The Best Way to Answer the 10 Most Common Interview Questions

Common Interview Questions
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Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew what you were going to be asked at your next job interview? While we may not be able to read your interviewer’s mind, we can provide you with the next best thing: A list of the 10 most common interview questions in Ireland, the best way to answer those questions and sample answers for all these questions. You can use this list to prepare for your next interview.

1. Tell Me about Yourself

For this question, many people make the mistake of talking too much about their personal life and not enough about their professional life. The interviewer is interested in finding out why you applied for this role and whether you’re a good fit for the role and the company. The best answer will concisely cover your primary selling points for this role and why you are interested in this role. This question is usually at the start of the interview so you definitely want to have a strong answer prepared for this answer.

This is a sample answer for someone applying to a sales management role but the principles are the same for every type of role. You emphasise why you’re a good fit for the role.

“I completed my undergraduate degree in Commerce in UCD. Since I graduated five years ago, I have been working in sales and for the past two years, I have been working in sales management. I am a competitive, target-driven person who enjoys helping teams achieve their goals and surpass their targets. As a Sales Rep, I consistently beat my targets and as a Sales Manager, my team beat their targets by 70%. I like to lead teams and I believe that the key to being a good manager is to lead by example through your work ethic and attitude. My greatest achievement as a Manager was to lead a team that increased revenues by 25% last year. Now, I’m looking to take the next step in my career by taking on the more challenging and exciting task of leading a team of sales reps at your fast-growing company. ”

2. What do you know about us?

By asking this question, the interviewer wants to get a better idea if you have applied because you are interested in the role or if you’re just applying to any role. For this question, you will want to know about the core industry that the business operates in, what type of company they are and if possible, a bit about the specific department that you are applying to.

This is a sample answer for someone applying to a Software Development Role at a software company. The interviewer wants to see that you have researched the company, why you are interested in the role and why you are a good fit for the role.

“I know that you are on the biggest providers of yield management software to the financial services industry and that you’re primarily focused on the USA market. I have significant experience developing software for financial services companies in the USA, so that’s why I think we will be a good match. I also looked online about what this company is like as a place to work and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive so that was a big plus point. I also checked the “about us” page on your website and I can see that although you have grown rapidly, you want to keep growing. I am impressed that your vision is to become the leading provider in your industry to the financial services to the US market. My experience working with companies in this market has given me the skills to help you achieve this.”

3. Why do you want this role?

The interviewer wants to find out if your career goals are aligned with the goals of the role and the goals of the company. If the interviewer sees that success in this role will help you achieve your career goals, they are more likely to believe that you are truly interested in this role.

This is a sample answer for someone applying to the role of Marketing Manager at an alcoholic beverages company.

“I have always thought very highly of your company’s marketing campaigns and I would love to work at the market leaders in this industry. I think that the alcohol industry would be one of the most exciting industries to work in because the marketing is so innovative and fast-paced. I also have friends who work in this industry and they speak very highly about what a great place to work your company is and I think the high levels of creativity I have displayed on projects in previous roles make me an ideal fit for this role.”

4. Why should we hire you?

Most of us are uncomfortable bragging about ourselves but for this question, you have to highlight your achievements and your primary selling points for the role. If you can’t give a good reason for why they should hire you, then as far as the interviewer is concerned, there are none. For this answer, you want to convince the interviewer that you can deliver exceptional results and that you are the best fit for the team. You can highlight areas such as your achievements, industry experience, education, soft skills and job-related skills.

This is a sample answer for someone looking to switch careers from client services to recruitment:

“As you can see from my resume, the majority of my experience has been in client services. During that time, I have developed some core skills that will help me succeed in the recruitment industry. The main reason you should you hire me is because I noticed that you’re looking for somebody who can beat their targets and I regularly surpassed my targets. My role was to be the main point of contact to numerous existing customers and as part of the role, I was evaluated based on the client churn rate. During my tenure as Client Services Executive, none of my clients stopped using our services. The reason for this was because I am a good listener and I love to help people solve their problems. As a recruiter, I know that I will have to manage relationships with corporate clients and job seekers and my experience successfully managing relationships in client services has a given me a deep expertise in this area. ”

5. What is your greatest achievement?

This question is quite difficult to answer because most of us have many achievements that we are proud of and it can be very hard to pick one achievement that stands above all others. The best way to answer this story is to tell a story about how you successfully overcame a massive challenge at work or if you are a recent graduate, in your studies. In order to do this successfully, you need to explain the challenge, how you solved it and what the outcome was.

