Common job interview questions and how to answer them

Often the key to job interview success comes from being able to anticipate the kinds of questions you are going to be asked. By putting some thought into these, and the answers you will respond with, you can give yourself a tremendous advantage – as well as removing some of the stress from the interview process. Regardless of the position, certain kinds of question are always likely to come your way.

Here are a few of the most common job interview questions.

1. What qualities do you think you would bring to this position?

Many people find this question awkward, because it literally is asking you to sell yourself. As long as your response isn't an exercise in arrogance, there is nothing to be afraid of in honestly outlining the strengths you have as a potential employee.

Consider the following valued aspects of any employee:

  • Dedication and enthusiasm
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Reliability and competence
  • Relevant skills and past experience

The most convincing response will not only claim these qualities, but actually provide some evidence in support.

An interviewer will often prompt you in relation to specific skills and experience relating to the position, but don't be afraid to be proactive in raising these.

2. What do you know about this position and this company?

This is quite a common job interview question. The aim behind it is to determine how genuinely interested you are in the position, how aware you really are of its demands, and whether you'd be the right “fit” for the company.

Nothing replaces the role of doing some research in relation to this. Often tracking down a company's mission statement will come in handy. A potential employer is looking for signs that you fit in with the broad philosophies of the organisation.

Furthermore, by demonstrating an awareness of the demands of the position – easily identifiable by reading through any relevant position statement or selection criteria – you show your own competence and dedication to landing the job.

3. How would you handle this situation …?

An employer may ask you how you would handle a hypothetical scenario. These can be the trickiest of questions, particularly if it relates to a situation where things are not going to plan, or you face a particularly challenging set of events. Government authorities commonly ask potential employees how they would respond if a friend asked them to access confidential information, for example. It is most unwise to answer that you would access the information.

You can't anticipate the specifics of any hypothetical, but you can anticipate the kind of response an employer is looking for – signs of level-headedness, composure and professionalism. Again, if you can draw on an example from past experience, this can help.

4. Do you have any questions?

An interview will almost always end with this. Feel free to prepare some appropriate questions you would like to ask – but again keep in mind that your sole aim is to create the impression of a competent and motivated applicant. Far better to assure the interviewer that everything has been made clear, than to invent some irrelevant or counter-productive enquiry for its own sake.

If, however, you have genuine questions about the role – questions that simply indicate a desire to understand it fully – then it is entirely appropriate to raise them briefly.

Remember, you're the one being interviewed, not the other way around!.