I've collected together these fifteen classic questions that you should definitely brush up on before your interview. I've chosen these questions partly because they form the basis of almost every other interview question, but also because my research suggests that these are the fifteen questions you're most likely to be asked.
You can find the first five questions in my blog post The Fateful 15 Part 1. Here are five more questions for you to prepare:
6. What's your preferred management style?
• The real question: Are you and I going to get on?
• How to approach it: Aim to be the boss and the subordinate you always wanted for yourself, even if nobody's perfect.
Very often the person interviewing you will be your future boss, so it's almost inevitable they'll ask what you do and don't like in a manager. And it's a good sign if they do - some bosses wouldn't think to ask and some wouldn't care to.
The blueprint for answering this question is predictable enough. Bosses want to see someone who can work under their own steam but who will also recognise that a workplace is hierarchical.
7. Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
• The real question: Are you after this job or just any job? How soon will you need a new challenge? Do you have a realistic sense of what we can offer you?
• How to approach it: If you don't know, calmly say so, as if not knowing were the most natural thing in the world - because it is.
This question is both highly popular and, for some, exceedingly difficult to answer.
If you're one of those superhuman types with a well-mapped-out career plan, one that doesn't sound too prescriptive and presumptuous, then by all means wheel that plan out when you're asked this question.
Everybody else - i.e. most of us - should give themselves permission to not have the faintest idea where they'll be in five years' time. It's perfectly normal and ok to not know. And if you make your inner peace with not knowing, you will be on the way to delivering a good answer.
8. How would you do this job?
• The real question: How well do you know us? What's your take on what we need? What's your preferred style of working?
• How to approach it: Talk about diplomacy before talking about your plans.
Be careful here. This question may give you a chance to talk about your experience and skills that are relevant to the role, but you can't know how a company really functions until you've started working there - so don't be wrong-footed into making sweeping statements.
You can answer by referring to previous success in your current job. Describe your way of working there and what you have achieved, taking care to relate everything to the vacancy on offer. Say you'd like to replicate those successes if you are offered the role.
9. What have you achieved in other roles?
• The real question: What's the very best that we can expect from you? Is it what we need?
• How to approach it: Keep it recent, work-related and well-rehearsed. Permit yourself to sound confident - they want you to be.
Good news, everybody! You've just obtained temporary clearance to blow your own trumpet! Too bad, then, that so few people are capable of articulating what makes them different from the other candidates, let alone better.
There are a few things you can do to make talking about yourself feel natural. First, remember that the interviewer has willingly suspended the conversational niceties of modesty and subordination, and they want to hear about the best version of you
Second, think of your achievements as a plotline rather than solely as a list of numbers or promotions. Don't be afraid to include dramatic effects such as doubt, conflict and growth to bring your listener in.
10. What did you like and dislike about your last job?
• The real question: What do you want from us that the last lot couldn't give you? Can we give it to you?
• How to approach it: Start with a long list of what makes you happy, then let them know that you don't expect perfection in any job.
You might think it's ill-advised to bring up something that you didn't like about your previous job in an interview, because no one wants to hire a moaner. But the interviewer is inviting you to say something negative, on the assumption that we're all human and no job is perfect. Therefore, don't dodge the question - you really should talk about a few things you didn't enjoy.
Make sure your answer demonstrates grit and a strong work ethic. This question really does require you to make a careful inventory of your likes and dislikes long before you go into the interview room: you'll be sorry if you improvise that list on the spot.
The key to mastering each of these 'Fateful 15' questions is preparation - as the saying goes: "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." While there's no way that you can prepare for every possible question that might come up at interview, you can go a long way - though not all the way - by preparing an answer to these fifteen questions alone.
I'll be sharing my advice for tackling the final five classic interview questions in my next post, The Fateful 15 Part 3. You can find more advice on how to answer these questions and many others in my best-selling book Why You? 101 Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again.