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Job Interview Techniques: Crucial Questions

Below is a list of questions, some of which will come up in the interview, others that may not.  There are no penalties for over-preparation though, so it is important that you have put some thought into how you will answer all of them:

Why do you want to work here?

Once you have researched the company, you will have no problems listing the advantages of working for them. 

What kind of experience do you have for this job?

By knowing what is expected for the role in question, you can tailor your answer using specific examples from your past that match what is needed for the role.  As mentioned above, the job is on offer because a problem needs solving.  Give examples of similar problems that you have solved. 

What did you dislike about your old job?

This is an invitation put your head into a noose.  By slating your old role / boss / company you are sending out warning signs to the interviewer that you may be trouble.  Keep answers short and positive: eg.  'I really enjoyed my last job but I felt that I wanted a bigger challenge.  One of the things that appeals to me about working with your company is the fact that individuals are stretched to bring the best out of them.  I look forward to tackling such a challenge.' 

Have you done the best work that you are capable of doing?

By saying 'yes' you give the image of being a spent force.  Say something along the lines of being proud of your work to date,  whilst assuring the interviewer that you feel the best is yet to come. 

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

A good response is to throw a question back: 'What opportunities are there within this company?'  If possible and honest, blend this answer with your prepared answer.

What are you biggest accomplishments?

A golden opportunity to sell yourself.  It is absolutely crucial that you have several well prepared stories including facts and figures.  The more vivid your story, the better the interviewer can visualise you not only successfully completing that task, but completing such tasks for their company.  Be conscious of time and don't ramble - get as much detail into as short a time as possible. 

Can you work under pressure?

A simple 'yes' does not separate you from the crowd.  Think of specifics from your past including how  you dealt with pressure. 

What are your greatest strengths?

Look to the list of competencies above:  Which of those are most relevant to the job in question?  Have examples prepared for the three that you think are most needed for the role. 

What most interests you about this job?

Again, this can only be answered if you have done your research. 

Why should I hire you?

The interviewer will normally start the interview with a preamble about the company, why the position has come into being, and what they are looking for in a candidate.  It is advisable to write down what qualities they are looking for.  When it comes to answering this question, incorporate those qualities in your reply. 

Describe a difficult problem that you have had to deal with?

This is a chance to show off your approach to problems.  Show that you employ a logical thought process by outlining a step-by-step approach to problem solving.  eg:

  1. I stand back and examine the problem.
  2. Recognise the problem as the symptom of other, perhaps hidden factors.
  3. Make a list of possible solutions to the problem.
  4. Weigh up the pros and cons of each solution and decide on the best.
  5. Go to my superior, outline the problem and my recommendation, and ask for my superior's advice and approval. 

Having stated this, give an example of a problem that you are particularly proud of solving. 

What have you done that shows initiative?

Managers want to hire someone who has the ability to save the company time or money, or make their and their teams' life easier.  It is best to think of some example that is work related, but use examples from outside professional life if absolutely necessary.  

What qualities do you think it needs to be successful in this field?

Again, if you have listened to the interviewer's preamble at the beginning of the interview, you will know what they want to hear.  Don't disappoint them. 

Do you work better on your own or as part of a team?

By knowing about the role you will have an idea of the balance of work in terms of how much time will be spent working on you own and how much contributing to team efforts.  Answer according to the necessary balance. 

What mistakes have you made that you would change if you had a second chance?

If at all possible, draw your answer from outside work.  Keep it trivial and short including what you learnt.  If you are pressed to give a work orientated answer use an example from a long time ago. 

Tell me of a time when you had to communicate with people from different levels.  What problems did you encounter?  What were the results?

This is not only a question designed to probe your interpersonal skills, but also to determine how you dealt with a problem.  As above, show a logical approach to problem solving. 

Give me an example of an event that really challenged you. How did you overcome the challenge?

Answer in the same manner as the previous question.  Be sure to portray the challenge in its worst light.  The darker you can paint the problem, the more you will shine.  Distorting the truth, however, is likely to end in a trip up. 

How have you benefited from your disappointments?

Resist the temptation to explain specific disappointment in detail.  This is one of those questions where it is better to give a general answer. eg.  'I treat disappointments as a learning experience.  I look at what happened, why it happened and how I would deal with things differently if I had the chance.  Having done that, I put the disappointment behind me and look forward to tackling the next problem with a better understanding.' 

What would you do when you have a decision to make and no procedure exists?

Something along the lines of: 'I would only make a decision without my superior's approval if the matter was extremely urgent and my manager was not available.  I would update them at the first opportunity...'  Then relate your problem solving approach and give an example if possible. 

What is your greatest weakness?

Keep your answer short and end it on a positive note if possible.  eg.  'I like to give projects 100% and I sometimes find it frustrating when others in the team do not give the same level of commitment.  I am conscious of this weakness and aim to overcome it by a positive attitude that I hope will catch on.' 


The interview will normally close with the interviewer inviting you to ask some questions.  Having researched the company you will be in a great position to really probe and find out if this is the role/company for you. eg.

  • I understand the company has been steadily growing.  What does the future hold?
  • Company X are your major competitors.  How do you see this rivalry developing? 

Another thing to remember is that people love to talk about themselves.  Now is the time to find out about the interviewer - after all you are potentially going to be working with this person.  Good questions include:

  • Why did you join the company?
  • What keeps you here?
  • What are the qualities that you have shown in order to get to where you are? 
  • An excellent question is:  'What would my first assignment be?'  This not only gives you an insight into the day-to-day mechanics of the role, but also results in the interviewer picturing you working within the company.

Avoid asking questions about the salary.  This is only to be discussed once the job offer is firmly in your hands. 

Show enthusiasm for the role. eg.  'I understand that you are making a decision on the fifteenth.  What do I need to do in the meantime to ensure that I get the job?' 

Another is:  'I believe that second interviews are being held next week.  Would now be a good time to schedule that?'  It is vital that this is asked with the right tone.  There is a huge difference between being honest and forthright versus aggressive and pushy.  Bear in mind that they can only say no and that they would prefer to arrange it later.

If you have any questions or there is any way we can help please contact us.

Good luck!


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