How to get the answers right at interview

THE vast majority of interviews are “competency-based” these days. This means they use a method of questioning that aims to find out whether or not you can do the job. It also means that the same questions come up time and time again. This is great news for interviewees because it’s easy to prepare when you know what to expect. Uzair Bawany, the managing director of a specialist financial recruiter says it’s surprising how many people don’t know how to answer the tough questions. We ask him to explain.

Q. TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF.

A.This is not an invitation to ramble on. If the context isn’t clear, you need to know more about the question before giving an answer. Whichever direction your answer ultimately takes, be sure that it has some relevance to your professional endeavours. You should also refer to one or more of your key personal qualities, such as honesty, integrity, being a team player, or determination. For example, if you choose “team player”, you should tell a story about yourself outside work – perhaps as a member of a sports team – that will speak volumes about you at work.

Q. WHAT KIND OF SALARY ARE YOU WORTH?

A.This question is asking you to name a desired figure but the twist is that it also asks you to justify it. It requires that you demonstrate careful analysis of your worth, industry norms and job requirements. We would recommend that you try for a higher figure rather than a lower one. If their immediate response is to say that’s too much, accept it as no more than a negotiating gambit, and come back with your own calm rebuttal: “What did you have in mind?”

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?

A.Turn your answer into a strength. For example, I sometimes take my work too seriously and stay late.

Q. WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR LAST JOB (OR WHY ARE YOU LOOKING TO LEAVE)?

A.Be positive. Do not criticise your previous employer even if you left under difficult circumstances. Provide positive reasons for moving on. If you are currently employed do not sound too desperate to move. Use positive illustrations of the way you could contribute to the position you have applied for.

Q. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?

A.The safest answer contains a desire to be regarded as a true professional and team player. As far as promotion, that depends on finding a manager with whom you can grow. Of course, you need to ask what opportunities exist within the company before being any more specific.

Q. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A PROBLEM THAT YOU HAVE HAD TO DEAL WITH?

A.The point of this question is to see how you would tackle obstacles at work. The ideal answer would involve you thinking through a difficulty and solving it through the help of other people. Also indicate any lessons you may have learned from this experience.