How to answer these common interview questions correctly



The interview is probably the most challenging part of any job application process. Many job candidates feel intimidated by the interview and perform badly because they are nervous and unprepared. The key to a successful interview is preparation – you will be more confident and will be armed with the answers for most of the questions that are likely to arise.

Nevertheless, there are some common questions that even the most confident and well-prepared candidates find difficult to answer.

Why are you leaving your present job?

This question is frequently asked but many candidates answer it poorly, so

  • DO refer to changes in your current workplace and how they have affected you.
  • DO show that you have given the prospect of a move considerable thought.
  • DO NOT make negative comments about your current or previous jobs and employers. The interviewers might think that you will be critical of them if you move on in the future – it shows disloyalty.
  • DO NOT just say that you are looking for a fresh opportunity. This makes it appear that you are easily bored or are a job hopper.

Briefly describe yourself

This is another common question that interviewees struggle to answer because they are torn between excessive modesty and apparent egotism. They find it difficult to strike a balance that is interesting and informative. In your response:

  • DO be succinct.
  • DO mention your traits and skills that are relevant to the job.
  • DO describe yourself in positive terms. Say what you are, not what you are not.
  • DO NOT digress from your main theme.
  • DO NOT describe yourself in negative terms.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This question can be very difficult to answer if you do not want come across as over-confident or too timid:

  • DO try to make your answers positive and unique. Treat weaknesses as an opportunity for improvement.
    • DO give reasons why you think a particular trait is a strength or weakness.
    • DO try to be brief.
    • DO NOT use clichés like “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m too dedicated” when you describe your weaknesses. The interviewers have heard answers like these many times. They do not sound considered or genuine and will prejudice your chances.

    What are your salary expectations?

    This question often throws job candidates but you should have no difficulty if you have done your homework. A check through job advertisements will give you a good idea what other employers are paying for similar roles so you should be able to answer with some confidence:

    • DO carry out a little homework and give a range or ballpark figure answer based on your research.
    • DO NOT give a specific figure, as this will make it appear that you are not prepared to negotiate and may give the impression you are confident of getting the job.
    • DO NOT give a figure that is way above the market, as this will either make you look fanciful or else put off the employer.
    • DO NOT give a figure that is way below the market. If you get the job based on this figure you will very quickly become dissatisfied.

    As you can see there is no great secret to a successful interview. The keys are confidence, preparation and practice, and trying to give interesting, unique answers.