How to prepare answers to common interview questions

how to prepare answers to interview questions

Preparing your answers to interview questions

If you don’t get nervous for an interview, then you’re either super-human or you’re not interested in the role! Interviews are stressful situations and whilst the aim of most of the clients we deal with is for the candidate to be as relaxed and at ease as possible, it is still likely that you’ll have butterflies and nerves at the beginning. So, what can you do to help reduce the nerves…

There are loads of hints and tips online about breathing techniques and relaxation methods but one way to improve your confidence is to make sure you’ve prepared well and have answers ready for the types of questions that may come up.

Take note though – do listen carefully to the question in full as it may be slightly different to the question that you’re hoping it will be and you need to make sure that what you’re about to say does answer the actual question that has been asked. I would even advise making a note of the key components of the question, this allows you time to think and also refer back to them at the end to make sure you have answered the question fully.

A quick Google search will give you a list of the most “common interview questions” so having a “backpack” of rehearsed answers will give you confidence and improve the flow.

Think about the format of the interview – will it start with a CV / Career to date walkthrough, are they looking to delve into your technical skills or is the interview going to be competency focused?

You should ask the recruitment team or recruiter to find out for you in advance what the interviewees are going to cover.



CV Walkthrough

Try and keep it brief and start with your current role. Talk in terms of features and benefits “I was responsible for X and the benefit to the business was Y”. Have a copy of the CV to hand – It’s easy to get yourself in a flap trying to remember the specific start and end dates of a role which in the grand scheme of things isn’t important. A CV printed off and in front takes that worry away. Talk about what you learned and how you developed in the role. In summary:

  • Be able to quickly reference key dates and specifics around the company you worked for
  • Make it easy to discuss key duties and responsibilities
  • Link those duties and responsibilities to business benefits – I.e., if the company hire you, what value will you add and what problems will you solve

Technical interview

Knowing the answer here is a real bonus but if not, what would you do to solve that problem? In the real world you won’t know the answer to every problem that comes in but if that is the case you wouldn’t just give up and go home, you would have an approach to problem solving. Don’t be afraid to tell them “the exact answer doesn’t come to mind however this is how I would address the problem” then make sure you’re able to eloquently articulate that approach. We cover a range of technical roles and see all manner of technical questions asked in an interview. To pass a technical interview you need to make sure:

  • Your CV is a true reflection of your skill set – if you’ve blagged a couple of technologies that you don’t really know then you will get found out!
  • Make sure you listen to the question – it is quite easy to either give too much detail or not enough. Make sure you’re clear on what the interviewer wants to find out. Check at the end of the answer that the interviewer is happy or if they want more detail
  • If you don’t know the specific answer explain what your process would be to solve that problem

Competency questions

This is such a big topic that it probably needs a blog of its’ own. A competency-based interview is used by interviewers to assess your performance in a particular skill that is attributable to the job. The interviewer will ask a question and want a real-life example that allows you to demonstrate how you satisfy that competency. It is worth researching the STAR technique for answering a competency question (Situation, Task, Action, Result). The initial question should then illicit several probing questions to delve in the situation in more depth.

Competency interview questions and the STAR technique is something that can be practised. Think about how you frame the answer and make sure the interviewer can really immerse themselves into the situation you found yourself in. Use names and specifics as this brings it to life more (obviously be careful if there are sensitive issues or anything confidential that can’t be disclosed.

Common competencies tested include:

  • Team Working
  • Communication
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Planning and Problem Solving
  • Quality
  • Leadership
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Customer Service

More informal questions

Some questions don’t really fall into any of the 3 categories listed above but are questions that prospective employers find useful to ask. They generally help them to build a better picture of who you are and what makes you tick. Included in this could be some fairly leftfield questions so be prepared to have some fun

  • What interests you outside of work?
  • Why did you get into x & y job or career?
  • What motivates you and what are your values?
  • Why are you looking to leave your current role?
  • What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
  • And then the really random questions to test lateral thinking such as “How would you get an elephant in a fridge”

Here are some articles that may help:

JLA Resourcing specialises in technology recruitment covering all aspects of IT and includes some of the following:

  • IT Support Jobs
  • Networking Jobs
  • Cyber Security Jobs
  • Project Management Jobs
  • Service Management Jobs
  • Service Delivery Manager Jobs
  • Business Analyst Jobs
Ben Leeds
Ben Leeds
With over 20 years’ in the recruitment industry Ben has seen quite a bit and hopes that by sharing some thoughts he can help you to either hire the best person or find the right job!
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