How to prepare for an interview

It may be a while since you last had a job interview so it’s a good idea to rehearse some answers to common questions.

Middle-aged women in an interview


It may have been a good while since you did a job interview and you may be worried that everything has changed. In the current pandemic situation, your interview is likely to be done online for a start. So how do you best prepare for interview?? The best way is to rehearse your answers to some common questions and focus on what you have to offer – your experience. Here are a list of some common questions and potential answers:

Why did you leave/are you leaving your last/current job?

Think ahead to how you might answer this question and make it positive, for example, if you have had a career break “I left to care for an elderly relative/child, but I am now ready to get back into the workplace and feel I have a lot to offer” OR “I am leaving because I feel l have reached a point where I can’t progress any further and would like to enrich my career in a new position”. In the current circumstances where job loss is common there will be less stigma attached. If you have, for instance, lost your job because your sector has been particularly badly affected and you are applying for work in another sector, explain what drew you to it and your transferable skills.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

This isn’t a cue to walk through your entire working life – they’ve already read your CV. Nor is it a cue to get into the detail of your personal life. Instead, have ready a short description about yourself as a professional and what you’re looking for in a role.

Here’s an example: “I’m an experienced customer services manager with excellent leadership skills. I’m looking for a new role where I can expand my knowledge of the energy sector and work with a great team of people.”

Why are you interested in this role?

This is a great opportunity to show off some of your research about the company, as well as your key skills and your passion for the job. “I’m really attracted to [name of company] because of [reason]. I think that my background in [experience] will be an asset to your team and that I will fit well into the culture here.

What’s been your proudest achievement at work?

A straightforward question, but one that can stump you if you haven’t prepared an answer! Make sure you have at least one example of something you really enjoyed or got real satisfaction from. It’s an opportunity to show how passionate and enthusiastic you are about your work and the impact you have had.

Can you tell me about a challenging situation at work and how you handled it?

A similar question to be ready for. Find an example that shows you in a positive light. Perhaps you were instrumental in mentoring or developing a colleague or came up with an innovative solution to a problem. Or it could be a major piece of work that generated excellent feedback.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is an opportunity to show some personality, but make sure your answer fits with what the company will want from you. Demonstrate ambition, but be realistic. Find a middle ground between “I want to be your Director” and “I want to be writing my first novel in a French chateau.”

How would your colleagues/friends describe you?

Don’t get caught up in whether your colleagues like you or not – this is about whether you’re a good team player, you do what you say you will and can be relied on to get the job done well. Sometimes interviewers will ask for three words your friends or colleagues would use to describe you – don’t find yourself on the spot. Think of some relevant examples in advance (eg friendly, enthusiastic, hard-working).

Remember to make them positive!

What are your salary requirements?

A simple one – but make sure you know the answer. Have a minimum in mind and perhaps some rationale, such as ‘this is in line with what I was paid in my previous role’ – but don’t be apologetic. Everyone is entitled to ask for a realistic salary.

What are your strengths?

Make sure you align your strengths with what’s needed in this role. If you’ll be managing people, highlight some skills in this area. Align your strengths to what’s mentioned in the job description – whether it’s creativity, diplomacy or relationship building.

What are your weaknesses?

One of the most famous interview questions! It’s a tricky one and not an opportunity for complete honesty. Stick to something commonplace and, ideally, talk about how you’re working on it. For example, you might tell them that you used to get nervous doing presentations, but have got round it by actively seeking opportunities to practice.

Do you have any questions for us?

This is probably asked most often. Don’t waste the opportunity: ask at least three questions that will help you assess if you really want the job. Do bear in mind that you may be judged on what they are. Avoid questions about time off and perks.

Great questions to ask your interviewer

  • Why are you recruiting for this role?
  • What do you enjoy the most about working here?
  • Do you have any other questions about my work experience or qualifications?
  • What does success in this role look like?
  • Where does the role fit within the team?
  • What are the next steps in the recruitment process?
  • What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the organisation over the next 2-3 years?

Comments [1]

  • Laura Hunter says:

    Not only are candidates expected to find out all they can about the prospective organisation they are being interviewed for, and sometimes at very short notice if the work is contractual, but have to now research interviewers profiles on LinkedIn as well. I don’t know about others, I would rather meet people completely fresh without having read a profile, often with very intimidating qualifications and experience.

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