Common interview questions and how to answer them...

Wayne Brophy

May 28, 2019

Common interview questions and how to answer them...


Successful candidates are not ‘lucky’, they spend time preparing for an interview.

Being able to put together strong answers to interview questions is key in landing your next role. It’s unlikely that you’ll know exactly what questions will be asked of you in an interview but having answers prepared for commonly asked questions is the next best thing. We can’t offer you a canned response for every interview question (nor do formulaic responses without your personality work). But what we can do is give our advice on what an interviewer is looking for in your response. We’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked interview questions which you should think about ahead of your interview and how to show you’re the candidate for the job..


  1. Tell me something about yourself? Seems like a simple question but failure to prepare for this could leave you blank at interview. Plan a concise and interesting summary of your accomplishments that shows you’re right for the role.
  2. What do you do outside of work? Here’s your chance to show what makes you interesting outside of a professional setting.
  3. What are your key strengths? Be honest and specific here. After all if you get the job you’ll be expected to demonstrate these. Give three key points and follow them up with an example.
  4. What do you consider to be your weaknesses? The interview is trying to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. Data suggests that trying to dress up weaknesses as a strength is a rubbish tactic (check out 9 Psychological Secrets to Crack Your Next Job Interview). Give a real example of something that you’ve struggled with but are working to improve on.
  5. Why should we hire you? This is a great opportunity to sell yourself. Craft an ‘elevator pitch’ to show how you can deliver great results for the company and how you stand out against other candidates.

Career History and Motivations

  1. What brings you to the job market at this point in your career? Keep your answer positive (even if the real reason isn’t) and always avoid being negative about a previous or current employer. Talk about opportunities for growth, development and progression.
  2. What are you looking for in a new career? You’re looking for the same things that this position has to offer (what a coincidence!) - give some specific points.
  3. Describe two major achievements in your career. For this type of answer, always use the S-T-A-R method. Set up the Situation and the Task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context but spend the bulk of your time describing what you actually did (the Action) and what you achieved (the Result).
  4. Why was there a gap in your employment history? If there’s a period of unemployment on your CV, be prepared to explain why honestly. Then go into why you’re still capable of contributing to this role on the back of your other previous experience.
  5. What does success mean to you? Think about what it is you’re trying to achieve from your job move? Is success working your way to the top, or is it simply doing something you’re passionate about every day?
  6. What are the key things that drive or motivate you? Don’t be caught off guard with this one, it’s another opportunity to show off. Talk about what drives you to get out of bed every day and what makes you go home with a smile on your face after a successful day.
  7. What are your career aspirations? This is very open-ended but try to be specific. The interviewer wants to see if you’ve set some goals for your career and how ambitious you are. Make sure the role aligns with your aspirations.

Motivations Towards the Company and Role

  1. What do you know about the company? Show that you’ve gone beyond reading the company ‘About Us’ page. Check out their social channels and news articles about them so you can keep the discussion current and show you’re interested. Here are some top tips on how your can use social media to benefit your job search.
  2. Why would you like to work for this company in particular? Quote their goals and missions and why these are aligned to your own. Talk about their company culture and how you’ll fit well into the team (social media can be a great tool to gain a better insight into this).
  3. What attracts you to this role? If you’re not passionate about this role, why would the company hire you? Identify why you’re a great fit for the job and what it was in the job description that really excited you.
  4. What do you think this company could do better or differently? You want to show the hiring manager your ability to bring new ideas to the table, so plan carefully for this one and come with genuine ideas for improvement - another chance to show you’ve done your research and you’re ready to add value.

Working Styles

  1. Describe your management style. The best managers are strong but flexible, and that's exactly what you want to show off in your answer. Share a few examples of where you’ve demonstrated exemplary managerial skills.
  2. Describe your greatest challenge so far. This is a behavioural question and requires an answer with real-life examples. Show how you can deal with a difficult situation whilst remaining professional and productive.
  3. Describe a difficult work scenario and how you managed it. Give an example of where you’ve come to a resolution or a compromise after a conflict at work e.g. an upset customer or an angry colleague.
  4. What would you say about your current and past employers? Again, keep this positive. Examples of what you’ve learnt and how you’ve grown are required.
  5. Describe your preferred company culture. Talk about a company culture the same as that of where you’re interviewing...coincidence? I think not.
  6. Give examples of where you’ve gone the extra mile in your job? Your interviewer is looking for someone who can go above and beyond just what's required each day. Give examples where you’ve gone out of your way to help even when it was not required.
  7. How do you deal with stress or pressure at work? Don’t be tempted to say you never get stressed, this isn’t what the interviewer is looking for. Plan an answer about methods you use to stay organised and calm, examples of a stressful situation will authenticate this.

In advance of any interview it’s important to think about how you can differentiate yourself from others through your answers. Planning for some of these common questions can help you avoid giving ‘boring’ and predictable answers and make you memorable in a positive way.

Need some additional advice on how to ace an interview? Get in touch with one of our experts on 0333 121 3345 or visit our job seekers tip and advice page here.