Typical interview questions

You know you’re going to be asked the obvious questions, so make sure you know what you could say. The below list will not prepare you for every question that could be asked, but includes the basic ones.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

A lot of interviews will start with this question and it can be a hard question to answer on the spot, so make sure you have prepared for it. Try to relate your answers to the role and do not mention irrelevant details about yourself; doing so will suggest that you are struggling with the answer. Give a summary of your experience and link this experience to reasons why you think you are suitable to this role. Be proud to mention achievements that are relevant or significant, but try not to come across as arrogant. Remember to give points that are positive – employers are looking for people who will work well with their team, and no one wants to work with someone who is always negative!

2. “Why do you want to work for us?” or “why do you want this job?”

This question gives you ample opportunity to demonstrate your research of the company – another moment to shine! You may want to make a point about what you want to achieve or are looking for, and then link it back to the company specifically. For example, if you are at an interview for a smaller company, you may say something like: "I am keen to take on more responsibility, and I feel that a company of this size can offer the level of career progression I am looking for." Another example: through research you may have found that the company has a particular focus on teamwork, in which case you could link this to the fact that you are keen to work in a team, and then go on to mention an example of when teamwork proved effective for you.

3. “What are your strengths?”

Pick two or three points that you feel are relevant to the role, and provide examples of how you have used them in a working (or similar) environment. You may want to try and point out strengths in your character, like a good team worker, and also strengths in your skills, for example, very competent with Microsoft Excel.

4. “What are your weaknesses?”

This question tends to be the most dreaded by interviewees, as it is not natural to highlight weaknesses about yourself to someone you are trying to impress. It often leads people to panic, giving very generic responses to this question: "I find that I work too hard if I have to meet a deadline." Stay away from standard responses like this as most interviewers will have heard it a hundred times, and equally, it is obvious you are trying to shy away from a true answer by repeating a standard response from the internet.

Instead, prepare a couple of situations that you have been in where you have successfully identified a weakness and have then taken steps to improve. For example, during you’re a Levels you realised that your essay writing technique was not good enough, so you took time outside of school to research essay skills which helped you improve.

5. “Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?”

Try to avoid giving vague or over the top answers. This question, yet again, gives you the opportunity to show that you have researched career progression opportunities available within the company. This will also show the interviewer that you are serious about the role in the long-term. Mention the skills that you would like to learn during the next few years too.

6. “Do you have any questions?”

Many an interview will end with the interviewer asking you if you have any further questions. Do not say "no" in this situation, and make sure you have a prepared a couple of questions to ask. You may find that these questions have come from your research of the company, or you may have questions that occurred to you when considering the role, like "what is the typical career path for someone in my situation?" or "what is the structure of the team that I would be working in?"

You may find yourself in the situation that the questions you prepared have been answered during the interview. In this case it is fine to explain that you wanted to find out about "x", but that it has already been answered during the interview.

7. Other questions

“Think of a time when you had to make a difficult decision. What happened as a result of this decision?”

“Describe a time when you worked well in a team.”

“What other careers have you considered?”

8. University-related questions

If you went to university, be prepared to answer questions on why you chose your degree or university. If you are on a graduate scheme, you may be asked what other schemes you have applied for. The interviewer is looking for consistency in your applications, so if you are applying for one of the big banks, feel free to mention that you have also applied to the other banks – and you could always mention that this company is your preferred choice!