What are you looking for in this job?
“Avoid generic answers such as, ‘I’m looking for my next challenge’, or worse, answers that focus on working conditions that benefit you, such as short working hours,” says Fletcher. “An employer is looking for someone who will be an asset to their business, not someone who’s desperate to get out the door each day.” Let your enthusiasm show. “I suggest something like, ‘I’m not afraid of a challenge and relish any opportunity to get stuck in and produce results.’” As Anderson puts it, “The more you can fit into their long-term plans and not just your own, the more likely you’ll get the job!”
What can you bring to the role?
“Anyone can say they’re hardworking and committed, but I look for the things I see, rather than the things I hear,” says Beling. Get on the company website, research trends in the organisation, download their annual report, and jot down a few questions to ask. “Employers love this; it creates talking points more than anything, but also displays passion and energy – and these traits are key.” Anderson says it’s best to interweave your ‘research’ into your answers. “You could say, ‘I noticed an article with your CEO in the Financial Review that you’re planning to open more offices in Melbourne. I have some experience in the local market there. Do you have a need for more local experience for those clients?’” If you really want to blow them away, show initiative and take some work samples – such as project, blogs, sample reports, strategic plans – with you to the interview. “These get amazing cut-through and will help you stand out from the crowd.”
What is your weakness?
Be careful not to mention any of the required skills that they’re looking for in the role. “If time management is crucial to this role, don’t say your organisation skills are your weakness!” advises Jane Anderson, career coach and founder of Inside Out Coach (insideoutcoach.com.au). Rather, reassure your interviewer that you’re aware of an area for development but are noticing an improvement. “You need to show that it isn’t a permanent issue or problem.” Danielle Fletcher, career psychologist at Ascends Personal Branding, agrees. “The secret is to view this question as one about development; this shows good self-awareness and motivation.” Mention the area, followed by improvement strategies. “You could say, ‘I find speaking in front of large audiences difficult, so I’ve signed up for a public speaking course to fine-tune my technique.’”
What are your salary expectations?
Don’t be afraid to say an exact figure, based on your research of comparable roles, says Kate Boorer, employee engagement specialist and founder of Employerbility (employerbility.com.au). “If you respond with a salary range, a hiring manager would consider the lower half.” Rather, state your desired package. “Say, ‘Ideally I would be looking for a total package of $100k, however am flexible depending on your budgets and other workplace benefits.’” As a rule of thumb, Boorer suggests adding an extra $5,000 onto a salary expectation so that you can demonstrate flexibility if required. In today’s market, it’s unlikely that you’ll score a significant, i.e. 10 per cent, raise for a similar role at another company, so you may want to consider negotiating something else. “Salaries are fixed based on budget requirements, but a manager could authorise flexible working hours or other perks.”
Why is there a gap on your CV?
If you had five months off to travel or work overseas, this is a great way to share something personal about you, says Susan Beling, managing director at Adecco. Managers are interested in what makes you tick as a person, so be proud of your life experiences. If it’s taken you a while to land a job since finishing up at your last workplace, you can say, ‘I’ve been selective in what I’m looking for’ or ‘I’ve been able to afford to take some time off.’ If you do answer the latter, talk about what you’ve been doing with your time to improve your employability. “Mention any courses, charity or volunteer work you’ve done and highlight what you have learned during your time out from the workforce,” says Fletcher. “You could respond like this: ‘During the last six months I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, improve my interpersonal skills, and give back to my local community, which I think will be a great asset for me in this role.”
How long do you plan to stay with us?
Most employers are looking to ‘grow’ individuals within a company and retention continues to be a key agenda item for most organisations. If you’re only looking for a short-term job, be honest about your intentions to ensure you don’t burn bridges down the track. “Propose this to the interview, they may not have thought of it an as option,” says Fletcher. It all comes down to how you frame it. “Say, ‘I believe that this role provides a fantastic opportunity for a skilled contractor to come in and work with you for six months to boost sales. After this point, you’ll have the systems in place to handle the role within the team you have. With my skill set, I truly believe I could make this happen for you.”
Why did you leave your last job?
Be honest and consistent, says Beling. “If you felt it was time to move on, say so, reflecting on a few key achievements in your previous role. If you’re looking for something more senior, say that you’re ready to step up. If anything sounds unnatural it will be ear marked for reference checking.” It’s a good idea to focus on what you’re looking to achieve by moving roles, rather than what you want to get away from, advises Boorer. “Rather than talking about being bored in your old job, discuss your desire to gain more experience or skills.” Challenging relationships with past colleagues or bosses can be tricky to navigate around, but remember that badmouthing your former workplace will reflect badly on you, so steer clear.