidence that the employer is satisfied that they capable reducing the likelihood of impostor syndrome, while the employer will know that the candidate is not stepping into the lion’s den unprepared.
However good interviews don’t just happen – they require preparation. In this and the next blog we will share 16 great questions interviewers have put to our candidates; and 10 of the most insightful questions that candidates have put to prospective employers.
I hope you find them useful.
Six common questions candidates should prepare for
1. What do you know about this company?
The interviewer wants to know how interested you really are in the company and whether you’ve done your research. Candidates can prepare easily for this by reading the “About us” and “News” sections of the website as well as googling the company on industry websites.
2. Tell me about yourself?
Interviewers will often use this question to put candidates at ease while at the same time getting a feel for their personality. In a concise way you should describe the skills, experience and personality traits that make you a good fit for this role as well as mentioning your professional aspirations. It is a great opportunity to touch on specific achievements hopefully piquing the interviewer’s interest enough to encourage follow up questions that show the best of you.
3. What are your top three weaknesses/ strengths?
The interviewer is asking about the interviewee’s personality and self awareness. When talking about weaknesses you should show how they can be strengths in other situations and how you are working to become stronger in that area. The best answers are typically brought to life using examples.
4. Tell me about an occasion when you struggled with a task and how you overcame it?
The interviewer is looking for evidence of your ability to adapt and learn. Think about how you analysed a situation, broke the challenge down and took a different approach. Asking for help can be a good thing. So can failure if you learned from it.
5. Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a colleague/ manager and how you dealt with the situation?
The interviewer is wanting to understand how you interact with others, address conflict, persuade those around you, listen and if appropriate, compromise.
6. Where do you see yourself in three years time?
The Interviewer is probing to understand whether you have a career goal and how this role would fit in with it. Candidates with a career goal tend to be hard working, motivated, proactive… Commit to a vision even if you aren’t sure what you want (nobody is going to hold you to it) and think about how this role helps you to achieve that target.
And ten of the best questions to ask a perspective employer…
1. What would you say are the biggest challenges for this role?
This question helps the candidate identify the area of the role most likely to give sleepless nights and a chance to understand if they have the right skills to manage it. It will also highlight issues with areas such as team dynamic which can easily be glossed over in job descriptions or downplayed during the interview.
2. If I were to get this job, what would I need to do in the first 3 months to impress you?
At the end of three months employers will expect to be seeing results. This question will give the candidate an idea of the priorities to focus on, what the employer’s expectations are and potentially whether they are realistic.
3. If I succeed in this job, where can I expect to be in three years’ time?
This question help identify whether there there is an established or planned career path with the role or whether “good career progression opportunities” was simply pasted into the job description without thought. The interviewer should be able to map out a career path and elaborate on some of the support that will be put in place to help the successful candidate achieve that.
4. What are the biggest challenges the company faces over the next three years?
The biggest challenges the business faces and how well it manages them will ultimately determine the opportunities the candidate is likely to enjoy. The interviewer should be up to date with the company’s plans and how this role is supposed to contribute. The candidate may well be asked for their opinion on exactly the same subject.
5. Can you give me some background into this role?
Finding out why the role was created, what has happened to previous incumbents (promotions, external moves etc), how the role has changed etc. all help to build an understanding of what the job entails and the challenges and opportunities that go with it. If the role is evolving the interviewer should explain how and why it is changing so the candidate knows not to make direct comparisons.
6. Are there clear targets against which performance in this role will be measured?
While each responsibility on a job description will typically get its own short bullet that doesn’t clarify how the successful candidate’s performance will be judged. Finding out what targets will be on the successful applicant’s personal development plan will highlight which areas of responsibility the employer is focussed on. If the interviewer can’t provide an indication of how success will be measured then that may suggest the role isn’t clearly defined.
7. What do you most enjoy about working here? And what is your biggest frustration?
Asking for the interviewer’s personal experiences of working at the company is a chance for the candidate to get a less sanitised view of the culture of the team/ company that the candidate will be joining. Asking the employer for examples can be a great help in moving past the company’s stated values.
8. Are there any internal initiatives that may impact this role in the coming months?
While company restructures, new initiatives etc can have both positive and negative impacts on opportunities for roles, interviewers may not proactively raise them as they often involve too much uncertainty. Candidates can use this question to reduce the risk of surprises once they start the role.
9. What is the company doing to support the sustainability agenda? And is there the scope for me to contribute?
Many employees are increasingly concerned about making a positive contribution (or at least reducing the negative one) to the society they live in and for growing numbers it is becoming a deciding factor in their choice of employer. By asking how they can get involved in making a positive difference, candidates are able to explore beyond the polished messages in press releases, on websites and in the annual reports to understand how issues they care about are actually embedded into the company culture.
10. What are the next steps in this job process?
This question signals a continuing interest in the role. Candidates will expect an answer with a clear time frame.
If you have any great questions you’d like to share, or if you would like to speak with one of our consultants then please get in touch.