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Five more common interview questions – and how to answer them

Job interviews can be intimidating and stressful because there can be so much riding on them.

But just like any test, the better prepared you are, the more relaxed you can be and the better you’re likely to perform.

We’ve previously shared advice on how to answer five common job interview questions – it’s one of our most popular articles. So here are five more common questions and tips on how to answer them to help your best qualities shine through in your next interview:

1. How do you juggle competing deadlines?

When an interviewer asks this question, what they’re really trying to find out is how you approach productivity, task and time management. Your answer should give your interviewer insights into whether you have effective systems and processes for managing your own work, and how well you can prioritise. 

You can approach this question in two ways. Either:

  • Use the STAR method and choose a specific example that shows how you managed a particular situation in another role where you had competing deadlines and what the outcome was. Or
  • Talk generally about how you organise your tasks and time – for example, do you use tools like a daily to-do list or project spreadsheet to track tasks? Do you like to use a productivity tool like Trello, Monday or Asana? What criteria do you use to decide which tasks are most important on a particular day? And finally, how do you communicate with colleagues about what you’re deciding to prioritise and what you’re deciding to leave for another day.

2. What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of your current role?

When an interviewer asks this question, they’re trying to find out what gives you satisfaction in your work and whether you’ll find the role you’re interviewing for stimulating and want to stay for the long term. 

  • Favourite: Think about the parts of your current or most recent role where you’ve found yourself really having fun, or getting lost in the moment and not realising where the time went. Share examples of what you’re passionate about and proud of in the work you’ve done and how this has made an impact for the organisation, the people you worked with or the broader world.
  • Least favourite: Every job has elements that are boring or frustrating, so it’s good to be honest when asked about this – but ensure you’re not just venting or being too critical of your current or previous employer. Talk about how you’ve managed frustrations. For example, if you created better processes to overcome pain points for your team; or used a boring or unpleasant task to reflect on your own goals and develop self-awareness.

It pays to be honest with your answers to this question – if you say you love doing something that you actually don’t really enjoy – just so you get get the job – you may end up doing lots of it in a your new role, which isn’t a great outcome for you or for your new employer.

3. Give me an example of a time you disagreed with your manager

This can be a tricky question so stay focused on what the interviewer is really asking – how do you productively handle conflict? Disagreements and conflict are part of any healthy workplace,  but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to handle them.

Again, start by using the STAR method with an example from a recent role. When choosing your example, reflect on a time when the process of disagreeing and working through it felt productive, irrelevant of whether the outcome was the one you wanted or not.

4. Why are you leaving your current job?

Your motivation for leaving your current job tells the interviewer what’s important to you and whether you’ll be a good fit for the role you’re applying for – and how long you’re likely to stick around. For example, are you seeking more purpose in your career, a bigger pay packet, or more responsibility? 

Here are some practical suggestions on what to say:

  • If you resigned: Among the top reasons people quit are bad bosses, boredom and conflict with co-workers. A global study revealed that 79% people quit because they felt under-appreciated – highlighting that people don’t leave organisations, they leave managers. Whatever your reason for quitting, it’s okay to be open about it, but don’t stray into being too critical – this isn’t the place to vent about your former employer.
  • If you were made redundant: Redundancies happen. Many organisations go through ups and downs and while it can be distressing to experience, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Explain the situation that led to the redundancy, and show that you’re focused on the future and excited to take the skills and experience gained in your last role and apply them in a new organisation. 
  • If you were fired: Never bad-mouth your previous employer. Come to terms with your emotions around what happened and be ready to blow the interviewer away with what you can bring to the table. Explain succinctly what happened, what you learned from the experience and why you believe you have great things to offer in this role. Make sure your passion and enthusiasm for this role are clear.

5. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

This question is all about your career goals, whether you are ambitious or not, and if so, what your ambitions are and how they might fit with the team and the organisation you’re interviewing with.

For some teams or managers, they want to see that you have ambition and drive and will work hard to excel in the role and potentially be promoted within the organisation. For others, they might want the opposite: to be reassured that your interests and goals align with the role they are advertising and you won’t quickly spring at a new opportunity or promotion and leave the team or organisation. 

When preparing to answer this question, take time to actually think about your future.

Where does the role you’re interviewing for actually fit in your career plans? Is this your dream job, or is it a stepping stone to another job that might be more what you really want to do. Interviewers often want to know that you take the role seriously and one way to show that is to do some genuine reflection on how the role will fit into your broader career.

When you’re preparing, it can help to even list the achievements you would like to see on your resume in this role over the next five years. This could include:

  • Moving up the ladder within the organisation into a management role;
  • Expanding your skills – consider what skills you might want to develop to be successful in your chosen role;
  • Developing excellence – for example, striving to win a coveted award in your sector; or
  • Specific achievements – for example reaching a level of expertise where you can support and mentor junior team members.

Of course no one knows the future or what they’ll actually be doing in five years time – but you want to be able to explain how the role you’re interviewing for is a logical part of your longer term goals.

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