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Classic Interview Questions and Sample Answers

This collection encompasses general interview questions that are commonly asked, regardless of the specific job field you are pursuing. 

It is highly probable that you will encounter one of these questions at the beginning of your interview, making it crucial to be well-prepared to effectively tackle them. Doing so will not only establish a positive impression from the start but also enhance your confidence as the interview unfolds.

1. “Why do you want to work here?”

In your response, demonstrate that you have researched the company, understand its values and goals, and explain how your skills, experience, and aspirations align with what the organization has to offer. Focus on the unique aspects of the company that resonate with you and explain how your skills and aspirations align with their goals.

"I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to work here because your company has a strong commitment to innovation and a customer-centric approach, which aligns perfectly with my own values. I've been following your advancements in [specific industry or technology], and it's inspiring to see how your team consistently pushes boundaries and delivers exceptional solutions. I truly believe that my skills in [relevant skills] and my passion for [specific aspect of the industry] make me a great fit for your organization. I'm eager to contribute to your team, collaborate with like-minded professionals, and be a part of the meaningful impact you're making in the industry."

2. “Tell me about yourself.”

This is not an invitation to ramble on. If the context isn’t clear, you need to know more about the question before giving an answer.

Start with a brief introduction, mention key qualifications and experiences related to the job requirements, and emphasize how your skills make you an ideal candidate.

"With [number of years] of experience in [relevant industry/field], I have developed a strong foundation in [key skills mentioned in the job advert]. I recently came across the job advert, and I was immediately drawn to it because of the focus on [specific skills or qualifications mentioned in the job advert]. In my previous position at [previous company], I successfully [mention a relevant achievement or responsibility that directly relates to the job requirements]. I believe my expertise in [specific skills or industry knowledge] and my track record of [achievements related to the job requirements] make me a strong fit for this role. I'm excited about the opportunity to contribute my skills and [mention something you admire or find interesting about the company] to this team and be a part of its ongoing success."

You can also answer it in a storytelling manner, remember to be brief and relate it to the job advert. Past – Talk about what you have done before, what have you studied or your qualifications. Present – Talk about what you do now. Future – How do you see yourself in the role you are applying for? What are your career aspirations?

"I pursued a degree in Marketing, where I gained a solid foundation in strategic planning, market research, and campaign management. 
Currently, I am working as a Digital Marketing Specialist at XYZ Company, where I have been responsible for developing and implementing comprehensive digital marketing strategies. In this role, I have successfully increased brand visibility, generate qualified leads, and optimised online campaigns to drive conversion rates.
Looking ahead, I see myself thriving in the role of a Digital Marketing Manager, where I can leverage my expertise in developing data-driven strategies, managing cross-functional teams, and driving measurable results.
My goal is to apply my skills in campaign optimization, audience segmentation, and marketing automation to help your company further its digital presence, drive customer engagement, and achieve sustainable growth. I'm excited about the potential to contribute to your team and collaborate on innovative marketing initiatives that will make a real impact in the industry."

3. “Why do you want this job?”

Whilst more money, shorter hours or less of a commute, supporting your visa application are all potential factors for your next role, they are unlikely to make you the ‘stand out’ candidate of the day. Don’t be generic in your answer.

Express your passion for the work you do, highlight how your skills and experience align with the job requirements, and emphasize how this role aligns with your long-term goals and values.

"This job truly resonates with me on both a professional and personal level. Throughout my career, I have been deeply passionate about [specific aspect of the industry or work]. I thrive on [mention a key aspect or responsibility of the role] and find great satisfaction in [describe the impact or outcome you aim to achieve]. When I came across this opportunity, I was immediately drawn to it because it combines my skills in [relevant skills] and my genuine interest in [specific industry or work]. I strongly believe that the work we do in this role has the potential to [mention the positive impact or value you see in the work]. It aligns perfectly with my long-term aspirations of [mention your career goals or the broader purpose that drives you]. This position offers me the chance to contribute my expertise, grow professionally, and make a meaningful difference in [specific area or industry]. I am genuinely excited about the opportunity to join this team, collaborate with like-minded individuals, and have a fulfilling career doing what I love."

4. “What was your reason for leaving?”

Wherever possible be positive, even if your role was short-term or didn’t quite work out as expected, as it will have added extra experience or skills to your career history. Avoid sharing negative sentiments about your previous/current employer.

Although you are now looking to move on, acknowledge what you learned and what was on offer at the time. Demonstrate good reasons for the decisions you made and show that you understood what was to be gained, or acknowledge what you have learned from your past employer. Highlight your desire for personal development, expanded responsibilities, or a better alignment with your long-term goals, without dwelling on negative experiences or expressing dissatisfaction.

