From the tough to the typical - Common job interview questions answered

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Job interview questions come in all shapes in sizes. From the cliched to the ridiculous, some exist to learn more about how people function, and others are there to confuse, confound and amuse. If you're sick of being tripped up by rogue queries during the interview, the following guide is going to be especially useful to you. 

Category 1 - The industry standards

Although some of the following questions have become cliches in many respects, they're still rolled out time and time again. Whether it's because people can't break habits or these questions still serve a genuine purpose, you can expect to hear one of the following each time you audition for a role:

  • Why should I hire you?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time?

There are all sorts of strategies to answering these questions. The overarching theme is that you at least need to have an answer of some sort. If an interviewer asks about your weaknesses or your plans for the future, "I don't know" isn't going to cut it as an answer.

It's also important to follow up any responses with tangible examples. If you mention a specific weakness, ensure there's a context surrounding it, whether that's a way of working around it or an example of how it manifested in a previous role. 

Category 2 - Questions from left field
Another difficult line of questioning involves money. You will no doubt be asked about your salary expectations, a topic of conversation that never seems to get any less awkward. In this case, survival depends on your prior research. What's the industry standard for the role in question? Do your past qualifications or experience justify asking for a little bit extra? As long you as you don't undersell yourself or ask for disproportionate sums, you'll probably be fine. 

More placements are being decided less by technical ability - which most candidates will possess to a similar degree - and more by less tangible traits such as soft skills and cultural fit. To separate individuals based on their ability to communicate and think outside the box, interviewers have to get creative. 

Each year, Glassdoor releases a wrap up of the some the left field questions companies have been asking candidates. They vary from investigations into a person's psyche to hypothetical scenarios that test their practical thinking. The highlights from the 2016 list include:

  • "What would the name of your debut album be?"
  • "If you're the CEO, what are the first three things you check about the business when you wake up?"
  • "If you had $2,000, how would you double it in 24 hours?"

Unlike the standard lines of questioning described above, these are harder - if not impossible - to actually prepare for. The most you can do is know that they're out there, and that some recruiters will take the opportunity to push the boundary and liven the interview process up a bit. Try and get an idea of a company's culture before you head in for the interview. Does the way they present themselves on their website and through social media suggest they might try this sort of thing?

It's fine to still feel a little bit of stress before an interview, but being aware of the likelihood of certain questions appearing - and the purpose behind them - can work to reduce that fear of the unknown. 

By Kimberley Wood