Ace That Interview

So your CV has gotten you through the first round of the hiring process, and now it's up to you to dazzle your interviewers. Respectful, intelligent and competent was what you aimed for -- flustered, bewildered and uninformed is what you got. Here's how to nail even the toughest questions in your next job interview.

Woman on a job interview

Job interviews can be terrifying. No matter how confident you feel walking into the office, the moment you face a panel of poker faces and they start asking the tough questions, even the most experienced of us can start faltering under pressure. Maybe you keep your cool (while freaking out inside), maybe you stammer or maybe you start spewing out random words and phrases until the answer comes to you... But regardless, the best way to nail a job interview is to prepare thoroughly for not just the common questions, but also those tough queries they throw in to keep you on your toes.

Common questions

Write out a list of all the common questions you'd expect to hear in just about every job interview. These might include:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What do you think the job involves?
  • What skills do you think you can bring to the role?
  • Why did you choose this particular career path?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What did you enjoy and not enjoy about your last role?
  • How do you think your last boss would describe you?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Can you give us an example of your leadership/organisation/etc. skills?
  • Do you work well under pressure?
  • Can you give us an example of when you were in a difficult situation at work and how you handled it?
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • What are your interests outside of work?
  • What are your salary expectations?

The tough questions

After the interviewers have asked all the usual questions and sussed out why you want the job and what skills you can bring to the role, they'll try to ask a few more difficult questions to see how you'd fit in with the company's work culture and to gain a deeper insight into your character. It's important to remember that there's no right or wrong answer here. Don't feel the need to jump in right away, take a minute or so to mull over your answer (and make it relevant and applicable to the role and the company), then respond confidently and clearly. A good way to buy yourself extra time is to repeat the question back as an introductory statement to your response.

Do you have any regrets in your career? What would you do differently?

Keep positive about your own choices and take responsibility for earlier decisions -- don't start blaming others or certain situations for where you are today. An ideal answer would be wishing you had done something earlier that you have since achieved anyway (e.g. achieving a qualification or taking a certain job). The important thing is to note that you're happy with how everything turned out as all earlier decisions have led you to the point of applying for this job today.

How do you achieve work/life balance?

This can be a tricky one for a mum with a family at home. Your potential employer is basically sussing out how committed you are to the job and if you've made suitable arrangements for days when your kids are home from school or day care. Emphasise how your time in the office is focused on your work (e.g. "I only take important phone calls from the family") and demonstrate how you've managed to make this work in recent jobs.

What would you do in your first month / few months of employment here?

Have clear milestones you want to achieve in that particular role. Go back to the advertised job description and focus on the tasks outlined by the company. Reframe the question with a longer timeframe if necessary.

Talk us through your employment history and why you took each job.

Now is not the time to be humble -- even if you thought your first job out of uni was lame, it's important to focus on all the skills it taught you and the opportunities you had to grow. Include any internal promotions or extra responsibilities to show that you were valued within the company. Describe all your jobs favourably and stay focused on the great things you achieved for each company.

Why were you fired/retrenched/etc from a particular job?

If you've had a negative experience, it's best to be honest without pointing the blame, being too negative or revealing confidential information. Try to focus on what you learnt from the experience and how this has helped you to become a better worker.

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Tags: job interview job interview skills

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