Answering common interview questions
Whether you love or loathe job interviews, they are an essential part of our career journeys. While there’s never a guarantee about what you’ll be asked during a job interview, there are a number of questions that from our experience tend to come up time and time again. If you have strong answers to these most likely asked interview questions, you can make a great first impression and take a closer step towards scoring your desired role.
Ivana Hermoso, Manager at Robert Walters Philippines, notes, “Interviews are actually key opportunities for job applicants and hiring managers to get to know each other better. For job applicants, interviews ideally allow them to dive deeper into the role and the company – what are the responsibilities, expectations and working style of their future boss, office culture, career development opportunities, and work-life balance, etc.”
“While the goals of hiring managers during job interviews are to better understand and establish rapport with their potential future employee, understand how the applicant thinks or solves problems, and the person's values and work ethics,” Ivana explains.
Knowing the objectives behind job interviews, we lay out some of the most often asked questions in interviews, and our suggestions on how to best answer them to stand out from the competition.
Tell me about yourself
This is usually the opening question, and it is a great opportunity to start off by showcasing your strengths. Ivana says, “Describe who you are and what you do concisely. Highlight career milestones, interesting projects, and other things that are not stated in your CV. For instance, you could mention projects you were involved in, your role in the team, why you are interested in the job, your reasons for resignation, and why it makes sense for you to make this move.”
Sequence-wise, we suggest starting your answer with an overview of what you’re doing now, then run through the jobs you've held so far in your career, including how you have progressed over the years, either in terms of larger job titles or wider job scopes. You can follow the same structure as your CV, giving examples of achievements and the skills you've picked up along the way. You do not need to go into too much details – your interviewer will ask you to expand on any areas where they'd like more information.
The key thing to remember here, according to Ivana, is to emphasise what you bring to the table. “Focus on talking about your career highlights, projects, specific skills, and regional or global experience, and not on the greater monetary compensation or the number of leave days/amount of time-off that the company provides,” Ivana advises. Also, avoid badmouthing your previous employers, and do not say that you are good in everything – most people aren’t.
What are your strengths?
This question is a perfect opportunity for you to explain what you do well, and why that means you’re the right candidate for the job. Pick three attributes you have that you think are the most important ones for the job you’re applying for, and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a professional situation.
These could be tangible skills, such as proficiency in a particular software programme, system, or a foreign language, or intangible soft skills, such as good team management. Make sure you explain how each strength relates to the particular role you’re applying for.
What are your weaknesses?
We recommend that it’s much better to answer the question via the angle ‘what are your weaknesses, and what have you done to overcome them?’. Avoid giving examples of things that you haven't done well in if you don’t also have an example of how you’ve learned from it or worked to improve your skills as a result.
According to Ivana, hiring managers are aware of and not looking for typical answers, such as ‘I work too hard’, ‘I’m a perfectionist’, or ‘My weakness is I don’t have one’. Instead, for such questions, Ivana says, “State a real weakness that you have that you're working on to surmount it.”
“One example could be how professionals often get hung up on little details, and this hinders them from executing projects and meeting deadlines. Professionals could state how they’re working on this issue by looking at the bigger picture, and evaluating if every little item needs to be perfect.”
Should job applicants be always truthful when answering this question? Ivana reveals, “Yes, hiring managers can usually identify if you're trying to show off. I strongly encourage applicants to be as sincere as you can. Do however be smart about it and choose to mention a weakness that doesn’t contradict what is required in the job you’re applying for.”
You should answer this question in terms of both short-term and long-term goals, unless the interviewer asked it in specific terms, such as ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’.
Tell the interviewer about the kind of job you'd eventually like to do, and how you plan to get there. Show the employer you have ambition, and that you have the determination to make the most of every job to get to where you want to be.
How do you answer this question if you have yet to crystalise any specific career goals? Ivana shares, “You can answer this by being a bit more generic and bringing the topic back to your career values. Mention goals such as ‘I want to be the go-to person in a specific field’, ‘I want to have built a niche market’, ‘I want to have gained mastery of this specific skill’, ‘have the chance to mentor people’, or ‘work on bigger projects on a regional or global scale’.”
But remember to avoid jumping the gun and talking about goals that are too elaborate. “Try not to say things like ‘I want your job in the next five years’, ‘I want to be the CEO in 10 years’ time’, or ‘I want to earn a six figure salary by the end of 7 years’,” Ivana points out.
“Instead be genuine, humble but truthful in describing your career goals. Hiring managers will understand that if their company doesn't meet this career goal then it's not the company for you in the long run.”
Why should we hire you?
This is where you get the chance to tell the interviewer about your skills, experience and attributes, and why that means you should be hired. When preparing for the interview, check the job description, and try to include some of the mentioned phrases in your answer, if they are relevant.
Whenever you share a skill or attribute that you have, make sure to relate it back to the company or the role. Don’t just list your experience without explaining how it could benefit the organisation.
Ivana elaborates, “For this question, an important tip is to work with your recruitment consultant to present your best possible front. Your recruitment consultant usually has a deep understanding of what your specific market looks like, and would be able to share what factors make you stand out as a candidate. If speaking to your recruitment consultant is not possible, make sure you have thoroughly read through the job description and the company profile, and understand what the company’s needs and values are. You can then align your answers with this information.”
“Conversely, if you were first approached by a recruiter for the role, think back to the reasons why you first checked out the job – identify what those reasons and values are, and highlight them when you’re asked this question,” Ivana adds.
Why do you want to work here?
You may feel you’ve already answered this, but what the interviewer is really looking for here is for you to spell out how well your skills, experience and attributes match the requirements of the role and the organisation’s ethos.
Make sure your answer is really powerful. Practise what you’re going to say beforehand, so that your answer is clear, and interviewers are not left in doubt as to why you should be hired.
What salary are you seeking?
Job applicants sometimes have issues stating their expected salary upfront, as they have yet to learn the full scope of the applied job.
Rather than saying nothing however, make sure you carry out prior preparation by finding out the value of someone with your skills. Start by researching the average market salary of others in a similar role via our salary survey (Robert Walters salary benchmarking Philippines). If the hiring company has provided a guideline salary with the job description, you could also mention this, and note that it's around the figure you're looking for.
Ivana recommends, “You don’t have to give an exact figure if you’re unsure. However, do identify and state an acceptable salary range so that both you and the company are sure that you’re not wasting each other’s time. To this end, it is crucial that job applicants first have this discussion on salary with their recruitment consultant, as their consultant will help them position themselves to get the best possible offer.”
For more expert advice on how to succeed at your next job interview, read our six top tips for successful video interviews and our complete interview guide. Contact us if you would like to partner a recruitment firm in the Philippines to explore career opportunities in your specific sector.