If you’re looking for great answers to the most common interview questions, then look no further. We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide. From the basics of making a good impression, to tackling tricky questions, you’ll find everything you need to know to stand out from the competition and land that dream job.
1. Tell me something about yourself?
This is often the first of many interview questions, designed to make you feel at ease and to start to build a rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee. As this question is completely about you, there is no right or wrong answer, you should try and align all of your answers to the job description throughout the interview.
There are a few approaches to this question which you could take and use the one that feels most comfortable for you to talk about. For example, you can provide a summary of your employment history and mention any hobbies or interests outside of work. You could also focus on key aspects of your career to date and build in some of your achievements.
Most importantly, ensure your answer is aligned with the job description as this will help you demonstrate how you can add value and that you are a right match for the role. If you are a recent graduate, you could talk about a college project or dissertation if it is relevant to the job you are applying for and what led you to that piece of research.
2. Why did you decide to apply for this position?
This question is your opportunity to let the interviewer know that you have thoroughly read the job description and have done your research on the company. This is your opportunity to shine, by describing where you can add value. Refer to the requirements in the job description and how you match those needs. Alignment of your experience to the job description is critical along with identifying areas that will challenge you and present you with opportunities for growth.
This question also allows you an opportunity to be complimentary of the company's systems, reputation etc. to finish your answer of. For example:
"I was really excited to apply for this position as I read you have recently implemented SAP and this will provide me with the opportunity to utilise my 5 years experience of using this system in a previous role."
"It would be great to have the opportunity to work in a company with such a strong reputation as a good place to work and congratulations on being in the top 50 Best Places to Work awards for the past three years."
3. What are your biggest strengths?
This question can be difficult to answer if you are someone that does not like boasting, however, this should be one of the easiest questions to answer and prepare for. Again, there are no right or wrong answers here as you are answering a question that is unique to you.
It's important to remember, you should be providing examples of your strengths as it relates to the job description and identify two or three of your best attributes then give good examples articulating how they led to your career success to date. You can utilise the STAR methodology to answer questions like this - describe a Situation, describe the Task or Action that you took and what that Resulted in. For example :
“One of my strengths is time management, which I noted is a requirement on the job description for this role. I recently implemented a software time management system that allowed me to prioritise tasks, set clear deadlines, and delegate effectively. This system helped me complete projects efficiently and to a high standard and now others on my team are using it also when I demonstrated how it works. I'm confident that it would be beneficial in this role too given the high volume of deadlines that come at the same time”.
Be sure to close the loop and articulate how they are relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
4. What is your biggest weakness?
This question is often asked at interviews - you know it’s coming but you still haven’t prepared an answer and dread it being asked. The best way to answer this question is to be honest and balanced and don’t provide generic statements such as “I’m a perfectionist” which means I spend too long on tasks sometimes. The interviewer is interested in finding out what your biggest weakness is, as it relates to the job that is on offer. The job description is your friend here again, and you should relate your answer back to this. For example, you might say:
“When reading the job description, you are looking for someone with experience in using Microsoft Teams on a daily basis and utilising the software built in such as files, whiteboards and other apps for collaboration and productivity. While I don’t have experience using Microsoft Teams, I have used Zoom regularly and I have done a little bit of research on MS Teams so I feel I will be able to adapt quickly with some training”
Other ways this question can be asked is - If I spoke to your last manager and asked him/ her to describe you and your opportunities for improvement what would they say? Or you may be asked - What are your areas for development in your current job?
5. Why do you want this job?
This is another question that relates uniquely to you, so again, there is no right or wrong answer, but your approach to how you answer this question is important. This question is multi-faceted because it can provide the interviewer with a lot of insight to you, as a person.
It’s easier to provide you with guidance in the form of Do’s and Don’ts for this question:
- Be complimentary of the company and the organisation and base this on research that you have done, that you can refer to
- Describe the growth opportunity this role will give you and how it will advance your career to the next level
- Describe the 3 key areas where you feel you can add most value to the company in this role - refer to the job description when doing this
- Describe how your qualifications and education match the requirements for this role
- Speak negatively about your current employer and your need to get out of there as quickly as possible
- Talk about salary here and how you were attracted to the position because of the rate of pay
- Say that you could do this job with your eyes closed and that you could hit the ground running from day one
6. Why should we hire you?
This question allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition and to summarise your experience and skills that will add value to the company. Ultimately, all the questions during an interview lead to this and the interviewer is giving you an opportunity to sell yourself here.
