What are the most common interview questions?

And how on earth do you answer?

bad job interview   concept

Recently, we looked at some of the weirdest questions to be asked at interview; they included "What dinosaur would you like to be?" and "Do you like to sing in the bath?"

Needless to say, these head-scratching posers don't come up all that often in job interviews and, as a result, there's probably not much point mugging up for them. But what are the questions that you are most likely to be asked at some of the UK's top employers - and what are the most common interview questions overall?

The 10 most common interview questions (Glassdoor)
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Why are you interested in working for us?
Where do you see yourself in five years' time? In ten years?
Why do you want to leave your current company?
Why is there a gap in your employment history?
What can you offer us that someone else can not?
What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
Are you willing to relocate?
Are you willing to travel?

At least some of these are more or less certain to come up in any given interview, and you should have your answer well prepared.

And answering questions about your strengths, at least, should be easy - that's what you're there for, after all. But it's a great deal harder when it comes to discussing your weaknesses, or the things your boss would like you to improve: claiming you're too conscientious just won't wash.

"A brief silence often follows such an answer, as the interviewer decides whether to laugh in your face or ask you if you think that they're completely stupid," says Douglas Richardson of job site CareerCast. "No matter how polished your delivery, the strength-as-weakness ploy usually comes across as an obvious non-answer."

Instead, he says, pick a genuine weakness, but one that's not likely to really affect your job performance. He also recommends framing your answer in the form "given the choice between A and B, I prefer A", rather than saying "I'm not much good at B".

If you're asked why you wish to work for that particular company, make sure you've done your research. You could point to its market-leading position, perhaps, or explain why this particular position is the perfect fit for your skills.

Where you see yourself in five years' time can be tricky. Don't say you want to be in the interviewer's chair - or, worse, doing his or her boss's job. Nor do you want to imply that this job is a stop-gap, and you'll be off into a different career at the first opportunity.

"If you're going for an entry level position, for example, explain how you'd like your career to progress (for example, 'I'd like to progress to a Senior Software Engineer' or 'I see myself being a team leader...')," suggests Michael Cheary of employment agency Reed.

"If you're going for a more senior position, explain how you'd be looking to move the company forward. Have a look at their business strategy or corporate objectives before the interview, and explain how you can help in achieving them."

Similarly, explaining why you want to leave your present company is easy if you can focus on the opportunities of the new job.

Discussing a gap on your CV can be difficult. But if the reason's that you've been bringing up children, caring for a relative or taking a course, there's no reason to apologise or feel that it has to be explained away.

If not, making your CV a little less detailed - listing previous jobs in terms of years, rather than months - may deal with the gap. Don't lie, and try and extend a period of employment to cover the missing time, as you're quite likely to be found out.

Of course it's impossible to prepare for every question that can come up: the list below, compiled from Glassdoor reviews, shows just how much variety there is at some of the UK's top companies.
But if you feel yourself completely stymied by a question you weren't expecting, just remember: interviewers are people too, and may be feeling just as nervous and unprepared as you.

Interview questions at top employers (Glassdoor)

- How many calories are in a grocery store?"
- What is your favourite Google product and how would you improve it?
- What is your motivation for this role?
- Tell me of a time when you dealt with a difficult customer
- What is your role in a team?
- Explain AdWords to a four-year-old child.

- Can you calculate how many tennis balls are used during the course of Wimbledon?"
- Describe a situation where you had to work on a team.
- Write a program in your choice of programming language to solve a particular problem in 20 minutes.

- How would you sell a fridge to an eskimo?
- What is world class service?
- Can you suggest a new service, or how to improve an existing one?
- How many stores does Harrods have?

- What cartoon character would you be and why?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What is good customer service to you?

Urban Outfitters
- What ten items would you take to a desert island, and why?
- What would you do about an angry customer?
- What was your last job and what did you like about it?
- If we gave you £100 to spend in store, what would you spend it on?

- Describe a time when you've worked with a difficult person or situation.
- If you were able to shoot your colleague to save the world, would you?
- Please tell us a time when your communication made a difference.
- Justify the existence of part X of the BBC. Why do we need it?
- What's been the most difficult career decision you've ever taken?

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