In late 2022, we surveyed 763 candidates in STEM to find out which common interview questions were most stressful. ‘Why should you get this job’ was ranked as the most stressful question (31%), followed by ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time (27%), ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses’, and finally, ‘Tell me about yourself’ (16%)
Further comments from our respondents reflect a sense of frustration with abstract questioning, and a desire to understand why recruiters ask these questions and what information they’re looking for.
In this article Chris Beckenham, Team Leader at SRG, explores the logic behind these questions, while providing actionable advice for candidates to support interview preparation.
Read on to find out:
- What interviewers are looking for in common interview questions
- Best ways to prepare for a job interview
- How to find your next job in STEM
What interviewers are looking for in common interview questions
Question 1: Why should you get this job?
When asking this question, interviewers are assessing what specifically makes you stand out from other candidates in the process. As an interviewee, I would recommend mentioning specialist experience that could help fill a gap in the wider team, or a success story that reflects the impact you could deliver in the organisation.
It’s important to remember that interviews are a two-way process, in the same way that the company is selling themselves to you, you should have a clear idea of what you can bring to the table as a candidate and highlight whatever makes you stand out.
Question 2: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
With this question, interviewers are assessing whether your development lines up with what the organisation can offer, and whether your long-term goals are in line with the company’s business plans.
While you may want to go far quickly, not every company can offer development opportunities. An interviewer or recruiter asking this question is gauging the suitability of the candidate both in terms of what the company can offer, as well as their level of self-awareness.
When answering this question, I’d recommend keeping your ambitions realistic, and aligned to both your experience level and the company you’re interviewing for.
Question 3: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
When asking this question interviewers want to see self-awareness. Weaknesses aren’t always negative – your interviewer will want candidates to be aware of where they need development and opportunities. From here, if they have the time and resources to provide those opportunities for development in the role, they can assess and recommend suitably.
Focusing your answer on areas where you perhaps lack experience, and showing an enthusiasm for learning, can be a reliable strategy when answering this question.
Question 4: Tell me about yourself
This question is designed to assess team fit. From an interviewer’s perspective, an interview provides a snapshot of information on a candidate, that they must use to gauge personality, experience and team fit.
As a candidate, you should consider how you can best represent your ability to integrate and work collaboratively in a wider team, alongside providing information about your experience. Remember, organisations that are hiring look for people who are committed, aligned and able to embed themselves within the team.
Best ways to prepare for a job interview
I recommend that candidates treat interviews as they would any business meeting. Just as you wouldn’t meet with a client without adequate preparation or material, so should you take the time to prepare before the interview. One way to do this is by making key notes and taking them with you.
Interviews are not memory tests and having notes to hand can help shape responses in a more effective way, while signalling to hiring managers that you’ve invested time in preparation.
When it comes to preparing those notes, assess the job specification against your CV and annotate where your experience aligns with the job spec. Annotate wherever you have experience in scenarios, and where you do not– this demonstrates that you are self-aware and will equip you with foreknowledge of where your opportunities for development in the role may lie.
Another key element for preparation is researching the company itself. Start on the company website, before you explore their social media. Companies are receptive to candidates who show a strong background knowledge. Note down key conversation points, such as conferences attended, charities sponsored, or events they’ve held.
Finally, write and prepare your questions in advance. Prepare notes for questions through the interview, as well as questions for the end of the interview. If you don’t understand a question you’re asked, asking the interviewer to re-phrase the question is appropriate and can provide you with the extra few seconds you may need to consider your response.
How to find your next job in STEM
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About the author: Chris Beckenham specialises in the UK Chemicals Industry here at SRG. Click here to connect with Chris on Linkedin.