If you have skills that you have not had the opportunity to discuss, this is the time you can do it. You can approach this question with a start, middle and an end. Summarise for the interviewer why you believe you meet the requirements of the role, provide some examples of how you have displayed the skills needed for the job in a previous role or situation and close with telling the interviewer why you want to join their organisation. Answering the question like this will provide clarity and a structured response which will also impress the interviewer.
7. What do you know about this company/organisation?
When asked this question at an interview, the interviewer is interested to find out if you have done some research on the company as this will indicate your interest in the company as a whole and not just on this role. It also indicates your commitment to the hiring process and that you have put some effort into researching the company that you are hoping will hire you. You should demonstrate that you have taken the time to research the company and familiarise yourself with their mission and values and how you could work effectively in such an organisation. For example:
"I have researched the company and have a good understanding of your mission and values. I believe my skills and experience make me a great fit for the role, and I am excited to be part of a team that prioritises teamwork and integrity.”
You can also mention any recent product launches, corporate social responsibility initiatives or sustainability measures that the company may have recently implemented and wrote articles about on their social media page.
8. What are you looking for in a new position?
Sometimes, when answering this question you may be tempted to talk about all the things you don’t like about your current position. The interviewer is digging a little deeper with this question which also relates to why you should be hired, why you are leaving your current role and why you want this role.
If you have recently upskilled or reskilled with an Innopharma Education programme, this provides an excellent opportunity to bring that into the conversation. For example:
“I have recently completed a Level 8 degree in Biopharmaceutical Science with Innopharama Education with a view to gaining a position in the pharmaceutical sector. I am looking for a position that allows me to apply my knowledge and expertise in an industry focused on improving patient outcomes.”
9. Why did you decide to leave your previous/current job?
With this question, the interviewer is trying to gather some information that will indicate your tenure with their organisation and predict your likelihood of leaving after a short period of time. The most important thing to remember with this question, is regardless of the circumstances of your departure, NEVER criticise an old employer.
Again, it’s always easier to express yourself when you are being honest, so explain the reasons - perhaps you felt there were no opportunities for career progression, you were not in a role that matched your qualifications and you want to utilise those before they become outdated, location was difficult to get to or other reasons.
10. What is an achievement you’re most proud of?
The interviewer is looking to gain insight into your strengths, accomplishments, and how you handle challenging situations with this question. They are looking to see how you view success, and how you achieve it. It would be useful to have an answer prepared for this common interview question and utilise the STAR methodology to answer it. Within this answer you can also explain how you overcame any obstacles or difficulties along the way and demonstrate your ability to articulate your successes and reflect on your achievement.
It can be helpful to provide an example from the workplace, as it can provide insight into your professional achievements and give the interviewer a more complete picture of your background and experience. However, you can also provide an example of an achievement from outside of work, as it can give the interviewer an understanding of other aspects of your life and how you approach challenges.
11. Where do you see yourself in five years?
When asked this question at an interview, the company is trying to predict whether you are going to stay with the organisation, if you are interested in growing and developing your career or if you are going to be stagnant in the role you are applying for. This is another way of asking you, what are your career objectives.
Considerations for your answer may include:
"I want to continue my education on a part-time basis and complete a masters in Pharmaceutical Business Operations, this will support my advancement in the organisation to a more technical role and to a specialised position in the longer term."
No manager wants to hear the answer , "I want to be in your seat or I want to be in your job." It’s often said in a jovial way, but it loses its edge because of the number of times the interviewer will hear that during the recruitment process. It also results in you missing the opportunity to talk about your career and where you would like to see it going.
12. Why did you change your career path?
Changing your career path is a challenging process and it is one that you should be proud of and be ready to showcase at an interview. If you have moved from one career path to another, it is an obvious question to be asked and will provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to deal with change, ambiguity along with your motivation and resilience to succeed.
