If you want help with preparing questions for an interview, try this activity.
The questions listed below will help you focus your ideas in preparation for an interview, so that you are ready to give effective answers to the questions you are asked. When considering how you might reply, also consider what similar questions might be used.
What to do
As you review the list of questions
- think about, or write down, possible answers
- try to provide evidence from your experience.
When you create an answer, think about how it might be used to answer more than one question. It is best to also prepare more than one example to illustrate important points you want to make, as you may be asked for additional ones.
You do not need to learn the answers and regurgitate them parrot-fashion. This would look stilted and you might be tempted to use the answer where it isn’t quite relevant.
- Questions will be open-ended, and will need more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. The interview should resemble a structured conversation.
- If the question confuses you, ask for clarification.
- If you are asked a really difficult question, request a moment or two to think about it and compliment them on a good question!
A common question that can throw a lot of people is ‘Tell me about yourself’. Think carefully about this one. How do you put yourself in the most positive light without giving them your life history? Try to come up with an answer that will take less than two minutes.
Other questions might include
- How would your friends describe you?
- How would your critics describe you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Which achievement are you most proud of?
- How do you get things done?
Questions about your skills will relate to the specific job, so make sure you are familiar with all the skills required for the job and have your examples ready as proof of your abilities.
- Can you give an example of when you had to work under pressure?
- How do you go about meeting deadlines?
- How good is your time management? Give an example.
- What team skills do you have?
- Are you more comfortable in a leadership or supporting role when working in a team?
- Tell me about your IT skills. Can you give an example of when you have had to use them in your study or work?
Your OU qualifications
- Why did you decide to study for an OU qualification?
- Which part of your study have you enjoyed most?
- What were the difficulties in studying part time?
- Is your degree classification a good reflection of your academic ability?
If you have applied for a job where your qualifications are directly relevant, have you revised all the essential points that relate to the job itself?
- Can you give an example of when you had to deal with a difficult situation?
- What were your main responsibilities at XYZ?
- When you were supervising others, what did you find most difficult?
- Can you tell me more about your hobby?
- What appeals to you most about caving/cooking foreign food/gardening?
- What was your major contribution to this team/society/project?
You can get background information about a company by looking at the company’s annual report (often found in libraries, or from a company’s own website).
- What do you know about our organisation/company/project? Where do you see it in five years' time?
- Who do you see as our main competitors?
- What are the main threats/opportunities for the organisation/company/ project?
- Why do you want to join our organisation?
About the job
- Why do you want the job or think you are suitable for the job?
- What do you know about the job?
- Which parts of the job might you find difficult to handle? (e.g. being away from home, dealing with difficult customers). How would you deal with these aspects of the job?
- Which parts of the job would you be particularly good at?
- Have you applied for any other jobs?
- What training/mentoring/general support do you think you might need if we offer you this job?
- Where do you see yourself in a year's/five years' time?
- Do you see this job changing as a result of your input or through outside influences?
‘Do you have any questions for us?’
Think of questions that show you have thought about the job and how it relates to you. Compile a list of possible questions, and then whittle them down to the one or two you consider most appropriate.
Try to avoid contentious issues (such as ‘how long will it be before I get a car parking space, or first pay rise?’), although these might be important for you. Don’t ask questions where the answer can be found in the company literature.
Off the wall questions!
It has been known for interviewers to ask unpredictable questions such as
- What were you like as a child?
- If you were a biscuit what would you choose to be?
- If you could ban something, what would it be?
Actually, they don’t really want to know the answer. Their purpose is to see how well you deal with the unexpected. Can you think on your feet or do you get flustered? Do you present a convincing argument? How original can you be?
Try out Interview Simulation activity, which will give you an insight into how a panel interview operates. If you haven't already done so, review the career planning activities in the About you section.