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Job interview questions and how to prepare for them

Whether you’re attending your first interview out of university or applying for a more senior position, anyone can feel a little nervous when it comes to preparing for job interviews.

However, with a little planning and some inside tips on what to expect, you can approach your interview confident in your ability to answer any and all questions. 

We’ll explore the most common job interview questions and how to prepare for them. By breaking down why the interviewer is asking the question and how you can best approach it, you’ll have the confidence to show them what motivates and makes you perfect for the role. 

Knowing how to prepare for a job interview isn’t an exact science. Instead, it’s important to remain flexible and keep aspects of your skillset or experience in mind that can be drawn upon to answer the question. This one is the perfect example of this practice.

For more insight into how to prepare for your job interview please take a look at our comprehensive Interview Tips Guide. You can find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Looking for some quick advice before your interview? Click to jump to a specific question:

Tell us about yourself | How do you deal with pressure/time management? | Do you work better in a team or individually? | What are your goals for the future? | Are you applying for other jobs? | Why are you leaving your current job? | Do you have any questions?

Bonus question: What are your salary expectations?

Tell us about yourself.

What they are asking:
This question is an invitation to show your personality and how you can positively impact the team. The interviewer is looking for a story or details that pertain to your skillset and motivations. Use this question to expand on bullet points or positive attributes in your CV.

How to answer:
This question is all about providing a summary of your skills and motivations. For example, if you’d describe yourself as motivated, then explain an instance where you went above and beyond to get the job done. You can also mention any training or education such as coursework or certifications that helped you achieve your goals.

By weaving these details into a concise story you can convey personal and professional traits that explain who you are and what you can bring to a potential employer. Make sure you don’t get bogged down in personal details – try to remember that every answer needs to relate to the role at hand.

How do you deal with pressure/time management?

What they are asking:
This question can be phrased in several ways but it essentially boils down to how you deal with stressful situations and how you prioritise your work.

The employer is looking for insight into what you do when the pressure builds. Do you have a method of remaining calm or strategically breaking down the task into smaller pieces? Do you take the initiative independently, or open up communication with a senior member of staff?

How to answer:
Be honest about your abilities, but play to your strengths. If you’re used to working with a team in stressful situations then talk about how you open up communication channels and make sure everyone is on the same page. If you prefer to sort issues as quickly as possible or work better alone then talk about your initiative and problem-solving. Wherever your strengths lie, that’s where you want to focus your answer.

Do you work better in a team or individually?

What they are asking:
This is a more role-specific question and will be determined by your industry, job spec and company culture. This question is guaranteed to pop up and is definitely worth preparing for in your job interview. Interviewers will use this question to gauge your ability to work in a team, while also probing to see how you are with taking initiative. 

How to answer:
For almost all roles there will be an element of teamwork or collaboration required. When answering this question try to focus on how your skills work to support team goals as well as your ability to take on tasks and complete them individually when necessary. Discuss instances where you have worked with a team and achieved stellar results.

For a more nuanced answer, you can also discuss the benefits and challenges of both independent work and teamwork and how you ensure you manage to get the best out of both worlds.

What are your goals for the future?

What they are asking:
This question allows employers to gauge your commitment and see if you’re considering the move as a long-term career or a stepping stone to something else. This question can also be phrased more subtly with questions around whether you are planning to relocate (if working remotely or far from home) or if you have any plans to take on more exams, qualifications or accreditations.

How to answer:
This is another important job interview question to prepare for as it can often catch people off-guard. Knowing your plans for the next 5-10 years can be a lot to try to think of on the spot, so planning for this question is advised to avoid awkward silences or missteps.

The best way to answer this question is to talk about how your personal goals match the company. By doing so, you can show a commitment to work with and towards their unified goals, without promising the earth. We would recommend against talking about the role as a stepping stone, as this can make it seem as if you view the role as trivial. Be a team player – show how you and the company can grow together, and leave it at that.

Are you applying for other jobs?

What they are asking:
The interview process can be a costly endeavour for companies (especially when done in-house). As a result, employers will often ask if you have applied for other jobs so they can gauge if they are your top choice or if there is competition for your signature.

How to answer:
So how do you prepare for this job interview question? 

Be honest. If you are applying for other positions, say so. You don’t need to go into great detail. If you’ve received an offer, let them know so that they can speed up the process if they want to offer you their role. You don’t need to volunteer where you’ve applied or what positions you’ve applied for. A simple yes or no (with information on what stage of the interview process you’re in) is all that’s required.

Why are you leaving your current job?

What they are asking:
Interviewers ask this question to get a sense of what you want in a new role or workplace. They may also use it to see what your relationship is like with your current employer and how you convey information.

How to answer:
Always be positive. Even if you are leaving because of negative events or circumstances try to focus on your desire for development and career goals. This is not a time to complain about internal incidents or clients. Doing so will reflect badly upon you and can make the interviewer question what you may say about them in the future.

Do you have any questions?

What they are asking:
This question opens the floor to you and shows the interviewer how engaged you are and how much research you have done. While serving as a time to answer your questions, it is also a great opportunity to try to understand your motivations and commitment to the role.

How to answer:
This is where you can show off all your research. If you have any specific questions about the role that haven’t been answered by the job spec or interviewer, now is the time to ask. 

Ask questions about clients regarding case studies or blogs you’ve read. Discuss the type of systems they work with and other practices, processes, or requirements. 

We recommend against asking about salary at this point. This is best discussed when brought up by the interviewer or during the formal job offer. 

Bonus question: How to talk about money – what are your salary expectations?

The interviewer may ask this question to refer back to the salary on your cover sheet, checking that it matches your expectations and there hasn’t been a mistake anywhere. 

Here are a few scenarios from our Talent Acquisition Partner and Finance specialist, Michelle Cracknell-Leafe:

  • If you say you’re looking for £20k as a minimum, but really you wouldn’t accept less than £24k, this can lead you to receive an offer for £20k.
     
  • If the client was planning on offering £25k and you say £20k, you will probably get an offer for £20k, leaving £5k on the table.

On the opposite side of the coin: 

  • If you’d happily accept £25k but see this question as a chance to get a higher salary – and so you say £28k, the client may discount you as a viable candidate if their budget was £25k.  They may then make an offer to someone else.


Michelle’s advice: “I would be honest and answer with the salary on the cover sheet.”

If relevant, you could also use this as a chance to mention that you’re more interested in the opportunity that comes from the role (such as study support or progression) than the salary – this will show that you’ve considered your personal development with the company and are thinking long-term.

Work with Distinct 

At Distinct, our recruiters work with you to understand your requirements and motivations, in order to find roles that match your ambitions and hires who will thrive in your business. We’re here to help you find the right fit. Contact our recruiters in Nottingham today.

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