If you’ve recently graduated, you may already be thinking ahead to what your next steps might be in terms of your career. As you begin to do so, your mind will start posing questions about the interview process – and that can feel quite daunting if you aren’t sure what to expect.
Read on to find out the 6 most common interview questions, with some tips on how to prepare for them and answer with confidence on the day.
Tell me about yourself
This is always one of the first questions in an interview. The reason you’ll be asked this is not because they want to know about your likes and interests, but because they want to hear what you value most about yourself in your career.
Think of it as a little bit like the overview you give on a CV.
The company will want to hear about your commitments to your career and what kind of person you are as a professional.
It’s useful to find out a bit about the company’s ethos ahead of your interview, so that you can gauge how you should approach this question.
What is your greatest strength?
If blowing your own trumpet is no easy task, then this question can be a tough one to answer.
The key here is to keep it relevant and think about what the company is looking for in you. It’s worth reflecting on previous jobs where possible (part time, internships and volunteering are all noteworthy), so that you can demonstrate your strengths.
This is a question that could ultimately set you apart from or give way to other candidates, so take this opportunity to closely match the qualities that the company is seeking.
What is your greatest weakness?
This one is just as important as your greatest strength, but you’ve got to be very careful here not to put yourself down so much that you make yourself undesirable for the job.
You’ll need to turn your answer into something positive if you want to impress the company.
If you find that you sometimes struggle to stand up for yourself, you could say that you tend to always attempt to please people; or if your perfectionism means you sometimes over-analyse when it comes to a project, it would be better to say that you are sometimes too critical of yourself.
Recognising a weakness is one thing, but if you can also explain the solution you have found then it shows initiative and commitment to your professional development.
Why should we hire you?
This question is a cue to selling yourself in the most succinct and positive way possible. Your answer needs to have direct correlations to the job and what you can offer to the company that puts you in a stronger position than other candidates.
At the end of the day, you are one of many people they are interviewing and simply telling them that you are hard-working and willing to learn is not going to get you the job.
The interviewers are not just looking for examples of your experience or the qualities and skills that you already possess; they want to see what you are looking to achieve in this new role, so that you can give them a reason to want to hire you.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
This question always comes towards the end of an interview and can catch you out if you’re not prepared for it.
They don’t want to know if you’re hoping to be settled down with a family within 5 years; and they certainly don’t want to know about your big plans to travel the world.
What they do want to know, is how ambitious and excited you are to progress professionally, while maybe giving a few examples of certain skills you’d like to learn along the way. It would be naive to think that you could be a Director in just 5 years, so it’s important to be realistic!
Do you have any questions for us?
This is always the very final question of an interview – and the last chance to show how much you want the job.
The interviewers will want you to ask questions. They will be looking for you to be resourceful and to come up with questions that are outside the box of what’s already been discussed or covered in the job description.
Spend some time on the company’s website and write down a few questions where the answers aren’t available online. You could ask about an area of the business that you might be working closely with in the role, what kind of professional networking events the company gets involved in, or maybe something about the team you’ll be working in.
Leila Wright writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching career starters with graduate jobs. For everything from marketing internships to graduate jobs, click here.