"I made the decision to leave my previous position because I was seeking new challenges and growth opportunities to further develop my skills. While I had a positive experience working with my previous employer and gained valuable experience, I reached a point where I felt I had achieved the goals I had set for myself in that role. I believe it's essential to continuously seek out new avenues for growth and to challenge oneself professionally. I'm excited about the potential this new opportunity holds, as it aligns perfectly with my long-term career aspirations and provides the chance to further expand my expertise in [specific area]. I'm confident that the skills and experiences I gained from my previous role will contribute to my success in this new position."

5. “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

When asked about your strengths and weaknesses in an interview, it is important to strike a balance between showcasing your strengths and demonstrating self-awareness. When discussing your strengths, focus on areas where you excel and feel confident, but remember to remain humble in your response. 

For weaknesses, it's crucial to show resilience and the ability to learn from mistakes. Instead of dwelling on a specific weakness, you can discuss how you have identified areas for improvement and actively worked on developing those skills. By highlighting your self-awareness and commitment to personal growth, you can provide a well-rounded answer.

"One of my strengths is my strong attention to detail. I take pride in my ability to meticulously review and analyse information, which has consistently helped me produce accurate and high-quality work. Additionally, I am a good team player and enjoy collaborating with others to achieve shared goals. As for weaknesses, I have realized that I sometimes struggle with public speaking. However, I have actively taken steps to improve in this area by joining Toastmasters and participating in presentations whenever possible. I believe that self-awareness is essential, and I am committed to continuously developing my communication skills."

Note: Do not dwell too much on the weakness and elaborate more on what you’ve learned and how you’ve been improving yourself.

This question can come in different forms:

  1. "Tell me about a time when you failed and how you handled it."
  2. "What is your greatest weakness, and how are you working to improve it?"
  3. "Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult co-worker or client and how you resolved it."
  4. "Give me an example of a time when you faced an ethical dilemma at work and how you handled it."
  5. "Why should we hire you over other qualified candidates?"
  6. "Tell me about a time when you had to make a tough decision with limited information."
  7. "How do you handle criticism or feedback from your superiors?"
  8. "Describe a time when you had to work under a tight deadline or handle multiple competing priorities."
  9. "What is your biggest professional accomplishment, and why are you proud of it?"
  10. "How do you handle stress and pressure in the workplace?"

6. Give an example of this behaviour

Having given your strengths and weaknesses, you are then likely to be asked to give examples of when you have displayed this behaviour. Your credibility will plummet if you cannot give an example of the strengths you have stated. With the strengths listed above, a good response would be: 

“In my present job, I am often asked to handle difficult customer situations because my supervisor knows that I will handle them politely, efficiently and diplomatically and therefore only a few cases would ever get referred to her. Also, because of my strong interpersonal skills, I have often been asked to buddy up with new team members, to make them comfortable in their new role at the earliest stage possible”.

When asked to give examples of your weaknesses, you need to think very carefully and plan in advance what your response will be, as many people dig a very deep hole here. A good response to the weakness quoted would be: 

“I had a situation once where I knew that a more experienced colleague was regularly absent from work following nights out drinking, but she would say that she had a migraine. When this happened my workload increased significantly. I undertook this willingly but I must admit I was annoyed that this person was taking advantage of me and the company. However, I decided to let the supervisor do their job and just get on with mine. In quite a short space of time, the issue was addressed and the problem was resolved”.

The STAR format is a structured approach used to answer behavioural questions in interviews. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Here's a brief overview of each component:

Situation: Start by providing a brief background on the situation or context in which the behaviour or task occurred. Set the stage by explaining the circumstances, challenges, or goals involved.

Task: Clearly define the specific task or objective that needed to be accomplished within the given situation. Describe what was expected of you or what you set out to achieve.

Action: Explain the actions you took to address the situation or complete the task. Focus on your individual role and highlight the steps you took, the skills you utilized, and the decisions you made. Be specific and provide relevant details.

Result: Share the outcome or results of your actions. Describe the positive impact you had, the goals you achieved, or the lessons you learned. Quantify the results if possible and emphasize any recognition or feedback received.

7. “Tell me about a difficult obstacle you had to overcome recently at work. How did you overcome this?”

Here your interviewer wants proof that you will tackle problems head-on and not just bury your head in the sand.

A strong answer will clearly demonstrate a problem, an action and a solution. You can also use the STAR format to answer this question.

