Got an interview coming up? Questions asked at interviews are often standard, but your answers needn’t be. When it comes to answering the questions that come up again and again you will have to make an impact. You’ll find that being prepared for the often common questions can be turned to your advantage. We get some experts to weigh in.
Common question: Tell us about yourself…
UNIQUE TIP: Don’t start with what they already know, says Maggie Coetzee, recruitment consultant at Prime Personnel. Like, “Hi, my name is Sarah.” They’ve already seen your CV, so start with something more relatable, such as your achievements and great personality traits. This is your chance to drop an interesting conversation-starter, like the half marathon you recently finished – a study in Frontiers in Psychology found that prospective employers perceived marathon runners as fitter and better able to handle responsibility.
Common question: What’s your biggest weakness?
UNIQUE TIP: “Don’t say you don’t have one. You’re human; you do,” says boss, founder and owner of Yococo ice cream Sinenhlanhla Ndlela. But this also isn’t a confession booth. There are various ways to tackle this tricky interview favourite. Ndlela recommends citing a weakness that you used to have but have been working on (“I used to be late all the time, so I started setting all my clocks forward and I’ve trained myself to be on time”). This shows you can acknowledge a weakness and address it – plus you’re listing something that actually is no longer a problem. Yali Joyi, an executive manager at Okhahlamba Municipality, recommends opting for something that isn’t a job requirement – “I’m useless with directions” won’t have too much bearing on your office-bound, desk- jockey position. The other trick is to disguise a strength as a weakness (“I thrive under pressure so I often end up taking on extra work.”)
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Common question: Why are you leaving your previous job?
UNIQUE TIP: Best to be transparent about this – your reference will reveal the truth in any case. If you were dismissed, stick to the facts, advises Coetzee. And never get personal – never mention that you didn’t get on with your boss, says Joyi. Rather explain that there weren’t sufficient opportunities for growth and career development.
Common question: What are your interests outside of the job?
UNIQUE TIP: “The only reason they are asking you this is to work out whether you have a release point for stress and get a sense of the type of character you have,” says Coetzee. Don’t lie. Your tall tale about loving golf will be exposed for the BS it is at the first company golf day. “And something as simple as lying about your hobby can tamper with your overall credibility,” warns Joyi.
Flip the script
Nothing is worse than realising the job you worked so hard to get is a wrong fit for you. Especially two days into your “dream” job. When they ask, “Do you have any questions?” here’s what you should ask before saying yes to that job:
1/ What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?
2/ What is the typical career path for someone in this role?
3/ What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, year?
4/ What are the biggest opportunities facing the company/department right now?