Craft the perfect interview response

Woman with her arms in the air celebrating - Perfect Interview Answers

Is there such a thing as the perfect interview response?  Whether face-to-face or online, nailing the answers to those tricky interview questions is key to selling yourself to a prospective employer.  You need to be fluent, practised and polished with examples to back up each of your points.  Here are 10 key questions and how to craft the perfect interview answers.  This will take time, thought and practise – but it will definitely be worth it when the job offer comes!

Three cubes which read Who Are You - perfect interview answers - Tell me about yourself

“Tell Me About Yourself…”

With such a broad range of possible answers, this question often trips interviewees up. The perfect interview answer will not be your life story; they want to know about where you are now professionally and what you have learnt from previous employment experiences.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Be succinct and to the point (which means practising beforehand).
  • Pick out three key events from your work history which provide a coherent story about where you are now professionally and what you have learnt. Choose a specific skill and experience from each job.
  • Talk about what makes you excited about this opportunity – be specific!
  • Use your company research to illustrate how you already have the strengths and qualities they are searching for.

Section of dictionary defining strength - What is your greatest strength

“What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

The perfect interview answer here will be based on your company research, showing you already know the qualities the company is looking for and you can use this opportunity to illustrate one you haven’t yet shown in the interview.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • This question really lets you guide the interview where you want it to go. This is your chance to relate your most impressive success story, so take advantage!
  • Highlight a strength that is crucial to the position.
  • Don’t make claims that you can’t illustrate with a brief example or fact.

Word task written with a tick next to it - What is your greatest accomplishment - perfect interview answers

“What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?”

This is somewhat similar to the “what is your greatest strength?” question and can be handled along the same lines. You want to pick an accomplishment that shows you have the qualities that the company puts value in and that are desirable for the position you’re interviewing for.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Talk about an accomplishment that exhibits how you will be a perfect fit for the company and for the position you’re interviewing for.
  • Try and show some genuine passion when you’re talking about your accomplishment.

What is your greatest weakness written on a sportstrack - perfect interview answers

“What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”

Don’t pick a weakness that is a key competency for the job! The perfect interview response will involve choosing your weaknesses wisely and showing that you have taken steps to “work on it”.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Show that you are aware of your weakness and what you have done to overcome it.
  • Show that you are “self-aware” and that you have the ability to take steps to improve yourself – through education, experience or mentoring.

Man leaping between two high rocks - Describe a difficult work situation

“Describe A Difficult Work Situation And What You Did To Overcome It…”

The perfect interview response here is to pick a success story that shows you exhibiting the qualities/skills required at the job and company you are interviewing for.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Pick an example that shows you tackling a problem that could arise at the new company you’re interviewing for. This shows your value.
  • Be specific and fairly concise.
  • Use the S.T.A.R. Method:

Situation

(Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalised description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.)

Task

(What did you need to achieve and why? What goal were you working toward?)

Action

(Summary of the problem and the action you took. Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? Be careful that you don’t describe what the team or group did when talking about a project, but what you actually did. Use the word “I,” not “we” when describing actions.)

Result

(Describe the outcome of your actions and don’t be shy about taking credit for your behaviour. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Make sure your answer contains multiple positive results, preferably with a specific piece fact or figure which illustrates your success.)

  • Don’t bash anyone in your success story. (Coworker, boss or customer!)

Sign saying Join The Team - Why do you want to work for us - perfect interview answers

“Why Do You Want To Work For Us?”

The perfect interview response will demonstrate that you want to become an integral part of the company, to grow and develop with the needs of the business and demonstrate how your “wants” coincide with their “needs”.  Review LinkedIn, Bloomberg, FT,Wall Street Journal etc. for mention of the company over the past six months.  Review employee testimonials on Glassdoor.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Choose 4 specific things you like about the company. Do your homework before and find out the needs of the company and talk about how you’re passionate about “fulfilling those needs”.
  • Be complimentary. Most people enjoy being flattered. (Just don’t go overboard)
  • Show how your strengths perfectly align with the job position and company culture.

Sign saying we need you - Why should we hire you - perfect interview question answers

“Why Should We Hire You?”

The secret to success here is to be specific and evidence-based. You have already used your company research and the job description to find out exactly why the company is hiring someone for this position. Demonstrating that you understand the problem the new hire needs to solve will make you seem like the perfect candidate!

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Show the hiring manager that you are uniquely suited to filling this position. Be the candidate that solves the problem!
  • Show you know some significant details about the company and their general practices because you have researched the firm and are prepared.
  • Tell a “success story” that highlights how you have the ‘qualities’ needed to fill their specific needs – make sure you use a different example.
  • Don’t be too modest or too arrogant; you can avoid this by being specific and factual about your role in the examples you use. Again, preparation is key!

Lady looking through binoculars - Why did you leave your last job

“Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Preparation for this question is vital to seem plausible and truthful. The perfect interview response takes practise so it’s fluent and coherent.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • If you left voluntarily be sure to explain why. For example: you wanted a different challenge. How does this company offer you a specific characteristic or opportunity which your previous employer didn’t have? Explain what attracts you to this company.
  • If you were let go, be honest and explain the situation and own it. Explain what you learned from the experience, because the interviewer knows you’re human, you make mistakes, and just wants to see that you were able to do something about it.
  • Don’t bash your last company or boss or anything along those lines

Start written on the road - Where do you see yourself in 5 years - perfect interview answers

“Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?”

You DO want to show that you are an ambitious person BUT you need to show that you don’t have your “head in the clouds” and are focused on the job at hand.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Demonstrate when you answer the question your level of commitment to the position they are interviewing you for.
  • After you have demonstrated your commitment to the role you are interviewing for, outline a realistic growth strategy that is directly tied to the role you’re in and the needs and values of the company. How will this role help you grow?
  • Stress your interest in a long-term career at the company.

Questions written in chalk - Do you have any questions for me

“Do You Have Any Questions For Me?”

The perfect interview response for this question will make you stand out from the crowd and show your knowledge and passion for the company or organisation you are interviewing for. Always have a few questions prepared and have one based around something you found during your company research phase.

Lucie’s Pro Tip

  • Focus your questions on the company and what you can do for them.
  • Ask about something you’ve discovered in your company research. This will show your passion and knowledge of the company.
  • Ask if there is any reason the HR manager wouldn’t hire you. (This can be a little daunting to ask BUT can really pay off. It allows you to address something they may be thinking in their head but haven’t brought up.

Need further advice?

At Octopus Personnel, we are experts at presenting our candidates to ensure the employer is able to see all the skills and experience you are bringing to a role, and preparing you to succeed at interview with the perfect interview answers. Years of industry expertise and outstanding relationships with our clients, and grasp of the needs of their business, means we are perfectly positioned within the market to guide you to your new role. You can sign up here and call the office on 01747 825568 to arrange an interview.

Lucie Golbourn

About the author

I oversee all parts of the Octopus machine. From registering candidates to site visits with clients, I love the fast-paced challenge of it all. Leading by example, we are not just recruiters; we are sourcing advisors, which means we are able to act as a friend who can efficiently guide you through productive recruitment drives.

I love being a crazy cat lady, whilst taking mindful moments and balancing on my head! Check out my blog about using mindfulness to drive productivity. Yoga anyone?