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The top 10 interview questions
.....your answers to questions 6-10

The top 10 interview questions - questions 6-10 - with some suggestions for answers, are covered here.

In case you missed it, here's where we covered the first 5 common job interview questions and some suggested answers.

Before we look at the next 5 most common job interview questions, let's briefly recap on why it is helpful for you to know what these are.

If you have at least thought about possible answers to these typical interview questions, then obviously you are going to be in a much better prepared and able to give relevant, confident and strong answers.

Basically it's all about planning the image you want to present in the interview, and making a positive impression with the interviewer/s.

Here's my list of 10 of the most common job interview questions:

  1. Tell us a little about yourself
  2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  4. Why have you applied for this position?
  5. What do you know about us?
  6. Why did you leave your last job?
  7. Why should we hire you?
  8. What did you like and dislike most in your last position?
  9. What have been the most significant accomplishments in your career so far?
  10. What are the most important things to you in your life and your career?

A reminder about interview structure

If you are involved in a well designed interview process you can expect that there will be 3 broad areas, or themes, that the interviewers will be exploring about you.

This is explained in more detail in job interview tips.

Basically the 3 themes around which the questions will be grouped are about your:

  • Knowledge, skills and qualifications
  • Motivation and attitude
  • Fit with the organisation your co-workers

Note that the majority of these top 10 interview questions deal with your motivation and fit!

Common job interview questions: No's 6-10

Let's get on with it and explore the remainder of the top 10 interview questions in detail.

Question 6: Why did you leave your last job?

This question is to learn about your past.... yet in your answer you can explain your future focus too.

The interviewers seeking to understand your motivation for applying for the job is also an important reason for this question.

Try to give a positive reason for wanting to change your employment circumstances. Getting into grisly "poor me" explanations about bad relationships with your boss or co-workers is not likely to make you an attractive candidate.

Here's an example of a more positive response:

  • I was reasonably happy in my last role, I had a great relationship with my boss, my colleagues and clients. But I began to realise something was missing....and that was my role was no longer challenging for me. I was comfortably meeting all my job targets, but it's in facing new challenges that I do my best. This role offers the type of challenge I'm now looking for.

You might be changing jobs however for a number of reasons, so:

  • If you have been retrenched from your last position give a short explanation that this has happened and why.
  • If you are having to relocate for family reasons explain this. Family situations however can also signal trouble to an employer because of the distraction to your performance. Take care with this one.
  • Following a dream or passion. Explain what this is, and how/where the job fits with this.

Question 7: Why should we hire you?

This question tends to appear in any list of sample interview questions..... which is why it's in my list of top 10 interview questions..... so you can definitely be expected to have to answer this one!

The question potentially provides you with the opportunity to satisfy the interviewers in each of the 3 areas - your skills and experience, motivation, and fit.

You'll need to have done your preparation to answer this question well. Here are some suggestions:

Promote your relevant skills and knowledge

You will need to be very familiar with the selection criteria to answer this question well. What skills, knowledge and experience were outlined in the job ad? Make sure your answer reminds the interviewers that you have the attributes they are looking for. Emphasise your strengths.

Explain your motivation:

  • Look at some of the suggested answers already covered.....for example to these questions - "why have you applied for this position, why did you leave your last job, or where do you see yourself in 5 years.
  • Can you incorporate and re-state some of those ideas in your answer to this question? There is no harm at all in restating, in a slightly different way, parts of answers that you've already given.

Explain why you are a good fit. Is there something you have in common with this organisation that you can draw attention to? It might be something about your interpersonal style, approach to work, or values which might be closely related to the culture of the organisation.

Trying to make connections with the interviewers about your 'fit' with the organisation can be difficult to achieve.

But..... solid research into their values and culture can sometimes give you some important insights.

Through preparation and research you are in a stronger position to tailor your answers in a way which suggests you'll be a good fit.

If, for example through your research, you get the strong impression that the organisation places strong emphasis on teamwork, that's what you need to emphasise in your answer.

Explain, with accompanying examples, that you indeed are a great team player!

Question 8: What did you like and dislike most about your last position?

