Answering questions in a job interview

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The sorts of questions you’ll typically get asked in a job interview will be testing your behaviour in different situations as well as your skills and experience.

What you'll be asked

A lot of what interviewers need to know about your qualifications and suitability for a role is covered in your résumé and in the first few questions they will ask. But the seemingly harder job interview questions are thrown at you to see what type of person you are and whether you’ll fit into the job and the company. These are questions that begin with things like "what would you do if…" and "how would you handle the following situation…".

Questions like:

  • Are you a person who works well in a high pressure environment?
  • Are you a team player?
  • Can you prioritise tasks?
  • Do you learn quickly?

How to answer

In your answer you should give an example of a time when you have demonstrated the skill in question. E.g. Question: Are you a team player? Answer: I enjoy working with other people. When I was part of my school concert band we had public performances once a month and it was important that we could make decisions as a group and work together to help each other learn new pieces.

You should also keep in mind that every answer is a chance to show the interviewer how well you can communicate. Try to order your sentences so it’s easy for the interviewer to follow what you’re saying. Show that you’ve given thought to your answers.

Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question. It’s better to ask and give the right answer than to start talking about something that’s not relevant and won’t help you get the job.

Tips for good communication

Make eye contact

Make eye contact with the interviewer throughout the interview and especially when you’re answering questions. This lets them know you’re listening and shows respect for what they’re saying.

If you don’t make eye contact when you’re talking, at best the interviewer will think you’re nervous and at worst that you’re a bit shifty and are just making up your answers on the spot.

Pausing not 'umm'-ing and 'err'-ing

Pausing for thought when answering a question is not the same as 'umm'-ing and 'err'-ing. A short pause to give you some time to think about what to say next is perfectly acceptable in a job interview and it makes a much better impression than hedging between every sentence.

Pausing sends a message to the interviewer that you’re giving the question your full consideration and taking the interview seriously.