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Job interview questions and answers

Explore top interview questions and example answers using the STAR and SET techniques. Get tips for how to answer common questions.

Find out more about the STAR, SET and other interview techniques.

Practice answering questions aloud. If you can, practice with someone that can give you honest feedback. The more you practice, the more confident you will be in the interview.

Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult person

This example will use the STAR technique to answer: Situation, Task, Action, Result

Tip: Think of an example when you had to deal with someone difficult that had a successful result. Use a work situation if possible. Use a personal example if you have not got any work experience yet.

Situation: I was working at Smith’s store, and a customer approached me. He told me that he had looked for a plant that had been in the store the day before and had come back to buy it but couldn’t find it. He was quite angry as he said he had looked all over the store.

Task: I needed to calm the customer down and to help him find what he was looking for.

Action: I offered to check whether the plant was in stock and explained that I could check the stock on the computer, as well as going to check the shelves. I asked whether he would like to wait or to have a look around the store while he was waiting. The customer decided to wait.

I checked the computer and explained to the customer that the plant he wanted was in stock but had been moved. I checked where the plant had been moved to and offered to take the customer to the aisle. The customer accepted my offer. I took him to the right aisle and found the plant for him. I asked him if there were anything else he was looking for and assisted him to locate them.

Result: The customer was very happy and thanked me for taking the time to find the plant he wanted. He bought other plants as well. The customer also continued to shop at the store after that time.

Provide an example of when you gave excellent customer service

This example will use the CAR technique to answer: Context, Action, Result

Tip: Customer service is all about proving you have good people skills. If you don’t have a work example, it could include helping others through voluntary work, or in a club, or in school, college, or university.

Context: I worked in a store that sells mobile phones. A customer came into the store because he was having trouble with his mobile phone.

Action: I asked the customer to explain the problem and listened carefully to him as he told me what was wrong with his phone. I asked him if I could look at the phone and he handed it over to me. As I checked the phone, I explained to him what I was doing. I found the problem and showed him what had happened.

While I was fixing the problem, I noticed something else on his phone that the customer might be having difficulties with, so I asked him about it. He said he would like more help to use the functions on his phone, so I explained it to him, and gave him a useful website for an online tutorial.

Result: The customer thanked me for fixing the problem and showing him how to use the phone better. He also thanked me for the extra help I had given him. The customer said he would recommend the store to his friends and family because of the great service he’d had. He also gave a great online review.

Describe a situation where you worked flexibly

This example will use the EAR technique to answer: Event, Action, Result

Tip: Working flexibly means that you are adaptable and willing to change your plans to help someone else. Think about a time when you changed your plans to help someone else out.

Event: I was coming to the end of my shift at work in Smith’s Store when my supervisor asked me to work for longer. She said that someone had phoned in sick, and she needed cover so asked me if I could work a longer shift.

Action: I said that I was happy to work later to help and covered the later shift. Because it was Christmas, the store was very busy, and I worked until the store closed. I also offered to work extra days if I was needed for the New Year sales.

Result: The customers were served quicker because there was more staff on the shift. My supervisor thanked me for working at short notice.

Give an example of when you worked as part of a team to achieve a goal

This example will use the STAR technique to answer: Situation, Task, Action, Result

Tip: Answering questions about teamwork can be tricky. Make sure you say what you did within the team. What was your contribution to the team? Use ‘I’ not ‘we.’

Situation: I was recently involved in fundraising for my local rugby club as part of a team of five people tasked with planning and organising a fun day event. We needed to raise at least £500 for new equipment.

Task: I was given the responsibility of organising the raffle to be held on the day of the event.

Action: I asked the team if they had any connections with local businesses who might be able to donate a prize and found out who in the team was confident enough to call local businesses to ask for a prize donation. Two people said they were willing to phone businesses, and so we divided the list up. I provided a script of what to say and a deadline of two weeks to complete the task.

I checked out how they were progressing during the week and realised that one team member wasn’t going to be able to complete the task in time due to other commitments. I suggested we meet to see if we had enough prizes. We agreed between us that we did and that we didn’t need to contact anyone else.

On the fun day we set up a stall displaying all the prizes. I was part of the team promoting the sales of the raffle tickets on the day.

Result: The raffle was very successful and raised over half of the funds needed. Due to raising awareness of the rugby club one of the businesses I had contacted also gave a one-off gift to the club. The fun day raised more than the £500 needed for equipment.