This question is designed to explore what matters to you in your work - it's all about what motivates you.

It's also one of those typical interview questions which perhaps sneakily explores your weaknesses. How so?

Sometimes the things we don't like to do at work are things we don't do well because of lack of experience, training and confidence. If this is the case, take care not to indicate that your lack of experience or training might be a barrier to your performance....which in turn means you won't get the job!

It could however also be that the things you disliked were boring, or just plain unpleasant to do! Should these tasks be a major requirement in your new position you might want to carefully evaluate if this is a job you really want to have.

In answering this question make sure that you place most emphasis on the things you liked in your previous job......and explain why you enjoyed them.

This question is also another opportunity to explain what motivates you in your work....where your job satisfaction comes from.

Job satisfaction and what motivates you in your work is unique to you.

Understanding what this is, and being able to explain it to a potential employer is a very important outcome of your career review.

If you're not sure about where your job satisfaction comes from these two links will help you to explore this:

Why do so many of the top 10 interview questions focus on job satisfaction and motivation?

Employers know that if their staff enjoy what they do, they are far more likely to work harder and more effectively.

Question 9: What have been the most significant accomplishments in your career so far?

All employers want to hire people who produce results. This question therefore explores in part whether you are a person who is focused on getting results.

This question also helps interviewers with more information about your work/life motivation and areas where you experience job satisfaction.

Ideally in your resume, in the career highlights section, you will have already explained important achievements and contributions you've made in past roles.

When answering this question therefore the interviewers will be wanting you to elaborate on these successes. No doubt, there will be one or two key achievements about which you are especially proud. Pick these to talk about.

In giving your answer to this question, as always, try to give an answer that is relevant to what you know is important to your prospective employer. It's not merely a matter of describing an achievement for achievement's sake......it's more about the "spin" or emphasis you put on your explanation.

The key word in this question to consider is significant. What was significant about the achievement? Was it:

  • Quality of the product or service
  • Something you delivered on time and on budget
  • Customer or client satisfaction exceeded
  • Maintaining a particularly high standard or standards
  • Something achieved under difficult or challenging circumstances
  • Something that you found particularly rewarding in terms of job satisfaction or motivation

Ensure that through your answer you are letting the interviewers know that you clearly understand the priorities in this new job...... that you've done similar things at other times in your career that are relevant to this new job.

Question 10: What are the most important things to you in your life and career?

This question again clearly is intended to explore your overall motivation, and fit, especially in relation to your values.

In an ideal world you would expect employers to want to hire people who have balance in their lives....however, some don't think this way. Most reputable employers recognise that balance in the lives of their workers has an impact on things like morale and productivity.

Your answer to this question again needs to be in the context of your understanding of what the employer wants.....what is important to them.

To answer this question effectively you will of course needed to have spent some time reflecting on what is important to you in your life and career. While work is about earning money, job satisfaction for most people doesn't come from the pay packet.

To illustrate the concept of 'fit, I'm reminded of the movie "Wall Street".

My take on this is that the employers in the organisations in the movie weren't focused on hiring people who valued work/life balance.....they were after people who were driven by the desire to do whatever it takes to achieve financial success.

And.....the employees themselves fitted the bill....their values were a pretty close match with what the employer wanted.....being prepared to do whatever it takes in the pursuit of massive wealth.

Imagine if one of the stock brokers looked up at the clock at 5.00pm and said to his boss..."I've got to go now, I promised my wife and kids I'd be home in plenty of time for dinner."

This question also help to illustrate the idea that an interview should be a two way process:

  • You're being interviewed so that the employer can determine if you are the person that best meets their requirements in all respects - the right skills and knowledge, motivation and fit.
  • You are interviewing the employer to determine whether this job, and this organisation, is going to meet a number of your important needs too!

The top 10 interview questions - summary

These two pages common job interview questions and remainder of the top 10 interview question we have covered on this page should enable you to prepare to confidently participate in almost any type of interview.

When you look closely at each of the top 10 interview questions you can clearly see that employers are not just interested in your skills and knowledge.

They want to understand what make you tick, what motivates you, and whether you are the kind of person that is going to easily assimilate and be accepted into their organisation.

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