Interview Questions and Answers
Getting to interview stage can be exciting and also nerve-racking! When preparing for interview, it can be hard to know where to start. What to wear, how to prepare, how to manage those tricky interview questions?
We often get asked about various different scenarios you might get asked about at interview. Here are some useful interview questions and answers that should help you nail that all-important job interview.
Too Senior / Salary Interview Questions
Q: At interviews, I’m often asked about my previous salary & expectations for the new role.
My last role involved a higher salary & I believe further progress is not made based on this. How can we avoid answering questions on previous salaries if this may hamper progress in the interview process for a new role on a much less salary scale?
A: There are a couple of things to mention here. Hiring managers often ask about salary to gauge the calibre of the candidate and to assess if they believe they can afford them. When someone who has earned more previously, or worked at a more senior level is interviewing, this can sometimes raise questions for the hiring manager (nearly all of which are incorrect from our experience!). They might be thinking, ‘we’ll never be able to afford her’. Or ‘she’ll be bored within a few months and leave’. Perhaps ‘he’ll be after my job’, or ‘she won’t want to work for someone younger or more junior’. With this in mind it’s important to try to counter these thoughts when answering all questions at interview, not just the question about salary. Some sample answers are below and you’ll get the gist of the approach.
- Although I’ve earned more previously, money isn’t my main motivator now. Flexibility, purpose, culture, journey are all higher on my priority list. (Choose whichever is true for you)
- I have earned more previously but the salary on offer for this role meets my financial needs and the role seems a perfect fit.
- I have held more senior positions but I worked my way up. I realise that I much prefer working on producing/delivering work than overseeing it.
- I have earned more previously but was working 80 hour weeks and never had any time for my family or myself. I want to use my skills and experience in a company like yours where I can make a difference while having a work/life balance.
- My salary was more previously, but I’m very pragmatic and am happy to do whatever the job throws at me. I love getting my hands dirty as well as being able to think strategically when needed. Don’t worry, I won’t get bored, I love getting into the day to day delivery.
- Although I’ve earned more previously, I’m happy to work at a more junior level now and work my way up.
It’s worth noting that if a hiring manager is seeking someone more junior because of team dynamics, it’s unlikely you’ll change their minds.
Career Gap Interview Questions
Q: If you have had a career break due to family commitments – how can you use this experience to say what you have learnt/relate it to the role etc.?
A: Career gaps are very common nowadays, especially since the pandemic when many people were forced on breaks due to redundancy and furlough. So the first thing is don’t be ashamed or try to hide a gap. However, unless you’ve done things very relevant to the role in your break, don’t labour the point either. Pull out any key skills you’ve learnt during your break and try to mention that you’ve kept yourself up to date whilst being out of the workplace (if you have).
- I’ve had a break to raise my family which has kept me very busy. Among other things, it’s improved my skills in negotiation, project management, budgeting and organisation.
- I’ve kept my technical skills up to date and regularly use Word, email, internet researching and Excel in my daily life.
- Even though I’ve not been formally working, I’ve kept up to date with what’s going on in my sector/field by subscribing to xxxx or attending industry webinars, etc.
- I have learnt many skills whilst raising my family during my break but I appreciate that I may be a little rusty in some areas. However, I am fully confident that it won’t take very long to be on top of things and I feel entirely ready to give my all to a new job.
Answering ‘Weaknesses’ Interview Questions
Q: I have been asked about my weaknesses before and am never sure the best way to answer this.
A: This is a very common question. The interviewer is asking this to see how well you know yourself and if you are aware how to manage any weaknesses. So the trick is to choose one or two examples that you know you have but then to explain how you manage them well. Even better if you choose a weakness that can also be perceived as a strength!
- I am a bit of a perfectionist so can sometimes take too long over a task whilst trying to get it 100% right. I recognise this in myself so I set myself deadline to ensure I don’t spend more time that is needed on a task.
- I can sometimes take on too much and then end up working into the night trying to get everything done. I manage this now by always asking when something is needed by, assessing my current workload and negotiating a different deadline if I don’t have sufficient time to deliver.
- I’ve always been on the design side of things and haven’t had much experience with content development, so I’d say that’s a weakness for me. However, I’m a quick learner, and I believe I could improve my writing skills if I ever needed to for my job.
- I used to have a problem with procrastination, and I’d end up working really long days as a deadline approached. I decided that I needed to deal with the issue, so I took classes on project and time management. I learned how to organize my days and attack bigger projects in manageable chunks. Now, I put together a plan as soon as I get a new assignment, and I often beat my deadlines.
Exploring Flexibility / Seeking Fewer Hours
Q. How do I raise the question of flexibility, particularly if the role is advertised as full time?
A. We would recommend raising the area of flexibility as early as possible in the process. 80% of candidates are seeking flexibility nowadays so it’s a sensible question to ask. If you’re happy to job share, mention this and if you don’t have experience of this yourself, research in advance how this could work.
Go along to the interview and try to wow them with your skills and approach and see if you’re keen on the role and they are keen on you.
If the conversation moves to flexibility, raise your requirements. At this point you will have engaged their interest and they might be more open to considering part-time hours or added flexibility.
Often employers can be open to part-time if they feel you are the perfect candidate. However, if the role is full time and you don’t have anywhere close to that amount of hours available, this can be a trickier area to address. We see our clients often agree to four days instead of full time for the ideal person. But they rarely move from full time to three days for example. You might need to pitch how effective and efficient you are, having successfully worked reduced hours before. And you could also point out the salary saving they would be making!