Explain how you have worked to and achieved a deadline

This example will use the STAR technique to answer: Situation, Task, Action, Result

Tip: You can use an example of a deadline for an assignment in school, college or university, or a work deadline. You could also use an example from volunteering or work experience.

Situation: I was working part time at Castleton Contact Centre and in college studying Welsh.

Task: The Welsh tutor gave us an assignment and deadline date and said that the assignment would count toward the final mark. I had just agreed to work more hours at the contact centre.

Action: Because I knew that time was going to be tight with the extra hours, I was going to be working at the Contact Centre, firstly I made a calendar of all work commitments and all classes. I went over the assignment and wrote out a list of all I needed to do. Then I wrote a deadline date next to everything on my list. I put this on the calendar so that I had a clear plan to work to. Each day I checked off what I had achieved, and this motivated me to keep achieving the deadlines I had set myself.

Result: I handed the assignment in on time. I worked all the shifts I was asked to cover and did not miss a Welsh class. I achieved a distinction grade for my course work and went on to achieve a distinction overall for my course.

Tell me about a challenge or conflict you have faced and how you dealt with it

This example will use the SCAR technique to answer: Situation, Challenge, Action, Result

The answer for this question is based on the chronological CV example.

Tip: Choose a situation that has a successful outcome. Tell the employer what action you took that made it a successful result.

Situation: As a catering manager for Bakehouse Co, I was managing twelve catering outlets, all in different areas. My role was to ensure staff reached their sales targets, to increase productivity, reduce food waste and increase profits.

Challenge: One of the catering outlets started having fewer customers, staff were not reaching their sales targets and profits were dropping.

Action: I visited the outlet and spoke to the supervisor and all the staff about why they thought there were fewer customers. I also inspected the premises and the surrounding area.

I set up a simple satisfaction survey for the staff to ask customers to complete and an incentive of free baking products if they completed it. Those who completed it were satisfied with the products and the services.

In walking around the area, I could see that a new store had opened nearby selling similar products and was attracting customers.

I also noticed that the waste and recycling bins for our outlet were in full sight of our customers as they entered the store, and they were overflowing.

Together with the supervisor I planned a promotion of a new product at a limited time reduced offer to attract customers back. Taking staff suggestions into account, we organised a different way of storing the waste. We also signed up to a charity project to donate unsold food at the end of the day.

Result: The new product proved successful, and customers were attracted back to the store to the previous levels. We therefore continued with the promotion monthly to highlight new products. Through the charity donation the outlet reduced the food waste by 15% and I rolled the scheme out to the other outlets, successfully reducing food waste by 10% overall. A by product of the donation scheme was that the charity listed us on their website, and more customers started visiting the outlet as a result, also contributing to increased profits.

Tell me about a time you made a mistake or failed

This example will use the EAR technique to answer: Event, Action, Result

The answer for this question is based on the school-leaver CV example.

Tip: This is a tricky question to answer. Employers want to find out that you can learn from making a mistake. Choose a mistake you made where you can say what you learned and how you changed things after that. Be careful in choosing what mistake you talk about. It needs to be something that wouldn’t harm your chances of getting the job.

Event: I had just started working as a Sales Assistant in Porth Town Sports Shop. A customer came to the counter holding a pair of shoes they wanted to buy. I had been taught to check the size and check with the customer, so I checked the size of one of the shoes and the customer confirmed it was the right size. I took the payment. As I was packing the shoes, I realised that the shoes were different sizes.

Action: I explained to the customer that the shoes were different sizes and apologised that I had not checked both shoes before taking the purchase. I explained that I would find the correct size they wanted and asked if they were ok to wait. They said they could, and I found the correct shoe sizes, double checked again with the customer both shoe sizes by showing them to them before re packing them.

Result: The customer was happy with their purchase and thanked me for noticing before they left the store. I learned from this experience to always check all the footwear being sold to ensure sizes and colours matched before completing a purchase with a customer. I also learned to show both shoe sizes to the customer to confirm they were correct. I realised that it is important to pay attention to detail to give the best customer service.

Tell me about yourself

This example will use the SET technique to answer: Skills, Experience, Training

The answer for this question is based on the Technical CV example.

Tip: In this answer concentrate on telling the employer your skills, experience and training that are relevant to the job. Employers don't want to hear your life story - keep your answer focused on information that shows that you would be good at the job.

Introduction: I am currently working as a Software Developer at Long life Health Group and have worked there since 2018.

