6 Common Interview Questions, with Essential Preparation Tips

Interview Tips

There is no way to predict what questions may be fired at you in an interview scenario. However, there are certain themes you can expect. Interviewers will want to know about your approach to teamwork, your ethics and values, and how you might fit in the company culture. They will also want to assess your soft skills and get an idea of your productivity and ability to organize.

Here are some examples of questions that deal with these topics. Each one is followed by some helpful advice on how to field it.

1. Do you prefer to work with people or by yourself?

For most people, the simple answer to this is that it depends on the nature of the task at hand. Take advantage of the opportunity to talk about how you work in both scenarios, rather than expressing a preference for one over the other. When talking about teamwork, interviewers want to know about how you collaborate and communicate with others. Talk about how people have supported and inspired you. This is also a chance to talk about how you can motivate yourself. Share details of any projects that you have completed independently and delivered successfully.

2. What’s the toughest decision you’ve ever faced and how did you make the final decision?

The important thing here is how you arrived at your final decision. What’s your process for weighing the available options? Try to demonstrate strategic thinking here. What was the outcome you wanted? How did you get closer to achieving that outcome? Again, it’s best if your example is work-related here, but it’s alright to talk about something else, as long as you can show a clear decision-making process.

3. What is your personal brand?

Your personal brand is a combination of your skills, values and attributes, plus the characteristics that make you unique. Think about how a former boss might describe you if asked. Loyal? Efficient? Creative? Friendly? Find out in advance about the culture of the employer, and emphasize traits you have in common. If you’re ambitious and the company is focused on growth, you can talk about this and show how you are a good fit for that culture. It’s alright to compare yourself to other brands, for example, innovative like Apple, creative like Disney, reliable like Volvo. This is an easy way to emphasize the aspects of your character that make you an attractive hire. Just don’t go overboard; stay focused on talking about yourself.

4. How would you deliver bad news to a customer or client?

This difficult question involves several soft skills, especially communication and empathy. Before approaching the person involved, you need to know as much as possible about the case and be prepared to answer any questions. Being fully prepared requires empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How will this news affect your client? What will be that person’s next steps? Discuss how you would communicate the news in an appropriate fashion: a phone call rather than an email, for example.

5. How do you remind yourself about things that need to be done in the long term, such as reports that may not be due until next month?

This is a question about your time management skills, and it’s fine to talk about your personal life here, especially if it’s busy and unpredictable. The real aim is to demonstrate organizational skills. You need to show that as soon as you receive a request, you file it in the right place and make sure it doesn’t get missed. Any practical tips help to add detail to your answer. Do you use an app or a website? Have you got a system in your diary?

6. Say you come back from vacation and find 1,000 unread emails. How would you deal with them?

This question is about organization. Most of the 1,000 emails will be junk that can be deleted immediately. Some will be important, and a small number will be vital and require an immediate response. One strategy some people use is to create four email folders, labeled Do Today, Do This Week, Do Someday, and Information Only. They then go through all of the emails as quickly as possible, dropping each one into one of the four folders. Whatever strategy you choose to discuss, it’s important to actually have a strategy. You need to show that you can stay on top of things no matter how busy it gets.