The Most Frequently Asked Questions at Job Interviews

Just graduated? Or looking for an internship while in college?

In addition to paying off student loans or making extra money in college, you also have worry about finding a new job, which can be a handful.

Let's face it, interviews are stressful, very stressful. You will be competing for a place against graduates just like you, who might have better grades and knowledge. However, the trick to passing interviews is not always about knowledge and grades, but it’s about being prepared.

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Know the questions that will be asked, practice answering them at home and think about the response you’ll give and put your mind into the perspective of the employer.

Here are examples of some of the questions that could be asked in an interview.

Simple Interview Questions

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These questions are just a check of facts on your resume. Some examples are:

  • What was your last job?
  • What did you study at university?
  • What work experience do you have?

Interviewers will ask simple questions to test if the information on your resume is true and under pressure, inexperienced interviewees can sometimes fail to recall a simple fact from their resume. To avoid ruining your chances in this way, ensure you remember everything you have listed on the resume, down to the smallest detail and dates. A good start to the interview will settle your nerves and create ease with the other party.

Do not be afraid to take a few seconds to think of an answer to a question. The interviewer understands that you will need to recollect information, such as “How long did you work in this job for”? or “Which subjects did you cover in your Management course”? Take your time, it’s not a race and interviewers are impressed by comprehensive facts and not fast answers.

Complex Interview Questions

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Complex questions are different from simple questions in that they cannot be answered with the info that you already have at hand. However, the good news is that they are very predictable as most companies are after the same thing: to find out whether you are the best candidate for the job.  Some examples are:

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why did you choose to apply to our company?
  • Why should we select you to get this job?
  • Give an example where you had to work in a team. Which role did you play and why?

What constitutes good preparation for these questions? Firstly, take the time to study the company website. What kind of people are they looking for? What personal and professional traits do they value? Use this information to imagine their ‘perfect candidate’ for the position you intend to fill, someone this company would not hesitate to hire and tailor your answers accordingly.

Read through your responses and think of how well they fit you. Remove anything that feels like an outright lie as under pressure this might show up. Also, if you have a clear weakness, think about how this weakness can be turned around positively by replacement. For example, consider the statement “You can by no means call your communication skills strong, but you are diligent and quick on the uptake”. The ‘perfect candidate’ has all three, so cross out communication skills, leave the other two and write in a third strength that you actually have. Do that with each response. Now you have the list of answers that maximize your chances of getting the job and this will help direct the interviewer to your particular skill set. Practice is vital, so prepare and practice with a friend or in front of the mirror.

The “Describe” Interview questions

Frequently Asked Questions at Job Interviews

The “Describe” questions (sometimes called competency questions) require lengthy answers. There will only be one or two of these in the interview but ensure that you don’t spend more than 3-5 minutes of each one. Get the essence of the answer across initially, describing the process you took and the outcomes. If the interviewer has more questions about this then they will ask you.

  • Describe a key relationship that was difficult to build but was essential for you?
  • Describe a significant piece of work of achievement that shows that you have excelled and sets you apart from other graduate applicants.
  • Describe a task you undertook that motivated you

All of those questions require a substantial amount of homework. Think through different situations that you have been faced with over your life and pick the best ones to answer the questions that make yourself look great, but don’t lie. Although there will be only a few of those questions, generally these questions are more highly valued by the interviewer, so this is your chance to impress.

Tricky Questions

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Tricky questions are apparently unrelated to the job, and some are outright weird! Consider these examples:

  • How many people can fit into this room?
  • How can you put an elephant into a fridge?
  • What three words will you use to explain human civilization to an alien?

The issue with tricky questions is that there is rarely a right answer. The point of those questions (there should only be one during the interview) is so that an interviewer can understand your thought process and how you react under pressure or unusual situations.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prepare for these questions unless you know someone who has already done the interview.  The trick is: don’t panic. Think for a few minutes before answering. Provide a logical step by step guide to your thinking. Even if you answer is very wrong, you will have explained how you got there. Also, remember to be charming and take people along on the journey of the answer with you, everyone wants to work with a person who does not panic easily, stays calm under pressure and has an assured delivery style.

Another type of tricky questions are those tapping into the experiences or attitudes you would rather not disclose to anyone, for example:

  • What was your biggest failure?
  • What do you fear most of all?
  • What things do you hate most in people?

If you choose to answer these questions (which is preferable if you want this job), focus not on the negative emotions or experiences by themselves but on the lessons you have learned or on the steps you take to overcome them. When speaking about failure, tell the interviewer what you do to prevent this from happening again. If you hate slow people, tell them how you are going to avoid conflicts when working with such a colleague. Be sincere and open, but not to the point of laying out the details that can play against you. Always finish your response on a positive note, remember that you are aiming to turn a negative question into a positive result for you.

Technical Questions

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You are most likely to encounter technical questions when applying for a very technical role. These questions represent a small problem or task for you to complete in the allocated time. Because you are a graduate rather than an experienced worker, the technical questions are likely to be based on your academic knowledge. Brush up on the most basic theories and their practical application before you go into the interview.

On a final note, when preparing for an interview, prepare not only the questions and answers but also HOW you will answer those questions. Always remember to be charming, you want them to want to make you part of their team.

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