Typical interview questions: Some useful tips

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is your chance to articulate your career aspirations and relate them to the industry and company you are interviewing for. Research the common career path for your chosen sector, thinking about the relevant skills and qualities you have that could be enhanced and developed within the company. 

Your answer should also demonstrate your ability to plan ahead using realistic goals. Aim too high and you risk coming across as too ambitious, with a lack of commitment to the role you are applying for in the present. Training you will come at a cost to the employer – you wouldn’t want them to think that you don’t intend on staying in the role long enough to justify the time and effort spent on you. Alternatively, if you aim too low you could be seen as lacking in motivation. 

If you feel you honestly don’t know where you’d like to be in the future, don’t feel pressured to make something up. Emphasise your enthusiasm, flexibility and willingness to take on any training and professional development they have to offer.

You can read our blog on ‘what are your future goals in a HR, IT or marketing interview’ to find some job specific answers and further tips.   

Why should we hire you?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions in an interview, so make sure you’re prepared for it. Go back through your CV and impress them with the skills and experiences you have that suit the needs of the role. Be ready to talk confidently about your strengths and relevant past achievements. Focus also on the strengths of the company, as well as the opportunities and challenges it can offer you as an employee. 

Explain your motivation in applying for the job in the first place – perhaps it was the reputation of the employer that attracted you to the position, or maybe their product or service offering excites you. It shows that you have done your research and have really thought about what makes you the ideal candidate. 

You can read our blog on ‘how to answer, why should we hire you?” in a HR, IT or marketing interview to find some job specific answers and further tips.

What are your outside interests?

If you are one of several applicants all with the same qualifications and largely same level experience, then the way you personally relate to the person interviewing you could have a major bearing on whether you get the job or not. The interviewer will be looking for additional advantages or qualities you possess over the other candidates, meaning that your ‘other interests’ can become more important.  

Prepare for this question by thinking carefully about the job you are interviewing for and pick out qualities from your interests away from the workplace that relate to the requirements for the job.  

Include hobbies that demonstrate a transferable skill i.e. if you’re the secretary of a running club you’ll likely be well organised and being part of an amateur dramatics group suggests you work well in a team.

What is it like working for your supervisor?

This question is actually about your relationship with those above you in the workplace hierarchy. It is not an excuse to sound off about how rude/demanding/frustrating your boss is. Remember, many sectors operate as a proverbial ‘small world’ and there is a strong possibility your interviewer could know or at least know of your current manager. Accentuate the positive.

What level of salary are you expecting?

There is a basic rule in this situation – don’t be first to give a number. Pitch too high you could miss out on the job, pitch too low you could lose out on money. Companies can’t make you an offer without naming a salary so the trick is to avoid giving a straight answer while remaining polite. 

“I’m interested in finding a job that is a good fit for me. I’m sure the salary is consistent with the market.” This suggests you respect yourself and would like to feel the same about the company. 

Don’t get defensive or obstinate, focus on words like ‘responsibility’, ‘appreciate’ and ‘respect’. It could pay – quite literally! 

Furthermore, as suggested in our blog, what are your future goals (see above), we do not recommend saying ‘a higher salary’ as an incentive.

Tell me about a time when you have gone the ‘extra mile’

‘I’m always enthusiastic and am the last in the office nearly every day’. That’s good – but it’s not good enough. Interviewers want a real example of how you have used your initiative or put yourself out to fulfill a brief. ’The caterer fell ill the morning of an event I’d organised. I called a contact and then drove to collect the food as they were preparing it. I served it too!’ Make sure you have a real example – as relevant to the organisation you are applying to as possible – to share at interview. 

Do you know about STAR?

Ever been asked a question during interview which began with “Tell me about a time when…?” This is a competency-based question and one of the most commonly asked interview questions. 

The STAR acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result and is the best technique to use when answering these types of questions. 

Situation – describe the event or the situation that you were in 

Task – explain what was required of you/the task you had to complete 

Action – describe the actions you took  

Result – and finally, talk about the results in the outcome 

Preparation is key to a successful interview, so make sure you practice your STAR stories to make them seamless. 

Read more about how to answer competency based questions in this blog. 

Further useful interview advice

In this section we will guide you through some of our other blogs, which contain detailed thoughts and guidance that will best serve you in your future interviews.  

This is what interviewers are trying to find out

As recruitment experts, we explain what employers are trying to uncover during the interview process. From your CV, experience and industry knowledge to personality traits, body language and personal goals, this is how to ace an interview. Read more here. 

Making a good first impression

Do you have an interview coming up? Are you looking for advice on making a great first impression? This blog will really help you to understand how to make a good first impressionHave a quick look at the Anne Corder Recruitment blog. 

Questions to ask in an interview

Being politely inquisitive about a role, company culture and expectations can show genuine interest – make sure you ask the right questions in an interview with our advice in this blog, take a look here. 

How to learn from interview feedback

If you have interviews lined up, read this Anne Corder Recruitment blog on how to learn from interview feedback to shape your future job search. You’ll find some excellent advice within this blog. 

“Tell Me About Yourself”, answering the question in a HR, IT, Marketing Interview

How to reply to “tell me about yourself” in a HR, IT or marketing interview. Read this Anne Corder Recruitment blog for advice on giving the best answer.