For example:

Problem: When I was first promoted to team leader, I consistently struggled to ensure that my team achieved their sales targets on a Friday.

Action: I sought the advice of more experienced team leaders to find out how they motivated their teams through the Friday slog.

Solution: Acting on the advice of the other team leaders, I implemented a combination of incentives over the next few weeks and successfully boosted my team’s sales figures.

8. “What is your greatest success and achievement to date?”

Here your interviewer wants to see that you will bring something to their company and not just fade into the background.

Whilst this question does open the floor for you to recite how you once doubled your team’s sales figures, employers are equally interested in hearing about how you have developed and maintained a strong professional network, or how you pride yourself on your reputation for being reliable and hard working. Don’t just talk about the results and also emphasise on soft skills that made those results possible.

Whatever you end up talking about, try to keep it short. You don’t want to overdo it and get in the way of you being offered the job.

"In my previous role as a project manager, I was assigned a complex project with tight deadlines and a diverse team. The situation was challenging as it required effective collaboration and communication to ensure project success. 

The task at hand was to streamline the project timeline and improve team efficiency. To achieve this, I took action by implementing project management software that facilitated task allocation, progress tracking, and communication among team members. 

Additionally, I organized regular team meetings to address any issues and provide guidance. As a result, the project was completed within the given timeframe, meeting all objectives and exceeding client expectations. 

The team's productivity increased, and we received positive feedback from stakeholders for our timely delivery and high-quality work. This experience highlighted my ability to manage complex projects, foster teamwork, and deliver successful outcomes."

9. “What attracts you to the position?”

This is another form of the question… “Why do you want to work for us / in this position?”

To effectively answer the question, "What attracts you to the position?" in a job interview, it is essential to follow a structured approach. Begin your response with a positive statement, expressing your enthusiasm for the role or the company. Next, highlight specific aspects of the position that stand out to you, such as the responsibilities, challenges, or opportunities it offers. Connect your skills and experiences to the requirements of the position, demonstrating how your background aligns with the role.

I'm truly excited about this position and what it offers. First and foremost, I'm drawn to the challenging nature of the role. The responsibilities listed align perfectly with my expertise in project management and my ability to thrive in a fast-paced environment.

Additionally, what particularly attracts me to this position is the company's commitment to innovation and cutting-edge solutions. I've closely followed the company's recent advancements in the industry and I'm inspired by how it embraces new technologies and fosters a culture of creativity. I believe my experience in implementing innovative strategies and my passion for staying abreast of emerging trends will enable me to contribute effectively to the company's mission.

Moreover, I appreciate the emphasis the company places on teamwork and collaboration. I thrive in collaborative environments and enjoy working with diverse teams to achieve common goals. The prospect of being part of a supportive and dynamic team where I can share my ideas and learn from others is truly appealing to me.

Lastly, I see this position as a long-term opportunity for growth. The company's reputation for investing in employee development and offering clear paths for advancement aligns with my career aspirations. I'm eager to contribute my skills and expertise to drive the company's success while also expanding my own professional horizons within the organization.

Overall, the combination of the role's challenges, the company's commitment to innovation and teamwork, and the opportunities for long-term growth make this position highly attractive to me.

Make sure that your answer here aligns perfectly with what you have answered in #3.

Question #3 and #9 are connected, although it looks the same, the question is answered differently and it allows you to explain your motivation in two different ways.

10. “How would your current team/manager describe you?”

When asked about how your current team or manager would describe you in a job interview, it's important to provide a balanced and honest response. This question also allows the employer to see the level of self-awareness you have.

Focus on positive attributes: Highlight the positive qualities that your team or manager would likely mention, such as your work ethic, reliability, communication skills, or ability to collaborate effectively.

Provide specific examples: Support your claims with concrete examples or situations where you have demonstrated the qualities you mentioned. This helps to make your answer more credible and showcases your abilities.

Be humble: While it's important to highlight your strengths, avoid sounding overly boastful or arrogant. Present your accomplishments and attributes in a modest and respectful manner.

Align with the job requirements: Relate the qualities and skills your team/manager would use to describe you to the requirements of the position you're interviewing for. Show how these attributes make you a strong fit for the role.

"My current team and manager would likely describe me as a reliable and dedicated individual. I consistently strive to meet deadlines and deliver quality work. For example, during a recent project with a tight timeline, I took the initiative to organize our team's efforts, ensuring effective coordination and timely completion of tasks, which earned the trust of my colleagues and superiors. Additionally, I value strong communication skills and actively listen to others' perspectives, facilitating smooth collaboration and improved productivity within the team. I actively contribute to the team's goals, support my colleagues, and foster a positive work environment, recognizing the importance of being a team player. Overall, I believe my qualities of reliability, dedication, and strong communication, combined with my ability to work well under pressure and adapt to challenges, would make me a valuable asset to the role I am applying for."

