This question or something similar usually starts every interview. Your answer should be well-rehearsed, confidently delivered and last between 3-5 minutes. It should also:
- Focus on the areas of most relevance to the job in question
- Include some impressive achievements e.g. improvements made
- Convey your enthusiasm for the job
- Avoid personal or irrelevant information
The tale you tell should demonstrate, or refer to, one or more of your key behavioral profiles in action--perhaps honesty, integrity, being a team player, or determination. You can tell a story about yourself outside of work that also speaks volumes about you at work. In part, your answer should make the connection between the two.
You might also describe yourself as someone who is able to communicate with a variety of people, so give an example from your personal life that indicates an ability to communicate also at work.
Take some time in advance to think about yourself and those aspects of your personality and/or background that you'd like to promote or feature for your interviewer.
One of the most predictable questions and very important! You need to demonstrate that you have researched the employer and tie your knowledge of them into the skills and interests that led you to apply.
Try to find some attributes or a specific feature on which the employer prides themselves: their training, their client base, their individuality, their public image, etc. This may not always be possible with very small organizations but you may be able to pick up something of this nature from the interviewer. Cap your answer with reference to your belief that the company can provide you with a stable and happy work environment--the company has that reputation--and that such an atmosphere would encourage your best work.
For example, "I'm not looking for just another pay check. I enjoy my work and am proud of my profession. Your company produces a superior product/provides a superior service. I share the values that make this possible, which should enable me to fit in and complement the team."
The safest answer contains a desire to be regarded as a true professional and team player. As far as promotion, that depends on finding a manager with whom you can grow. Of course, you will ask what opportunities exist within the company before being any more specific: "From my research and what you have told me about the growth here, it seems operations is where the heavy emphasis is going to be. It seems that's where you need the effort and where I could contribute toward the company's goals." Or, "I have always felt that first-hand knowledge and experience open up opportunities that one might never have considered, so while at this point in time I plan to be a part of [e.g.] operations, it is reasonable to expect that other exciting opportunities will crop up in the meantime."
Try to avoid vague or general answers such as “I would hope to grow with the responsibility I am offered and to develop my skills as far as I am able” or “I would expect to be in a management role by then”.
This question allows you to demonstrate that you have done your research on the career routes open to you within the organization and so you should try to be more specific - not necessarily tying yourself down to a particular route, but showing that you have at least a general idea of where you want to go.
Use the employer's recruitment literature to gain an idea of the career paths followed by past graduates. You may be able to supplement this by showing your knowledge of professional bodies and the steps you will need to take to gain their qualifications.
This question is usually used to determine whether you are a team player. Before answering, however, be sure you know whether the job requires you to work alone - then answer appropriately. Perhaps: "I'm quite happy working alone when necessary. I don't need much constant reassurance. But I prefer to work in a group--so much more gets achieved when people pull together."
This allows you to put across your "Unique Selling Points" - three or four of your key strengths. Try to back these points up with examples of where you have had to use them.
Consider the requirements of the job and compare these with all your own attributes - your personality, skills, abilities or experience. Where they match you should consider these to be your major strengths. The employer certainly will. For example, team work, interpersonal skills, creative problem solving, dependability, reliability, originality, leadership, fast learner, can work well under pressure etc., could all be cited as strengths. Work out which is most important for the particular job in question and make sure you illustrate your answer with examples from as many parts of your experience, not just university, as you can. Focus on what you know they are looking for, even if it has been a smaller part of what you have been doing to date. The job advert or person specification form will give you the information you need about their requirements.
As for weaknesses, the classic answer here is to state a strength which is disguised as a weakness, such as "I'm too much of a perfectionist" or "I push myself too hard". This approach has been used so often that, even if these answers really are true they sound clichéd. Also, interviewers will know this trick. If you feel they really apply to you, give examples: you could say that your attention to detail and perfectionism make you very single-minded when at work, often blotting out others in your need to get the task done.
A better strategy is to choose a weakness that you have worked on to improve and describe what action you are taking to remedy the weakness. For example: "I'm not a very self-confident person and used to find it very difficult to talk to people I didn't know well, but my business communication class at the university meant that I had to do a lot of presentations and that helped me a lot. Now I'm perfectly happy doing presentations in public.
Don't deny that you have any weaknesses - everyone has weaknesses and if you refuse to admit to them the interviewer will mark you down as arrogant, untruthful or lacking in self-awareness.
Your answer should reinforce why you are such a good fit for the job and then convey your enthusiasm for the role e.g.
- Good match between your skills and their requirements
- Interested in the product/market/sector
- Company's excellent reputation, exciting challenge
- The chance you will get to increase your experience in this particular field
Do not say (even if it's true) that you just need a job, or you want it because of the good pay.
Make sure to browse the company’s website in advance and learn more about it; the more you know the more eager you will seem.
You need to know the following:
- Company structure, finances, products and services, key staff
- Customers and competitors
- Market trends and challenges
Salary negotiations are best handled at the job offer stage so try to avoid this at interview if you can. If forced to name a price, give a realistic but wide salary range and say that you feel that salary won't be an issue if you decide to work together and make sure to emphasize on the fact that you want this job for the mere experience you will derive from it and stress that money is a trivial thing for you and is not a priority.
Choose work-related examples that show a tangible benefit to the business. Personal achievements should only be included if they are very impressive or prestigious.
You might begin your reply with: "Although I feel my biggest achievements are still ahead of me, I am proud of my involvement with (for example the scouts or a volunteering position) I made my contribution as a part of that team and learned a lot in the process.”
To say that your greatest achievement was getting to University, or getting your degree, will do nothing to distinguish you from all the other candidates so try to say something different that will make you stand out. Ideally, it should give evidence of skills relevant to the job such as communication, initiative, teamwork, organizing or determination.
At the end of the interview, it is likely that you will be given the chance to put your own questions to the interviewer.
- Keep them brief: there may be other interviewees waiting.
- Ask about the work itself, training and career development: not about holidays, insurance, NSSF
- Prepare some questions in advance: it is OK to write these down and to refer to your notes to remind yourself of what you wanted to ask.
This might be a tentative scenario:
Well, that seems to have covered everything: is there anything you would like to ask me?
Thank you: I'd made a note to ask about ******* but we went over those earlier and I really feel you've covered everything that I need to know at this moment.
You can also use this opportunity to tell the interviewer anything about yourself that they have not raised during the interview but which you felt is important to your application:
Don't feel you have to wait until this point to ask questions - if the chance to ask a question seems to arise naturally in the course of the interview, take it! Remember that a traditional interview is a conversation - with a purpose.
Examples of questions you can ask the interviewer
These are just a few ideas - you should certainly not attempt to ask them all and indeed it's best to formulate your own questions tailored to your circumstances and the job you are being interviewed for! Make sure you have researched the employer carefully, so that you are not asking for information which you should be expected to know already.
- Is there a fixed period of training for graduates?
- I see it is possible to switch job functions - how often does this happen?
- Do you send your managers on external training courses?
- Where would I be based - is this job function located only in *****?
- How often is a graduate's performance appraised?
- What is a typical career path in this job function?
- Can you give me more details of your training program?
- Will I be working in a team? If so, what is the make-up of these teams?
- How would you describe the atmosphere in this company?
- What is your personal experience of working for this organization?
- When should I expect to hear from you?