Short on time? The Only 6 Interview Questions You Need to Prepare For


With the demands of modern day living, preparing for a job interview can seem like an impossible task. Family, home or work commitments already consume most of your day, and even just the thought of trying to find a spare 3 hours to prepare for a job interview is enough to burst that stomach ulcer you’ve been quietly nursing.

As you know, preparation is key for any job interview. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. But as long as you already know your CV off by heart, it can be done in roughly 60 minutes. Now, I know some of you are thinking, “60 minutes?! I can’t even find 5!”. Well, it’s time to get resourceful. Whether you’re in the shower, in the car, in the bathroom, in a queue, being ranted at by your psycho boss in a meeting, or on the phone to your “chatty” mother-in-law – there are times when you can zone out and focus on you. Make sure you have a small notebook and pen always at the ready, and focus on answering these key interview questions for maximum interview success:

1) Tell me about yourself… (5 mins)

To answer this, simply write a script about your past experience and proven successes, following this formula:

  • How long you have been in the industry
  • What has been your most recent experience (what were you doing and where)
  • One reason why you like the industry and your work
  • One achievement (pick the one most relevant to the role you are interviewing for)
  • One strength or significant ability (again, most relevant to the role)
  • Conclude with your current situation – what type of job and industry you want to work in and why?

Try and keep as much of your answer as relevant as possible to the role you are interviewing for.

2) Why do you want to work for us? (5 mins)

Now if you’ve done things properly, you will have already researched the company before you even applied to the job – so this should only take you 5 minutes to prepare. But if you haven’t (tut, tut, tut) then you will need to get on the internet sharpish. Go to their website, look at their mission and vision statements, then go through the rest website and see if there is any information about what they have achieved and want to achieve. Then do the same on The great news is, with the amazing invention of smartphones, you can now even prepare this one in bathroom!

3) Why should we hire you? (31 mins total)

Ok, so here it’s all about focus. You only want to focus on information RELEVANT to the role you are interviewing for. You’re mainly looking at the jobs you’ve had over the last 10 years (12 if you have time). With this question, they want to know what you can bring to the table and how well you understand their business. Simply write 3 lists:

a) Companies (1 minute)

List the companies you have worked for that share commonalities with the company you are interviewing with e.g. similar industry, products, operations, sales/marketing strategies, consumers etc. Show them you know their business.

b) Relevant experience (15 minutes)

Go through each job you’ve had in the last 10 years and write down all of the responsibilities / experience you’ve had, MOST relevant to the job. Pick the sexy stuff. The stuff that really shows you can do the job. That you understand the job and what it entails. Ideally you want 2 to 3 examples for each role you’ve had in the last 10 years, with a total of around 8-10 examples ready at your fingertips.

c) Relevant Achievements (15 minutes)

This is the biggie. If you have no time to do anything else, then focus here. Your achievements show what value you can add to the business. Whatever you have achieved for your previous companies, the new employer will assume you will achieve for them. They are the reason the company will hire you. Why you are worth the investment. Again, you are focusing on the achievements RELEVANT to the job you are interviewing for. Quantify as much as possible – include as many figures, percentages, time measurements etc. as you can. Achievements could be:

“Increased sales / revenues by ‘x’ amount of dollars” or “Grew the business by ‘y’ %”.

“Saved the company ‘x’ amount of $” or “reduced process time by ‘y’ number of days increasing efficiency by ‘z’ %”.

Write at least 3 examples for each role you have had in the last 10 years. If you’ve had only one role for the last 10 years – you still want roughly 10 examples. 1 for each year!

If you’re super modest and struggling to list your achievements, focus on what value you have brought to your previous companies and work from there (read this to get you started).

4) What are your strengths/weaknesses? (8 minutes)

Pick 3-5 strengths and one weakness. Again, for the strengths, focus on what’s most relevant to the job you are interviewing for. Give examples of when you used each strength. For the weakness – it’s a trick question. Focus on a weakness that could be a strength in a different context e.g. ‘Sometimes I’m too enthusiastic when working on a new project. But I’ve learned to adjust to everyone else’s pace and not go charging ahead.’

5) Why did you leave that job? / What didn’t you like about that job? (5 minutes)

Wanting a higher salary, better health insurance/benefits, having an a*sehole boss, crappy teammates, too much hard work, are NOT good answers to either of these questions. While they might be the real reason, KEEP THEM OUT of the interview. ALWAYS be as positive as you can – about every job, boss, co-worker, company you have ever had. When answering these questions, focus on passion, learning opportunities and career growth. The interviewer wants to know you are joining them to grow and make a difference – not because you want a higher paycheck.

6) Give me an example when… and how you dealt with it (15 mins)

These are your famous “Competency-based” questions. HR departments love them. It’s mainly to figure out behavioural style, interpersonal skills, thought processes and personality. Making sure you have the right ‘stuff’ to handle any situation that presents itself. Again focus on the ones relevant to the job you are interviewing. Examples could be when you had to show leadership, manage conflict (with a colleague or customer), motivate teams, handle stress or a challenging situation, make a difficult decision, handle change, create a new process etc. Think about what you might have to do in that job and focus on creating answers for those.

OK, so I lied. It’s actually 69 minutes. But the point is that once you have all this information and put it all together, you will be able to answer most if not all of the questions thrown your way. In any interview – not just the one you’re preparing for. Then it’s simply a case of learning and practicing your answers. Get your husband, family members or your kids to interview you. Maybe in the car or at meal times. Make it fun (turn it into a game) and everyone will want to join in. Interview yourself at much as you can, in front of a mirror or simply in your head. Any opportunity you get – practice, practice, practice!

Written by Zeta Yarwood, Executive Coach, Career Coach, NLP Life Coach & Trainer at Zeta Yarwood Coaching and Training

Published on September 7th, 2015