So you’ve graduated and now you want to start your career. We all know how that works – you start off on a high, saying you’re going to dust off your CV, update your cover letter, apply for all the jobs. It then goes downhill to the point where you think you know nothing and you’ll never get a decent job let alone your dream job; you end up having a drink or two, calm down and decide to go through with the initial plan but not rushing it and taking your time to find the jobs that you’re really interested in and with good chances of getting.
Now you’ve sent off all your applications and you’ve received a phone call from an employer letting you know they’re inviting you to an interview. The high hits again and you do a little victory dance only to realise that you can’t help but feel worse than before the phone call, worrying that you’ll be the worst candidate ever and that you will give all the wrong answers. You’ll start worrying about what they’re going to ask you and how on Earth will you know the right answers to those questions?
In my fair share of good and bad interviews, I have discovered that most employers ask these simple yet tricky five questions that with a little bit of training, wit and honesty you could easily tackle.
- Tell me about yourself
You’ve just got there, sat down and feel sweating and this is the question that they first ask you. Make sure that you take a deep breath and collect your thoughts before you start talking nonsense – you need to filter the information that you are sharing. Talk about your education, the key skills and the experiences that you’ve collected over time that make you suitable for the role you’ve applied. No one wants to hear about your friends, family and your last night out so keep the personal things out – unless they ask!
- What is your biggest weakness?
This is literally the worst question in an interview, but it’s always there. You need to think really hard about it before going to an interview because this needs a good answer or else you’ll just put yourself in a bad light. “I’m not a morning person” is not an appropriate answer – an employer doesn’t care about that. For example, you could say that time management is not your strongest skill but you are trying to improve on it by being organised, prioritising your work and writing a schedule. Keep in mind to look at the key skills they’re looking for so that you avoid listing any of those as your weakness because it will put you at a disadvantage. And please, don’t say you haven’t got any weaknesses because they’ll just think you’re phoney.
- Why should we hire you?
This is a tough one but I would suggest that you have a sit down with the job specs, identify the key skills and try to match them with your experience so that you can show that you are genuinely good for the job. DON’T ramble! Just be quick, concise and confident.
- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
“Honestly, I want to be on a beach, sipping a Mojito while someone is fanning me with a palm leaf”. We all want that but this is serious and you really need to think about what your end goal will be. Do a little bit of research on the field you want to go work in and find the opportunities that will help you progress in your career path – this will make both you and your employer happy about the fact that you’re not going to start changing your job after just a few months of working there.
Seems really easy right – to boast about yourself? Believe me, it’s not. You need to show them how motivated and passionate you are about the job and the company, but not be arrogant about it. However, you could also let them know that you’re quirky – anything from being able to speak another language to your love for books/acting/sports/cooking and your goals of improving these hobbies or even take up a new one – this will come across well as it shows that you’re different from the rest and that you are seeking improvement and development in your personal life.
So there we go – my top five interview questions I’ve come across and how to answer them. Good luck!
The Careers and Employability service at the university can give current students professional and impartial advice, but if you would like more careers help before you come to university contact your school careers team.