The easy answer is yes. You must give plenty of examples. And from as many aspects of your life as possible. University experience certainly, but also include situations from your early life in order to demonstrate that competition is natural to you. Sporting activities are an obvious source here. Show that you are competitive on your own as well as within a team situation. You should also suggest that you are successfully competitive. Failing in competition will not look very good. Bring into your answer how other people see you. Do they regard you as a competitive person and if so is that a good or a bad thing? Are you the kind of person others look to when they are faced with a challenge? What are your strengths?
This is your chance to sell yourself. Before any interview you should make a list of your “Unique Selling Points” – anything which makes you a strong applicant: good academic results, relevant work experience, evidence of leadership or other relevant skills for the job. You need to back up these points with relevant examples of where you have demonstrated these. This question may be phrased in different ways such as “How would your best friend describe you?”, “Why should we take you rather than the other applicants?” or “Tell me something about yourself”. Whichever way it is phrased, this is a golden opportunity to convince the selector that you are the right person for the job: don’t waste it!! What are your weaknesses?
The classic answer is to state a strength disguised as a weakness, e.g. “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I push myself too hard”. This has been used so often that, even if true it sounds cliched and false. Interviewers know this trick. If you use it, give examples: you could say that your desire for perfection makes you very single-minded, often blotting out others to get the task done.A better strategy, is to choose a weakness that you’re working to improve and describe what action you are taking to remedy it.
For example:”I used to find it hard to talk to people I didn’t know well, but my job in the library meant that I had to help people with all kinds of queries. Now I’m happy talking to anybody one-to-one and I’ve joined the debating society to give me experience of speaking in front of an audience.” Everyone has weaknesses and if you refuse to admit to any the interviewer will mark you down as arrogant, untruthful or lacking in self-awareness. Are you leader?
Yes, I’ve always been good at this. Where is your evidence – the interviewer is unlikely to take your answer at face value. I’m not sure. This may be honest which may appeal to the interviewer, but he/she will have expected you to assess your suitability for the job before applying – if you can’t give evidence that you have the skills required backed up by examples, you are unlikely to get very far. Here is an example of where I showed leadership skills ….This is what is looked for – evidence of skills as shown by real examples. You need to make sure that you have looked through your CV for examples of where you have demonstrated these skills before the interview. Tell me about yourself
Talking about your interests and hobbies is quite acceptable but unlikely to advance your case unless your hobbies are related to the job or you have achievements in these areas that you wish to put across. Give a brief summary of the key decisions you have taken in your life can be a good solution, allowing you to explain positively any problems that you had and to show that you use logical planning and decision making skills when making important decisions. If however your approach is intuitive and you just fall into things, this might not be the correct approach for you!. Start at about the age of 16 and mention any important turning points in your life such as how you chose your A levels, degree subject, university and why you are applying to this career.If there are any weaknesses in your application this can be a good chance to explain these in a positive way. Tell me about you INTERESTING
Don’t be embarrassed or mention that you collect beer mats. Take this opportunity to make some positive statements. In particular your relevant strengths, qualities, achievements and recent experience could all be described. Equally, if you possess a particular distinction it should be mentioned here. An example could be a sporting achievement of significance, a local honour for helpfulness or bravery or anything else that will help the interviewer single you out in their mind: as long as it is positive and commendable of course. You may be asked about something you have mentioned in your application. In which case you will be expected to be reasonably knowledgeable and interested in the topic. Be prepared! What motivates you are
You could say, ‘I thrive on daily challenges and from the satisfaction of performing well. I particularly enjoy being part of a productive team and contributing to the overall success of the company’. It may be wiser, however, to relate what motivates you much more specifically to the requirements and duties of the job you are applying for. Stock answers are all very well, but they are certainly no substitute for well-reasoned responses which directly apply to the job in hand. Analyse the key skills required by the job and try and intertwine your motivations within them.
Look at the rewards offered by the job and consider these as prime motivating factors. Demonstrate that motivation comes easy to you. Show you are self-motivating. You do not want to appear as someone who always needs an external force to get you going. Give examples of activities you have undertaken or jobs you have completed where your own motivation was a significant factor in getting the thing done. Why did you choose the A-levels you did?
