How To Answer Killer Interview Questions: Part 1

Interviews, you gotta love them. You've also got to be super prepared, otherwise what's the point. There tend to be a handful of reasonably predictable questions that your interviewer will expect you to have prepared for and here are five of the most common, (more to come). 

1. What other positions have you applied for?/How does this position compare to others you’re applying for?

This one is tricky. It’s basically the interviewer a) being nosey and wanting to know where else you’ve applied and b) wondering how much you know about the position. So what’s the etiquette here?

It’s absolutely fine to talk about other applications you are making; but be wary. While you need to make it clear that you favour this job, you don’t want to imply that this is your only choice. Neither do you want to suggest that you’ve been applying for everything under the sun!


● I’ve applied to several similar marketing positions. (Shows you know what you want).
 I had a couple of interviews last week and am waiting for the results. (Good! Shows you’ve been successful/have desirable experience/skills).
 However, this is the position I really want because of the amazing opportunity to [insert aspect of the role that appeals]. (Shows both your enthusiasm and knowledge of the role).
 I’m also really interested in this position in particular because I’ll be able to use my [skill]. (A great way to end your answer, it subtly reinforces why you would be a great fit!)

2. What is your biggest weakness?

Graduate recruiters don’t want to hear the clichéd perfectionist excuse. You know the one - ‘ My biggest weakness is that I am such a perfectionist" - don't even think about it. Even if it is true, it sounds insincere.

Instead, answer with a genuine weakness (one that’s small and isn’t crucial for the role you are applying for!). Also it's best to steer away from any personality traits like a lack of confidence, instead focus on weaknesses which are less innate e.g. your proficiency on excel, your ability to give a good presentation. Finally, always talk about how you are working on it; you need to come across as proactive!

3. What didn’t you like about your last employer/job?

Beware, this is a trick question! NEVER, we repeat NEVER, speak ill of your previous boss/colleagues; it’ll make your interviewer question what you are like to work with. This question is a test to see if you can think on your feet and deliver a diplomatic response. Either talk about how you've been lucky in that you've always had good relationships with your bosses/colleagues, or talk about a minor problem you had with a colleague and how you worked to rectify it.

In terms of what you didn’t like about your previous role, you can be a little more candid. That said, always give it a positive slant, no-one likes a complainer! Also make sure you don’t criticise any aspects of your old job that also part of the job you’re applying for! Saying you hated the amount of admin you had to do when you’re applying to a job which is 50% admin isn't going to go down well!

Instead, use this question as a chance to reiterate how much you want this job. So you might say ‘I really wish my last role had included [insert an aspect of the job you are applying for] which is why your position is something that I’m really drawn to.’  Sneaky.

4. What motivates you?

This question causes difficulty again because it's easy to offer a short and generic answer such as ‘success is what motivates me’ or ‘I'm motivated by challenges'. There are three things you can do to improve on these one-liners:

●      Tailor your answer to the company. If you are applying for a position as a junior editor at a magazine you should talk about how you are motivated by deadlines, for example.

●      Give evidence of when you were motivated by said motivation. It gives weight to your answer and is of course another opportunity to show off - talk about past successes!

●      Speak with enthusiasm! You are talking about what really makes you tick, your body language needs to reflect that!

5. Why should I hire you rather than the other applicants?

Being asked ‘why you?’ outright can catch you off guard, and it’s designed to.

But remember, you’re not going to know how you compare with other applicants. So rather than making a vague attempt to boast about how you are more hard working/a better leader than anyone else, just use the question as a chance to reiterate how your own strengths/experience match the job description. As always, back up your skills with examples of times you’ve used them.

For example, you might begin by saying ‘I feel the leadership skills and competitive attitude that I’ve built up through my 2 years as captain of my university’s hockey team, make me a great fit for the highly target driven world of recruitment.’

Related content -

How To Answer Killer Interview Questions Part 2
5 Questions You Should Ask The Interviewer
How To Answer Classic Interview Questions


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