4 Main Questions Interviewers Ask

The 4 interview questions employers want to know & how to answer them.

You have been applying for jobs and get that email or phone call you’ve been waiting for – ‘We would like to invite you for an interview’. Your first reaction is joy and excitement, but that is soon replaced with nervousness, uncertainty and stress. You really want the job and think you can do it, but how do you convince the employer you’re a person that they are looking for?

Having gone for multiple interviews in my career and also coaching clients in interviewing techniques, I can’t stress the importance of spending time preparing for an interview enough.

Some years ago, I went for a job interview with a company. I remember driving to the appointment feeling unsure of myself and a bit intimidated. I really wanted the job but didn’t truly believe I would compare well with other candidates even though I knew I had the skills and ability to do the job. I just needed a chance and just hoped they would give it to me. Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. However, eighteen months later I applied again for another role at the same company.

This time, I was well prepared and knew exactly why I applied, what I had to offer and why I would be a great candidate. I felt confident going into the interview, connected with the interviewers and was offered the job.

Knowing what interviewers are looking for, has helped me to be prepared and feel confident when going into interviews.

According to Richard N. Bolles in his book ‘What Color is your Parachute? 2010,

“You don’t have to spend a lot of time memorising 89 ‘Good Answers’ to potential questions from the employer; There are only five questions that matter.”

We will focus on four of these.

Top 4 Interview Questions

Why are you here?

What can you do for us?

What kind of person are you?

What distinguishes you from the nineteen or nine hundred other people who are applying for this job?

The right way to answer all of these questions is to tell your story. The story you want to tell here is about everything that you have done, that has led to this point and makes you a great candidate for this job.

Tell me about yourself

One of the most common and seemingly easy interview questions you could be asked, is ‘Tell me about yourself?’ or ‘Why are you here?’.

I have repeatedly seen how easy it is for candidates to stumble over this question thinking ‘I know myself, so I don’t have to prepare an answer.’

However, being prepared and answering this question well, could be the key to connecting with the interviewer(s), having a successful interview and securing that dream job.

Using the 4 questions to craft your story and answer the question “Tell me about yourself”

“Why are you here”?
Think about your reasons for being interested in the job you are pursuing and what you like about it.
By telling the interviewer why you are passionate about your chosen career and this job, will tell them something personal about yourself that sets you apart from other candidates. At the same time, it will give them assurances that this is not just any job for you, but the job you want.

Think about why you want to work at this organisation specifically.
To answer this question will require some research on your part. Find out as much as you can about the organisation. Things like their values, vision, mission, social responsibility etc. This will give you an idea of how the organisation is aligned to your values, motivations and goals. Using this information in your answer will show the employer that you have taken the time to find out ‘what they are about’ and that you believe they are a good match for you. Again, this gives the employer the assurance that this is not just any job, but the job for you.

“What can you do for us?”
Think about your skills and experience that best fit the job.
Study the job description or job advert and identify what kind of expertise (skills and experience) the employer is after. Most adverts or job descriptions mention the things that are most important to the employer first, or multiple times. Use this as a guide to decide which of your many talents and experience you want to focus on in your answer. You will have time during the interview to expand on your skills and experience. The interviewer will also have read your CV, so don’t just recite your CV here.

Remember to always stay focused on what was mentioned in the job advert or job description. When you read the job advert, why did you think you could do the job and be good at it?
“What kind of person are you?”
To answer this question well, you also have to study the job advert or job description. Look for words describing the characteristics of the person they are looking for, e.g. organised, team player, selfless, committed to making a difference, pioneering, etc.
You might find talking about your character much harder than talking about your skills and experience. Many of us feel uncomfortable blowing our own trumpet and even find it difficult to know what we are good at. Think about feedback from employers, colleagues, friends and family. What are the things they appreciate and value about you? If you are not sure, this is a good opportunity to ask them. You can also use insights from personality tests (psychometrics) that often provide helpful descriptive words or phrases.
An interview is one of the rare opportunities where you are allowed to boast and let others know about your unique gifts and talents. Instead of seeing it as boasting, just think of it as an opportunity to tell others your story – what you have done well and what characteristics makes you, you.

“What distinguishes you from nineteen or nine hundred other people who are applying for this job?”
Having been invited for the interview, means the interviewer have read your CV and thinks you are suitable for the job. What they want to find out during the interview, is “why should we appoint you?”. So, to answer this question well, you need to really think about why you would be the best person for the job. Sometimes it can be a combination of things, like having worked in a variety of different organisations, or countries that are valuable to the company in terms of bringing networks to the table; having a child with learning disabilities that has given you a heart or passion for supporting families – applying for a job with the Salvation Army, etc.
Think of your unique personality, life experiences, skills and experience; how that can be valuable for the job; and how it enables you to bring something special to the table.
Once you have prepared answers to these 4 questions, write a paragraph weaving the answers together to form your story. A story that tells the interviewer more about yourself and why you are the best person for the job, but also helps to make that very important personal connection.

Example 1

I am a real engager and love working with people. When I am able to help people, I get a strong sense of achievement and I believe I make a difference to their wellbeing. My past employment and voluntary roles really utilised my abilities to be organised, to have effective time management and my natural ability to multitask. Especially my work at XYZ, DPT and my role as secretary of the kindergarten committee.

I believe my strong ethics and values, reliability, trustworthiness and ability to build relationships makes me a valuable team member and helps create a harmonious work environment. I also have a can-do attitude, love getting opportunities to get stuck into things to achieve desired results and thrive in a busy environment.

Working for your organisation will enable me to use my talents and experience in a way that will help the organisation to achieve its goals of delivering outstanding customer service, treating each customer as an individual that matters, and improving people’s overall health and wellbeing. At the same time, I am keen to be part of an organisation that is fast-growing, dynamic and provides me with opportunities to grow and advance my career.

Example 2

Since junior high school Multimedia has been my passion, starting when I created a wedding video for my friend and discovered my flair for creativity as well as my technical aptitude. This lead me to choose to study Computer Science and eventually graduate with a Masters in Multimedia and Computer Science.

Previous employers have valued that I am an ethical, warm, and cheerful person. I am also a strategic thinker who loves to solve problems and develop strategies to improve processes and outcomes. I have varied skills, are able to work autonomously, am punctual and values quality work. These attributes have been recognised by others and I was awarded as the top student in Multimedia Project Design.

The project leading to the award provided me with the privilege of working with the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The project provided challenges around staffing, resources, time management and customer care. This allowed me to showcase my positive mindset, logical approach and resilience leading to delivering a high quality product on time, while maintaining and improving customer relationships. This also enabled me to develop my communication and negotiation skills.

I would love the opportunity to work with your organisation as I believe, as a graduate, I can learn a lot from a smaller dynamic and growing organisation. I was impressed by the values statement in your job advertisement and how you aim to empower your staff as well as your clients, make a difference in the community and improve the customer experience. This sounds like the ideal environment where my talents can be nurtured and where I can contribute to the overall success of the organisation.

Words By,

Alida Hanekom

Head of Human Resources


Photo by Maranda Vandergriff on Unsplash

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