Most common job interview questions

by Jul 3, 2014


Most common job interview questions

Most common job interview questions

Why women need special tips

All interviews are different but nevertheless any hiring manager or recruiter will be assessing three general, but key elements at a job interview. Do women need some special tips? Yes, I think they do,  to avoid some of the sand traps in the process that we tend to fall into.

The most common job interview questions tend to be related to the level of the position, but all will cover these points regardless of seniority:

  • what have you done before and can you do it for the interviewing company?
  • what are your key skills and strengths?
  • will you fit in?

Most common job interview questions

Tell me about yourself – there is much debate about whether this is a trick question or not. I actually say it is.  Hiring managers tend not to want to know all about you –  just what you can do for them. The tendency is to launch into a lengthy career chronology, when most employers are looking for a succinct synthesis of your success stories rolled out into your 30 second commercial, previously known as an elevator pitch.

Women in particular tend to be wary of using the first person pronoun “I” and powerful language to share their achievements,  for fear of being seen to brag.  They also quite frequently over share or over communicate.

If you struggle contact us for interview preparation coaching. 

The most important thing is to create an enticing dialogue when brevity really is the key to a good interview.  Above all avoid what I call Mumspeak and talking about your children.

What are your strengths? – Pick perhaps three skills which relate to the job specification. Do your research beforehand and reflect well. Have a  success story to illustrate each one. Once again, don’t worry about people thinking you are boasting just be factual. You need to do some insight work on yourself. Very often women focus on other people to their own detriment.

What is your greatest weakness? – The dreaded question, which is best handled by picking something that is part of your personal development plan and can be addressed via coaching and training. A good one I heard recently was a need to work on a “poker face” to avoid all their emotions being visible and obvious. Maybe pick something you have already worked on or is a work in progress, but nothing too damning.

Why do you want to work here? –  Check out the employer’s web site and mission statement and highlight areas which appeal. Reference your own career plan and how the role on offer ties into those plans. Do not use reasons such as the location is near your children’s school (even if it is)

[Tweet “Do your homework and don’t be concerned about boasting. Just give the facts using powerful language”]

What do your friends/colleagues/boss say about you? – this is the moment to showcase your soft skills. Have examples from your career history to highlight each one that you raise. “They say I’m the kind of person who…”

Why should we hire you? This is another opportunity to expand on your success stories as they relate to the job in hand.  Respond with the job description in mind. It’s your 30 second commercial in a different format.

What are your goals? – having a ready response to this question indicates that you have thought and planned ahead.  This is also an area of weakness for women who are less strategic about their careers than men. Become a 3Plus Gold Member to get the support you need to formulate a plan.

What  are your salary expectations? – If you have done your homework you will know your market value. Always give a range for your expectations. Usually an employer will pick something at the lower end of the range.  Make sure you negotiate.  Salary is important but make sure you factor in the whole package including employee benefits which can be very important for  women including remote working and flexi-time. Women the world over are paid 20% less than their male counterparts. Now is the time to step up rather than being grateful for the opportunity in an “Oh gosh thank you” kind of way.

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How would you handle…? – this is a behavioural interview question and will be employed particularly with leadership and more senior roles. Dig deep into your success stories to come up with either the same scenario or something similar. If you have no parallel experience – create a scenario as you imagine you would handle it.  

Any sort of psychological question –  These are sometimes seemingly wacko questions, but with a lot of inbuilt tells in the response:

  • How do you pack for a vacation?
  • Which song best represents you?
  • If your life was a movie which actor would play your role?

Now ask YOUR questions.

Always come with several prepared. Remember an interview is a two-way street and we are entering a candidate driven market so you could have some bargaining power. It’s important that the fit is right for you too.

Good luck and if in doubt seek professional support. It can make the difference between getting the role of your dreams or having to go back to job search mode.


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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