Interviews are nerve-wracking, we all know this. No matter how many you’ve been to, they’re never not scary. And if it’s your first ever job interview, it’s highly likely you’re currently a little terrified. And that’s okay. Everybody has to go through it. Everybody in the working world has been where you are now: applying for jobs and hoping for the best. But sending in your CV and a cover letter is one thing, the interview process is quite another.
The thing about interviews is that you cannot go in there and just “wing it”. You have to be prepared. And the best way to be prepared is to practise answering the most commonly asked interview questions. But you can’t just think about what they’re going to ask, you need to know why they’re asking certain questions in order to best prepare yourself for answering them.
So, here are the most common job interview questions and answers and why they want these answers.
What do you know about the company? Never go into an interview without having done your research – a lot of research. You should know as much as possible about the company. Go through every page of their website and even do a little bit of online stalking on the person or people who will be interviewing you. Because they most likely will ask what you understand about the work they do, and perhaps even the consumers they’re targeting, and if you give a blanket answer, mumble or just stare at them blankly, you may as well not have shown up for the interview. This is one question you really want to be prepared for because, even if they don’t ask it, you can drop bits of the information you’ve learned into your other answers.
Why do they ask this? Because they want to hire people who know what they’re getting themselves into. They want to be certain that you understand the business and what the position you’re applying for entails. They don’t want to have to explain everything to you on day one and have you asking questions you should already know the answers to.
Why do you want to work here? This is something you need to think carefully about. No, you can’t say you want to work there because you need to pay your bills. You need to have a concrete reason for wanting to work there. The day before the interview, relook at the job ad and remember why it appealed to you in the first place. What stood out for you? Was it the position itself? The ability to grow within the company? Or perhaps it’s a chance to work for a reputable company? Whatever answer you decide on, make sure the spotlight is on the business and not simply on your own personal goals.
Why do they ask this? Because they want to make sure you actually want to work there and not just anywhere. They want to hire people who specifically want to work for them. It should be about you growing your career and wanting to do so under their mentorship, rather than simply because no one else is hiring entry-level graduates. You need to make sure that they know that if they hire you, you’re not going to disappear for a better opportunity in a few months.
What skills do you think you have that will benefit the company? Basically, why should they hire you? What skills can you bring to the table? Don’t go and repeat yourself about why you want to work there. This question is about what you can offer the company and not what the company can offer you. You need to prepare yourself to list off good reasons as to why they should hire you right then and there. However, whatever you do, don’t come across as cocky. Don’t pretend you’re an expert in everything. You’re just starting out, so they’re not going to believe it anyway. And don’t lie about having certain skills because you think it will impress them. You will eventually be caught out and it won’t end well.
Why do they ask this? You may be wondering why this is an interview question when they already have your CV in front of them. It’s likely because they want to see you sell yourself. They want to know how confident you are in your abilities. They probably also want to see whether you talk yourself up too much and would be difficult to work with. How you answer this question says more about you than you think. For example, how confident you are and whether you can think on your feet.
So, before you go for your first interview, practise answering these questions. Ask a friend or family member to do a mock interview and give you honest feedback. And then spend some time practising in front of the mirror so you’re aware of your body language.