Do you have an interview scheduled? Are you wondering what questions they might ask? There are questions that will almost certainly make their appearance during an interview, no matter what your industry is or what position you are trying to secure. These frequently asked interview questions relate to issues that are of a general nature and independent of the particular position, but at the same time are of great importance to the employer. So, if you have a job interview scheduled anytime soon, you should prepare your answers for the most common job interview questions in advance.
QUESTIONS ABOUT MOTIVATION
Why do you want to change your job?
What is particularly interesting for you about this position/company?
What kind of work are you looking for now?
Why they ask: Well, not surprisingly, the reason for asking questions about motivation is to find out why the candidate is interested in that particular position or company. The interviewer wants to learn if the candidate genuinely wants the position in question or if he/she is only trying to escape from their current job. Learning about a person’s motivation also helps to decide if there is a chance that this person will become a long-term employee of the company, and if company’s culture, strategy and goals match the candidate – will he or she be happy working there in a long run?
How to answer: I highly recommend answering in a sincere way. This is not a question that has right or wrong answers, but some answers may be incompatible. For example, the candidate might tell me that he wishes to change employers because his current one has finished its dynamic growth phase and now it’s all about day-to-day routine maintenance which bores him. But I know that the position he is applying for is all about day-to-day maintenance and there is a lot of routine involved. It’s evident that it won’t be a good match. I cannot progress the candidate, though (if there is such possibility) I might offer him another position in the company that will better match his preferences.
QUESTIONS ABOUT CAREER HISTORY
Why did you leave your last company?
What made you decide to move from company A to company B?
Why did you have a six-month career break in 2013?
Why they ask: This question allows employers to get to know the candidates and to find out what is important for them in their work. Sometimes it is also to see if they have built their career consciously or if it has merely been a series of unlinked developments.
I once met a candidate whose CV at first glance appeared chaotic – every five years he had changed the industry in which he worked, though in each of these industries he had held a sales position. I asked him about that during the interview. He replied that his goal was to work in a few years time as an external consultant, outlining sales strategies. So, during his career he had tried to get to know the widest possible spectrum of industries and sales channels, in order to have the experience that would later allow him to offer good service, and to ‘authenticate’ him in the eyes of his customers.
Another candidate I remember was one who, when asked why he had applied for a position with our company, mentioned the need to develop and expand his experience, but when asked about the reasons for past job changes, made it clear that a higher salary was behind each change. To me that was an example of inconsistent motivation.
How to answer: Have a look at your career so far. Are there any gaps that need to be explained? Is there a long-term plan that you have for your career? If not, can you still identify a common thread that links each episodes? Build your story around it.
When you have a look at my career, it is a mixture of everything: small and big companies, NGOs, freelance work, full-time work, my home country and abroad, gap year, HR, training, recruitment. One could say it hasn’t been a structured career at all. And to be honest, I did not plan my career from its very beginning, but when I look back I can spot a unifying theme. It was all about the job market, careers, searching for tools to determine which job one would most enjoy. And building up my experience and knowledge to advise individuals who sought my advice.
What is the common thread in your career? Can you share in the comments?
QUESTIONS ABOUT SELF-PRESENTATION
Out of all the projects you have worked on, which do you consider your greatest achievement?
Tell me something about yourself. What is your story?
What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced in your career?
Why they ask: These are quite open questions with the aim of getting to know you, learn more about your experiences and the values you cherish. But also to sample your presentation skills, communication style and interpersonal interactions.
It is hard to give one answer about how these score in terms of importance. As you can imagine, one set of presentation skills will be required from the candidate for a PR Manager post, and a completely different set from an IT programming expert.
As the answers to these questions also indicate values that are important to the candidate, it is possible to see if these match the company’s. This gives some idea how the candidate will fit into the existing team.
Questions about what is considered their biggest challenge also show the calibre of previous experience and how this would suit company needs. For example, when the company plans major restructuring that will include reaching an agreement with trade unions, they will be more attracted by the candidate who has done similar things before, than one for whom the biggest challenge was resolving conflict with a colleague, for example.
How to answer: First of all: get prepared. In the stressful atmosphere of an interview you are very likely to forget all the best, most colourful and interesting stories, so write down some of the exemplary answers in advance. And, as a story sounds best when it has a beginning, middle and end, try to rehearse telling them. I always try in front of the mirror, but if you are brave enough you can ask a family member to pretend being an interviewer. Preparation in advance and rehearsal is the key to scoring highly on self-presentation questions.
QUESTIONS ABOUT WORKING STYLE
What thing is most important for you at work?
What type of people do you prefer to work with?
Which of your previous jobs did you most enjoy and why?
Why they ask: To get an idea about how you like working, what your preferred style and working environment is. Do you like to work alone on solitary tasks, or do you need to be a member of the team with a lot to say? The reason behind these questions is to check whether you will fit with the rest of the existing team. Or if you can bring a spirit to the existing team that is currently lacking, but management wants to implement.
How to answer: This might be a controversial tip, but my belief is that it is best to answer these kind of questions as honestly as possible. First of all, nobody wants to work in an environment that doesn’t suit their working style, as it is super painful experience and makes one quickly start searching for another job. Secondly, unless you have an “insider” source of information, you won’t be able to figure out “the right answer”. So, s in my opinion it is always better to tell the truth and hope for the best. Do you agree?
QUESTIONS ABOUT MONEY
How much would you like to earn?
What package do you expect?
Why they ask: no surprise here – to learn about your financial expectations. I know this sounds like an obvious issue, but still, from time to time I meet a candidate who is unprepared to answer these questions.
How to answer: First of all, calculate ahead of the meeting. How much do you earn now? Are you ready to change jobs keeping this salary level, or do you want to get more money/a higher salary? What is the minimum you would accept, i.e. how much do you have to earn per month to pay your rent, mortgage, bills and food?
Depending on which market you are searching within, you might be able to get an idea of the average salary level for the position you are after. In UK, for example, many employers indicate the intended salary level when advertising the position/post. If that is not the case in your market, do some Google research/Google it or speak to people you know who work in similar jobs. The latter will be a challenge, as people are usually reluctant to share details of their pay. What I find helpful is instead of asking directly “How much do you earn?”, ask how much they would expect to earn in the job I am looking at.
When discussing expected salary during the interview, it might be useful to give a range, instead of one fixed amount – but never give your minimum level at the beginning, as this will leave you without any room to negotiate.
There are many questions that will appear during the interview which are specific to the position, market and expertise required. However, the five types of questions mentioned above are those which are most likely to be asked during any recruitment process.
Have you been asked any of them?
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