How to answer questions in an interview!

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When you are looking for work, getting an invitation to an interview is wonderful, particularly right now.  It is an achievement!

Now you need to prepare for the next stage – time to start thinking about questions you might get asked.

First, remember to keep a balanced approach!  The panel want you to succeed.  There is nothing recruiters like better than to have the candidates they select for interview, do well.

You will probably be asked a range of different kinds of questions.  Some may be simple to answer and others much more challenging;  tough questions are not asked to make you feel uncomfortable but they are meant to test you.

Sometimes, you may be put under pressure just to see how well you cope with stressful situations.  If you have applied for a high pressure job then you should expect this!  So stay calm and show them how well you would cope.

Many interviewers start the interview with “getting to know you” factual questions about your experience.  These are usually intended to put you at your ease and help you give your best.

You may well be asked why you applied for the role and you need to prepare a credible answer.  It should show you have some real interest in the organization and in the role.

Also, you may be asked why the organization should hire you.  This is your opportunity to set out your wares.  Again prepare for this.  You should make sure your answer is compatible with your application form.   It is often wise to check your application form just before the interview – just to make sure you keep your answers consistent.

You may be asked why you left your last position.  Be honest but have a care – it is never wise to be critical of a previous employer. The same thing applies, if you are asked to describe your worst boss; again have a care and give a balanced view.  Show how you have learned from experience!

If you are asked about your weaknesses, be honest and be brief.  Concentrate on a minor shortcoming that doesn’t have a profound effect on job performance.  For example, I mention that I have a tendency, in my enthusiasm, to over commit and take on too much work.  But I go on to explain that I’ve learned to pace myself.

If the role has a management or leadership element, you may be asked for an example of something you handled well.  Have some challenging examples ready to quote.

In general, where you can, use your experience in your answers as evidence of what you bring with you.

If you are asked what you are looking for in a role, have an answer ready that shows a real taste for the work and some enthusiasm.

If you are asked what you are looking financially, ask what the salary range is for the position. But be ready in case you aren’t given the information you need. Read salary surveys, government data and association reports in advance so you have an idea of what comparable jobs pay right now. That way, you can give a response that’s in line with current standards.

Remember in all your answers to treat the panel with respect; stay calm, polite and do not patronise them.

Whatever questions they ask, stay away from politics and religion in your answers!

When they are asking questions, listen carefully and take a deep breath before answering – think before your speak.  If there is something you don’t understand, then ask for clarification.

At the end of the interview, you will probably be asked if you have any questions.  These days you are expected to say yes.  Have something prepared about the role and how it might develop.  Again show a real interest in this role, these people and this organization.

Above all remember that the interviewers hope to see good candidates.  They will be willing you on to do well.

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439