Job interviews are the bane of most people’s existence. The sweaty palms, awkward questions and those terrible moments when your mind just goes blank, can all add up to create a pretty terrifying ordeal. Geoff Whytcross, careers coach and leadership mentor is an expert when it comes to career advice. He shares his professional skills and tips on how to answer the most hated job interview questions no matter what profession so you can ace your next interview sweat-free!
1. What salary are you looking for?
This is always a difficult question because we are never sure whether our answer will under-price or over-price us. I always suggest that you are honest and tell potential employers your current salary package including all benefits and bonus if you receive one. I then suggest that you say that you would be happy to move for an increase of approximately 10% of your base salary with similar benefits and a bonus opportunity. Most people change jobs for an increase of 5-15% of base salary.
2. What are the main strengths that you bring to a role such as this?
Here is where it is best to do some preparation first. Read the job advertisement, what experience and skills does it ask for? Then match your strengths to those asked for in the advertisement. Write it out before the interview and bring your notes with you.
3. If I was to ask your current boss to describe you, what are the types of words that they would use?
Here they are asking for words or short phrases, not a reference. Again plan for this question, I have asked this a lot of times, write out the words that you think they would use to describe you. Remember there is no right or wrong answer, sometimes I just asked it to see how the candidate would answer the question. Words like “entrepreneurial”, “dynamic”, “ a leader” are what I am looking for not “reliable”, “hard working”, or “dependable” but don’t tell a blatant lie because if it comes out in the reference checking.
4. I notice that you have listed quite a lot of strengths in your resume, what is the one area that you would like to improve?
Here don’t go into a long list of weaknesses, in fact they have asked you whether you have any weaknesses. The question is “what is the one area you would like to improve”. Again be prepared for a question like this, not only prepare for it, write down your answer. It might be attention to detail, time management, etc. Don’t make it sound like a major issue but just an area that you would like to improve.
5. What is the type of culture within a company that gets the best performance from you?
Again this is a challenging question because culture is difficult to describe. Also if you don’t know what type of culture that the potential employer has, it can be difficult to answer. Again you should do some research on the company and on their website there is often something about the company culture. Also try and talk with people that are or have worked with the company and ask their opinion although be careful with former employees if they were not happy employees. Still describe the culture that gets the best out of you. Use words like “team work” or “autonomous” or “challenging” but do be truthful because if are not you can end up being a “square peg in a round hole”
6. Describe yourself?
Again a difficult question, how much detail do they want, do they want to know about the personal you or just the professional you? Here I think that it is good to give a 5-10 minute overview of the personal and professional you without going into too much detail in any one area. When you finish, you can always ask whether the interviewer would like you to expand in any particular area.
7. Why do you want to work for our company?
This is another area where you should have done some research in anticipation of the question. Research the company website, Google the leadership team and, if possible, analyze the last set of financial results to give enough information to answer this question.
8. Where do you see your career in 5 years?
In today’s world, 5 years is seen as long-term and often potential employers ask this question just to see if you have been giving any thought to your career. You can prepare for a question such as this by describing how you see your career path developing or you can be flippant and suggest that you will be sitting in the employer’s chair. It is probably best to be prepared with a few options.
9. How would your co-workers or team describe you?
This is a similar question to previous question about your current boss. This is a question that you can prepare for by noting a few phrases that they might use. Don’t go into long paragraphs or reference style phrases, just short sharp comments like, “has a high energy level”, “always contributes” or “encourages others”.
10. What is the question that you don’t want me to ask today?
This is a bit of a trick question and there is no right or wrong answer. I haven’t used it often but I have seen it used to get someone to open up about a poor career choice. You can use any question here as you actually control the answer. For me it might be, “Why did you study law?” given that I studied it in my thirties and never practiced. You just need to write down a couple of question and a few dot point answers. Like most of these questions, there is no right or wrong answer; it is really just seeing how you answer the question, can you answer a question under some pressure.
Geoff Whytcross has an extensive background in human resources having worked in the industry for more than 30 years. In Geoff’s career he has interviewed approximately 25,000 people and is renown for his ability to help people develop their careers.