10 Important Interview Questions

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1. Tell us more about yourself?

What not to say: When answering this question, it’s important not to undersell yourself by responding to the question with a simple answer like “I am Joe Soup, married with 2 kids and living in Johannesburg”.

What to say: Because this question is usually asked first, it is an opportunity for you to set the tone of the interview by selling yourself to your interviewer. If you have a great cover letter, I’d recommend memorising it so you can say it in your own words and with passion. Remember a great cover letter describes who you are in a summarised manner, your mission, vision, goals, strengths, achievements and all the things that make you a great candidate for the job.

2. What are your short-term goals?

What not to say: When you hear this question include the word “career” within the statement. An interview is not a confession booth, and neither is it a social gathering. It is a meeting relating to matching a candidate to a job/task. So, in most cases I advise that you do not answer this question with an unrelated career or work passion such as clubbing, hunting even travelling, these could potentially showcase you as an opposite character to what they want.

What to say:  The best way to answer this question is to relate it to your career or the role you are being interviewed for e.g. I want to improve my current knowledge of (project management, marketing, online platform, etc.) or I want to see myself as part of a strong team that will help me to grow. Something down these lines, you get the picture, right?

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

What not to say: Again, this question also refers to your career and not your family or social life unless specifically asked. So, do not answer this question by mentioning things like, I want to be living in a different city/country or touring the world. This only shows that you are not going to be dedicated to the job.

What to say:  Relate to your career or role, and improve something within that regard, such as “I want to be a director, manager, or supervisor” aim for a higher position or improve a skills but, it has to be something that positively impacts the current role you are being interviewed for.

4. What do you know about our company?

This question is very common, and it is surprising how many people come unprepared for it. This is the one question that tells the interviewer if the candidate is interested in working for the company or is just looking for the next paying job.

What not to say: I don’t know, I quickly browsed the website and I think …,

What to say: Recite and relate to the company mission and vision, highlight competitors and what makes this company good and where it can improve. There is no short cut to this question, you need to do as much research as possible, with adequate information comes informed questions.

5. Why should we hire you?

What not to say: Because I am hard working or because I have the required qualifications and experience.

What to say: Be confident and ready to sell yourself, this is an opportunity for you to reassure the interviewer that you are the perfect candidate. Don’t recite the whole interview, think of highlights, focus on one or two points that make you especially well suited to the position. You can mention a few of your strength and how you would make a difference.

6. What are your biggest weaknesses?

What not to say: Never say you don’t have any weakness or that you don’t know, that will portray you as a “perfectionist”. It’s important not to come across as arrogant or dishonest by claiming that you don’t have any weaknesses.

What to say:  Your answer should be framed around the positive aspect of your skills and abilities as a professional. Mention skills that are not critical for the job, discuss skills you have improved on, or turn a negative into a positive.

7. Describe your dream job?

What not to say: Do not mention another company.

What to say: Rather say a place where I can be part of a strong team that allows you to grow.

8. What are your strongest qualities?

What not to say: Do not mention qualities that are not relevant to the position.

What to say:  Come very prepared for this question. Go through the job spec and learn as much as you can about the company. Use what you have read to identify the relevant qualities and how it will allow you to contribute. Mention your key competencies that are aligned to the role.

9. What are your salary expectations?

What not to say: As much as you might be desperate for the position, be careful not to over-exaggerate or undervalue yourself.

What to say:  Do your calculations and have facts, its very important that you are well aware of the market trends, how the job demands, and how much people in similar roles get paid. When stating your desired salary, be clear and precise. It’s always best to indicate it in a range rather than a specific denomination. A range will allow more room for negotiation. Justify your salary expectations with your experiences, projects accomplished, achievements and skills gained that will benefit the company.

10. Why do you want to leave your current job?

What not to say: Don’t bad mouth your ex job, you will be seen as petty, or even worse, a risky hire.

What to say: Give diplomatic responses about your past employers, even if your tenure at a former job ended badly. Try to find something positive you can say about every past work experience on your CV and then pivot to the skills you have gained along the way that will benefit your next employer.

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