Job Applications: Questions about your present, or most recent, job can be tricky and if you aren’t careful you can ruin your chances by making negative or undiplomatic comments. So make sure you are prepared.
In an ideal world, we’d all get on brilliantly with the boss and our colleagues – and we’d love every minute of the job. If this were the case, it’s very unlikely we’d ever look for another post. In the real world, the reason you want to leave a job may well be that you don’t get on with the boss or your immediate supervisor, or that the routine has become mind-numbingly boring.
However terrible your present job, the interview is not the time to discuss it. You must be professional and don’t forget, if you are offered the position, the people interviewing you will be your boss and colleagues and they don’t want to work with someone who will complain about them at the first opportunity.
What questions might you be asked about your recent work history? How do you get on with your boss? And how about your colleagues? Why do you want to leave? What do you dislike about your job?
Let’s start with the first two.
How do you get on with your boss or your colleagues?
Whatever the reality, you must give a positive answer. You could say, for example, that you have a good working relationship and that you have always found your boss helpful and supportive; there is a good team spirit and you get on well with your colleagues or that you work together effectively. If you are asked for specific faults in your boss or co-workers, don’t be tempted to run anyone down. This question is not about them, it’s about you and your loyalty. So never say anything against anyone you work with or have worked with in the past. If you feel you can’t honestly give any of the above answers, really think about the people you work with and find something positive that you could say about them.
Why do you want to leave your present job?
You need to think carefully about this one, as employers don’t want to think that you hop from job to job, get bored quickly or are more interested in your after work activities. If there is an obvious reason, such as the end of your contract, redundancy, or you are moving to a different area, say so. Many people are reluctant to say that they have been made redundant, but remember that it’s the post which has been redundant, not you.
What do you say if the truth is that you are bored to death in your present post?
Think carefully about why you are applying for the job in question. What do you think it will give you that your present job does not? Money and longer holidays are the wrong answers. If these are the real reasons, you may well end up just as bored in this job. Take a close look at what the company has to offer. Will it give you an opportunity which is lacking in your present post, for example, to develop existing skills or learn new ones? Or will you have the chance to use specific qualifications or abilities, such as foreign languages, which aren’t needed in your present post? Is there the possibility of advancement, receiving mentoring or taking on new responsibilities which you are unable to do now?
What do you dislike about your job?
Again, caution is needed. If you say that you specifically dislike something, it may be a part of the new job, which would indicate you didn’t read the job description properly and that you’ll dislike this job just as much.
You could say that you enjoy your job but feel ready for something more challenging or that you have learned a great deal but are now ready to move to a post in which you will have more responsibility.
The bottom line – before applying for a new job, make sure you can give positive reasons for leaving the old one and clear motivation for choosing the new one – and never criticise any of your co-workers.
No one likes admitting to weaknesses, but this is a favourite interview question, and one you need to be prepared for.
This is not the time to confess your deepest secrets or expose embarrassing mistakes you have made in previous jobs. You should choose an area in which you don’t have quite as much experience or confidence as you’d like – something which you will have the opportunity to work on in the job for which you are applying.
It should not be something which you are expected to have already mastered, but something which will be useful for the post and can be developed over time. If you will be expected to give regular presentations, for example, saying that you find this difficult won’t go down well. However, if this isn’t expected at your level, but would be once you’ve moved up the ladder, you might say that you find it a bit nerve wracking and could do with more practice.
Check the job description and person specification for essential and desirable skills and be sure to choose something which is non-essential. It could be that you are unfamiliar with a particular software package which only plays a small part in the job.
Once you have decided on your weakness, be sure to emphasize your willingness to improve and your awareness that you will have the opportunity to do so in the job.
And your greatest strength?
Many people have much more difficulty finding a strength than admitting to a weakness, but if you are asked to supply the latter, there is a good chance you’ll be asked for a strength as well. So be sure to prepare something.
Which aspects of your present job are you naturally good at? Is there anything about your work which has been praised by managers or commented on by co-workers?
If you are just leaving college, which skills did you develop as a student or in other activities such as voluntary work – being a team player, researching information, communication skills?
You should also relate your chosen strength to the job you’re applying for. What is it that the interviewers want and that you know you can deliver?
Your strength needs to be based on reality and should be strong. This is your chance to shine, to bring your best qualities and abilities to the attention of the interviewers. Saying you’re quite good at working in a team won’t cut any ice. You must illustrate your team-working skills with an impressive example, something the panel will remember when they come to make their decision.
Preparation is the key to answering interview questions – make sure you do it.