The A-level subjects you chose are largely irrelevant, so answer this question honestly, although A levels which demand numeracy, analytical skills and communication skills may help. If you have not done A levels, but entered university by some other route such as an Access course, explain why this was so – you may find the selectors will in this case put a lot of weight on your degree performance.A-levels are close to the heart of Accountancy firms. This is because your performance in the profession’s examinations have been shown to correlate quite closely to A-level examination performance. Many firms will have a points requirement, but will also be interested in your reasoning behind the choice of subjects. Why did you choose your University
Be honest, but try to show evidence for careful consideration and logic in your choice. The interviewer may follow up this question by asking if, with hindsight, you felt you made the right choice, or how you feel the course you have followed could be improved. Constructive and thoughtful criticism is appreciated, but try to balance any criticisms with positive points too.You could include in your answer any of the following:* Advice & guidance from teaching/careers staff at school or college* Geographical preferences* Availability of a particular course* The research and/or teaching quality of institutions* Cost factors* The reputation of the institution, or individual members of staffIf decision making is an important part of the job you are applying for, this is a real opportunity for you to demonstrate a key skill. You can show how you make decisions by talking about how you chose your degree course with logic, foresight and after a good deal of research. How has your study compared to your acceptation
If you have any criticisms of your course, or your University more generally, don’t be afraid to make them – but be sure that your comments are constructive. Mention any steps that you took to overcome problems that arose. If everything about the course was fine, highlight the aspects that you found most useful or interesting and try and relate them to the job for which you are now applying. You could, for example, mention project work or a year spent at an overseas University. Tell me about the vacation you did with blogs and Co
Investment Analyst This is another chance to relate your experience and skills to the job you are now being interviewed for. You might start by outlining what the organisation does (if it is not a well known one), which department you worked in and what your tasks and responsibilities were. What have you learned from your work experience?
This question is asked in conjunction with what you will have said on your application form or CV about the work experience you have had. You need to convey some of the key transferable skills you have acquired such as decision making, communication, negotiation or liaison. It should already be the case that your application presented your work experience in order for these attributes to be displayed. What you need to do now is reiterate and develop these attributes so that the employer is clear that you already have certain fundamental skills which can be built upon. You may also wish to emphasize that you are clear on your career intentions as a result of your work experience. Having already had some experience you know what you like and dislike about work. You can claim to be certain that the job you are being interviewed for is suited to you because what you learned from your past work experience suggests this. Why do you want this job?
One of the most predictable questions! You need to demonstrate your knowledge of the employer (by reading employer brochures/annual reports etc.,) as well as tying that knowledge in to a positive reason why you chose to apply. For example, when applying to a medium-sized firm of accountants you may wish to emphasise how the size will affect any of the following factors:Breadth of experienceOpportunity for promotionRange of clientsRelationships with staff.You will also need, however, to be very much more specific than just commenting on the effects of size.
Pick a feature by which the employer describes themselves. In one accountant’s recruitment literature, for example, they mention that they are not looking for ‘clones’. This could be a feature which you choose as important. Alternatively, the employer may be small and not have any recruitment literature. In this case you will need to do more research into their industry, products, competitors etc. What makes you the best candidate for the job?
This allows you to put across your USPs or unique selling points – the three or four things that are the best things on your CV. Try to back these points up with examples of where you have had to use them. Consider the requirements of the job and compare these with all your own attributes – your personality, skills, abilities or experience. Where they match you should consider these to be your major strengths. The employer certainly will. For example, team work, interpersonal skills, creative problem solving, dependability, reliability, originality, leadership etc., could all be cited as strengths. Work out which is most important for the particular job in question and make sure you illustrate your answer with as many examples from as many parts of your experience, not just university, as you can. Where do you see yourself in five year time?
Try to avoid vague or general answers such as “I would hope to grow with the responsibility I am offered and to develop my skills as far as I am able” or “I would expect to be in a management role within my function by then”. This question allows you to demonstrate that you have done your research on the career routes open to you within the organisation and so you should try to be more specific: not necessarily tying yourself down to a particular route, but showing that you have at least a general idea of where you want to go. Use the employer’s recruitment literature to gain an idea of the career paths followed by past graduates. You may be able to supplement this by showing your knowledge of professional bodies and the steps you will need to take to gain their qualifications, e.g. in areas such as accountancy, marketing or personnel.