The ten most common questions in job interviews - Questions you should be well prepared for

All sorts of typical questions might come up in a job interview so, in order to ensure that you emerge victorious, we recommend that you find out about the company in detail in advance in order to prepare yourself. After a short introduction to the company by the HR interviewer, you will generally be asked a series of different questions. This article contains some of the most common questions and some tips to ensure you’re well prepared for them.

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1. The open question: Tell me about yourself!

This is often one of the first questions in the interview. The interviewer would like to create a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, as well as seeing how you react to open questions. A good, concise presentation about yourself is what makes the difference here. It’s worth taking time to consider what you’ll say in response in order to avoid telling long, personal stories or sharing rambling thoughts that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

2. Why did you decide to follow this career?

It’s important to make the link between your career choices and your personal interests and capabilities. Demonstrate that you developed an interest in this job early on and that it wasn’t based solely on a gut feeling. Those who are in the early stages of their career should focus on the fact that they see the job as a long-term opportunity. Experienced hires should use their experience to emphasise why their career choice was right for them.

3. Why do you want to work in our company?

This is an extremely popular interview question, designed to check how well the candidate has researched the company beforehand, so make sure that you have a solid understanding of the company, its business model and corporate strategy, as well as its products and services. The company’s own websites, brochures and press releases are the most helpful source in this respect. In the interview, you should convey that you are in a position to identify with the business and are interested in working together over the long term. In doing so, establish connections with your personality and skills. If, for example, the company places a major emphasis on sustainability, you should also be able to identify with the topic.

There are lots of different ways in which this question is asked. Examples include “Why, in your view, is our company the right employer for you?” or “Why is our business of interest to you?”

Looks matter especially in job interviews

Looks matter, especially in job interviews  

4. Why are you precisely the right candidate for our company?

In answering this popular “stress question,” it is important that you show self-awareness, as well as familiarity with the job and the company. Convince the employer of your personal qualities and your professional qualifications with a mix of compelling arguments and a relaxed, friendly approach. At this stage in the interview, it is worth mentioning your particular skills, such as IT skills or foreign language abilities, as well as experiences and aspects of your career history. Focus on skills that are relevant to the particular job role. The interviewer is not interested in how you can benefit from the job, but rather how the company can benefit from your contribution.

5. What are your particular strengths and weaknesses?

An exaggerated sense of self-importance is totally out of line here. Instead, we recommend that you show a healthy degree of self-confidence. When mentioning your strengths, it’s important to be able to back these up with examples from everyday situations, your personal activities, or prior career experience. Refer to weaknesses that can also be interpreted as strengths, or which you could overcome with appropriate training or development (e.g., a training course to build computer skills).

6. What are your salary expectations?

When answering this question, you should be able to justify your salary expectations through your skills and qualifications. Human resources specialists want to know whether the company can afford to take you on as a new hire, as every employee costs money. Show that you are thoroughly cooperative and ready to negotiate, allowing you to explore options such as a salary increase once you have completed your probationary period.

Ensure that you are well-informed about market rates of pay for the role in advance. Also consider the region where the company is located, and whether the employer is a small business or a large corporation where collective bargaining is more likely to apply.

7. Have you applied to any other companies?

Human resources professionals are well aware that you have submitted more than one application. Nevertheless, your interviewer wants to learn whether your application was targeted and whether you are genuinely interested in the role. If you still have other applications open, let your potential employer know. In any event, the other applications should not be for jobs that are completely different from the one you are applying for. This information lets interviewers know that they should decide whether or not to hire you as soon as possible.

The right preparation for an interview enhances your chances of getting the job

The right preparation for an interview enhances your chances of getting the job © fotolia

8. What are the reasons why you want to leave your current employer?

This question is deliberately asked in order to test your resilience. Do you give up as soon as problems arise and look for another job elsewhere? Or are you simply looking for new challenges in your career? When answering this question, tailor your response to specific line items in the job description.

9. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

This question often triggers uncertainty in candidates, especially those who are just starting out in their careers. Very few people have plans for the medium or long term; early on, the goal is simply to get on the career ladder. So how should you answer this question? Interviewers want to know whether you have a clear perspective on your future and whether it’s worth hiring you as a new starter. Talk about clear and specific goals and demonstrate to the person on the other side of the table that you have thought about what you will be able to offer the company over the medium term. The interviewer also wants to know whether your personal plans are aligned with the company’s expectations. Obviously, unrealistic or over-ambitious career expectations should be avoided, while vague expectations that can indicate a lack of motivation or commitment are just as unsuitable. Instead, the aim is to find a middle ground. A strategically clever answer would be that you want to develop, both personally and professionally, and take on more responsibility, actively working on projects that span across different departments, while you would also be keen to expand the international aspect of your current role.

10. Do you have any questions for us?

This is another way for the interviewer to test whether you have found out about the company in advance, and whether you have listened attentively during the interview. If you have thought extensively about the company, this question should not be a problem for you. Relevant questions show commitment and motivation; however, questions about working hours or holiday entitlement should be avoided. This might lead to the conclusion that you are only interested in how much time you can book off work. Also avoid asking questions to which you already know the answer. Only ask questions that are relevant to your own situation as a candidate, as well as your interests and your role, such as:

  • Has the job I am applying for recently been created?

  • What do you think my typical workday would look like?

  • What will I be responsible for in this role?

  • What are the chances for promotion in the company?

  • What kind of training opportunities does the business offer?

There are also interviewers who will ask questions in interviews that are designed to knock you off base, such as “What’s the quickest way to find all the prime numbers up to n?” or “Explain how to boil an egg perfectly.” There are various reasons for this. The interviewer may want to check how you react to questions like this, or would like to find out whether you’re easily unsettled.

You are under no obligation to give truthful answers to questions relating to your plans for children or a family. However, I recommend that you emphasise finding the right balance here. In the early stages of your career, you can emphasise that both are important to you, but there is still time to plan a family. Simply turn the question on its head: if the business offers flexible working arrangements, and there is a good balance between work and family life, name that as one of the reasons why you’d applied. In five years’ time, you might be taking them up on their offer. This shows that you have a plan for the future, want to pursue a long-term career with the company and have also taken the time to learn about your potential employer.

Proper preparation for an interview is everything. Prepare bullet point answers for each individual question, so that you arrive well-prepared for the interview, confident that you can handle anything it throws at you. We wish you every success in your next job application, and if you have additional tips on how to prepare, please share them with us and our readers.

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