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Interview questions

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Published: 7 May 2020

University of Sunderland in London student at a job interview

Alice McDougall, Careers, Employability and Enterprise Manager at the University of Sunderland in London is back with advice on preparing for the six most asked types of questions at job interviews.

Getting ready for interviews is an important part of landing that dream job. There are a few types of question you can be asked. Take a look at the most common ones below and prepare for success. 

1) The basics

Example: Tell me about yourself. What skills do you have for this role? Why did you apply for this role? 

Your interview will probably start with some easier questions about your key skills, strengths and experiences and how they relate to the job you’re applying for. Be clear on what these are, and make sure they directly relate to the main parts of the role. It can be helpful to describe them in a list form so you can give a very clear and thought-through answer. 

2) Motivational questions

Example: Why do you want to work in this sector? What interests you about this company? Tell me about an obstacle that you have overcome. 

Research the company or organisation before your interview. You might need to know: 

  • What do they do, sell or provide? 
  • Who their clients are? 
  • Where are they based - are they national or global? 
  • How many employees do they have? 
  • What are their values or mission statements? 
  • What share of the market do they have? 
  • Who are their main competitors? 
  • What issues does the sector face? 
  • How and where could they expand? 

Try to have three unique reasons why you want to do to this job in this specific company. 

3) Competency-based interview questions

Example: Can you give me an example of a time you worked in a team? Describe a situation in which you solved a complex problem? Tell me about a time you used your leadership skills. 

The point of these questions is to see how you have responded to a situation in the past. They give an idea about how you may behave in the future. The emphasis is on what you as an individual have done and what actions you have taken. It’s a good idea to identify some specific situations from your experience that you can use as examples. But don’t just rehearse fixed questions. Think about how you can adapt them to the questions you’re being asked. 

The S.T.A.R formula can help you structure your answer: 

  • S – Situation: Briefly explain where you were. 
  • T – Task: Briefly describe the task or project were you working on. Who were you working with? 
  • A – Action: This should be the main part of your answer. What did you do? What skills did you use? How did you respond to the problem? Keep the original question in mind – what skills are you trying to show. 
  • R – Result: What was the result of your actions? Was the project a success and did you meet your objectives? 

4) Strengths-based questions

Example: How do you feel about customer service? Do you prefer the bigger picture or the smaller details? Are you a starter or a finisher? 

The best thing you can do to prepare for these questions is to think about what your true strengths and weaknesses are; self-awareness is a powerful tool. The chances are the interviewer is taking in your body language, your voice and even your eyes, to work whether you are being honest or just saying what you think they want to hear. Make sure you’re very clear about the job role and the type of person they’re looking for. 

5) Technical questions

Example: Give an example of how your work has stuck to policy and procedure? How is a cash flow statement organized and what does this information tell you? What are the three components of a successful digital marketing campaign? 

It is worth researching and revising any technical skills and knowledge that you might need for the job role because you might be asked about them. As a new graduate you will not be expected to know everything, but think about the job description carefully and identify any specific hard or technical skills you might need.

6) Odd-ball questions and brain teasers

Example: How many footballs would fit in a lift? Are there enough hours in the day? How lucky are you and why? What is 17 x 18? If you were a sandwich what would you be? 

Not all interviewers will ask these types of questions but being aware of them might help you remain calm and find a great answer. They can have a few purposes: The interviewers might want to see how you respond to something unexpected. They could be looking to see how you deal with pressure and how quickly you can think on your feet. They might also help the interviewer to see how creative or logical you are, or how you approach solving a problem.