Article 1 – The 10 killer job interview questions and
their model answers
Q1.What did you not like about
your last employer?
A.OK, so the interviewer has
asked you to say something negative about your ex-employer. You need to turn this round so that
it makes it sound like the negative is in fact a positive!
Remember you will not get
any credit for complaining or describing a negative situation without adding a positive ending.
Here are some examples of what you should say if you are faced with this
Start with ''Actually there
are a lot of good things to say about my ex-employer, however if I needed to highlight one
‘’I used to get a bit
annoyed when I noticed inefficiencies in the processing workflows and controls. A number of
times I made suggestions as to improvements that could be made which would have saved money but
the ideas were effectively ignored.’’
‘’I always tried my upmost
to make sure that all customers were treated fairly and honestly but I noticed a malaise
creeping in which meant that some staff didn’t always try their best to meet the exacting
standards required. I feel this reflected badly on
Q2.I see from your resume that
you have never actually been in this role in any of your previous companies. How are you going
A.Firstly this is an obvious
weakness. Weakness means risk to an employer and they are looking for re-assurance that you will
adapt to the new environment.
Relate your previous
experience to similar situations where you moved departments and had a new role or were faced
with new technology which you had to learn quickly.
Turn this into a positive
about ‘how you are able to adapt to changing circumstances and have a flexible approach. How you
pick up new skills quickly. How you enjoy the challenge of the ever changing
Try to broaden the answer
by saying ‘we are all faced with a fast moving and changing environment which constantly
presents new challenges. I have always been able to rise to these and perform effectively
despite tight deadlines and little support’.
Importantly, then go on to
list examples of similar experiences where you have demonstrated such skills. This should close
the issue in the interviewers mind and paint a positive
Q3.What is your typical working
week in hours?
A.Whatever it takes to get the
job done. However be careful not to suggest you work long hours purely because you are
‘’I like to think I am and
effective and efficient worker who gets through a full workload each week. However there are
times when I need to work late and weekends and this is fine. This is often due to uneven
demands on my time. I will put whatever effort it takes to complete my role.’’
Q4.How long would it take for you
to start making a real contribution to the organisation?
A.There is no point in blurting
out an answer here because the contribution could be anywhere and you could go off in the wrong
direction. Bat the question back to get a more precise idea and allow yourself some time to
‘’In what particular area
of my responsibilities did you have in mind?’’
‘’Of course there will be a
short learning curve while I get up to speed but in the past I have prided myself on being a
quick learner who can make an effective contribution in a short space of time. I see this
opportunity as no different although I accept it will be a
Prepare an example of how
you had a similar situation where you had to learn a new skill
Q5.What have you learnt most from
your past career?
A.A truly open ended question
and the opportunity to talk positively. But you need to keep your answer at a high
‘‘I have learnt many things
as you can imagine. But one point always rings true. Every one needs to be treated with respect,
their opinion should be valued and they should be encouraged to contribute to the good of the
Q6.What would you most like not
to do in this role?
A.Dangerous question. The
interviewer is probing for things that you didn’t previously like and then they can ask a follow
on question about why you didn’t like them. Beware of this trap.
Turn the question round and
give a ‘model answer’. ….
’In an ideal world…..I
would like to avoid any bureaucracy or red-tape which can delay decisions. Like anyone I am
always keen for good progress to be made at all times and everything to run
……….or perhaps you have an
example such as this….
‘I would like to avoid the
situation in the last role where we had tight deadlines and 3 of my staff went off on long term
sick with the winter flu last year. Although we achieved our targets it was only through hard
effort, team-work and long hours’.
See how these answers
portray you in a good light and turn a negative into a
Q7.What would your job references
say about you?
A.Try to make sure that any job
references have been sought and written before you go interviewing. This is not always possible
but would allow you to repeat their positive comments.
Where you do have job
references then you can say you have references and they are very complimentary around a number
of aspects of your work.
It is not a problem if you
don’t have references and the question implies that you would probably imagine what they would
Effectively the interviewer is therefore asking to list
your strengths. Take the time to list your job strengths and behavioural qualities. Start the
sentence in the 3rd party with……’My references would say….’
Any time you are able to reply in the
3rd party it sounds like someone else is endorsing your candidacy which in
effect references do. Everyone will say they will receive good references but if you say this
using a 3rd party endorsement then you add greater credibility to your
Q8.Why should I hire
A.This is one question which you
should have prepared for thoroughly.
You need to have a personal
pitch of 3 - 4 sentences pre-prepared. This needs to relate to the job description which you
need to go through line by line. Then add in the additional personal qualities that you bring to
the role. Apply these to the personal summary statement.
It is always worth using a qualifying phrase such as
‘colleagues have said of me…I am a great motivator/team-builder/technician etc.’. It sounds
better if there is a 3rd party endorsement. It doesn’t sound like you are bragging but a
colleague is speaking on your behalf.
In addition you will need
to have relevant examples which you can offer to expand on. The personal qualities for the role
will be attributes such as hard-working, motivating, good communication skills, desire to
You should end your answer
with a statement such as ‘do you think these qualities are what you are looking for from a
It plants a seed in the
mind of the interviewer that they are.
If they reply that they
were expecting other qualities then discuss them and offer examples of how you have these and
examples of them in action. You need to leave the interviewer in no doubt you have the skills
and can demonstrate this with relevant examples.
Q9.Why do you want to leave your
A.Negative connotation and
expectancy that you will say something negative about ex-employer or ex-employee. Resist the
temptation and keep the answer upbeat concentrating on the advantages of what the new job would
offer. You could mention the increased salary but do not dwell on it, emphasise the other
‘’I enjoy my previous job
and as I have demonstrated I make a solid contribution which is appreciated. However I am
looking for more experience, a greater challenge / increased responsibility / more dynamic
organisation that this role offers.’’
Make sure you have a list
of reasons for joining this company.
You need to reply using one
or a combination of the following five replies:
: You need a new career challenge
: The commute to work was taking too long or I was constantly being asked to travel with
I had reached the likely top and there was no room for advancement until someone else above me
: You feel you were not being paid what you were worth.
: The organisation was unstable and my role may have been at risk.
Why as an organisation can we offer that is better than your current employer?
It is asking for a direct comparison between your current employer and your future employer.
An interviewer wants to hear that you are a
valued member in your current / previous role. You have worked for an organisation that has trained
you to a high level and you have been providing a strong contribution to their skilled workforce.
They hope to leverage these skills in their organisation.
A typical answer which deals with such a
comparison should read…….
‘My current organisation has been a great career
move for me I have learned many new skills eg. x. There is a great team ethic and I feel I have
made a strong contribution to their sales team / office / project team
However I see your organisation and the role on
offer as a new challenge which can leverage my skills and allow me to challenge myself set new
goals and further my career in a way that the current organisation perhaps doesn’t
Of course this answer needs to be tailored to
meet your particular circumstances. Start by listing what you like about your current organisation
and the experience you have gained. Compare this with the list of skills and benefits you expect to
find in the new organisation. Use this list to tailor your answer.
Stay clear of talking about money. The sub text of this question and
so many others like it is the interviewer is asking ‘What’s in it for me?’
You should be replying ‘’I am making a
contribution and this is how………’’ include examples of how you can make the contribution, which
backs up your claims.
By saying you want to leverage your skills in
the new role and show how you can make a strong contribution is precisely what the interviewer
wants to hear.
If you say or even imply the reason for the new
job is that you are looking for more money or additional benefits, then this does not imply you are
making a contribution to the new organisation.
You are in fact saying this is ‘’what is in it
for me’’ and does not address the interviewers needs!