11. “How do you keep yourself motivated?”

This is your opportunity to tell your potential employer what keeps you focused. This is not a question to discuss your motivation. That should be covered in #3 and #9.

Highlight personal methods: Mention specific techniques or approaches that you use to maintain focus and motivation, such as setting clear goals, creating to-do lists, practising time management, or finding inspiration from mentors or role models.

Discuss accountability: Emphasize the importance of holding yourself accountable for your actions and results. Mention how you track progress, reflect on achievements, and learn from any setbacks to stay on track.

Adaptability: Mention your ability to adapt and adjust your approach based on the situation or task at hand. This shows that you are proactive in finding strategies that work best for you in different circumstances.

"To keep myself focused and motivated, I rely on a few key strategies. Firstly, I set clear and achievable goals for myself, breaking them down into smaller milestones. This allows me to track my progress and maintain a sense of accomplishment as I reach each milestone. I also find that creating to-do lists and prioritizing tasks helps me stay organized and focused throughout the day.

Additionally, I hold myself accountable for my actions and results. Regularly reflecting on my achievements and learning from any setbacks allows me to continuously improve and stay on track. I am not afraid to seek feedback from mentors or role models who inspire me and provide valuable insights.

Lastly, I believe in being adaptable. Different tasks or projects may require different approaches, so I remain flexible and adjust my strategies accordingly. This adaptability helps me stay engaged and motivated, even when faced with new challenges."

12. “What key factors drive you?”

Tread carefully with this question. Whilst the truth may be that you only get out of bed every morning in order to pay your rent, this is not what your potential employer wants to hear.

This question gives you an opportunity to discuss what has attracted you to this line of work and what inspires you to persevere through the tough times. In a sales role, this could be the adrenaline rush of meeting daily targets, whilst, in a customer-service role, this could be the personal satisfaction you gain through helping people.

This question allows you to expand your motivation beyond the context of the job you are applying for. You can start looking into your career progression and what’s the reason why you do what you do.

"What drives me are two key factors: a passion for helping others and a strong desire for personal growth. In my current counsellor role, I found immense satisfaction in being able to assist my clients and provide solutions to their problems. The sense of fulfilment I experienced from positively impacting someone's day motivated me to strive for excellence in my interactions.
Furthermore, I am driven by the opportunity for continuous learning and growth in my career. I believe in pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and embracing new challenges. The prospect of acquiring new skills, expanding my knowledge, and advancing in my field is what keeps me motivated and excited about my work.
While the immediate context of this role with XYZ company is important, my motivation extends beyond this. I am genuinely inspired by the potential for long-term career progression and the ability to make a meaningful impact in the lives of your students. These driving factors help me maintain focus and drive even during challenging times, and I am eager to continue pursuing personal and professional growth in a role that aligns with these values."

13. “How do you deal with work issues? Would anyone know you were having a bad day or would you keep it to yourself?”

Maintaining a positive atmosphere is crucial in team-oriented environments like call centres, as the morale within a team can be contagious. Whether positive or negative, attitudes and emotions have the power to influence the overall work environment. Therefore, it is essential to foster a constant sense of positivity.

It's important to showcase your ability to handle challenges professionally and maintain a positive work environment. 

"I believe in maintaining a professional demeanour at work and strive to handle work issues in a constructive manner. While I understand that everyone has bad days occasionally, I make a conscious effort not to let personal challenges affect my interactions with colleagues or the quality of my work. I believe in open communication and, if necessary, I may confide in a trusted colleague or supervisor for support or guidance. However, I ensure that any personal issues I may be facing do not negatively impact my team or the overall work environment. It's important to me to create a positive atmosphere and contribute to a collaborative and productive workplace."

14. “How do you manage time and priorities?”

It's important to emphasize your organizational skills, ability to prioritize effectively, and strategies for managing time efficiently. You need to showcase that you have a system in place to manage a busy schedule. It’s important to tailor your answer to reflect your personal experiences and strategies. If you have incorporated technologies to help you with time management, it’s also good to mention specific examples.

