Just starting your career? Here’s how to answer the most common interview questions

by Heat Recruitment

By Hollie Thomas

For a new graduate or someone just beginning their careers, the thought of going to an interview and selling yourself can be an intimidating prospect… albeit one that fades with experience. Through working with a trusted recruitment partner, however, the majority of the initial considerations will be taken care of – the application and introduction will have already been completed, and often, salary ranges will have been discussed far in advance.

By the very virtue of being invited to sit in the room for the interview, the employer has already assessed your CV and judged you as a potentially suitable candidate for the role – all that’s left is to meet your future employer and, naturally, impress them.

So, what are employers really looking for when they ask the most common interview questions?

Tell me about yourself

Surprisingly, the interviewer isn’t looking for more information about your weekend plans – this question is entirely focussed on what makes you tick… what motivates you – what gets you out of bed in the morning? This is the point of the interview where you can inject some personality into the mix to support the glut of employment data that is your CV.

To answer this question well, as a candidate, you should link back any answer to actionable insights into how you may tackle the role. If you’re detail-oriented, talk about a time when that attention to detail created a real business benefit.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Progression is a normal, and even expected, answer to this question – but successful candidates need to go a little beyond this. This question is designed to show just how well prepared you are on your own career and how that attitude can be carried over into the position you are now interviewing for. Talk about your career progression, the skills you’re looking to learn along the way, and what you think it will take for you to get there. 

What are your weaknesses?

Inexperienced interviewees will often get caught up on the last word – weaknesses. It’s a deliberately loaded question, but a simple reframe is all that’s needed for success here.

Instead, you should reference the elements in your career you’re looking to improve on – do you need more experience with working in a team, or with any specific software packages? If so, identify this to the interviewer, and identify ways in which this could be achieved.

Do you have any questions for us?

Bring a notebook and a pen to the interview. Not only does writing your thoughts allow you to refer to them later, showing potential employers just how prepared you are, the act of writing also gives you a moment to think – similarly to taking a sip of water.

Throughout the interview, write down any queries you may have around the business – look to explore the key points made. Ask about their measurements of success in working with their clients, for example. Perhaps even look at their five-year plan for the business. It’s important to remember that an interview isn’t an audition – it’s a two-way conversation where both parties assess suitability.

The ‘curveball’ questions

While it’s unlikely you’ll be asked questions of the same pedigree as Google utilises, no-one has ever been over prepared for an interview. If you’re asked what you would charge to clean all the windows in Bristol, quote a price per window. Remember that the most difficult interview questions are really put together to find out just how you think – combining quantitative and qualitative thought processes.

Interviews don’t need to be intimidating, and with the right amount of preparation, they won’t be. Remember that when meeting your potential employer, you’ll be assessed on your confidence as well as the answers you give – so practice projecting a sense of calm, as well as your responses to any questions given.

At Heat Recruitment, we make sure each of our candidates are as well prepared for their interviews as possible. If you’re looking to make a change, get in touch. We have a huge library of hints and tips on hand.