10 tips for answering common interview questions

These interviews questions are coming, so be prepared!

Some common interview questions

Tell me about yourself Use your Personal Profile from your CV to help answer this question. Tell them about your experience and skills. Don’t tell them what you like to do at weekends. Practice your ‘Elevator Pitch’ to help you answer this question.

What do you know about us? Follow them on social media well before your interview. Look at their website, news-feeds, and Wiki pages. Look at significant clients and major projects. Find out their values, vision or objectives. Try to identify what sets them apart from their competitors.

What do you know about this job? / What are the skills you think are needed for this job? Aren’t you glad you saved a copy of the job description and kept that in a safe place? Make sure you read it again before your interview.

What are your strengths? Look at the required skills mentioned in the job description. Give examples of how you’ve used those skills, to back-up what you say.

What are your weaknesses? Look at the skills in the job description again, now don’t mention them! This is an opportunity to show that you take an interest in your own personal development, so talk about a weakness you’ve overcome or that you’re working on. Don’t say ‘I’m a perfectionist’, it’s too cheesy.


What motivates you? Think about what’s motivated you in the past and what’s expected in the new role. Give them an honest but appropriate answer: If the role mainly involves helping people, you probably won’t score points by saying you’re motivated by money!

Why do you want this job? This question overlaps with ‘Tell me about yourself’, ‘What do you know about us’ and ‘What motivates you?’ Explain how well you’ll fit in, referring to your background and what you know about the job. Perhaps start your answer with ‘Because the role matches very well with my skills and experience…’ Don’t say ‘Because it’s near my house’ or ‘I need the money’!

Do you have any questions for us? At the end of the interview, show that you’re interested by asking a couple of good questions about the role or about the company. Perhaps ask about something you read on their website, to show that you did some research (but keep it positive!).

Competency questions

It’s likely you’ll also be asked some ‘competency questions’, which ask you to give examples of your past actions (as this gives some indication of how you might perform in the future), such as:

  • ‘Tell me about a time you worked as part of a team. What did you contribute?’
  • ‘Tell me about a time you had to overcome a problem.
  • ‘Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult person. How did you handle it?’
  • ‘Tell me about a time your communication skills made a difference to a situation.’

For more details on tackling competency questions, check out our recent blog-post: ‘Preparing for interviews? You need to know STAR’

Predicting interview questions

Here are easy ways to anticipate what questions you’ll be asked:

  • Search the internet. A simple internet search will bring up questions and answers relating to your job-goal, such as ‘Interview questions for law firms’ or ‘Lab Assistant interview questions and answers’.
  • Search your memory. Think about questions you were asked at previous interviews. Hopefully you made a note of these at the time!
  • Use your network. Try to connect with people that already work in that company or role, talk to them about the selection process and what questions they were asked.

10 tips for answering interview questions

1. Be extraordinary. Give examples of actions that went beyond just doing your day-to-day job.

2. Fit the description. When talking about skills, keep them relevant to the job. Read the job description. If they want someone with an eye for detail who can work under pressure, then why tell them you’re a creative person who loves learning new things?

3. Avoid ancient history. Talk about things you did recently. This will be more impressive than things you did a long time ago.

4. Listen to the question carefully. Interviewers may not ask questions exactly how you expected, but your prepared answers could fit a range of questions, so don’t get flustered. Pause before you answer. Think about which of your answers fits best, you may be able to adapt something you prepared rather than improvising.

5. Be interesting. Vary your tone of voice to emphasise key points. Avoid technical jargon or talking about complex processes.

6. Don’t be a mercenary! Leave your questions about pay, hours of working and time off until after you’ve received a job offer. When asked ‘why do you want to work for us?’ explain how well you will fit in with their culture and values, rather than focusing on what you’ll gain.

7. Show your interest. Make good eye contact, use your least-creepy smile and ask questions at the end of your interview.

8. Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate. You may have your commercial awareness tested, so keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date.

9. Seek feedback (and learn from it). If you’re unsuccessful, make sure you ask for feedback, so you can learn from any mistakes and improve.

10. Keep it real. We don’t recommend making up your answers, as a good interviewer will know if you’re fibbing.


Who’s got the answers?

MDXWorks.com: Guidance for  interviews and help answering questions like: ‘Tell me about yourself’, ‘What do you know about us?’, or ‘Do you have any questions?’ We also recommend using the MDX Interview simulator. If you’re expecting an assessment at your interview, check out the mock assessment day tests, including numerical, verbal, ‘e-tray’ tests and more (Use your MyUniHub ID and password to log in).



Need more help?

If you’re a current student or recent graduate of Middlesex University and you’d like help preparing for an interview, contact the MDXWorks team. We can provide you with further guidance or even arrange a mock interview for you with one of our friendly team of professionals.

If you found this blog-post helpful, you may like to read ‘Preparing for interviews? You need to know STAR’. We also recommend reading: ‘Employer Insight: What we want from your Elevator Pitch’

By Matt Lewis, MDXWorks On-Campus / Online, Middlesex University


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4 thoughts on “10 tips for answering common interview questions

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