Your answers to these questions will either land you the job or lose it, so make sure you nail them every single time.
1. Can you tell me about yourself?
This seems like an easy one, but every boss or recruiter asks it because it tends to throw people off their game. Don’t get confused by how broad the question is, or give them the low-down on your Saturday night. Instead, prepare an answer that shows off your personality – focus on who you are on the job and all the positives you bring to the work environment. Remember, your potential boss isn’t looking for a robot, so push the nerves aside, (try to) relax and let your personality shine.
Tip: Don’t waffle. Give short, succinct answers that align with the job description.
2. Why did you leave your last job? / Why do you want to leave your current job?
Employers ask this kind of hairy question to find out if you’re going to be a pain in their butt. Instead of saying you’re running from your old job, tell them their company is a place you’ve always wanted to work. Make them aware that, while you learnt heaps from your last gig, you’re keen to embark on new opportunities and learn new skills.
Tip: Never bag your old boss. No one wants to hire people who had problems in their old workplace – you might drag that dirty baggage with you.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Don’t be shy about giving yourself props but stay away from the clichés. Think of something unique to your expertise and use the same language they’ve used in their job ad – they’ve told you want they want, so tell them you’ve got it! As for weaknesses, a great trick is to say you’re weaker in an area that has nothing to do with the role. Going for a job as a stylist? It probably won’t matter if your Excel skills aren’t up to scratch.
Tip: Be honest, but be careful not to raise any red flags.
4. Why should I hire you over others?
Set yourself apart by highlighting the added value you can bring to the company, beyond what they are asking for. Showing initiative outside the usual duties of a role is what makes an employee go from good to amazing. Talk about the transferable skills you have developed in previous positions, or any community or volunteer experience, like mentoring or team management.
Tip: First impressions count. Dress appropriately for the position – no cakey make-up, teeny dresses or major cleavage, please!
5. Where will you be in five years?
Most of us have no freaking idea, but your answer will give the employer a chance to find out where you see yourself heading. Be prepared to discuss your long-term career aspirations. Bosses want to be able to picture you in their future too, so help them out by saying you can see yourself moving up in their company.
Tip: Even if being a stay-at-home mum is on the agenda for the next 12 months, don’t let on. It could cost you the job.
6. What’s your dream role?
Keep your goals within the industry you’re trying to break into. It’d be hard for an accounting firm to hire someone who wants to be the next Lorde. Go with an appropriate role model who you admire and aspire to be like one day, such as Gail Kelly, CEO of Westpac.
Tip: Don’t tell the boss outright you want their job! Soften it: “I’d love to do something similar to you, when I have the skills and experience.” They won’t be keen to hire you if they think you’re out to steal their position.
7. How do you think this company can grow?
You’ve got to do your homework – and that’s not just a quick scan of the company’s website. Know who the big players are, who the competition is and their history. You don’t want to bump into the CEO in the elevator and blank him! Prepare one or two strategic ideas about how you could contribute to change and growth.
Tip: Watch the news and read the papers. You want to have something to say if you’re asked for your take on a current issue or event.
8. Do you have any questions?
Always, always, always have a few questions ready! This is usually asked at the end and will contribute to your final impression. Ask questions based on your research. How has business been going? Where do they intend to take the company in the next year? What are they hoping to achieve in the short term? If all else fails, remember that people love to talk about themselves and bosses like giving advice to aspiring young women. Ask about the employer’s career, what they were doing at your age and what their biggest achievements have been.
Tip: Be confident when you ask questions and use them to score bonus points. A good area to focus on here is the culture of the workplace.