Interview Questions: What to Ask and How to Answer
Imagine the situation: You’ve used our Ultimate Job Guide and landed an interview. You’ve prepared yourself as much as you can (using our interview guide, of course). It’s all going well, but now the interviewer has asked you one of those feared generic interview questions like: ‘What three things would you take to a desert island?’, or ‘What are your greatest weaknesses?’. Even worse, they then ask if you’ve got any questions yourself.
You don’t panic though, because you’ve already read (or are about to read) this guide on what to ask, and how to answer interview questions. Let’s begin.
Questions to Ask
Interviews often seem pretty one sided, but in fact they offer you the opportunity to interview your potential employers too by asking questions of your own. Not only that, asking questions shows your interviewers that you’ve spent time considering the possibility of a role with them, along with what that might entail.
What you don’t want to do however, is leave it until the interview itself to come up with questions. You can guarantee you’ll draw a complete blank. Be prepared instead, and use these questions as a starting point:
What are the next steps of the interview process?
This is an easy one to remember but also an effective one to ask. It shows you’re keen to get the position, and can also give you an early indication of how you’ve done in the interview based on the response.
What do you like about working for this company?
A very useful question to ask, because it puts the focus on the interviewer for a while. You can also get some insight into what working at a company might really be like. It’s a good conversation starter, and can be an effective way to build a connection with the interviewer, which can itself make you stand out.
What’s the staff turnover like here?
Asking this is a good way to gauge how employees feel at a company, not to mention how well (or not) they get treated. If the turnover rate seems very high, it can be worth asking follow up questions to find out what the cause might be. A high turnover could indicate an unpleasant working environment for example.
What does the ideal candidate for this role look like in terms of skills and experience?
While you should only ask this if you’re confident about backing up your own suitability, it can be a really strong question. It opens up more discussion about the role on offer, and you get another opportunity to explain why you think you’re right for it.
I read about the company in the paper regarding X, can you tell me more about it?
This question is a great way to show your interviewers that you’ve not only done your research on the company, but are genuinely interested in what they do.
What’s the company culture like?
Making sure you and the company are a good fit is important, so asking about company culture now can help both parties decide. Generally, companies will have a few buzz words they use to reflect their values, and this is a great way to get some elboaration from employees.
You don’t need to repeat these questions word for word of course, and you don’t want to ask more than three generally speaking. It’s also fine to write the questions you want to ask down and take them in with you to the interview – even if the interviewers spot them, it shows you’ve been thinking about the role and are prepared.
How to Answer
All interview questions are designed to expose the potential strengths and weaknesses of candidates in an indirect way. How you respond to them can make or break your interview. Here are a few of the most common interview questions, along with example answers to get you going.
What are your biggest weaknesses?
This is probably one of the trickiest ones to answer well, and quite a common too. Let’s get it out the way first. The best approach here is just to be honest. Think about one or two areas that you could improve in. It doesn’t matter too much what your weaknesses are, it’s more about acknowledging you have some and are working towards improving.
Example answer: I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but I’m working on being more realistic without sacrificing standards.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Everyone has probably heard this one at least once. What the interviewer is really trying to find out here is whether you’re genuinely interested in the role, and whether or not it’s worth them spending time and money investing in you. Essentially, you just want to answer in a way that shows you have long term career prospects in a related field, and that you’re enthusiastic about the role. Being slightly vague is also a good approach.
Example answer: I’m ideally looking for a company where I can develop my skills further, somewhere that offers a new challenge and the potential for growth, as well as more responsibility. I really love what the company does, and think it would be a perfect fit for me.
Can you give an example of a time you solved a problem?
Again, it’s not the specifics of the answer you give, but more about the fact you can demonstrate you have problem solving skills and can stay calm under pressure. If you’re really stuck finding an example from your work history, then something from everyday life can work here as well. Ideally though, a work related example is best.
Example answer: In a previous role, I dealt with a customer who hadn’t received their delivery. They were very angry, so first I helped them calm down by reiterating that I was there to help before looking into the problem. I tracked the package number and called the courier, who had forgotten to dispatch the item. I arranged a new delivery time and informed the customer.
These are by no means the only questions that might come up of course, but you can see a trend emerging in how to answer them: Give an answer, then support it with an example. Remember: It’s more about how you answer than what you answer with.
Now you’re ready to deal with interview questions in all their iterations, all you need is the interview itself. Register with us, upload or create your CV, and your next opportunity could be just around the corner.