Sample interview questions and what they really mean

man being interviewed

In order to ace your interview, there are lots of things to prepare and factors to consider, and sometimes it’s about looking beyond the obvious. It’s not always about the questions that interviewers ask that can cause difficulty for candidates but the understanding of why they are asking them and what specific information/answer they are looking to extract.

As an interviewee in a competitive process the more you can ‘decode’ and understand the logic behind the question to understand what the interviewer is asking, the better chance you have of giving a winning answer and hopefully an answer that separates you from the field.
Here are 5 common interview questions that you may get asked and what they really mean:

Tell me about yourself

The interviewer here will want to know about you both professionally and personally. From a professional point of view, they will want you to discuss your career to date in terms of experience and suitability for the position they have available. This is also a good time to discuss any related academic and work-based qualifications that you have which may be of interest to the business and their vacancy.
This is normally the starting point for this answer but it’s a nice touch to follow up with a bit about you as a person such as where you live, your family, hobbies and interests etc. All of this gives them a rounded view of you as a person and applicant.

What do you know about us?

It’s easy to recite what you’ve seen/read on the website here. That’s what most would do. What the employer will be looking for is the extent of research you’ve done and why in particular based on that research you’re interested in them. The more prepared you are and if you can demonstrate that research, it will go some way to impressing the interviewer.
Look beyond their website at their social channels, check out local business news/awards and who works there. It’s easy to get that information from their website, and furthermore you can see staff longevity, progression and learn more about the person(s) conducting the interview.

What makes you interested in this role?

What really separates you from the crowd is telling the interviewer why you want this job rather than just any job. Using your prior research, you can explain what it is about the business and/or the role that particularly appeals to you. Why do you want to work there and what transferrable experience do you have?

What are your strengths/weaknesses?

When answering this question, it’s important to pull to the surface your strengths that will be useful to the employer in the position they’re recruiting for. Avoid the obvious answers such as honest, punctual, reliable etc. These are stock answers and not specific enough about you, or demonstrating relevance to the role.
Weaknesses can be more difficult to answer as it can feel like you’re telling the interviewer what you’re not good at. They’re looking here for you to demonstrate self-awareness. A good example of how to answer this question is to discuss feed-back you’ve had in the past. For example, if you were told you had to work on your relationship management skills – how did that come about, what did you do differently and what was the result of that?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

The interviewer is looking into your long term career goals and how this role you’re applying for fits in with that. As well as the opportunities that they have available, or will have available in line with your requirements. They’re also looking if you can see beyond the here and now.
This question tends to relate to your career rather than personal life, but it doesn’t hurt to give an example of both. Show the employer that you’ve thought about your career goals and how this role fits in with them.

So, next time you have an interview think deeper than the question you’re presented with. Sometimes the most obvious answer isn’t the right or best answer and you want to give yourself every possible chance for a successful outcome.
If you’d like further advice and support on your job search, or how to prepare for and execute a winning interview drop us a line on 0114 321 1873 or email

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