So, in summary, try to sell your skills against the role and hopefully the employer will be interested enough to consider more flexibility.
Interview questions in other areas
Q. In what way should we amend our CV? Surely our CVs provide an overview of our experience/achievements so can’t really be changed.
A. The trick is to re-order or highlight things in your CV that more closely match the job you are applying for. So if the role is seeking a strong focus on customer focus, make sure you bring your experience of this to the fore. Or highlight the types of companies you’ve worked for if they match the JD.
Q. I over prepare in terms of spending ages researching companies and in the interview I get flustered, talk too much and not to the point. Any tips?
A. The best thing is to think of three example projects from your past experience that you can answer questions about easily. Think of examples from these that match what the job description is asking for.
Q. If you’ve been made redundant how do you go about answering that in an interview. Does it reflect badly if made redundant?
A. You’d be surprised how common redundancy is now. It has lost the stigma it used to have a few decades ago. And with the financial crisis in 2008, recession, Brexit and then the pandemic, it is very common for CVs to have one or more redundancies. When discussing it, don’t be embarrassed and stick to the facts. Perhaps it was because the company was downsizing due to economic factors or perhaps relocating or restructuring. Whatever the reason, stick to the positives of what you learnt having gone through the process.
Q. When the interviewer wants to do an initial 15 minute chat, what preparations are needed as it won’t be detailed.
A. If you’ve been asked for an initial chat this is usually to establish if you are a good fit and warrant a further interview. Be prepared to sell your skills against the role, be engaged and enthusiastic and have a couple of questions prepared about role and the interview process.
Q. What if you left a job because of lack of support from line management and a job that lacked aim? How do you answer the question without sounding critical about your ex employer?
A. Approach this situation with statements of fact rather than putting down your previous employer. You could say something like “I left my last role as I didn’t feel the role had enough purpose for me, I like to feel I’m making a difference, even in a small way.”
Q. When you’re applying to two different types of roles. You can tailor your CV to meet that, but can’t tailor LinkedIn which they will also look at. How do you manage this difference at interview or does this hold you back even getting an interview?
A. Some hiring managers will look at Linkedin and be looking for a match to your CV. If you’re applying for very different types of positions, keep your LinkedIn profile broad and brief. You can also use your cover letter or personal profile to explain why you’re seeking the role.
Q. I’ve had a 2 years break from my 14 years career in big corporate (financial services). I don’t actually remember any of those situations for the competency/behaviour type questions. Baby brain! What do I do?
A. A good thing to do is to look back on previous appraisals or annual reviews if you’ve kept them. Often you’ll remember things once thinking back. Alternatively, connect with old colleagues, reminisce about your role and ask what they can remember. If you’re still stuck, find examples from more recent times, even if they are from volunteering or family activities.
Q. What do you recommend putting in a follow up email to say thank you for interview, and if you haven’t got contact details for interviewees (e.g. arranged by HR), is it still appropriate to send anything?
A. It is a nice touch to send a follow up email to an interviewer but not vital. It should be short and sweet saying how much you enjoyed the interview and how keen you are on the role. If you don’t have details, you could Linkin with your interviewer with a thank you message.
Q. Is it ok to bring in notes to an interview or is this seen as a no no?
A. It’s fine to bring notes into an interview with you but try not to refer to them too often as it will distract from the interaction of the interview. You may want to check with the interviewer if they’re ok with it too. If you’re on a video interview, it’s obviously easier to refer to notes.
Q. Should we be following up after an initial interview or two if we have not heard back?
A. Yes, keep a log of the roles you’ve applied for and follow-up if you haven’t heard, particularly if you’ve attended an interview. Even if you aren’t successful, the feedback will be useful for next time.
Q. What are the best questions to ask to really understand company culture? Especially around flexibility, support and ongoing development?
A. Questions such as ‘What’s it like to work here?’ or ‘why did you choose to work for this company?’ open up a discussion about working culture. You could also ask ‘do many people work flexibly and is that working for the department/company?’. Or ‘would your team say they are supported with their ongoing development?’
Q. What happens if your rapport in the interview is bad, despite all the preparation? Is there a way to bring this back?
A. Remember that sometimes the interviewer can be as nervous as you so the interview may not flow as you’d like. It’s best to stick to answering the questions with strong answers based on your experience and don’t be afraid to ask questions back. This can sometimes ‘relax’ the room.
Q. Can you advise how to add the experience gained during a big gap into your CV?
A. If you’ve had a lengthy career break, your CV should focus on the skills you gained whilst working that were most valuable plus skills you’ve gained during your gap. Maybe a house renovation, volunteering, parent association. It’s also very useful if you can do something in the workplace to get something current on your CV. Perhaps volunteering or offering your services to a local business or friend for free.
Q. Is it important to have a LinkedIn profile?
A. Yes, it is important to have a LinkedIn profile that matches your CV with a nice, professional photo.
We ran a really helpful member webinar focusing on interview skills and tips. Make sure you listen to the webinar ‘Interview Skills to Secure the Job’ for some top tips.
If you have been invited to interview, good luck! Listen to our Interview Skills to Secure the job webinar. And check out these Interview Questions and Answers above. You’ll be well on your way to being fully prepared. Go do it!
If we can help in your job search, get in touch with us here at Ten2Two. We have years of experience and are happy to help!
*NB: we are not employment law specialists nor HR advisors – this information is for guidance only