"I approach time and priority management by utilizing a combination of effective planning, organization, and prioritization techniques. First, I start by thoroughly understanding the tasks and projects at hand, breaking them down into smaller, manageable components. I then create a structured schedule or to-do list, outlining the deadlines and milestones for each task.
To prioritize effectively, I evaluate the importance and urgency of each task, considering the impact they have on the overall goals and objectives. I focus on tackling high-priority items first, ensuring that critical deadlines are met and key deliverables are accomplished.
To manage my time efficiently, I utilize time-blocking techniques, allocating specific time slots for different tasks and activities. This helps me stay focused and avoid distractions. I also utilize productivity tools and technology to streamline my workflows, such as calendar applications and task management software.
Throughout the process, I remain flexible and adaptable, being open to adjusting priorities when necessary and reallocating time as new tasks or urgent requests arise."

15. “What have you done to promote great customer service?”

Firstly, know what you think great customer service looks like. Look for situations and examples when you had an idea, a client, or customer call, where you personally went that extra mile.

Did you change a process or procedure? Or perhaps a staff member you mentored, coached or advised delivered a great customer service win or result for your team, brand or business.

17. “How do you manage change?”

Change is an essential part of life in any call centre environment, as the industry strives to achieve best practice for their customers and stakeholders. Have some examples on how you personally managed, or were affected by, some change. What was your focus, what were you aiming to achieve and how did you deliver the outcome? Know what the problems encountered were and what was learned through and following the transformation.

18. “How do you plan daily and weekly activities?”

Here your potential employer is looking to see that you are capable of planning your time effectively.

They want to hear things like how you hold team meetings to discuss the week ahead and allocate time slots and deadlines for various projects.

19. “How do you ensure that your department’s goals are in line with the overall company goals?”

This question helps your interviewer to gauge whether you understand your role in your current job, and how your efforts contribute to the goals of the organisation.

For example:

"The company I currently work for publishes an annual report of KPIs relating to the goals they hope to achieve that year. I extract the company goals that are relevant to my department and break them down into weekly objectives. I then use these objectives to ensure that my team is constantly contributing to the overall goals of the organisation."

20. “How would you measure the success of you and your team over a 3, 6 and 12 month period?”

This question requires you to understand the benefits of setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) objectives and developing action plans.

For example:

"In line with the over-arching goals of the company, I would set personal goals for myself and my team which I would subsequently break down into weekly SMART objectives. I would monitor these closely through general in-office communication and a series of team meetings, as well as through scheduling individual appraisal meetings at 3, 6 and 12 month intervals."

21. “How would you manage your time and objectives in your role?”

This is your opportunity to assure your potential employer that you are capable of working in line with your objectives and getting the job done on time.

For example:

"In my current role, I break down my objectives into daily targets and outline periods of the day when I am going to focus on achieving them. I find this system works well for me and I expect to carry it into my next job."

22. “How often do you challenge the way your current company does things or challenge something that you feel needs to change?”

This is a bit of a tricky question to answer, as how you answer can determine whether your interviewer thinks you are too strong-minded or, worse, too sheep-like in your approach to work. An ideal answer will show a degree of balance.

For example:

"Throughout my term of employment, I keep a constant note of any areas that I feel can be improved. But I only present these concerns to my boss when I have developed in-depth and realistic solutions.
The frequency of these meetings is determined by how stable the company is. If the company implements several changes throughout the course of the year, I am more inclined to provide regular feedback to my boss."

23. “How creative are you in comparison to your colleagues, i.e. in managing, developing, encouraging and motivating your team?”

This question is asked to determine whether or not you are going to bring something to the team.

In an ideal answer you will confirm that you are creative in your job role, and markedly so compared to some of your colleagues. You should then proceed to give examples which demonstrate this.

This question gives you the opportunity to tell the interviewer about how you developed a Monday-morning prize-giving incentive to get your team fired up for the week. Or how you introduced daily staff meetings to keep your team engaged with the goals of the organisation. Or implemented a buddy-up training programme to help your new recruits settle in faster.

24. “How do you measure the success of your incentives?”

An ideal answer to this question will demonstrate that you are capable of monitoring a situation as it evolves.

For example:

"Whilst working in a call centre as a supervisor, I introduced ‘Sugar Fridays’ – giving my team sweets and treats to get them through the Friday slog.
Prior to introducing the incentive, I compiled a backlog of sales figures from previous Fridays. I then introduced the incentive on a trial period, continued collecting data and cross-compared the results. There was an obvious peak in sales figures and so the incentive became permanent."

25. “How have you utilised customer feedback to ensure business excellence?”

This question is set to test your ability to identify and analyse customer insight, trends and data, and drive continuous improvement, by identifying and understanding the root cause.

The interviewer will be looking for an example of where you have taken this insight and subsequently developed, implemented and improved your sales process. This could be through the introduction of training, post-sale procedures, a change in marketing communications, or other process improvements, to ensure that the cause of any future complaint is eradicated.

