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POSTED ON 19th November 2018 BY NAda el-hammoud

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It’s the night before your big interview. There are three empty tubs of ice cream next to you (because of course, you need comfort in these stressful times), a heap of used Kleenex litters the floor (who can blame you for being emotional?), and the contents of your wardrobe is scattered across the room (hey, picking the right outfit for an interview is no joke). You’ve been practising in the mirror for what seems like hours, but what if you slip up? What if they start asking you some difficult, meaning-of-life kind of questions like ‘tell us a bit about yourself’? How are you supposed to answer? Will you have to pretend to be some super-interesting, intelligible person who reads Tolstoy novels for fun and does expressionist art in their spare time? Before you start googling Leo Tolstoy, let me assure you it won’t be that bad as long as you prepare. Below are some commonly asked questions in interviews and how to answer them in the best way possible.

Tell me a bit about yourself

The bane of all interviewees. Like, who actually knows anything about themselves anyway? This is the question has you staring at the wall above the interviewer’s head, locked in your own mini existential crisis - damn, you never realised you don’t even know your own favourite colour. Sadly, this is usually one of the first questions asked too, which means if you slip up here you’re likely to put yourself down and flop the rest of the interview as well. The most important thing is to be at ease with yourself, calm and confident in your answer. Your interviewer has already read your CV and they don’t want you to just repeat all of it; only talk about things that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying to work at a radio station there’s no point telling them about that job you had in a shoe shop - tell them about the work experience you did in community radio, or a work placement you did that required a lot of talking. Tell your interviewer a few key strengths of yours and how you can apply them to the job, and ask them if there’s anything else they’d like to know more about. Whatever you say, make sure you don’t waffle too much and keep your points clear and concise.

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

Let me start by saying that your interviewer doesn’t actually care that you loved giraffes when you were nine, or that you’d be a cat so that you can communicate with your pet Oscar and see what he really thinks of your new boyfriend. This is an easy way for interviewers to see what kind of a person you are without directly asking; they will assume that the animal you choose is a reflection of your personality. For example, if you would choose to be a fish because… well, no particular reason really, your interviewer will not be impressed. However, if you would choose to be a lion (just an example) because lions are brave and respected creatures who are natural leaders and often take the initiative to protect and provide for others, its safe to say Linda from HR will be impressed. Another example could be a monkey (because they are intelligent creatures and quick learners who are witty and well-liked) or an ant (hard workers who can carry a heavy load and are the ultimate team player). Whatever you choose, give it good reasoning and keep it brief and to the point.

What are some of your weaknesses?

Whatever you do, DO NOT SAY YOU HAVE NO WEAKNESSES. This is the ultimate up-yourself kind of answer that interviewers don’t want to hear, and as well as giving off the impression that you’re a complete egomaniac it makes it look like you just couldn’t be bothered to prepare for your interview. Be as honest and genuine as possible; identify a legitimate weakness you have and explain it to the interviewer, but make sure you add in a bit about what steps you are taking to resolve this and how you plan to improve in the future. As well as testing your honesty, this question helps them see whether you can effectively reflect on and improve areas of yourself and your behaviour.

Where do you see yourself in *insert time period*?

There are only really two rules to answering this question: don’t be unrealistic, and don’t be under-ambitious. If the interviewer has asked where you see yourself in a year don’t say you see yourself as the CEO of their company or something equally as ridiculous. Similarly, don’t be unenthusiastic and say something passive like ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I’ll see how it goes’ - they’re looking to employ a person, not a pot-plant. Be real with yourself and with the interviewer; show ambition but also show that you’re smart enough to be realistic about things. Throw in a little about what steps you’re going to take to achieve that goal, it will impress them that you’ve got a game-plan and shows you’re a organised, prepared person.

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?

Boom. Just when you think the gruelling ordeal is over, they hit you with one last surprise question. By this point in the interview, most people mutter a polite ‘nope’ and gaze suggestively at the door - do not be ‘most people’. Asking them any pre-prepared questions, especially ones that show an understanding of the business and the job you’ve applied for, shows confidence, preparation, and passion. For example, if you applied to work at a marketing firm you could research some advertising campaigns they’ve created beforehand and ask something along the lines of ‘I really loved that particular advertising campaign and I’d like to know what the inspiration behind it was’ - it shows you admire what they’ve done (this sort of stuff gasses them up, trust me), it shows you’ve done your research and prepared, and it shows you’re passionate about marketing.

There are loads more practise questions online that will have you so prepared for that interview you’re bound to get the job - and even if you don’t, you’ve got forever to keep trying! 

Written by Nada El-Hammoud

Instagram - @nadahmdd 

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