Strengths: I am competent in using a range of programming languages including Java, Kotlin, Swift, C++, SQL, and HTML, among others. I routinely work with operating systems including Android, iOS, windows, and Linux. In addition, I effectively use a range of tools including MATLAB and LabVIEW.

Problem solving is one of my main strengths and I combine this with determination, a keen eye for detail and a strong desire and motivation to add to my knowledge every day. With continuous learning and research.

Experience: I have over 10 years’ experience in web and mobile app development in a variety of sectors including private healthcare, telecommunications, and a local authority. In Longlife I have successfully built mobile applications that monitor personal health, applications which have achieved good commercial popularity and success and increased the profits to the company by 5%. As a back-end developer in telecommunications I built a new cloud-based system to optimise the speed and performance of the website.

Training: I have a BSc (hons)2:1 in Software Engineering and since achieving that I continuously undertake self-study and research in IT fields to keep up with the fast-moving tech industry. I am also taking related qualifications such as project management to better understand what goes into a development project from end to end.

What is your greatest achievement?

This uses the theme of the SET technique to answer: Skills, Experience, Training

The answer for this question is based on the Teaching CV example.

Tip: Choose something you’ve done in your life that you are proud of and talk about why you are proud. This can be anything including sporting achievement, volunteering, qualification, or a work achievement. It can even be personal development.

My greatest achievement has been using my teaching, leadership, and mentoring skills to empower junior air cadets to develop their confidence and skills. I have mentored air cadets from all backgrounds and have seen how they thrive in the environment of encouragement I provide.

I get so much satisfaction from seeing air cadets learning to recognise their own skills and abilities, during expeditions. I also enjoy learning from the air cadets. In the past one of the air cadets in my squadron was on the autistic spectrum and I talked with them about their needs and then did some training to learn how to support them effectively. They thrived and since then I have been able to use the skills I learned to support other air cadets.

Why do you want this job?

This answer uses the SET technique to answer: Skills, Experience, Training

The answer for this question is based on the Academic CV example.

Tip: Read the job description and think about which aspects of it attracted you to the job. Tell them how you match what is in the job description, how you can bring benefits to them, and why you will be the right person for this job. Research the company and mention positive stories or a good aspect of their company culture that attracts you to working for them.

Introduction: You are asking for a lecturer in Applied linguistics and French, and someone with mentoring and lecturing experience which exactly fits my profile.

Skills: This job will allow me to use my skills and to continue to learn and develop research in linguistics. I have strong skills in teaching with a proven ability to communicate new information and difficult concepts effectively to students from many backgrounds.

I read on your website that this university has a supportive and mentoring culture for its students. I enjoy mentoring students and seeing them grow and develop both academically and personally.

I have strong research skills which can contribute to the university’s goal of being sector leading in linguistics.

I am highly motivated to learn and develop and am consistently researching new information and attending conferences and training.

Experience: The job description states that the linguistics department is keen to increase research on languages in North Africa. As my recent research, funded by AHRC is based around the influence of Arabic on local languages within North Africa, I can support that goal through research I have done and ongoing research.

In addition, I am an experienced lecturer having worked as a lecturer for over 5 years, teaching subjects including Applied Linguistics, French and TEFL courses. Prior to that I worked as an English teacher in Morocco, and as a teaching assistant in Cardiff University before that. I would like the opportunity of becoming a lecturer in this university as it ranks extremely high in University Rankings for modern foreign languages and linguistics.

Training: I have the qualifications and training that meet the requirements for this job, a PhD in Linguistics, and before that MA/PGDip Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and BA (hons) French and Applied Linguistics.

Part of the job description asks for supervising dissertations. In 2016 I won the postgraduate dissertation of the year award and can bring my experience and expertise to support and oversee students as they write their dissertations.

What are your greatest strengths?

Employers want to know that your strengths match to the job you are applying for.

The answer for this question is based on the school-leaver CV example.

Tip: Tell employers the skills you have that are most relevant to the job. You can find this out from the job description. Give examples that prove to them you have those skills.

I have excellent customer service and people skills. In my job as a sales assistant, I help customers to find the right products for them and take payments at the checkout. I am always polite and friendly and have had compliments from my manager about my ability to get on well with people. I have also successfully promoted products and increased sales by explaining how they work to customers, and how they will help them.

I am a great team worker. I play rugby for a local team which is all about teamwork. In the team I listen and follow instructions from my coach and the team captain. I help my teammates out by practising ball handling skills with them during training. I also contribute my ideas for how to improve when we have coaching sessions.

