Classic Interview Questions: About the role you are applying for.

Make sure you know exactly what the role is you are applying for- read the job description thoroughly, read about the company to see how they operate and, if relevant, ask their HR team or your recruitment for more details ahead of the interview.

These are the common questions you could encounter at interview:

Alternative and related questions:

Why have you applied for this vacancy?
What appeals to you most about this vacancy?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer wants to make sure you really understand the role for which you are applying – and that you fully appreciate what would be involved if you were to be appointed to the role. If they haven’t questioned you separately about this then they will also be trying to glean why it is that you applied for this vacancy and why it appeals to you.

Your answer:

Clearly, if you don’t have a reasonably thorough understanding of the role (from the job description or person specification, etc.) then you shouldn’t even be at the interview. You need to demonstrate comprehensively to the interviewer that you fully appreciate what the role entails and, ideally, you want to try to pre-empt the next question in this chapter, Question 34, “How do your skills and experience match the job description/person specification?”

For advice on how to deal with explaining why it is that you have applied for this vacancy – and why it appeals to you – please refer to the separate questions, “Why have you applied for this vacancy?” in the previous chapter and “What appeals to you most about this vacancy” – Question 35 below.

Example:

I’ve carefully studied both the job description and the person specification so I believe I’m fully aware of the precise duties and responsibilities the role entails. You’ve also helped to clarify a few points during the course of this interview.

Alternative and related questions:

Do you feel your skills and experience match the job description/person specification?
Do you feel that you have the skills and experience necessary to undertake this job?

The meaning behind the question:

Answering this question is going to be one of your interviewer’s primary goals. Many of the other questions will lead them towards an answer but sometimes the interviewer will just come out and ask you directly to tell them how you match the job description/person specification.

As well as helping them to gauge how well your skills and experience match what they’re looking for, this question will normally also reveal a lot about how you perceive the job in question.

Your answer:

You’re not going to get away with answering, “Very well!” to this question. What the interviewer expects you to do – and what you very much need to do – is to explain preciselyhow your skills and experience match the job description/person specification.

Job descriptions and person specifications are often very lengthy and comprehensive. You don’t want to go into too much detail when answering this question – not least because it could get rather boring! The best strategy to adopt is for you to select a handful of issues and briefly talk about each in turn – expressing each in terms of your prospective employer’s needs.

Naturally, you will need to give this some thought and to have determined in advance what skills and experience the interviewer is going to be most interested in.

Example:

I believe my skills and experience are a very good match for the person specification. You’re looking for someone with a significant amount of high-level experience in the retail clothing sector. I now have 25 years’ experience within this sector, most recently as General Manager of a flagship central London store. You need someone with considerable skill in financial management, able to build turnover – and, most importantly, to build turnover profitably. In my current role my branch now has an annual turnover of £5 million – 40% higher than when I took over the role three years ago. Our profit margin has also grown – from 10% to 15%, meaning that profits have more than doubled in just the last three years. The role demands an individual who is adept at managing and leading a large team; I’m currently responsible for 65 retail staff. The role also requires an individual who is able to build profitable long-term relationships with key, high-value clients. Successfully catering to the needs of VIP clients is essential to my current role and certainly an aspect that I very much enjoy. Overall, I feel I’m a very good match for the job but would of course be delighted to discuss any particular points in greater detail if you wish.

This answer has obviously been written from the point of view of someone seeking a very senior role. However, the basic principles can easily be adapted to your own precise circumstances. Remember that my examples are purely intended to help illustrate the points made; it’s essential for you to think for yourself and to create your own answers.

Alternative and related questions:

What are you most looking forward to in this job?
What is it that you are looking for in a new job?
Why have you applied for this vacancy?

The meaning behind the question:

This question is similar to the top 10 question “Why have you applied for this vacancy?” that we discussed in the previous chapter. However, it is sufficiently different – and sufficiently popular – to warrant us covering it separately.

The interviewer knows that there will be a number of factors which draw you to this vacancy. What they are looking for with this question is to identify your key motivator – what really matters most to you. This will naturally give them some insight into you both as a professional and a person.

Your answer:

There’s a right way and a wrong way to answer this question. The wrong way is to see matters entirely from your own point of view and to cite some aspect of the vacancy which meets your own needs first and foremost. The right way is to make sure you identify some aspect of the vacancy which you can talk about in such a way as to place emphasis on how you meet the organisation’s needs. The interviewer is more interested in how you meet their needs than on how they can meet yours.

Example:

I’m particularly taken by the importance you place on customer service. In too many organisations customer service is very much a secondary priority whereas you place the customer at the centre of everything you do. As a Customer Service Manager, I am naturally very committed to excellence in customer service – and I am very keen to work with an organisation that attaches the same importance to customer service that I do. A business is nothing without its customers; it’s vital to recognise this – and your reputation for customer service is clearly enviable. It sets you apart from the competition.

Alternative and related questions:

Why do you want this particular job?
What most attracts you to this opportunity rather than other vacancies you have applied for?

The meaning behind the question:

This is clearly a more probing question than the previous question and you may well find it being asked as a follow-up to this question. The interviewer is trying to gauge how motivated you are to win this particular role as opposed to one of the others currently open to you. They want to know where they fit on the scale.

