How to Answer Common Job Interview Questions

8 mins read
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During my two years working here at Madison Recruitment I’ve gained some useful insights into the types of interview questions that are popular with employers. From the post-interview feedback that I collect from my candidates, I’ve noticed that there are particular questions that are asked over and over again, and I wanted to share this intel with you so that when you’re job hunting, you can go into your interviews well prepared!

Regardless of whether the interview is for a permanent, fixed term, or temporary role, these are the top five most commonly asked questions and how you can answer them well, to secure your dream role!


1. What strengths and/or skills will you bring to this role?

You can almost guarantee that this question is going to come up in any interview that you have.

The interviewer is looking for you to sell yourself. When prepping to answer this question, I’d suggest reviewing the job advert and role description, and making a list of both the ‘soft’ skills (personal habits and traits) and ‘hard’ skills (technical knowledge and experience) that you’ll need to be successful in the role that you’re interviewing for. Then consider what transferable skills you have that match these requirements. Going back over your CV can be really helpful here!

When identifying your transferable soft skills, think of examples from past jobs where personal aspects like your time management, problem-solving, or organisational abilities had a positive impact.

When identifying hard skills, think about the daily tasks of the role and the specific knowledge and experience you have that will be useful. This could be anything from advanced skills in Microsoft Office, to working knowledge of the Adobe suite, or practical payroll management experience — whatever’s relevant to the job!

No matter what you talk about in your interview, make sure you tailor your answers to the employer, and highlight the skills or strengths you have which would be most beneficial to that particular role, team, or organisation.

2. What do you know about the company, and why do you want to work here?

To answer this question well, it’s important to do your homework on the company before your interview, so that you’re all prepared to whip out your research (verbally of course – no need to pull out a folder full of notes!).

It’s easy to gather information to help you answer this question. Your first stop should be the company website (especially the ‘About Us’ section), followed by LinkedIn (most organisations have a ‘company page’). It can also help to look for the latest news about the company – just do a Google search and select the ‘News’ tag (underneath the search bar) to see where the business has been mentioned across various news sites and publications. And of course it’s always worth asking around within your own network too!

At the end of your research, you should have a good understanding of what the business does (i.e. it’s purpose, goal, or mission), and any other relevant information, like it’s history or how it fits  into the wider industry/sector. Look for both general information about the organisation as a whole, as well as the role you’re interviewing for; read the job description thoroughly (at least a couple of times) and make sure that you can clearly articulate how the role fits into the wider organisation, and how it helps contribute to the company’s success.

When answering why you want to work for the company, this is obviously personal to you and the reasons you think the company is a good fit for you, but a starting point could be to look at the organisation’s values and identify which ones align with your own personal values.

If you can show the employer that you’ve come prepared, you’re familiar with the organisation, and you know why you want to join the company, then you’ll ace this question!


3. Tell us about yourself.

I know that this very open-ended question is open to interpretation (to a degree) and can seem quite tricky to answer! Do I tell the employer about my rock collecting hobby? How much do they really want to know about my personal life?

Post-pandemic, there’s been much more of a push from candidates looking for improved work/life balance. Employers have become more mindful of their employees’ lives outside of the workplace, and in order to understand potential hires better, interviewers want to get to know you as a person, in addition to hearing about your professional experience. They might also be trying to establish whether you’re a good fit for the team or organisation, especially if the company has a strong social culture.

My advice here is to make the split about 80% professional, and 20% personal life. Maintain your privacy of course, but it’s good to be able to communicate a little about what makes you tick outside of work. Use your common sense and judgement about what to share, but if there’s anything interesting or super important to you which would naturally come up in conversation with a colleague, that’s a good place to start.

Sharing both sides of you will let the interviewer know more about who you are, and give them insight into what you value, how you work best, and how they can support you.


4. Tell me about a situation where you had to deal with conflict.

This is just one of many different ‘behavioural’ questions you might be asked. I’ve noticed that our clients are more likely to ask these types of questions for permanent and long-term temporary positions, so keep that in mind when preparing for those types of roles.

A behavioural question is intended to uncover how you acted in a specific work situation, and thee idea is that your answer reveals your skill level, how you react to stress, how you conduct yourself etc.

The best way to answer these particular questions is using the ‘STAR Technique’. You respond in the following format and order:


This technique for answering questions has been around for years and continues to be recommended because it’s a nice tidy way to give a solid answer.

To prepare for behavioural questions, you’ll need some specific workplace examples, so I’d suggest listing out a few different questions, reviewing your CV to help jog your memory, and then noting down a couple of different answers (writing them down helps you remember everything in the correct format during the interview).

Here’s a few other common ones you could use to prepare:

  • Describe a time where you were required to prioritise to meet a tight deadline.
  • Give me an example of how you solve problems.
  • Describe a situation where you had to work in a team.
  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a challenge and overcame it.

As you may have noticed, behavioural questions are often phrased in similar ways, making them easy to identify. So don’t worry if you get a question you haven’t prepared for — even if it’s phrased differently, just remember to use the STAR technique and you’ll be fine!

And one final tip: when moving through the STAR framework, make sure that you’re giving enough detail without going overboard. I would aim for roughly three minutes per answer, while ensuring that you aren’t babbling (we’ve all been there)!


5. What are your motivators/drivers? What makes you excited to turn up to work each day?

With this question, the interviewers are looking to identify what gets you out of bed in the morning so that you’re able to bring energy and dedication to your potential new role. Are you buzzed about working in a busy, team environment, and enjoy the challenge of a tight deadline? Do you love learning? Do you thrive when working in a challenging, varied position? Do you value a clear growth and progression plan?

The key to answering this strengths-focused question is to think about the role in its entirety, and identify what’s unique about you. What is it about your combination of skills, your personality, your distinctive knowledge and experience, that can add value to not only the job itself, but the team and organisation. Ideally, whatever you say about your drivers should be backed up by a couple of examples from your work history.

Remember, interviews are a two-way assessment. You’re figuring out if you want the job, and employers are reviewing if you are right for the role and company.


Being prepared is your secret weapon

Job interviews can be stressful, and while we never know exactly what the employer is going to ask, being prepared for these common questions will hopefully reduce some of that stress, and give you space to shine. I know that as a nation, us Kiwis don’t generally like to sell ourselves or put ourselves out there, but we need to! Give yourself the best chance by preparing in advance so that you can answer interview questions with ease, skill, and professionalism, and show that you’re the right candidate for the job!

Hannah Williams
Senior Consultant

A bit about me With a background in HR and administration, the world of recruitment was only one step away, and here I am making a career out of it. As a Senior…

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