When it comes to a job interview, no one is out to trip you up. The employer has a gap in the company that needs filling, and they want to fill it with the best person for the job. No one wants to make your life difficult, but the interviewer does want to make sure that you are appropriate for the role and get to know you as a person and a professional. So the more prepared you can be, the easier you will find the questions.

When it comes to a job interview, you can expect a fairly routine formula:

Small talk

Research suggests that seemingly idle chitchat can build your rapport with the interviewer and give you the upper hand over your competition. When you arrive at your job interview, expect questions about your journey in and how you’re feeling. If small talk doesn’t come naturally to you, have a couple of open-ended questions up your sleeve to allow your interviewer to talk for a moment. This will show you’re a good listener and create a great first impression.

Verification questions about you

You have already submitted certain documents about yourself, and the employers will want to check that they’re interviewing the right person. They’ll more than likely ask you to verify key facts. It’s worth having a look at your application before you go in so that your answers match up and that you look organised and professional.

Competency/skill-based questions

These questions are designed to test key skills and competencies related to the job you’ve applied for. They are more objective as the employer is looking for examples of specific abilities to see if your skill set and the role’s requirements align.

To work out what you’ll be asked, refer to the job description and identify the core competencies and qualities expected of a successful candidate. Then devise mock questions and answers using the STAR method.

Situational questions

You can expect to be asked about example situations which may come up in the role, requiring you to assess the situation and provide a solution.Treat these questions in the same way as competency questions, reviewing the job spec and the role’s duties in advance. Also, make sure you understand the company’s culture, ethos and core values to show that you will manage the situation in a way the employer expects.

Behavioural questions

These types of questions tend to probe at the skills, abilities and personality required for the job by asking about your past work experiences.  Like competency-based and situational questions, the employer wants to see whether you have the behavioural characteristics required for the role, for example, the ability to work under pressure.

Review the job description, research the position and the company and prepare responses using the STAR method to help you answer the questions appropriately.

Traditional questions

These questions are the ones you’re most familiar with, such as your greatest strengths and weaknesses. They are designed to gain an insight into your personality and determine whether you are fit for the position and company. As a result, they should be prepared for in the same way as the other types of questions.

Your questions for the interviewers

You are encouraged to ask your interviewer questions as you need to make sure that this job and the company culture is right for you. Asking questions is also your chance to demonstrate your research and your keenness to join the team.

Make sure you prepare a handful of suitable questions beforehand. While you may only ask one or two, it’s best to have about five in mind in case some are answered throughout the interview.

Don’t feel pressured to memorise the questions off-by-heart. Write them down in your notebook or at the end of your CV and refer to them at the appropriate moment – this is usually at the end of the interview.

Some great questions to ask include:

  • What do you like about working here?
  • Why are you hiring for this role?
  • Is there room for development in this position?
  • What company changes are coming in the next three years?

If you think of some more questions during the interview, don’t be afraid to write them down – but do this tactfully, so you avoid appearing rude. You want to maintain that you’re an attentive, proactive professional.

Now you know what may crop up in your interview, here are five common interview questions recruiters love to ask and how to prepare a killer response:

1. What is your biggest weakness?

The interviewer wants to assess your self-awareness. Don’t go overboard and list every fault you can think of, but at the same time don’t come across as arrogant and proudly declare you have none.

Instead, state what you think your weakness is, but stay away from personal defects. Focus instead on professional shortcomings. Use it to your advantage by saying how you are overcoming it, not letting it hold you back. Turn it into a strength if you can (without using a cliché, like being a perfectionist).

Ultimately, show the employer how a weakness has made you better at your job.

2. Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer wants to know that you haven’t just adopted a scatter-gun approach to job hunting and sent thousands of copies of your CV to whoever might be interested.

Show them you’ve researched the company by telling them what it is about it that appeals to you. Ask yourself the following questions to help you form an answer:

  • Do its core values and ethos align with yours?
  • Do you like the company culture?
  • Will the job allow you to build up your skills?
  • How does it help you with your career trajectory?

3. What are three positive things your boss would say about you?

This question is a spin-off of ‘Why should I hire you?’ and ‘What are your strengths?’ Have a read through past appraisals you have received and memorise the positives – including the numbers that prove your worth. It’s all well and good telling the interviewer that you’re a great catch, but need to quantify your selling points to explain your value.

4. What are your salary expectations?

Ah, the dreaded money question.

Do your research on what is a reasonable market price for professionals with a similar skill set to yours before you get to interview stage. Also, work out what you need and the average salaries in the same geographical location. Then, when you’re asked this question, don’t shoot straight for the top of the bracket as you may price yourself out of the job, but don’t position yourself at the bottom end either. You want to move up the pay scale, not sideways or down.

If the job spec or the employer hasn’t defined the salary for the role, work out what the salary bracket is before you reveal the number you’re looking for, so you avoid selling yourself short or pushing too high.

5. Describe a time where something you worked on didn’t go to plan.

The interviewer wants to see that you’re capable of recognising mistakes, handling issues and solving problems. They also want to know that you can learn from your setbacks. Never shift blame onto someone else as it can make you look ignorant and rude.

Finally, when it comes to interviews, remember the saying: if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Always conduct your research and keep the STAR method in mind at all times when providing your responses to show prospective employers you’re the talent they need to bring on board.


CV-Library is the UK’s leading independent job board. For more expert advice on job searches, interview tips and careers, visit their Career Advice pages. Article kindly provided by Laura Slingo at CV Library. You can also support the M3 Job Club by simply uploading your CV by clicking here. Remember to keep refreshing your CV each week to keep it at the top of the list!