This is a sample answer for somebody applying to the role of Department Head at a Masters Course:

“One of my greatest accomplishments was to overhaul the way our course was structured. As a Department Head in my current college, I saw that there was too much emphasis on theory and not enough emphasis on giving students the practical skills and experience that employers are looking for. To make the course more practical, I added courses that were run by people working in leading companies in this field and I partnered with companies to give students the opportunities to work on more real-life projects. As a result of these changes, our graduate employment rate increased by 5% and the demand from people who want to take this course has increased significantly”.

6. What is your biggest weakness?

This question can trip up many candidates but the interviewer wants to find out:

A) Do you have big weaknesses that you don’t want to discuss?
B) Do you think you’re perfect because you have low standards or lack self-awareness?

A bad answer to this question is a canned answer such as “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “ I work too hard”. You will come across as insincere and dishonest. A better answer would highlight a genuine weakness that isn’t that relevant to your role. For example, if you are applying for a role as a Hardware Engineer, you could say that your biggest weakness is public speaking as that isn’t something that is required to be successful in the role. However, you need to make it clear that you have no problem speaking in general.

“I would say that I get a bit nervous when I have to speak to a very large group of people. When I am in a small meeting, I will be one of the first people to talk but put me in front of a large group of people and I can get a little bit flustered. At the start of the year, I sat down with my Manager and we identified this as an area that I could work on. Since then, I have volunteered to speak at a few universities about working as a Hardware Engineer and each time I have done this, I have become a little bit better and got a little less flustered.”
7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The interviewer wants to find out that you long-term career goals are aligned with the role. They want to see that you have planned ahead and that you’re not just taking any job. The reality is that many of us are considering a few different career paths but that is not something that you need to highlight in the interview.

“When I read the job description for this role, I got very excited about the possibility of working here. I believe that the responsibilities of this role are a good match for my skills and interests and my main focus is to grow and develop in this role. I have also read online that you are a company that is constantly growing and progressing and I look forward to being part of that growth.”
8. What are your salary expectations?

This question has two purposes:

A) They want to find out if they can afford you.
B) They want to see how much you value yourself.

The best answer to this question is to be coy and not give an exact figure. However, they may press you to give a figure and at that stage, you want to give a well-informed answer to this question that doesn’t veer too much in either direction. To get answer this question successfully, you need to know the salary range for the role you are applying to. To find this out, you can use resources such as the Morgan McKinley Salary Guide.

This is a sample answer for somebody applying to the role of Operations Manager of a large company based in Dublin

“I am more interested in obtaining a role that is a match for my skills and interests. I am sure that you’re offering a salary that’s competitive in the current market.” However, they may press you to give a number and at that stage, you can say the following, “According to my research and my past experience, a salary of 80 – 100k is the average for this role.”

9. Why do you want to leave your current role?

You may want to leave your role because your current workplace is a very toxic or mismanaged environment but that’s not something that you want to highlight in an interview. If you are leaving because you hate your current role, most interviewers won’t be able to handle a straight answer to this question. They will think that you’ll probably hate this role as well and that you’ll complain about this company too. Good answers to this question include highlighting that you think the role you’re interviewing for is a better place to you to grow, that it is more suitable for your skill set etc.

“I enjoy my current role but I feel that I’ve learned everything I can in my current position. There’s no place to advance and grow within the organisation and I love to be challenged so I think it’s the ideal time to move on.”

“I like my current company but I haven’t had much opportunity to work on the areas I am most passionate about. After reading the job description for this role, I can see that I will spend a lot of time working on this area.”

10. Do you have any questions for us?

Surprisingly, one of the most common answers to these questions is “No”. That indicates to the interviewer that you’re not that interested in the role. Also, it is best to avoid asking questions about salary, holiday benefits or perks at this stage. A good response to this question is to ask questions that will remove their doubts that you are suitable candidate for the role such as:

1. What skills are missing in the team that you’re looking to fill with this new role?
2. What do you think are the main attributes, skills and experiences are required for success in this role?

Once they answer these questions, you can reiterate why you are a great fit for the role.

Putting it all Together – It’s Not about You

Although it may feel like the interview is about you, it is not. It is about the needs of the hiring company. Your job is to prove to them how your skills, experience, achievements and personality can help them achieve their goals. If you understand this, you have a much better chance of nailing your next interview. By carefully analysing the job description and learning about the company online, you can learn more about what the company is looking for and how you can help them.

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