I am keen to learn new skills. I did work experience while in school which wasn’t compulsory, but I wanted to learn more about jobs. I also have successfully gained a karate black belt through regular training and improving my skills. I have improved my IT skills by watching YouTube videos and researching.

What are your weaknesses?

Employers want to know if you know your weaknesses and know how to overcome them. They will expect a serious answer to this question. 

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Think of a weakness that could also be a strength.
  2. Choose a weakness that is not important to the job you are applying for. For example, don’t say you are not good on the telephone if you are going for a job at a contact centre
  3. Use a positive, negative, positive approach in your answer. Start with a positive. Put the weakness in the middle and end on a positive

Example weaknesses

Some example weaknesses could be:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Being too focused
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Being a perfectionist (This one is used too often so only use this if it is genuinely your weakness and give a specific example to prove it. Employers often hear this as a weakness from people who are not perfectionists)
  • Not being good at delegating tasks to other people
  • Learning style
  • Not being able to say no

Example answer 1

I learn best by trying things out myself and learn well by watching others. I am not as good at learning from reading instructions and training manuals.

When I was revising for my Maths exam, I watched teachers explain the problems on YouTube and I asked my teacher to demonstrate in tutorials. But I knew that I needed to be able to learn from reading for other subjects, so I took small sections and then practiced explaining the answers aloud. I also drew graphs and diagrams to help me understand better.

I passed all my exams successfully and gained new techniques to help me learn when reading instructions and information.

Example answer 2

I am working on building my confidence skills by doing volunteer work that involves meeting and greeting people and working in teams. I have also done some confidence-building training.

When I meet new people for the first time, sometimes I don't feel confident that I can contribute to conversations.

Through volunteering and the confidence-building courses I have realised that I can make a valuable contribution, and I am now starting to enjoy meeting new people. I have also learned that other people may be feeling the same way as me, so this helps me to focus on others and making them feel at ease.

What motivates you?

Employers want to find out if you will be motivated in the job if they offer it to you.

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Provide examples of motivation that fit with the job role
  2. Think about what motivated you to apply for the job
  3. Do not mention money, income or the company’s terms and conditions as your motivation

Example motivations

Some possible motivations could include:

  • Enjoying solving problems
  • Getting satisfaction from helping others
  • Knowing you’ve done a good job
  • Providing a service that helps other people
  • Learning new skills
  • Finishing a task on time or ahead of a deadline
  • Planning and organising
  • Seeing the results of your hard work
  • Taking on responsibility and being trusted

Example answer 1- Finishing a task on time and ahead of schedule

The answer to this question can follow the STAR technique.

I am very motivated to meet deadlines or to complete something ahead of the deadline. When I do not have a deadline, I set my own deadlines and work to achieving them.

When I know the deadline for a project, I identify everything I need to do within the project, and how long each task is likely to take me to do. I prioritise tasks that others are dependent on to achieve their part of the project, and tasks that will have more impact on the project.

I start with those tasks and with the tasks that are the most time consuming. At times when there are gaps while I am waiting for work from other people, I will fit in smaller tasks to get them partially completed or done.

I liaise regularly with the other members of the project and adjusted my priorities as required.

I used this approach in a recent project. It became the first major project for the company achieved ahead of schedule.

Example answer 2 - Learning new skills

I am always keen to learn new skills and to continuously develop. I seek out ways to increase my knowledge and skills.

Recently my company offered an opportunity to learn Welsh and I applied for the opportunity. I attended online classes and completed homework. I practiced Welsh with my Welsh speaking colleagues at work when I had opportunity to increase my speaking and listening skills.

After the course finished, I was able to talk with Welsh speaking customers and answer phone calls in Welsh. This improved the positive feedback ratings for my department, and we received a commendation.

I am about to enrol on a college course to improve my Welsh speaking skills further. My aim is to become fluent in Welsh.

Do you have any questions?

At the end of many interviews employers will ask you if you have any questions for them. Think about a question you can ask before you go into the interview.

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Always answer yes and have a question prepared to ask
  2. Don't ask about wages, annual leave, sickness, or pension schemes. These are questions you would ask if they offer you the job

Questions you could ask

Questions you might ask will vary for different jobs but here are a few suggestions:

  • Can you tell me more about the team I will be working with?
  • Can you tell me more about the department I’ll be working in?
  • Who would I be reporting to?
  • Can you tell me about a typical day on this job?
  • What opportunities for training will there be?

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