26. “How have you utilised customer complaint feedback to improve how your team are selling?”

This question is especially important if you are applying for a management position.

An ideal answer will demonstrate that you are capable of assessing a situation and implementing improvements.

For example:

"I started to notice that a lot of customers were complaining about feeling patronised by my agents. In response to this, I listened to the calls these complaints stemmed from and realised that words such as ‘wonderful’ were being over used. I then had a meeting with the worst offenders in my team and suggested changes that they could make to correct this behaviour. After this meeting, customer complaints reduced and sales increased."

27. “What is your experience of the whole end-to-end feedback process (talk through this process) and how do you ensure this feedback improves the service to customers?”

The answer to this will depend on the job you’re interviewing for and your experience.

I would recommend thinking about a specific instance and then discussing this in detail. Outline the process stage by stage and, if there are areas that need improvement, focus your answers on the solutions instead of the problems.

28. “How have you educated your front-line agents to ensure excellent customer feedback?”

As a leader or manager charged with delivering excellent customer feedback, you will know how important it is that customer feedback and insight are monitored, measured and acted upon, whenever appropriate or necessary.

But how about your agents? This question is very much aligned to your engagement, coaching and development skills. You need to think about the culture, communication and interactions you have with your agents.

Discuss how you impart your knowledge and experience to your agents and how you ensure that they can continue to develop the confidence, skills, knowledge and habits that will drive excellent customer feedback with every interaction.

29. “How did you recognise the level of trust or respect your team held for you and how did you ensure this continued?”

Only you will know if your team really trusts and respects you. Respectful employees will usually make you coffee, hold a door open for you, properly carry out tasks assigned to them and rarely undermine your judgement.

To maintain this level of respect, you should make time to recognise your employees’ efforts, occasionally explain how you reached a solution to a problem (this can help with buy-in for larger changes or projects) and do your best to be consistently level-headed and successful in your judgement – as it only takes one slip-up to undermine your credibility.

Give an example/role play questions

At some point in your interview, you will have to answer a question that prods you to give an example or take part in a role play situation.

This group of questions will provide you with guidance on how to deal with questions of this nature and challenge you to think of scenarios where you have demonstrated attributes that are closely link to the job description.

30. “What is the biggest challenge you have faced in work in the past 12 months?”

This is often an opening question, as it allows you to use one of your strongest examples and may help you relax. For the interviewer, it is also an indication of where your natural focus or achievements may be – people development, process, cost reduction, change etc.

31. “What is your biggest achievement?”

If possible, think work related. There will hopefully be a number of things you are most proud of in your career to date. Think about your key achievements; were they commercial, people or process orientated? What was the cause and effect? How were you involved, what was improved, saved or developed?

If you are short on career-based examples, use personal achievements which demonstrate the commercial skills required for the role, such as team work, commitment, empathy, determination, attention to detail, etc.

32. “Can you give me an example of… ?”

These questions will more often than not be based around the role competencies. Preparation and rehearsal are key to answering these effectively.

You will need two or three instances of how you may have: delivered change, managed conflict, improved performance, reduced absence, increased customer satisfaction, etc. You also need to be able to clearly and concisely communicate the problem, solution and outcome.

33. “Can you give me an example of a time when you had to motivate and develop a team in a challenging work environment?”

During interviews, difficult or awkward questions could come your way. The intention is not to catch you out, but to test how you operate under pressure.

This question is (again) in the format of competency-based interviewing, so remember to outline the specific actions you took to motivate your team, as interviewers want to see evidence of hands-on experience.

Make sure to describe all processes undertaken. For example: Did you use incentives to motivate the team? Did you implement training programmes? Did you improve internal communications to help engage staff? Did you implement or revisit career development plans to make the team feel valued? Did you take the time to understand each individual’s motivations?

Be clear and precise and be sure to convey any previous first-hand experience you have – they will want to feel confident that you can handle similar issues within the new role.

34. “Give me an example of how you have dealt with an under-performing team member in the past.”

This question is a typical example of competency-based interviewing (CBI) in practice. It is the most popular interview approach, based on the premise that future performance can be predicted by past behaviour.

The best way to prepare for CBI questions is to revisit the job description and person specification before your interview. You should then ensure that you have covered all bases and can comfortably provide examples for each competency. You must also be able to describe the particular scenario, the actions you took and the impact it had on the business.

