Do job interviews put you in a cold sweat? Preparation is the key, says Jacky Simmonds, Tui Travel’s group HR director, who shares the common questions interviewers like to ask
It might be stating the obvious, but preparing for an interview is a must. You should research the company well, understand who you will be meeting and coherently be able to explain both your past experience and your aspirations. More than anything, you need to stand out and to make a lasting impression.
The jobs market is competitive. So if you’re lucky enough to get an interview this is your time to shine.
It can be hard to make the right candidate choices, so interviewers will often come up with new and daunting questions. Often there is no right or wrong answer but it’s your ability to think on the spot that matters. Answering the question, you should tell them the story - the scenario, what you did and what you learnt.
Remember: Illustrate your answer with examples, impressive achievements, such as awards or contracts you’ve won, and focus on the areas of most relevance to the job. It is how you answer these that can often determine what is in between you and your dream job.
Tell us about a time you’ve worked with a difficult colleague
Rather than concentrating on their bad traits or why you didn’t get on, you need to focus how you overcame the situation and what you learnt from it. Perhaps you have a colleague who is consistently undermining you or you work with a big personality, who hasn’t let you get your point across. Show how you solved this and what the outcome was.
How do you think you would add value to this company?
This isn’t an invitation to boast - you are being asked to match your strengths to the qualities needed to do the job. Don’t forget, it’s a very specific question. Why are you suited to this job, as opposed to any other? Thorough employer research will save the day, as it will enable you to match your skills, interests and experience to the job role and the company.
What is your biggest weakness?
The problem with this question is that you’re being asked about your shortcomings, when your instinct, in an interview situation, is to keep your flaws as well hidden as possible. What you need to do is to frame your answer so as to give it a positive spin.
Strengths and weaknesses can be different sides of the same coin, so another way to approach this question is to think about how you overcome the potential downside of your greatest strength. For example, if you’re a natural team worker, is it difficult for you to cope with conflict or assume leadership abilities? How do you cope with this?
If I spoke to your boss, what would they say about you?
When an interviewer asks you this, they are looking for evidence that you have sought feedback from a manager. You should use this as a way of showing how you acted upon that feedback to ultimately improve your performance.
Give an example of a time when you showed initiative
If an interviewer asks you to describe a situation in which you showed initiative, avoid giving an example of an idea you had but never put into action. Employers need thinkers but they also want “doers”.
Tell me about a time when you failed at something
Feel free to reframe the question. This is similar to asking “Can you give an example of a time when you had to cope with a difficult situation?” or “Give an example of a time when you had to cope under pressure”. You may find it easier to give an example if you think back through your work experience, study, extracurricular activities and travel and come up with a time when you had to cope with an unexpected problem.
What is your greatest achievement?
Be confident and proud. If it was a team effort, let them know but say you were instrumental in driving the team forward or kept everyone to time or budget. If you increased sales or received excellent feedback, let them know.
What is the future of the travel and tourism industry?
Here the interviewer is looking for passion and insight. With a question like this you have permission to be creative - have a bit of fun!