Tell me about yourself...
A common opening question, partly because your interviewers want to
know more about you, but mostly because they want to put you on the spot
and see how you react. They’ve given you complete control here, and you
should take full advantage of it. They have not, however, asked for
your life story.
It’s important to keep your answer pertinent, and try not to go off
topic too much. You’re here to interview for a particular position, and
you shouldn’t lose sight of this. Remember: the interviewer is not just making small talk.
Right answer: Should be about a two or three minutes
long and briefly cover your education, your interest in the field, work
history and experience.
Wrong answer: ‘Well, where do I start? I was born in 1974. A precocious child...’
What are your weaknesses...?
The first part of this question is realising that you actually have some. Everyone has
weaknesses or things that they can improve about themselves. And that
is essentially what the interviewer is asking you to consider. Be honest
with yourself here. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.
The best answers to this question take one of your weaknesses, and
then gives practical examples of how you’re trying to address it. A good
example of this type of answer would be:
‘I used to find it difficult to work on simultaneous projects,
preferring to finish on one task before starting another. However, since
taking a time management course recently, I’ve learnt how to manage my
schedule more effectively, making it easier to multi-task when
Right answer: Weakness + how you’ve tried/are trying to address it = (eventually) strength
Wrong answer: ‘I don’t have any weaknesses’; ‘I’m a perfectionist; ‘Kryptonite’.
Why should you get this job?
This is unashamedly aimed at provoking a personal sales pitch. As
there will probably be a number of other candidates having interviews,
this is your chance to demonstrate why you want the job, and why you
would be a perfect fit for the company.
Essentially, the company is hiring for a reason (a brief summary of
which can usually be found in the job description). You need to position
yourself as the person to do this.
Right answer: ‘From what we’ve discussed so far,
you’re looking to X (or, ‘having a problem with X’). In the past I have
demonstrated X, Y and Z (experience and your main strengths), which have
really helped my previous employer’.
Wrong answer: ‘Because I am better than anyone else
you have interviewed’, ‘Because if you don’t it would be the biggest
mistake of your life’, ‘I really need the money’
What are your salary expectations?
When completing your preparations for the interview,
always have this question in the back of your mind. Have a look at the
average salary for someone in this industry, area, and who possesses
similar skills to yourself, and you should get a basic idea.
Remember, this is only the first interview. You haven’t been offered
the job. There’s no need at this stage to be too specific or to try and
begin negotiations. Giving a broad salary range will usually be enough
to move on, but be prepared to back it up if you need to.
However, whatever your previous experience, don’t be tempted to sell
Right answer: A broad (but realistic) answer e.g. ‘I‘m looking for a starting salary somewhere between £25,000 and £30,000’.
Wrong answer: ‘How much do you think I’m worth?’,
‘Anything, I just want a job’, or any unrealistic salaries which are not
in line with industry standards and best practice.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
The perennial job interview favourite. The interviewer wants you to
display that you’ve thought about your future, your ambition to progress
in the industry. They also want to verify that this isn’t just a stop
Although all of your answers should be tailored to the organisation
and position you’ve applied for, this is especially the case with this
question. If you’re going for an entry level position, for example,
explain how you’d like your career to progress (e.g. ‘I’d like to
progress to a Senior Software Engineer’ or ‘I see myself being a team
If you’re going for a more senior position, explain how you’d be
looking to move the company forward. Have a look at their business
strategy or corporate objectives before the interview, and explain how
you can help in achieving them.
Right answer: Be passionate about the industry.Fit
your career goals around the organisation’s objectives, demonstrate
ambition and exploit your strengths.
Wrong answer: ‘On the other side of this desk’, ‘Doing your job’, ‘Rich’, ‘On a beach somewhere far, far away’.
Other potential questions could include:
Why are you leaving your current position/Why did you leave your previous position?
Right answer: Avoid the temptation to criticise your
employer. Stay positive, but try not to lie. Always avoid saying that
you’re simply looking for a new challenge if you can’t back it up,
because the recruiter will dig deeper. If all else fails, explaining that there were no opportunities for career progression sounds a lot better.
Why is there a gap in your work history?
Right answer: Wherever possible, be honest. If it
was for personal reasons, then say that. Otherwise, something along the
lines of ‘taking a break whilst looking for a new career direction’
should be enough to move the interview along.
Why did you apply for this position?
Right answer: Very similar answer to why you want
the job, but focus more heavily on why the position and company excite
you, rather than why you should excite them. Demonstrate what you know
about the company (and use what you’ve learnt from the job description
to back it why you’re the right person to do the job).
What’s your dream job?
Right answer: You can be relatively honest here, but use your common sense. Because it’s unlikely anyone one grew up dreaming of the day they’d become a Transaction Banking Systems Migration Specialist.
Whatever your answers are, make sure that you’ve practiced them
beforehand. Don’t be tempted to improvise or answer on the spur of the
moment. It’ll never come out as well as you’d hoped. It doesn’t need to
be scripted, but knowing why you want the job and what your strengths
and weaknesses are should be a standard part of your preparation process
and just as important as your pre-interview research.
It is also essential to consider that you’ll not just be judged on
your CV. Getting across your personality is of equal importance. In
other words, don’t just think about your answers, but think about what
they say about you.
Ultimately, you need to be likeable and display the parts of your
personality that will make you attractive to prospective employers
(engaging, dedicated, hard working etc). Entering a competitive
interview, with the right mindset can really set you apart.
Finally, to avoid any awkward silences, never assume that the hiring manager has a sense of humour... Just in case.