Approach this particular question by outlining the processes you followed to investigate and resolve this issue. It is also important to explain the outcome. For example, you may have set an agenda of required actions following on from the meeting you held with the particular team member – can you describe what that was? If you created a performance plan that included clear training and development objectives make sure you say so.

Always finish by explaining how the action you took impacted the business. For example, the team member started to meet all targets and bring in more revenue.

35. Within the interview process you may be required to perform a role-play. A popular example of this is being asked to role-play an escalated call with an unhappy customer.

It is vital to have clear objectives before initiating conversation with the customer; what is your end goal? Ensure you are aware of the parameters, rules and regulations within the company. For example, if the issue is over money, can you refund it? What else can you offer to pacify the customer?

It is important to remain calm, confident, be clear and always remember to ask questions. The interviewer is looking for a patient and composed response. If you are still unsure about how best to approach role-plays contact your local recruitment consultant who should be able to offer you thorough advice.

36-38. “Please tell me about a situation where someone was performing badly in your team.”

“What was the situation?”

“How did you deal with it?”

“What was the outcome?”

A model answer to the above 4 questions could look something like this:

"As part of my regular team monitoring, I assess all advisors call quality in order to measure them against the relevant KPIs. When reviewing calls for one advisor, I noticed a trend where the advisor was quite abrupt with callers. I scheduled a meeting in private with that advisor, which I prepared for by reviewing supporting information (including their performance statistics for the month).

I adopted a supportive style as I raised my concerns with the individual regarding their approach with customers, and confirmed their awareness of the business expectations regarding excellent customer service. I sensitively discussed with them any reasons they felt they were unable to deliver this, and emphasised the balance which needed to be maintained between quality and quantity. I adopted a coaching style to enable the advisor to work through any barriers and identify solutions, agreed reasonable and tangible expectations for improvement, arranged appropriate support and scheduled weekly meetings to review their performance against these expectations. As a result, the advisor improved their performance and now consistently achieves all targets."

39. “Describe a situation in which you inspired trust and respect in your team.”

It’s important to think of and talk about a situation that’s relevant for the position you’re interviewing for. Ideally this will have had a positive outcome. By doing this you will help the interviewers to understand why you are a great fit for their team.

40. “Give an example of when you have been really stretched for a deadline, and how you made sure you completed your work on time.”

In asking this question, your potential employer is looking to see that you are prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty when the company needs you.

But you have to be careful when answering, as it is easy to fall into the trap of slagging off your current employer or seeming disorganised. Your interviewer does not want to hear how your current boss failed to provide you with resources or that you once pulled an all-nighter to meet a university deadline.

An ideal answer will centre round the busiest time of your company’s year (i.e. the Christmas rush in retail). In your example you should outline the reason for your stretched deadline and say what you did to ensure that you met it.

For example:

"Whilst working in retail over the Christmas period, there was dramatic increase in stock which needed processing. To ensure that I continued to complete my daily tasks over this time period, I frequently started work at 5am rather than 7am."

41. “Give an example of an occasion where you have given constructive criticism to a member of your peer group.”

No matter what level we operate at, we are all able to lend our experience of success to our peers – we just have to be careful not to patronise or undermine them in the process.

When answering this question, make sure that you give an example that is truly constructive and had a positive outcome. This will show your interviewer that you understand how to help improve your colleagues’ performance without hurting their feelings.

42. “Give an example of a time when things happened in work to dampen your enthusiasm. How did you motivate yourself and your team?”

This question is a test of character and is especially important if you are being interviewed for a management role.

An ideal answer will demonstrate that you are able to support your team, even when things don’t go according to plan.

For example:

"Whilst I was working in a fast-food restaurant, an unexpected coachload of football supporters came through the door. What followed was a hectic half-hour as the few staff we had on struggled to serve the high influx of customers.

To motivate my team, I came out of the back office and signed onto a till in the middle of the counter. From that position, I could support my team either side of me with phrases like ‘you’re doing well, Kelly’ whilst helping to offset the work load.

When the rush was over, I congratulated everyone on their efforts and brought chocolates in for my team the next day."

43. “What do you know about the centre/company/role?”

You are not required to be an expert on the organisation or role, but a genuine interest and basic understanding is expected. If you are working with a recruitment consultant then they should be able to provide you with extra details and assist with preparation.

In addition, look for and use press releases, corporate and social websites. Ring the call centre to see how they handle your call: do they offer ‘up-sell’, ‘cross-sell’, how was the service? Read the job description to prepare for this question, a few key facts or some knowledge show a genuine interest and commercial awareness.

44. “Discuss your current role and your reasons for applying to the organisation.”

