By Liz Vande Putte
In this blog we are going to look at how to answer (and ask) interview questions. An interview is a two-way process, where you are finding out whether you want to work for the company as much as they are finding out whether they want to hire you. Although it might feel like you are the one trying to make a good impression, the company also needs to make a good impression on you.
Answering interview questions is a new skill, but there are some clear guidelines to follow.
How to answer interview questions
If you have asked for the questions in advance you have a much better chance of giving a good answer than if they come as a surprise. When you receive the questions:
- Read them through carefully two or three times before making any notes.
- Then, start by making a few bullet point notes for each answer.
- If you don’t understand a question, email the person who sent them to ask for clarification, or ask a friend, family member or someone else who supports you.
- Write out exactly what you want to say, or speak out loud to help organise your thoughts into a great answer. Everyone works this out differently and you may want to write out a scripted answer then practice saying it a few times until you are happy with it.
- Practice saying your answers out loud to identify any parts that need modifying, either to make them clearer, or easier to say. We often repeat phrases and answers to prepare for social situations and an interview is no different.
If you haven’t asked for the questions in advance, or they are not able to provide them for you, look for example interview questions online and use these tips to create some answers you can use.
Your answers should be:
- Clear, including examples from other jobs, voluntary roles, school or your home life that help answer the question. For example, if you are asked how you would manage your time, explain what you did to organise your time at school or college.
- Relevant to the company. In the first part we looked at things to research about the company, so include some of that information in your answers. Maybe you have a favourite product, or you have personal experience of using a similar service?
- Brief. There is a balance between giving a detailed answer, and giving more information than is needed and therefore taking up a lot of time. Try to keep your answers under 2 minutes. Time yourself speaking out loud so you know how long each answer takes.
It is worth going through the questions with a support worker, mentor, parent or friend as they might have some really good ideas about what you can say.
Questions to ask the interviewer
You may be asked at the end of the interview whether you have any questions for them. Having one or two questions prepared is a good idea, but avoid questions about salary, holiday entitlement or sick leave (these questions give the impression that you are not interested in the actual job, but are only interested in the potential benefits to you, although it is perfectly reasonable to want to know these details and you can ask these questions if you are offered the job). Here are some sample questions to ask:
- What is your favourite thing about the company?
- What is the biggest challenge you/the company has faced in the last 12 months?
- How many people are there in my team?
- What are you expecting from me in the fist 3 (or 6) months?
- Why did the last person who held this role leave?
- What has been the major lesson learned from the pandemic?
- Is there a social culture in the workplace?
Listen carefully to the responses as you may learn something very important about the company and whether they are going to be a good and supportive place for you to work.