There are some cliché interview questions that will be familiar to just about anyone who has attended an interview. Typically, they will not be questions that interviewees look forward to answering, as they can be difficult to prepare for. Often, they will be quite vague and not appear particularly relevant to the actual role that you are applying for. You may find yourself put on the spot, searching for an intelligent and meaningful response that you hope the interviewer is looking to hear.
Here are several examples we have put together, as well as considering why an interviewer might ask this question specifically.
Tell me about yourself…
What they are looking for in your response: they want to see you relax and feel more comfortable talking about yourself.
Typically, this will be asked near the start of an interview. By starting to talk about yourself you are getting comfortably speaking to the interviewer(s), it is not a loaded or deeply technical question but it does give you the opportunity to sell yourself, what motivates you, what you have achieved or are proud of in your personal life. This could be useful if you are interviewing for a role where you are lacking certain previous experience such as managing people – if you have coached a sports team that would still be transferable experience
It is worth practicing this answer as you want to keep this fairly succinct. If you are still going strong 30 minutes into the interview, then you’ve talked too much!
What attracted you to this role?
What they are looking for in your response: that you have researched the role and the company, that you have at least a reasonable understanding of what the job involves and that you are enthusiastic about the job on offer, working for that specific company
Interviewers are typically looking for recruits that will want to contribute and add value to a company long-term, that they are committed to the opportunity on offer and won’t pull out at offer stage or a few weeks into the role. So often interview feedback from employers reflects a disappointing lack of research into the role, and the company itself, by an interviewee. Employers will typically seek new recruits who have spent time doing their research, who understand the company mission statement, ethos and culture, not necessarily easy to demonstrate from just a cursory glance at the company website on the way to the interview.
Furthermore, this gives the interviewee the chance to start talking about the relevant, transferable skills, experience and achievements that they can bring to the role available.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What they are looking for: What are your career aspirations, are they realistic and are they achievable with this company
This can be a tough question to answer as you may not wish to appear over-ambitious in case the interviewers become concerned that they will not be able to manage your expectations. Equally you may not wish to appear as under-ambitious in case the interviewers become concerned that you will not seek to grow the role.
By researching the role and its fit within the company, hopefully you will have a sense of future potential career opportunities, or training and development available to help you enhance your skills and knowledge. Either way you should try to be honest in terms of your motivations, so that they can discuss with you the realistic opportunities that will be made available to you to manage your expectations also. If you aren’t seeking a progressive career move, it is still worth talking about the skills and knowledge you would like to develop to add value in your role and to your colleagues.
Tell me about a recent failure…
What they are looking for in your response: how self-aware and resilient you are
Competency interviewing forms part of many interviews. Typically, this focusses on positive questions and positive responses but often it will include seemingly negative questions. These can initially appear difficult to answer, and can put candidates on the defensive; however, what the interviewers are looking for is how you approached these difficulties, your attitude and mind-set. What lessons did you learn, how did you resolve, and what would you do differently next time? This can result in a much more powerful answer from a candidate, demonstrating your openness and honesty, your self-awareness and ability to rise to a challenge.
Whilst you don’t want to sound over-rehearsed in an interview situation, taking time to reflect on the above examples (and others that you subsequently think of) will help you shine at your interview, to secure that next career move you are seeking, and deserve!