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  • Writer's pictureAmy Solon

Interview skills: Types of interview questions

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

COVID19 has had an immediate and profound impact on many businesses. There are many people who are now, for various reasons looking for new positions within the job market.

For some, the stress and worry of simply thinking about performing in a job interview can be overwhelming. Maybe you have been in the same job for many years. Maybe you are a parent returning to the workplace who has not been to a job interview for some time. Maybe even ever. Or maybe just the word ‘job interview’ strikes fear into the very core of your being; which is very usual too for many people.

This fear can prevent many people from performing effectively in a job interview. And it can present itself in many different ways:

· A pounding heart

· Feeling sick in the stomach or a sensation of butterflies

· Not being able to get words out as effectively as you might like

· A feeling of wanting to run away

· A fear that your mind is going to go blank when asked a question

· Sweaty or clammy hands

· Blushing

The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to support yourself to perform well in job interviews. I have successfully worked with countless clients to prepare them for job interviews. In this series of blogs, I am going to talk through some of the key things to consider when you are going for interview. Today, let’s talk about practical interview skills.

There are generally four kinds of questions that are asked during interviews. These are:

  • Questions about you

  • Questions about your work/ training/ volunteering experience and knowledge

  • Questions about why you want the particular job you are applying for

  • Competency-based questions

It is worth preparing for these different kinds of questions as you will generally be asked a few from each category. Being adept in answering all kinds of questions will prepare you well and should mean that you will be able to answer any question that is thrown at you! Let’s look at each of these styles of questions in turn:

Questions about you:

So what are they?

They are usually opening questions though they can come at any point during the interview.

And why are they used?

They are designed to find out a little more about you and what you are about. They are about your skills, knowledge and most importantly your personality. They are often used to ease candidates into the interview to make them feel more comfortable. They are also to find about how you will fit into the team or organisation. Selling your personality here is important so don’t forget to market yourself!

Sample questions might be:

· Tell me a little about yourself

· How would you describe yourself?

· Where do you see yourself in five years time?

· What are your strengths?

· What are your weaknesses?

· Why do you want this job?

Note: When you are asked about ‘weaknesses’ or ‘areas of development’ which is a question employers sometimes like to ask, it is a good rule of thumb to turn it into something positive. So you may answer something like: ‘Traditionally, organisational skills was something that I found difficult….. Over the years, on account of the job I had, it was something I had to get better at. By doing X, Y and Z, I improved my organisational skills. Now I feel it is an area that I can be proud of in my work. Improving this area has resulted in A,B and C’.

Questions about your work/ training/ volunteering experience and knowledge:

So what are they?

This is where the interviewer is looking to find out more about you and how your experience can fit with the job.

And why are they used?

They are used to enable the interviewer to dig a little deeper here. They will want to find out if you have the skills that are necessary to carry out the job effectively. How does your work, life, volunteer experience match with the skills needed for the job? And do you have the necessary knowledge required to do the job?

Sample questions might be:

· Tell me about your current job?

· Why are you leaving your current job?*

· What skills and experience can you bring to the role/ team/ organisation?

· How will your previous experience fit with the experience required for this job?

Note: One of the key things I say to all of the people I coach through job interview preparation, is to be specific. I will talk about this more in my next blog on ‘competency based interviews’. The interviewer is likely to be seeing a number of candidates on that day. They want to know the key facts as to what you can do and how it will benefit their business. Keep the word ‘SPECIFIC’ very much at the forefront of your mind when answering questions.

* I have very deliberately asterixed this question and there is a very good reason for this. Many years ago I was coaching a person for a job interview. She had gotten to the second stage of interviews and it was between her and one other candidate. She was a shoe in for the position after the first interview, however she lost out to the other candidate.

Why? She slated the company she was leaving, saying that they were a disaster to work for. It was a very hard lesson for her. It was a job she very much wanted.

Even if you do feel this way, keep it to yourself or at the least out of your interview. It may seem obvious, but in the heat of the moment when you are running high on adrenaline, it is easy to forget this simple piece of advice.

Interview questions about why you want this job:

So what are they?

The interviewer wants to know what you think about them and if there is a potential cultural fit.

And why are they used?

The interviewer wants to know that you are serious about this job. They don’t want to be advertising for this same position three months down the line. This is an opportunity for you to show what research you have done on the organisation and/ or job role and why you think that there is a skills and personality match.

Sample questions might be:

· What appeals to you about this job/ organisation?

· Why do you want to work for us?

Note: It seems obvious, but you might be amazed to hear that a lot of people do not do their research about the company in question. Please make sure that you have a look on their website, look at what they do, the kind of services they offer and why you might want to work for them.

Furthermore, job recruitment is an expensive outlay for businesses. More and more, you will hear organisations and individuals talking about ‘cultural fit’. This is something you may also want to ask more questions about as part of your interview. ie. What are the benefits of working for them? What would employees who work for them say about them as an organisation etc.

Competency-based questions:

So what are they?

These are very commonly used in interviews. They test a specific competency and require you to give a specific answer to this question asked. You can recognise them as they generally start with ‘tell me about a time when…’

And why are they used?

They are used to assess whether you can do what you said you can do. They explore how you handle different work situations based on your previous experience and performance.

Sample questions might be:

· Tell me about a time when you were part of a team responsible for achieving a particular outcome?

· Tell me about a time when you didn’t complete a project on time despite intending to do so?**

· Give me an example of a time when you overcame a difficult problem at work

· How have you dealt with conflict in the past?

· Give me an example of a situation where you effectively managed your time in a busy environment

In my next blog in this series, I will write about how to answer competency questions effectively. There is a definite skill to answering them and I will give you a simple formula that you can follow that will help you answer them fully each and every time.

If you would like to arrange a complimentary and no obligation phone/ Zoom call to discuss how my hypnosis and coaching protocol for interview performance can help you, please get in touch via my Facebook page or via email at

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