Your answer:

You’re going to have to tread a fine line here. It’s vital to communicate that this job is of course your preferred choice (even if one of the other offers is blatantly superior). However, you most certainly don’t want to give the impression that this job is your only choice. That would severely weaken your position. The best strategy is to sidestep the question as best you can and focus very much on the vacancy at hand and what most attracts you to this job and to this organisation.

Example:

This job clearly has the edge on other applications I am pursuing. I have taken my time to identify a number of possibilities which are closely suited to me – so as not to waste my time nor anybody else’s. They all have various pros and cons but I am particularly attracted to this job because I feel it offers the best opportunities for me to develop professionally and make a major contribution. It’s a perfect match for my skills and experience. I also believe I will fit in very well with the organisation as a whole.

Alternative and related questions:

Would it be a problem for you taking work home occasionally at the weekend?
Do you have a preference for working regular days and hours?
How do you feel about the amount of overtime this role demands?

The meaning behind the question:

In some jobs it is going to be essential for you to work unusual hours – and if that’s the case the interviewer probably wouldn’t even be asking you the question. In other lines of work there will be an unspoken expectation that you will be prepared to put in longer hours than the average. Generally, an interviewer is most likely to be asking you this question if working overtime/evenings/weekends isn’t in fact the norm for your job. They want to identify how flexible you are in terms of accommodating their needs even when it might be to your own detriment – in other words how committed you are to your work.

Your answer:

It is of course entirely up to you how you feel about working above and beyond ‘normal’ office hours. There will be numerous factors you have to weigh up and the decision is yours alone.

Once you have established your position on the matter, honesty is very much the best policy. Unfortunately, it may well count against you if you’re unwilling – or quite simply unable – to work long hours. But don’t let yourself be talked into accepting working conditions which you know you won’t be happy with unless you really are prepared to live up to your promises.

Whatever your stance, try to communicate your opinion in as reasonable and positive a manner as possible. Even if you aren’t keen on overtime, you might be prepared to offer a compromise as in the example below.

Example:

I’m reasonably flexible and if business needs are such that it would be advantageous for me to worker longer hours – and even weekends – then, depending on my other commitments, I would certainly be prepared to do so. However, I would hope that this would be the exception rather than the rule. I do believe in a life outside of work and, while my job is clearly very important to me, I would generally like to keep my working hours within normal bounds. In my current role I have had to put in some overtime during especially busy periods – and I have had no objections to doing so. However, I am efficient and productive and I generally manage to complete my work without having to resort to overtime.

Alternative and related questions:

What would you consider to be an appropriate rate of remuneration for this job?

The meaning behind the question:

There’s nothing complicated about this. Regardless of what you’re currently earning the interviewer wants to identify what it is that you want in order to work for their organisation – and to assess how that fits in with what they’re prepared to offer.

Your answer:

This is not nearly so simple to answer as the previous question. You need to have thought through very carefully in your own mind both what salary package you can reasonably expect and also what the minimum is that you would be prepared to accept, assuming the job itself was suitably attractive. These are issues only you can decide but it will certainly help to have an awareness of what your ‘market value’ really is. This will take a little research. But that’s not to say you should give a precise answer. Unless you have a firm job offer in hand, it’s best to dodge the question slightly and quote a range of possibilities.

Example:

The opportunities I’m currently pursuing generally involve salary packages between £35K and £40K and I am comfortable with this range. While the salary on offer won’t necessarily be the deciding factor in my choice, I am naturally keen to achieve a position which offers nearer the high end of this scale – a package which best reflects my worth.

Alternative and related questions:

What took you into this line of work?
What do you like best about this line of work?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer could have asked, “Was it the right choice?” because this is what they are trying to establish – was this the right choice for you and, if so, why? As with almost every other question they’ll be looking for ways in which your answer can be applied to the requirements of the job for which you are applying.

Your answer:

Hopefully you’ve already gone a long way towards convincing the interviewer that you want this job. Now you need to convince them that this line of work really is the right one for you – in what ways are you best suited to it.

You definitely need to demonstrate enthusiasm for your work – and if you can manage to demonstrate passion then that’s even better. Above all you need to show an interest in your line of work and give sound reasons for your having embarked upon this particular career path. Avoid at all costs giving the impression that it is something you just randomly drifted into.

Try to sprinkle your explanation with specific examples of relevant skills and abilities.

Example:

Both my parents are accountants so I grew up listening to them talking about their work together – and I was always very interested in their working lives. While I considered a range of other options, I’ve always had a particular talent for mathematics and, ultimately, accountancy was evidently the best choice. I enjoy working with figures; I enjoy applying my mathematical abilities to real-world problems. I also enjoy working with others and I find it very rewarding to get to grips with a client’s precise circumstances and to then help them to find the best solutions to the financial problems they are facing. Accountancy was without doubt the right choice for me.

As well as these questions, you may also be interested in our section: Tough Interview Questions & Answers.

Think you’re well prepared? use our simple Interview Question Tool to see if you have got an answer to some random questions that it will fire at you. Good Luck!

The Interview Question & Answer Book

The Interview Question & Answer Book

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The job market is fierce, competition has never been greater and it’s important that you can grab every opportunity for competitive advantage and stay one step ahead. Written by James Innes, one of the world’s leading careers experts and bestselling author of The Interview Book, this definitive guide to questions and answers encourages every job-hunter to think on your feet and express your individuality while supplying ideal responses to interview questions so that you’re seen as the ideal candidate for the job.

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