How To Answer Classic Interview Questions

Finding a graduate job opportunity may be difficult enough but when you manage to find one, what should you do when you get invited to an interview? How do you prepare?

Well we’ve put together this article for you to give you some insight into what a recruiter wants to know from the questions they ask.

Here are several common questions and how you should typically respond.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”​

What the recruiter actually means:

 “How do your professional aspirations, work and education history relate to the position?”

How you should answer:

Choose key previous work experiences and education history that proves to the recruiter why you would fit in to the job and the company.

For example, “I graduated from University of Manchester with a degree in Politics and recently completed an internship at GradTouch. During my internship, I did this and achieved a 10% rise in sales, which reinforced my passion for X.”

Try to name achievements that relate to the job position if possible and try to use a quantifiable result.

2. “Why do you want to work here?”

What the recruiter actually means:

 “Are you sincerely interested in the position? Do you fit in to the business?”

How you should answer:

You must aim to demonstrate how your skills, values and philosophy align with the business ethos and the job role. Talk about what you have learnt about the business, discussing in particular how you align to their business culture, reputation and mission.

Highlight how the business would benefit professionally from you and how you would develop and benefit professionally from the job.

3. “Do you have any weaknesses?”

What the recruiter actually means:

 “Do you know how and where you need to improve on? Are you proactive about improving yourself and combatting your weaknesses? Are you self-aware?”

How you should answer:

If you’ve received feedback from a previous employer or even from your lecturer at university, use this as the basis of your answer. For example, your lecturer may have mentioned that you needed to work on your presentation skills during a seminar. Discuss this point to your recruiter and mention how you’ve been proactively combatting your weakness.

Try to avoid answers such as, “I don’t like working in a team.” or cliché answers like, “I’m work too hard or I’m a perfectionist.”

4. “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?”

What the recruiter actually means:

“Do you have long-term career plans or goals? Does this job role fit into your long-term career plan and goals?”

How you should answer:

Never say that you don’t know, even if you genuinely don’t. Discuss and prove that you’ve thought about your career path and that your goals and plans match the job role.

Don’t focus on your personal life as it’s not particularly relevant to what the recruiter is expecting to know.

5. “What motivates you to perform?”

What the recruiter actually means:

“Are you a hard worker that aims to get things done? Will I need to encourage you to produce the results I’m looking for ?”

How you should answer:

An ideal employee for any business is a self-motivated person. You should tell the recruiter that you feel stimulated when contributing to a team effort, working towards a goal and developing your professional attributes and skills. Give a specific example that supports the aspects you mention.

Avoid telling the recruiter that you are motivated by the fear of being disciplined or motivated by bragging rights.

6. “Tell me about a time that you failed a task.”

What the recruiter actually means:

“How do you react and respond to failure? Do you learn from your previous errors? Are you resilient?”

How you should answer:

You need to show how you’ve turned a negative experience into a learning experience similar to the “weakness” question. Recognise and acknowledge one of your failures, take accountability for it, and explain what you learnt and changed from the experience.

Never say that you’ve “never failed” and don’t point fingers and play the blame game.

7. “How many TVs are there in the UK?”

What the recruiter actually means:

“Are you capable of thinking on your feet? Can you handle pressure and can you be creative? Can you think critically and logically?”

How you should answer:

When presented with a random question it’s vital not to panic or be caught off guard. You may be faced with various types of ‘odd’ questions. Some requiring creativity and some requiring problem-solving. Take a few seconds and think about your answer and be calm. In this example, you should walk the recruiter through your thought process, discuss the approximate population of the UK, where you could find televisions and present your answer.

As always you should try a test interview with your family, friends and/or colleagues. Ask for feedback on how to answer questions.

Related content

30 Totally Weird Interview Questions​
How To Beat Interview Bias
Classic Interview Questions: Part I


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