The Interview

So you've arrived, looking calm and confident and you are invited in to the interview room. Wait to be asked to take a seat. 

  • Shake the interviewer's hand if it is offered. Always keep firm eye contact. (If you shake one person's hand and there are others present, always offer your hand to the rest of the panel).
  • Most interviewers will try to make you as relaxed as possible from the start by asking easy-to-answer questions (about your journey, the weather, your family or hobbies).
  • Listen carefully to the questions. Do not interrupt. If you haven't understood the question properly, ask the interviewer for further clarification. Then answer as fully as possible.
  • Be positive. Do not run down past employers or people from work. Don't moan. Don't lie about anything. Stress your strengths and successes and don't dwell on any failures you may have had.
  • Always thank the interviewer/panel for seeing you at the end of the interview and if you are genuinely interested in the position, say so.

Be prepared to answer questions about everything on your CV - education, work history, hobbies etc. A good interview will be more of a chat than an interrogation.

To increase your chances of receiving a job offer, you need to learn how to confidently and successfully respond to the questions you will be asked.

Listed here are 10 common questions with some comments as to the reasons they are asked and the response expected. Remember, these responses are only suggestions – do not use them if you feel uncomfortable about them and try to individualise them as many candidates will receive the same suggestions!

Practice your own response before interviews.

Q: Tell me about yourself. The interviewer is really saying, ‘I want to hear you talk’.
A: This is an ice-breaker but is a common question so your response can stay the same. Write a script; rehearse it so it sounds impromptu. Spend a maximum of four minutes to describe your qualifications, career history and your range of skills – emphasising those skills relevant to the job on offer.

Q: What have your achievements been to date? They’re asking, ‘Are you an achiever’?
A: Again, this is a common question so be prepared. Select an achievement that is work related and fairly recent. Identify the skills you used in the achievement and quantify the benefit. For example, ‘my greatest achievement has been to design and implement a new sales ledger computer system – bring it in ahead of time and improve our debtors’ position significantly saving the company £50,000 per month in interest’.

Q: Are you happy with your career to date? The interviewer is really asking about your self-esteem and self-confidence, your career aspirations and whether you are a happy, positive person.
A: The answer must be ‘yes’ but if you have hit a career plateau or you feel you are moving too slowly, then you must qualify the answer.

Q: What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it? The interviewer is really trying to find out what your definition of difficult is and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving using your initiative.
A: This can be a trap! To avoid it, select a difficult work situation which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences. Explain how you defined the problem, what the options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive.

Q: What do you like about your present job? The interviewer is really trying to find out whether you will enjoy the things you will experience in the job on offer.
A: This is a straightforward question. All you have to make sure is that your ‘likes’ correspond to the skills etc required in the job on offer. Be positive, describe your job as interesting and diverse but do not overdo it – after all, you are leaving!

Q: What do you dislike about your present job? The interviewer is trying to find out whether the job on offer has responsibilities you will dislike or which will make you unsuitable.
A: Be careful with this one! Do not be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses which will leave you open to further problems. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company such as its size – its slow decision-making etc. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job!

Q: What are your strengths? The interviewer wants a straightforward answer as to what you are good at and how it is going to add value.
A: This is one question that you know you are going to get so there is no excuse for being unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four explanations of how they could benefit the employer. Strengths to consider include technical proficiency, ability to learn quickly, determination to succeed, positive attitude, your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal. You may be asked to give examples of the above so be prepared.

Q: What is your greatest weakness? The interviewer is asking about your self-perception and self-awareness.

A: This is another standard question for which you can be well prepared. Don’t say you have none – this will ensure further problems. You have two options – use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job. The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered a strength and the steps you have taken to combat it. An example would be ‘I know my team think I’m too demanding at times – I tend to drive them pretty hard but I’m getting much better at using the carrot and not the stick’. Do not select a personal weakness such as ‘I’m not a morning person – I’m much better as the day goes on’.

Q: What kind of decision do you find most difficult? The interviewer is really saying ‘I need someone who is strong and decisive but who has a human side’.
A: Your answer must not display weakness. Try to focus on decisions that have to be made without sufficient information. This will show your positive side. For example “I like to make decisions based on sufficient information and having alternatives. When you have to make quick decisions you have to rely on ‘gut feeling’ and experience”.

Q: Why do you want to leave your current employer? The interviewer is trying to understand and evaluate your motives for moving.
A: This should be straightforward. State how you are looking for more challenge, responsibility, experience and a change of environment. NEVER be negative in your reasons for leaving and rarely will it be appropriate to cite salary as the primary motivator. 

Interview Preparation: Other Questions to Consider 

  • How does your job fit into your department and company? (Gives an idea of level of responsibility).
  • What do you enjoy about the industry?
  • Have you worked under pressure (Meaning – can you?) Give examples.
  • What kind of people do you like working with?
  • Can you give me an example of when your work was criticised? (Be prepared for the next one of how you coped and the outcome).
  • What is the worst situation you have faced outside work? (as above).
  • Give me an example of when you have felt anger at work? (and how did you cope and did you still perform a good job?)
  • What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with? (Take care! You won’t know all about the staff at the company at which you’re being interviewed).
  • Give me an example of when you have had to face a conflict of interest at work. (Testing interpersonal skills, team and leadership opportunities).
  • Tell me about the last time you disagreed with your boss.
  • Give me an example of when you haven’t got on with others.
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group and why?
  • This organisation is very different to your current employer; how do you think you are going to fit in? (you may not be able to answer until you have established what he/she perceives as the differences).
  • What are you looking for in a company?
  • How do you measure your own performance?
  • What kind of pressures have you encountered at work?
  • Are you a self-starter? Give examples to demonstrate this.
  • Describe the biggest problem you have faced recently and how you resolved it.
  • What changes in the workplace have caused you difficulty and why?
  • How do you feel about working long hours and/or weekends?
  • Give me an example of when you have been out of your depth.
  • What have you failed to achieve to date?
  • What can you bring to this organisation?
  • What area of your skills do you want to improve? (try to relate to role on offer).
  • Which part of this role is least attractive to you?
  • Why do you think you would like this role?
  • Where would you like to be in five years?
  • How would your workmates describe you?
  • What would your references say about you?
  • Why should I give this job to you instead of the other people on the shortlist? (strengths).
  • What reservations should I have about you as an employee? (weaknesses).
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • What five adjectives would you use that best describe you (both in and out of the workplace)?

Best of luck and above all, be yourself!

Jose joined New Frontiers in 2000 working a variety of roles from recruitment consultant to in-house recruiter and staff trainer and now General Manager. Jose has a wealth of travel industry experience having worked in travel for 8 years prior to joining New Frontiers with roles in retail and for a tour operator.