Before your interview, you should have researched the company and seen a full job description. This information will be key to how you answer this question and show that you have made a considered application.

You need to try and align the experience gained from your current role to some of the challenges or responsibilities of the role you are applying for. Keep it to a few clear bullet points where you can.

Also think about where you are at your happiest or best. The role you are applying for may be in a new field or industry, but you may already have many of the transferable skills required.

You then need to be able to concisely explain what you can bring to the role and demonstrate how some of the skills you have (making passing reference to some of the experience you have just mentioned) would make you a good fit for this role.

45. “If successful in joining the organisation, what do you envisage your biggest challenge will be in joining it as a…?”

The answer to this really depends on the job/company you’re interviewing for. However, it’s a good idea to discuss your understanding of the company, processes, products, clients and the marketplace. As a sales team leader, you’ll also be expected to deliver strong results against your personal sales and team targets.

46. “How to deal with a difficult customer?”

Most customer service interviews will include the “How to deal with a difficult customer” interview question. For example – “Can you give me an example of a particularly difficult customer you had to deal with and how you used your skills to successfully overcome the problem they had?” or “Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult customer and how you handled the situation.”

Many interviewees freeze at this question, simply because they cannot think of an example, rather than the fact that they have never dealt with one. So have an answer prepared and make sure it is one where you resolved the issue, not one where you had to refer the customer to a higher authority (it’s amazing how many people do this). What the interviewer is looking for are the skills you possess in handling difficult customers, not the intricate detail of the particular issue the customer had.

How to answer the dealing with a difficult customer interview question. 

In your pre-prepared interview answer you should include the following:

  1. I listened carefully to what the customer had to say.
  2. I apologised and empathised with their situation.
  3. I confirmed my understanding of their concern.
  4. I took responsibility to resolve the issue.
  5. I offered a solution (plus alternatives if possible).
  6. I confirmed the customer was happy with this.
  7. I thanked the customer for raising the issue with me.
  8. I took immediate action following the call to resolve the situation.
  9. I remained calm throughout the whole process.
  10. (If appropriate) the customer wrote in to my supervisor congratulating me on my efficiency.

This may seem like a very long answer. But by explaining the situation, without going into the minutia of the product or the complaint, your response need be no more than one minute or so. You will also impress your prospective employer by demonstrating that you already have the skills necessary to handle the most difficult calls.

47.  How to deal with an angry customer

There will often be a question about how to deal with an angry customer.  A typical question would be “Name a time you had to deal with an angry customer” or “Describe a recent situation when you had to handle an angry guest or customer”.

There are two things that they are looking for here.  The first is to see what your customer service skills are like.  The second is to see if you lose your temper or if you can keep your cool.

It may help to answer that “the customer is always right” and that it is your duty to help customers out of a difficult situation.  You can describe the steps where you helped to calm a customer down, show some understanding, empathy, patience etc.

Ideally use an example of where you were able to turn the customer around and then the customer was able to thank you for your effort.

48. “Describe how you have brought about business change through use of technology and process re-engineering, describing what particular techniques you have employed, e.g. 6 sigma, lean management, etc.”

What you need to show here is primarily an understanding of the particular project management methodology. For example, 6 sigma or lean management.

You should do this by giving an example of a project that went well, and show some of the challenges that you had to overcome along the way.

In particular, it would be useful to show examples of how you managed to get the team on your side and sharing the same vision for success.

If you have no experience of these types of methodologies, you should just give an example of a project that you worked on that went well.

49. “Please tell me about an occasion when you had to analyse a large amount of complex information which led to you identifying an improvement in service delivery or cost.”

Here your interviewer is testing your ability to analyse data. An ideal answer will clearly outline the problem you were faced with, the information you extracted from the data and the changes you subsequently made to improve.

For example:

Problem: The appliance-delivery company I work for was getting consistently low ratings on its delivery service.
Action: I looked at all of the online feedback forms and personally phoned customers who had rated our service 0.
Findings: I found that the majority of our unhappy customers hated waiting in all day for their items to be delivered.
Solution: I piloted a new system where the delivery driver phoned the customer an hour before their item was due to be delivered. This stopped our customers from having to hang around the house all day waiting for their delivery.
Outcome: During the trial period, we saw a marked increase in our customer satisfaction ratings and the new system soon became standard practice.

50. “Please outline and describe your current targets and KPIs – How do you ensure you achieve these?”

Here your interviewer is checking that you are capable of working consistently towards your targets.

In an ideal answer you will outline what your current targets are, then follow this up with a discussion about how you break these targets down into weekly objectives to ensure that you are consistently working towards your annual goals.