In answering this question, you should have your answer mapped out and provide a clear rationale for your change, for example:
"There is a high proportion of pharmaceutical companies within a 20 km radius of my new home, so I felt my opportunity for long term employment would be in this industry. Coming from the hospitality industry, I knew I needed to upskill so I completed a L6 programme in Pharmaceutical Science and Medical Device Operations with Innopharma Education. The work preparation module of that course helped me identify all the transferable skills that I could take with me in the areas of compliance, health & safety and following procedures. These skills, along with my new qualification opened the door for my new career path in the pharmaceutical industry."
It’s also important, not to be negative or complain about any aspects of the career that you left.
13. Explain the gap in your CV?
If there is a gap in your CV, the interviewer will generally want to know why - when answering, you do not need to go into a deep dive of the circumstances. Honesty is always the best policy here and it's a question that you can always expect if there is a gap in your CV.
Some general reasons may be for personal reasons, career break, caring responsibilities, illness, redundancy or other reasons. Focus on any skills you may have gained during the break such as any online training you completed, any new skill or hobby you learnt or any volunteering work you got involved in.
For more tips on answering this question, check out our blog on Explaining Gaps in Your CV.
14. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
The interviewer is trying to understand your behaviour or your reaction to stressful or pressurised situations with this question. It’s a question that you can be prepared for and where possible have a solution as well. For example:
"When faced with a stressful situation, I use a combination of problem-solving techniques and time management strategies to ensure that I remain focused and productive. I start by breaking down the issue into smaller, more manageable tasks and then prioritise them accordingly and focus on what I have achieved at the end of the day instead of what is still to do. I find that taking regular breaks during such times is important to recharge and stay focused. I also find that remaining calm helps, and is more productive than panic."
15. How would your boss or coworkers describe you?
This is a great question, as it’s another way of getting you to describe yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses but in the third person. We are often uncomfortable describing ourselves, particularly our strengths and by doing it this way we tend to be more open as we are usually describing feedback that we have received.
The key here is to be professional, and focus on your strengths. You could say:
"My boss would describe me as methodical, efficient and good at finishing all tasks, My coworkers would describe me as friendly, a good team player and supportive."
Be prepared then to give some examples, it might lead to another question such as - Tell me about your ability to work as part of a team?
16. What are your salary requirements?
It’s important to be prepared for this question and not get overwhelmed when it is asked, it is an easy question to prepare for. Firstly, do some research and find out the average salary for someone with your education, skills and experience in this industry - aim to provide a salary range so you are not over or under selling yourself, for example:
“I would hope to earn a starting salary between 30 and 35,000 based on my experience and skills.”
Or you could state what you are currently earning and with the extra responsibility of this job, you would be expecting a 5 - 10% increase on that.
17. Do you have any questions for us?
So, you’ve made it this far of the interview and stayed calm and in control. The quickest way for the closing stages of the interview to fall flat is by saying ‘no’ to this question. It’s important that you have a few smart, intelligent questions in your armour to close the interview on a high note and demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the job and the company.
Ddon’t ask a question that has already been answered. For instance, don’t ask what training will be provided if the interviewer has already explained this during the interview, this will indicate that you have not been listening. Therefore, it’s important to have a few questions in mind to choose from, some examples are as follows;
- What is the induction process at the company?
- Is this a new position or is it replacing someone that has left or been promoted?
- What would success look like in the first 3 months for the person who gets this job?
- Is there education assistance or training opportunities available for employees?
- What is the next stage of the process or when will I be likely to hear the outcome of this interview?
Always finish with a compliment and thank the interviewer for sharing so much information with you and express your interest in hearing from them soon.
Practice makes perfect, it is really helpful to write out all your answers to the most common interview questions and then practise answering these out loud. You can record yourself on your phone and play back to hear how it sounds, this will help you fine tune your answers and help you walk into your next interview with greater confidence.
All of our programmes at Innopharma Education have a work preparation module which will help you to streamline your CV, assist with interview preparation and support you in your career progression or career change.
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