Common questions to expect in your next interview

By Noelle Woon

Prepare yourself well for that important interview.

Interviews can be tricky. While it’s possible to do lots of preparation, you can never quite guess what questions you’ll be asked. Unexpected questions aside, there are a few questions that tend to come up in interviews and preparing for them can be quite handy.

That being said, these common interview questions are also some of the trickiest interview questions. Answering them requires some skill and perhaps some rehearsals. Here are some tips on how you can answer some of the most common interview questions you might expect:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

When you’re asked this question, the truth is often not the right way to answer these questions, especially if the role you’re applying for is not exactly your ideal job. Answer “gee, in 5 years time? I guess I’ll probably be at a different job,” and you’re probably done for.

Do:

A wise approach to answering this question is to emphasise the skills you’ll acquire over the next 5 years. Does the role require you to meet lots of clients? Talk about how you’ll pick up great communication and relationship management skills. Does the job require you to be meticulous? Talk about how you can become even more organised and detail oriented. Following which, explain how the skills you’ll pick up will benefit the organisation or those you’ll be working with. It’s always a good idea to show you’re a team player.

Don’t:

While it’s impossible to predict what the future might look like, try not to show uncertainty when you’re answering this question. “I’m not sure” or, "I think I’ll have a clearer idea after I’ve started” aren’t answers that will give you brownie points.

Remember that all interview questions require you to show why you’re the best candidate for the role. Therefore, it’s important to highlight the skills you’ll acquire and highlight how these skills will benefit the organisation.

What are your strengths?

It might feel a little weird to talk about your own strengths, especially if you’re afraid of coming off as aloof. Remember to be confident and take the opportunity to show your capabilities when you’re asked this question. It’s probably the most direct question that allows you to talk about your skills and achievements in an interview.

Do:

The best way to answer this question is to emphasise skills that are essential to the role you’re applying for. Beyond just listing out the skills you have, it’s also important to back up your claims with examples of when you’ve effectively put these skills to use. Perhaps you’ve shown some event management skills at your previous job or you’ve exuded some leadership qualities in school. Take some time to elaborate on how you’ve exercised these qualities and remember to talk about how these skills are relevant to the role you’re interviewing for.

Don’t:

Having examples or real-life situations where you’ve exercised these strengths are essential. If you simply list out your strengths without elaborating on them, your interviewer might have to probe you to explain yourself. Your interviewer might either find this slightly annoying or label you as a candidate with poor communication skills. Both of which aren’t impressions you want your interviewer to have about you.

What are your weaknesses?

This is probably one of the most intimidating questions at an interview. We often strive to give a good impression and elaborating on our weaknesses does the exact opposite. How should you talk about your weaknesses without reducing your chance of being hired for the role?

Do:

Everyone has weaknesses, so remember that there’s no shame in needing to work on a few things. While it’s important to be authentic when you’re answering this question, you’ll also need to be smart about what kinds of weaknesses you should bring up. When you asked to elaborate on your weakness, pick one that can be easily dealt with and phrase it in a neutral manner. For instance, “I get a little nervous speaking in front of many people” sounds much better than “I’m shy and afraid of public speaking”. Try not to use emotive words so you won’t risk sounding too handicapped by your weaknesses.

Additionally, it’s also important to avoid elaborating on weaknesses that can hinder your overall job performance. If the role you’re interviewing for requires you to meet many clients, don’t talk about your fear of meeting strangers. Always pick weaknesses that don’t directly challenge the essential skills you need to do your job well.

Finally, once you’re done elaborating on your weaknesses, talk about how you’re currently working on them. Showing that you have a sense of self-awareness and that you’re driven to improve yourself will definitely give the interviewer a good impression.

Don’t:

You might be tempted to evade the question or talk about a weakness that can be masked as a strength (“I’m a perfectionist…”). Your interviewers, however, have already heard many of these answers so there’s no way you’re going to fool them. Instead of seeing this question as your enemy, think of it as an opportunity to show a sense of self-awareness and authenticity.

There are no hard and fast rules to answering these tricky questions but if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll see that interview questions often revolve around your ability to do the job well. Doing some research on the organisation and the required skills of the role you’re applying for will help you come up with the best answers for these questions. Remember that interviewers are interested in understanding whether an applicant fits in with a certain role, so be confident, try not to get overly personal, and you should be alright!

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