How to Nail These 5 Common Job Interview Questions


We’ve all gone into an interview at some point in our careers thinking “I’ll just wing it”, and then we wonder why we didn’t get the job. Only about .01 per cent of people can actually ‘wing’ a job interview, and just like everything else, when it comes to job interviews, preparation is key.

The most common job interview questions are as follows:

  • “Tell us about yourself”
  • “Give us an example of success in your previous role”
  • “Tell us about a time you failed and how you handled that”
  • “What do you know about our company”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years”

Whilst there might be some variation to these questions, the basis is the same. Here are some tips on how to nail these common job interview questions.

“Tell us about yourself.”

The ‘tell us about yourself’ question is normally one of the first questions you will receive in an interview and at a time your nerves are in full flight. So you need to be prepared and have your answer rehearsed so you don’t come out with something absurd such as “I kind of like watching reality TV”.

How you answer the first one or two questions in the interview will set the tone, so this is your opportunity to start strong. Angle your response to highlight desirable attributes, such as, “Personally, I am into fitness and nature”, showing you are well-rounded, you like routine, and are disciplined. Or you could say, “I like to study”, which means you like to further educate yourself.

If there is something that you really want the interviewee/s to know about you, work that into your answer for this question as you may not get another chance once the interview really gets going.

“Give us an example of success in your previous role.”

This question can be asked in a variety of ways such as, “Tell me about a time when” or “What did you enjoy about your previous role”. Be prepared with three examples of projects you have worked on and how you achieved the objective.

It could be, “I brought in an extra 20% of sales because I implemented a new marketing campaign” or, “I decided to have one-on-one chats with all the nurses and it increased their confidence and satisfaction on the job” or “I exceeded my customer’s expectations by going above and beyond with my level of customer service”.

Take the time to review your current and previous roles to articulate what you have achieved. Don’t undersell yourself. Often as we do our roles day in day out, we forget about our wins and successes along the way, so if you need to jog your memory, ask others around you about things you have achieved.

“Tell us about a time you failed and how you handled that.”

Again, this question can come in a variety of formats, such as, “Tell us about a time when you faced a challenge” or “How did you overcome a problem in your role”. Choose an example where things were difficult and the best examples are with something unpredictable (like a pandemic).

How did you handle that situation? How did you lead your team or handle it personally and have a positive impact on the team? Be prepared and have your points ready to go. How did you respond, what were your key action points and what were the results.

“What do you know about the company?”

If you don’t have a solid answer to this question, you most well walk out the door in the interview. Understanding the company is a sign of respect. It lets an employer know you have done your due diligence and that you are showing effort.

Don’t just look at the website though, do a Google search on the company and read news articles about them, check out the leadership team and look at their LinkedIn profiles. Mentioning a recent business activity, such as a new project, will show you have done your homework and will assist your chances in gaining the job.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

That one question we all hate answering. Unfortunately, “I don’t know” doesn’t cut it or pointing to the person in front of you doing the interview and say, “There” isn’t great either (I’ve tried it, doesn’t go down well).

They want to know you are ambitious, but not too ambitious – they don’t want you to go and start your own business or take their job. Instead say something along the lines of, “I want to continue to grow and look for opportunities within the company and be mentored to be the best I can be”.

The reason why companies ask this question is to see if your long-term goals are aligned with the role, so you need to align your answer as such. For example, if you’re interviewing for a Marketing Co-ordinator role, answering with, “I would like to have completed my marketing degree” is a good answer. Answering with I hope to be a contestant on MasterChef is not the correct answer.

Amanda Rose is an internationally acclaimed entrepreneur and founder of six businesses. Australia’s foremost strategic connector, Amanda is also a workplace trainer, business consultant and keynote speaker.

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