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Interview topics: Popular ones to think about

It’s challenging to predict what you might be asked in an interview. You may be asked about education and hard skills.  You may also be asked about your personality and soft skills. This is because modern-day employers want to test if you will easily fit into their organisation’s culture.

As recruiters, we support you in your job search journey by helping you prepare for interview.

In this expert article, we zero in on topics you may be asked and present ideas for potential responses. The key is to practice before the interview to build your confidence … but not so much that you sound over-rehearsed or orchestrated.

How would you describe your dream job?

This question is about your aspirations and long-term goals, so don’t focus on hard skills. Instead, talk about your ideal workplace and tailor your answer to the organisation you’re applying to work for.

‘In my dream job, I’ll be a productive player on a high-performing team who is clear on goals and expectations. I’ll be able to contribute ideas, be listened to, and be encouraged to achieve.’

How would you describe your career journey?

This is your chance to paint a picture of your professional journey, including major milestones. Avoid getting into the weeds by describing every position you’ve held. Instead, focus on highlights that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. Be passionate about your journey, to demonstrate your enthusiasm.

‘I’ll start with positions I’ve held that directly relate to this role. I was a junior project manager in xx government department and received an award for exceeding timelines. After 2 years, I won a senior project manager position in xx government department in charge of a national project. After completion, I was headhunted to work in another department, at the same level, leading a team on a continuous improvement project. We’re now into year 3 of implementation and are ahead of schedule.’

What do you know about our company culture and how will you fit in?

This question tests what you know about the company’s culture. Research its website, communications collateral and social media, to formulate what the culture is. Then think about how you could fit in.

I’ve read your website and admire that your culture focuses on customer experiences and introducing innovation into service. I’ve been in multiple customer service roles and am passionate about giving customers memorable experiences. Throughout my career, I’ve received accolades on my dedication to customers, my interpersonal skills and ability to establish sound relationships.’

What do you think you’re top 3 skills are?

Don’t be fooled. This question isn’t just about skills. It’s your chance to shine the spotlight on your strengths. Stating three skills, with no back-up information, can make you look abrupt. Flesh out each skill in a concise way.

‘Time management is a top skill, including in fast-paced, high-volume work environments. I assess needs, and triage priorities to meet deadlines. In my current position, this enables me to consistently exceed KPIs.

Stakeholder management is a second top skill. I build meaningful relationships to drive organisational goals. In my current role, this includes with diverse stakeholders like contractors, technical experts, and legal representatives.

My third top skill is flexibility. Today’s work world is full of change which demands adaptability. I embrace change, instead of fighting it, and use my strategic thinking to think creatively about how best to work with change.’

How would you tackle a personality clash at work?

This question tests how you deal with challenging situations. Be real and specific on what steps you would take to smooth the waters.

‘I would first assess the situation to determine what’s causing my temperature to rise. I’d write down the behaviours at play. I’d be honest with myself and ask if there’s anything I’m doing to exacerbate matters.

I’d concentrate on not overreacting and aim to see my colleague in a better light. I’d offer to have a coffee to work things out. And I’d seek additional help if needed.’

What have you learned from failures?

It can be easy to talk about successes and challenging to talk about failures. We’ve all had failures at work, however, and it’s nothing to shy away from. Frame them in a positive light without assigning blame to anyone else. This will highlight your resilience and motivation to grow.

‘I’m the type of person who finds it challenging to say no. I love contributing and being a team player. However, on one occasion I bit off more than I could chew, putting an important deadline at risk. I should have been more realistic.

What I learned is that saying “no” is not always a bad thing. I learned to better assess the situation and that it’s OK to discuss my concerns with my manager. Last, but not least, I learned that presenting an alternative solution when saying no shows I’m keen to support even if I can’t take on the task.’

Why are you looking for a new role?

If you’re looking for a new role because you’ve fallen out of love with your current job, that’s fine, but the interview is no time to bag your organisation, team or manager. Think about an answer that avoids stating you want to ‘escape’.

‘I’ve learned heaps in my role and am proud of my accomplishments. I’m at a point in my career, however, where I want to be stimulated in a new environment, meeting new team members and working with new content.’

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