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Prepare for typical interview questions

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Interviews are one of the hardest parts of job hunting. Writing a CV, filling out forms and completing competency tests may not be fun, but it’s much easier than meeting your employer face to face. However, as with most elements of job-hunting, preparation is key. If you go in with confidence and knowledge, you’re bound to come out on top.

So, tell me about yourself…

This is one of the dreaded questions that most applicants will be asked at some point in their career. It’s open ended, unstructured and it’s generally the first question you’ll be asked. The absolute ‘don’t’ of this scenario is to ask “what do you want to know?” The interviewer wants to see how you react to an unstructured situation, so don’t try to structure it! Another mistake is thinking that the interviewer wants your life story – even if they’re very friendly, they don’t actually care at this stage. Keep things positive, relevant to the job, and be concise without being curt.

What are your weaknesses?

There is a lot of conflicting evidence about how to tackle this one. Many people will say that you should use a weakness that can be seen as a positive, but this is a very clichéd route to take, and will likely come across as false. Tempered honesty is the best approach to this question. Pick a skill that you have worked on – for example, you may not be naturally organised, but you make use of productivity tools to ensure that you keep on top of things. Be careful though – you perhaps want to avoid saying that you’re not naturally organised if you’re applying for an admin role!

Why do you want to work for this company?

This should be an easy one if you’re interested in the job, but many graduates send off so many applications that it can be hard to keep your facts straight. Make sure that you thoroughly research your company and the role before an interview, and know what it can offer you. Even if they don’t ask this exact question, it’s very likely that you’ll be asked to demonstrate some knowledge of the company and the way it works, so be prepared.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you can research career development in the company, then this is a great opportunity to show that you’re keen to stay with them for a long time. However, try not to be too specific – you don’t want to seem inflexible. Something general that applies to your role, such as “I’d like to be managing a team” or “I’d like to have x number of projects in my portfolio” is a great answer. You’re showing that you know where you can go in the company, but also that you’re willing to try different things.

Finally, the most important questions in an interview will come from the applicant. It’s important to show enthusiasm and an interest in where the role can take you, and asking questions is the best way to do that. Have a set of three or four standard questions that you can tailor to each interview. Some good topics to ask about are career progression, personal development, and company culture, as they show an interest in the company beyond the role itself.

Understanding the company and the role and preparing strong answers to standard questions is a great way to crack those dreaded interview questions. Remember though, you can’t prepare for everything. Practise answering questions off the cuff with family or housemates, and those surprises in the interview will be easier to cope with.

How else can you prepare for typical interview questions? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: / Flickr

I’m Helena, a 21 year old recent physics graduate from Warwick university. In September I’ll be starting as a project management graduate with Transport for London. I love cooking, video games and writing, and I’m looking forward to taking the first step in my professional career!
Helena MorettiPrepare for typical interview questions

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