Answering Interview Questions

Before attending an interview you should think about your responses to the following questions. Your answers may depend on the job or company in question, so you should go through your responses just before each interview.

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1) Interview questions about the new employer

Why do you want to work for this company?

You need to think about the company's needs rather than your own, so don't answer that the money is good or the work easier than your current job. Instead, talk about the positive reasons for working for them; pointing out how the aspects that appeal to you also match the skills and experience you'd like to develop.

What do you know about this company?

It's not enough to repeat the information that's been given in the application pack. You need to show that you have more in-depth knowledge. This means doing your research and finding out some more about the company from a variety of sources. Impress them with your knowledge of their products or services, sales figures, current news and developments, customers, figures, etc.

What interests you about our product (or service)?

Your research will again help you to answer this question. Your answer should display your knowledge of their products or services. More than this, you can highlight your knowledge by explaining why the products or services interest you. Every reply should be illustrating why you are right for the position.

What can we (the new company) offer that your previous company cannot offer?

This question is designed to catch unwary candidates out, so be careful how you answer. Never criticise a current or previous employer, but focus on how you can contribute to the new company while continuing to develop your career by addressing new challenges. This means selecting some genuinely positive attributes of the employer, but without sounding as if you're trying to flatter your way into a job offer.

2) Suitability for this Job

Why do you want this job?

You may think you know, but this question can be surprisingly hard to answer if you haven't prepared for it. Write down a list of the attractive features of the job, leaving aside the salary, holiday and location. Mentioning these will make you seem self-interested and will not get you the job. Always focus on the positive aspects of the job, never the negative, and don't ever criticize the job you are leaving.

What qualities do you think will be required for this job?

There will be a list of candidate qualities in the job description, but don't just rely on these. Try to both read between the lines and use your knowledge of the role to create your own list. Ideally, these will be qualities that you can offer. As well as job-specific skills, your list should include transferable skills, such as communication skills and problem solving abilities.

What can you contribute?

This is your opportunity to really sell yourself. You need to mention your strongest attributes, covering your skills, experience and knowledge, as well as achievements in previous jobs that highlight these. Make sure you focus on those that are most relevant to the new position you're applying for.

You have not done this sort of job before. How will you cope / succeed?

If you have any self-doubt, this question could show it up. Even if you are confident, if you can't answer clearly, you're going to sound unsure of yourself. You need to focus on your solid work ethics, learning ability and history of hitting the ground running. This is another good opportunity to bring in one or two achievements from your current or previous jobs, to show you have succeeded in similar roles before.

Why should we employ you?

This is another question that is designed to put you on the back foot. The only way you can respond is to focus on your biggest strengths and the ways in which you can contribute to the company's success. You need to draw on your previous experience and achievements, keeping to those that relate to the company and the vacancy. All you say needs to emphasise that you're an excellent fit for the company.

How long do you think it would be before you were making a significant contribution to the team/company?

Everyone needs some time to settle in to a new job, so you need to assure the employer that you'll be returning their investment in you earlier rather than later. Be realistic about how long it'll take you to get your feet under the table. If you can start contributing quickly, say so. You can then ask them how long they'd expect you to start contributing and at which level they'd expect you to do so.

How ambitious are you? Would you compete for my job?

You need to get the balance right when answering this question. Yes, you're ambitious and want to do well, but at the same time you need to show that you will respect your superiors. The key to this is to focus on how you can contribute and achieve success within a team framework.

Part 2: Good Interview Questions

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