Common Interview Questions & How To Answer Them

From competency based to behavioural questions, discover some of the most popular job interview questions & how to answer them. 

Articles

You’ve perfected your CV, applied for the job and now you’ve been invited for an interview. Whether it’s virtual or in-person, the prospect of a job interview can be daunting and it’s completely normal to feel nervous. Planning how you’ll answer some of the questions likely to come up will give you a head start and build your confidence
ahead of the interview.

While the exact format of the interview will vary according to the role and industry, you can expect to be asked some behavioural questions as well as job-specific, skills-based ones. We’ve put together some top tips on how to respond to the most common interview questions. Discover how you can use your answers to let your personality and experience shine through, so that your future employer knows you are the right person for the job.

Classic questions:

  • “Tell me about yourself.”
    This question is a popular opener for interviews and it is often used as an icebreaker to ease candidates into the interview before moving on to more in-depth or technical questions. The interviewer will have already read your CV and now they want to know if you are the right fit for the role. When answering this question, don’t be tempted to simply recite your CV – on the other hand, they aren’t looking for your life story either! Talk a bit about
    your current role, the scope of it, and perhaps a recent accomplishment. Next, cover some work history so that the interviewer can understand how you got there. Mention previous experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

  • “Why do you want to work at this company?”
    Your employer to-be will want to understand why you applied for this position at this company. This is where you can show the interviewers that you have taken the time to research the company and that your values and ways of working are aligned with theirs. Explain to them what attracted you to the company, which aspects of the workplace culture appeal to you and the elements of the job role you are most excited about. Showing them that you’ve done your homework doesn’t just demonstrate your professionalism, it conveys that you have really thought about how you would fit in at the company and that you can see a long-term future there. 

  • "What do you think are your biggest weaknesses?"
    You’ve probably read a lot about how to showcase a strength as weakness - “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist” are always popular answers, and the chances are that your prospective employer will have heard them many times before. Try to be honest – talk about a real weakness and how you are overcoming it. For example: “I used to find it difficult to speak up in social situations. As a computer programmer, I rarely had to give presentations. However, this changed when I moved into a managerial position. I signed up for an online public speaking course and am now comfortable speaking to small audiences”. An answer like this shows potential employers that you aware of your weaknesses and that you’re working to overcome them.

  • “What do you think are your greatest strengths?”
    On the flip side of the ‘biggest weaknesses’ question, this question gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what makes you stand out from other candidates. Instead of simply listing lots of adjectives, pick one or two specific qualities that you can relate back to the position, and back them up with examples. The great thing about this question is that it’s pretty versatile, so you can use your answer to talk about something you haven’t had the chance to share in the interview yet. With the job role in mind, think about the skills you really want to emphasise or any attributes you have which you know would be a great fit within the company culture, such as teamwork, creative problem-solving or open communication.

 

Competency Based Questions
Competency based interview questions are used to assess how you have used specific skills in your career so far. They help interviewers understand how you approach tasks and challenges, how well you work with other people, if you can think on your feet, and how you cope with stressful situations. How you answer these questions can highlight how well you match the desired qualities mentioned in the job profile, what you have
learnt from your past professional experiences, and how well your personality fits with the traits the company is looking for.

Key competencies which employers often look for include:

  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Decisiveness
  • Teamwork
  • Commercial awareness
  • Conflict resolution
  • Resilience

 

Expect questions starting with 'Give an example of…', 'Tell us about a time when you…', or 'Describe how you…'.

 

How to answer competency based questions
Ahead of your interview, re-read the job description carefully. For example, if it says that they are looking for someone with good verbal and written communication skills, the chances are that you will be asked to speak about a time when you have used those skills to your advantage. Questions might be about your failures too - it is okay to admit your failures, but it is also important to highlight what you learnt from them and how you plan to handle similar situations in the future.

To prepare for competency based questions:

  • Analyse how your skills fit in with the company’s needs
  • Reflect on your previous experience
  • Outline situations where you used your skills to your advantage
  • Use the STAR model to structure your answers

The STAR model
The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach is a good way to structure your responses to competency based interview questions. Provide the context of the situation or background to your example, keeping it concise. Next, explain the task or activity, then outline describe the action you took to resolve the situation. Finish off by summarising the result you achieved or what you learnt. When asking competency based questions, the interviewer will want to understand what you learnt from your experience, and how you might have done things differently, so preparing a few examples in advance using the STAR model can be a good way to build your confidence ahead of the interview.

 

Behavioural Questions
Interviewers ask behavioural questions to gain an insight into a candidate’s personality and abilities. While competency based questions are more about assessing the skills and experience you would bring to the role, behavioural questions help interviewers to understand whether you fit the culture of the organisation and the mould of the type of person they think can do the job. Behavioural questions are often used to assess how
you’ve handled past situations in the workplace, to reveal the way you approach problems to achieve a successful outcome. Interviewers are usually looking for descriptive answers to behavioural questions rather than a simple yes/no.

Using the STAR technique to answer these questions can help you give context to your responses.

Example behavioural questions:

    1. “Tell us about how you dealt with a situation where you had to work with a colleague whose personality or work style was very different to yours.”

      This type of question lets you demonstrate valuable soft skills such as flexibility and collaboration. You could describe how you took the initiative to organize the task at hand so that it was completed using both your strengths to the fullest. As well as showing off your communication skills, you can also use this question to show the interviewer how well you work in a team.

    2. “How do you deal with difficult clients?”

      Although it might be tempting to skirt past the difficult customer question, giving a generic answer might suggest that you don’t have a lot of experience in conflict resolution. Keep your answer professional, describe your role in the situation, explain what you did to solve the problem and what the outcome was.

    3. “How you do approach problems?”

      When answering this question, you’ll want to describe the tools and techniques you use to work through a problem, such breaking it down into steps to be tackled one at a time. Try to emphasise that you take the initiative and that you are able to think critically about a situation before taking action. You'll want to show you can:

      • Identify the problem
      • Analyse the situation
      • Implement the solution

 

Remember, an interview is also your golden opportunity to get to know your potential employers better, work out if the company would be a good fit for you and ask any questions you may have.

For more career advice, check out our other candidate blogs here. If you need help updating your CV or to find out about our latest roles, contact your local Adecco branch and connect with a recruiter today!

Related Articles

Updating Your CV | CV Formats And What To Include in 2021
Updating your CV and not sure where to start? Are chronological or skills-based CVs better? Read our 2021 guide for tips to perfect your CV and how to choose the best CV format for your skills.
read more
Career Advice: Top Tips to Boost Your Career in 2021

Whether you’ve learned all you can in your current role or you want to move industries, here are our top tips to
boost your career in 2021.

read more