Back to blog

5 Interview Questions that aren’t as scary as you thought

Posted on July 11, 2016

Congrats on scoring an interview. Now, just in case you weren’t in the guides or scouts as a kid, let us remind you that it’s important to be prepared. Why? Because preparation has the power to turn fear into confidence; doubt into assurance. It’s true for everything from hosting a dinner party to taking your driving test. And it’s definitely true for interviews.

Yet some interview questions seem more daunting than others. They can catch you off guard if you’re not on your A game. And that’s half the point. Your interviewer wants to test you. Here’s a little assistance with how to approach some of the peskier interview questions you might face. As you’ll see, they’re not nearly as scary as they seem.

1. Tell me about yourself

Ugh, could your interviewer be more vague? Where on earth do you even start? What’s worse, this question is often asked at the beginning of interviews, before you’ve really had chance to compose yourself or suss out the person firing questions at you. Okay, don’t panic. You’ve got this.

A nice structure to follow is present-past-future: you start with where you are now, move onto how you began your career and end with your ambitions for the future. Finishing with a quick line about a hobby outside work is a neat way to build rapport with your interviewer and will help your personality come through.

Short, sweet and simple is the way. Don’t talk for longer than 1-2 minutes.

2. How would your colleagues describe you?

You have no idea, because you’re just too modest to imagine your colleagues singing your praises. Relax. The secret to nailing this question is knowing what your recruiter is looking for: a testimonial. Use a real life example based on an occasion where you went beyond the call of duty.

Example: “My colleagues would call me meticulous and highly motivated. I once noticed a small error in a press release that would have caused major problems for our client had it reached the press. As a result I was put in charge of editing written comms - the personal highlight of which was managing a proposal that secured £1m funding for our oldest client. The skills that made that project a success could make a difference in this role too.”

3. Why are you leaving your current job?

No matter how dissatisfied you are with your illiterate boss, your colleagues music choices or the fact that your yoghurts always go missing from the staff kitchen, this is not the time for mud-slinging. Instead, stay positive and focus on the opportunity, what you can learn in your new role or the new experiences you can enjoy. Aim to show that you have had your head turned by a fantastic opportunity, rather than suggesting that you are trying to jump ship by any means possible.   

4. What are your weaknesses?

Huh? You are meant to be selling yourself! Why would you ruin your chances of getting hired by listing all the things you’re bad at? (Hey, nobody’s great at everything.) Well it turns out your interviewer is in search of your ability to look at yourself objectively and analytically as well as your approach to personal development. Try this formula: identify a weakness and explain the steps you are taking to improve it.    

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Chances are you weren’t planning on taking a crystal ball to your interview. So where do you start with this interviewer favourite? Well, it’s all about showing just the right amount of commitment and ambition. Your recruiter wants to test your understanding of the available role to check that your short-term life goals are compatible.

Spend some time thinking about your professional goals. Once you know what you are looking for in your future career, you can think about how the position you are interviewing for can help you achieve your goals.

  • “I’d love to study for X qualification – the experience I would gain in this role would be invaluable.”
  • “In the future I’d love the responsibility of managing a team. Joining a company with so many respected leaders offers a great way to learn.”
  • “My goal is to eventually become a leading authority on B2B marketing. Working with such a broad range of clients will give me fantastic insight into the challenges faced by different sectors.”

Beware of showing too much ambition. If you are interviewing for an entry-level role, it’s a bit previous to puff out your chest and declare that you see yourself running the company in five years time. Oh and keep your answers career-based, unless you are specifically asked to expand on your life outside work.

>> Where do you see yourself in five years? - The answer

Over to you...

So there you have it. Not so scary after all, hey? Prepare well and you will give yourself the best shot of impressing your recruiter.

More from Cathedral Appointments

>> How to prepare for an interview >> How to dress for an interview >> Interview formats, common questions and how to prepare

Consultant contact