By guest writer Nelson Sebati, Entrepreneur and Non-Executive Chairman at Murason Business Services. He has 10 years’ experience in recruitment, talent acquisition, career transitioning & on-boarding, with a specific focus on IT and Executive skills. He is a certified Career Strategist and Job Search Coach. He studied Entrepreneurship at Wits Business School, Law at UNISA among other numerous qualifications & is currently a member of the YBSA, BMF, REC-UK, APSO, CSSA, ASA, and IoDSA<. p=”">

Too many job seekers stagger through interviews as if the questions are coming out of the left field, but many interview questions are to be expected and as such I have rounded up the “usual suspects” for your benefit. So study this list, plan your answers ahead of time and you will be ready to deliver them with buoyancy.

Tell me about yourself?
This is the dreaded, traditional, open-ended question and likely to be among the first. It is your chance to introduce your qualifications, good work habits, experience and etc. Keep it mostly work and career related.

What motivates you?
Naturally material rewards such as benefits, salary and bonuses come into play, but focus more on achievement and the satisfaction you derive from it. However “Challenge” is a good answer. This signals a desire to prove yourself to authority figures. Remember companies don’t mind when your psychological imbalances work in their favour.

How competitive are you?
Of course, you always play to win and display the spunk of a Spartan Warrior, but you must present this “fight-to-the-death” instinct in the context of being a dedicated team player and result oriented professional. Exhibiting too much personal ambition is a no-no.

What are your strengths?
Don’t say you’re strong across the board. That indicates that you are unfocused or that you approached the interview indolently. Instead, pick a strength that directly benefits the company that is interviewing you. So point out your positive work related attributes applicable to the job you are being interviewed for.

What qualifies you for this job?
Flaunt your skills, experience, education and other qualifications especially those that match the job description well and explain why. Avoid just regurgitating your CV.

Why should we hire you?
Summarize your experiences: For example “With five years’ experience working in the financial industry and my proven record of saving the company some money, I could make a big difference in your company. I’m confident I would be a great addition to your team.” Here the interviewer is trying to get you to drop your guard and stray from your primed responses. If you aren’t prepared for this “spontaneous” question you’ll appear rattled and unable to cope under pressure. So point out your positive attributes related to the job and the good job you have done in the past. Include any compliments you received from management.

Why do you want to work here?
The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates that you have given this some thought and are not sending out CVs just because there is an opening. Tailor your answer to the company that is interviewing you, for example, “I’ve selected key companies whose mission statements are in line with my values, where I know I could be excited about what the company does and this company is very high on my list of desirable choices.” Avoid the predictable; such as “it’s a great company” rather say why you think it is great. Study the company in advance.

What are your goals?
Sometimes it’s best to talk about short-term and intermediate goals rather than locking yourself into the distant future, for example, “My immediate goal is to get a job in a growth-oriented company. My long-term goal will depend on where the company goes. I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility.

What are your weaknesses?
This is the most dreaded question of all. Handle it by minimising your weakness and emphasising your strengths. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate on professional traits: “I am always working on improving my communication skills to be a more effective presenter (or whatever it is that you do). “I recently joined Toastmasters, which I find very helpful.” Don’t answer “none.” because that is a fear response indicating you might not be able to cope under pressure. Instead, mention something you’re good at that needs improvement.

Why did you leave/are you leaving your job?
If you’re unemployed, state your reason for leaving in a positive context, for example: “I managed to survive two rounds of corporate downsizing, but the third round was a 25 percent reduction in the workforce, which included me.“  If you are employed focus on what you want in your next job: “After two years, I made the decision to look for a company that is team-focused, where I can add my experience.” Avoid trashing other companies, employees and making statements like “I need more money”. Instead make generic statements like “It is a career move”, but be prepared to explain.

Have you ever been fired?
Be honest! Even if the guy or girl who fired you was the boss from hell, don’t blame them. It was your fault whether it was or not (just find a nice way of putting it across).

What would you like to avoid in your next job?
Watch out! If you say you want more strategic input that could be read as saying you don’t want to be accountable for specifics. Think this one through very very carefully.

What frustrated you in your last job?
The questioner doesn’t care about the source of the frustration. She wants to know how you worked around it. Show that can-do spirit.

What has been your biggest business failure?
Admit you goofed, but explain how you learned from the error and prove (by citing hard numbers) that you turned a negative into a positive. The interviewer is looking for problem solving skills and the pride you take in solving things.

What mistakes have you made in handling a difficult work situation?
Admit to one (yes, only one). Explain what went wrong and how you’d handle it better now.

How do you handle stress?
Be very careful with this one, it is sort of double whammy because you will likely be already stressed from the interview and the interviewer can see if you are handling it well or not. Everybody stresses, what varies is the degree and reaction to it. Saying that you whine to your shrink, kick your dog or slam down a stiff glass of Grey Goose vodka and cranberry are not good answers. Exercising, relaxing with a good book, socialising with friends or anything that turns stress into a positive energy are more along the lines of good answers.

When were you most satisfied in your job?
The interviewer wants to know what motivates you. If you can relate an example of a job or project when you were excited, the interviewer will get an idea of your preferences. “I was very satisfied in my last job, because I worked directly with the customers and their problems; that is an important part of the job for me.

What recent achievement are you most proud of?
Pick a specific business achievement that earned you pats on the back, a promotion, a raise, etc. Focus on the achievement than the reward. Explain how you did it and back it up with either time perimeters or financial figures.

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10/ 15 years?
Explain your career advancement goals that are in line with the job that you are being interviewed for. Your interviewer is likely to be more interested in how he/she or the company will benefit from you achieving your goals than what you will get from it, but it goes hand in hand to a large degree. It is not always a good idea to tell your potential new boss that you are going after their job, but more acceptable to mention that you would like to earn a senior or management role by that time.
What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
What makes you unique? This will take an assessment of your experiences, skills and traits. Summarize concisely, for example: “I have a unique combination of strong technical skills, and the ability to build strong customer relationships. This allows me to use my knowledge and break down information to be more user-friendly.”

What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
It’s time to pull out your old performance appraisals and boss’ quotes. This is a great way to brag about yourself through someone else’s words, for example: “My boss has told me that I am the best designer/ (whatever you do) he has ever had. He knows he can rely on me and he likes my sense of humour.
What salary are you seeking?
It is to your advantage if the employer tells you the range first. Prepare by knowing the going rate in your area, your bottom line and walk-away point. One possible answer would be: “I am sure when the time comes, we can agree on a reasonable amount. In what range do you typically pay someone with my background?

If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?
Interviewers use this type of psychological question to see if you can think quickly. If you answer “a bunny” you will make a soft, passive impression. If you answer “a lion” you will be seen as aggressive. So your answer will depend on what type of personality would it take to get the job done and what impression you want to make.