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Before you attend an interview find out everything you can about the company - visit their website if they have one, or read any brochures or annual reports they produce.

Re-read your application form and think through your own career and the questions they might ask you. You should try to think about the general questions which they will ask and also prepare some questions to ask them.

To do well you will need to convince the interviewer you have the skills to do the job. You will also need to show that you are sufficiently motivated to get the job done well and that you will fit in with the company's organisational structure and the team in which you will work.

Dress smartly and leave home earlier than you need to on the day of the interview - you might be delayed by traffic or for other reasons. Be polite to all employees of the company. At the interview itself you must be positive about yourself and your abilities - but don't waffle!  

We've compiled a number of possible questions to give you an idea of the sort of questions you might be asked. It will pay dividends if you can prepare thoughtful responses in advance to the most likely questions you could be asked at interview.

Common Interview Questions  

Why do you want this job?

Take care when answering this question - emphasise the positive aspects that have attracted you to applying for this position. Do not mention the negative aspects of your current job or the job in question.

What qualities do you think will be required for this job?

Here the job advert should help you a little bit, but you should also think of the other attributes that the interviewer may be looking for. These could include leadership ability, supervisory skills, communication skills, problem solving, etc.

What can you bring to the job?

This is your chance to really sell yourself. Tell them about your achievements in your previous job(s) that are relevant to the new position you are applying for.

Why do you want to work for this company?

Concentrate on the positive reasons about why you want to join the company. Take care to avoid aspects such as "more money" or "shorter hours". They might be true but they are probably not what your prospective employer will want to hear.

What do you know about this company?

This is your chance to impress the interviewer with your knowledge of their company. Talk about what they do, their customers, sales figures etc.

Why should we employ you?

Your answer to this question should be based on your previous experience and achievements which relate to the new job you are applying for.

What do you like and dislike about the job we are discussing?

Likes: a new challenge or the opportunity to bring fresh experience to the company. Dislikes: Imply there is nothing to dislike about the job, which is why you are so interested.

Why did you choose a career in ...?

Be positive about your reasons. If you have changed careers make a logical argument as to why you did so.

Why are you changing careers?

This question will only be asked if you are making a radical change in your career. Always stress the positive aspects of the change rather than the negative aspects of your previous career - you do not want to come across as someone who is moving just because you hate your old career. Say why you think you will be good in the new career - this should come from your experience and achievements, stress the transferable skills you have, such as leadership ability, etc.

How would you describe yourself? How would others describe you?

Pick your best strengths and achievements. Also think about a few single words or phrases that could be used to describe you such as "hard working", "approachable" etc.

What was your greatest success? How did you achieve it?

Try to think of an example that can be related to the job or the company you are applying to.

What has been your biggest failure?

Try to pick a failure which you were later able to correct or something that is not really important.

How do you handle criticism?

You should answer that you think that feedback is important so that you can improve any areas of your performance that your manager or supervisor has highlighted. You could also ask if the employer conducts regular staff appraisals or has a staff development plan.

Do you work well with others or do you prefer to work alone?

Some jobs mean that you have to work very closely with other people whilst other jobs mean that you are largely working on your own, so you should say that you are happy in both situations.

Can you work under pressure?

You should say that you can. You could ask how much pressure the job involves. How many hours are you prepared to work? You would be prepared to work the necessary hours to get the job done on time.

What interests do you have outside work?

Your hobbies and interests can tell someone a lot about you, including whether you are sociable or prefer to be alone or whether you can take on a 'leadership' role. You should therefore think about which interests will relate to the position you are discussing.

If you've changed jobs a lot you may be asked how long you would stay in the new job. You should emphasise that you are looking for a long-term opportunity where you can learn and develop.

Have you ever been fired?

If you have, you will need to handle this question with great care. Try and put yourself in as favourable light as possible without being too dismissive. If you have later been able to correct any problem that resulted in you being fired you should tell the interviewer.

Over qualified for the job?

Tell them that you feel that your extra experience would enable you to make a bigger contribution sooner than someone with less experience.

Are you willing to travel?

Again if you are, say so. You want to sound positive, so find out how much travelling is involved before you turn down the job.

How often are you off sick?

This can be a difficult question to answer if you are frequently off sick or you have just recovered from a prolonged period of illness. If you have generally enjoyed good health and this period of illness is not typical then you should say so.

What will your referees say about you?

Say that you expect excellent references.  

Questions you might want to ask the interviewer

An interview is a two-way process. The company interviewing you will want to find out whether you are suitable for the position and you will want to find out if the company and position are right for you. You should therefore ensure that you have enough information to make up your mind whether you want the job.

For example:

  • Who will I report to?
  • Who will report to me? How experienced are they?
  • What do you expect me to do in the first 6 months?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What will be my salary, benefits and bonuses? Do not ask this early on in the interview - wait until the end and only ask if given the opportunity.
  • What training do you provide?
  • When will you decide on the appointment?
  • What's the next step?

What could make you fail at the interview

  • Being unprepared for the interview.
  • Not being able to communicate clearly and effectively.
  • Being aggressive or acting in a superior way.
  • Saying unfavourable things about previous employers.
  • Making excuses for having failed in the past.