General

COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND HOW TO ANSWER THEM

Share

1, Tell us about yourself:
In many interviews, one-on-one or
panel, this is the first question you will be asked. It can also
come in different forms like, Can we meet you?, Can we know
you?, Who is Mr. Your Name? Can you introduce yourself to us?
etc. They all mean the same thing. The answer is simple –
briefly summarize your CV. I said, summarize, not download your
CV. Don’t be too detailed that the interviewers will be the one to
stop you. Be brief, just 5 to 7 liners should do. Just state your
name, your educational qualifications (you may start from your
secondary education), your achievements (if any). Something
like:
“My name is Adesare Olugbagi, born some 30 years ago in
Kwara state. I attended XYZ Grammar School in Kwara state,
where I finished in the year 2000 as second best student. I later
proceeded to Obafemi Awolowo University, where I finished with
second class upper degree in economics. At the university, I was
the president of Economics Students Association. I also won a
number of scholarship awards, including the Chevron University
scholarship award. I did my youth service in Sokoto state
between 2007 and 2008. I like writing articles and some of my
articles have been published in National dailies including
Guardian, Tribune and Punch. During my leisure period, I play
football and table tennis.”
The above is just a guide. Depending on other important things
you have to say, you may add or take out some things. You may
decide to start with your university education. You should also
mention any relevant experience if you have any. You may leave
out your state of origin. You may also not mention that you write
articles, if you think the types of articles you write do not have
any bearing with the job or can even count against you (e.g
strong religious and political writings). For example, I put on my
CV that I write articles, and even list some of them on the face of
my CV, but not the one in which I abused Jonathan or Bukola
Saraki (lol. But seriously, Suraj the 9-5 professional accountant
is different from Suraj the weekend/night political commentator,
but both converge in Jarus the blogger). So you have to be
circumspect.
But in any case, make your delivery chronological. Try to
emphasize your achievements as you progress, e.g, I finished as
best student, I won scholarship etc, but don’t come across as
arrogant. Be subtle while mentioning them. Having one helps, but
no need to fabricate if you don’t have. You should be able to say
that within 2 to 3 minutes. When it is getting too long, it can
become boring.

2, What do you know about our company? :
This is another question you cannot escape. It is usually the 2nd or 3rd, or,rarely, 1st, question. This should be the simplest, to me. I expect anyone going for interview with a company to have visited the
company’s website, print some useful stuffs about the history,
mission, products, management, etc of the company. You have
to read them well, but don’t cram, else you may mix things up
and make a fool of yourself in front of the interviewers, who, no
doubt, know more about their company than you.
If you want to wow, go beyond the website information for latest
news about the company. Imagine telling them what you read in
the newspaper about that company that interview morning.
Imagine pulling a masterstroke like this: “just this morning, I was
reading in Guardian that your company is going to the capital
market to raise additional funds. This is no doubt a welcome
development and it falls in line with your company’s corporate
goal of expanding to become the industry leader in the next three
years…”. These are extra things you can use to dazzle your
interviewers.
So, let’s use Oando as an example. Assuming, you are
interviewing with Oando and you are being asked this question,
having read their website, pieced together news about them and
asking one or two questions from insiders in your research, I
expect your answer to be like this:
“Oando is the leading integrated energy group in sub-saharan
African, with operations across the entire value chain of energy
sector – exploration, servicing, supply and trading, gas
distribution, petroleum products marketing. It started with the
acquisition by a group of then young Nigerian businessmen of the
then government-owned Unipetrol in the year 2001, and later,
acquiring the downstream business of Agip, to become the Oando
of today. The company has undergone serious metamorphosis
and now at the commanding height of the sector. It is no doubt a
success story in indigenous participation in the sector. Just
couple of weeks back, I read in BusinessDay that you acquired
stake in a Canadian energy firm. Your recently conclude Rights
Issue is also widely reported in the media as oversubscribed”
I doubt there will be any interviewer that will not be impressed
with the 8-liner above which you can say within 3 to 4 minutes.
Once again, you don’t need to cram anything. Just read enough
and be familiar with facts about the company you are
interviewing with. Lest I forget, while answering the question of
what do you know about us, try to highlight the positive news
about the company. God help you if you are interviewing with
Zenon and you remind them of Otedola/Faruk Lawan saga.
Still on this question, you may need to do some cramming on
things like core values of the company. All these are available for
on any company’s website. You may inquire from insiders as
well. I remember going for an interview with an oil company in
the downstream sector and being asked the core value of that
company. Thankfully, that was the last thing I checked on the
company’s website via my BB few seconds before it got to my
turn. I didn’t remember everything, but out of 5, I remembered 3
well and gave a faint recollection of the 4th one.

3, Why do you want to work for us?
I remember being asked this
question some 7 years ago by the then CEO of a top Nigerian
financial institution, now member of President Jonathan’s
Economic Management Team. Thankfully, I had asked someone
that entered before me and he told me he was asked that
question, so I quickly packaged three reasons. It was an
investment banking outfit and my response was: 1, I had always
wanted to become an investment banker and from close
observation of this company as the industry leader in Nigeria, I
believe it is the best platform to achieve my dream, while
contributing to further success of the organization; 2, I had long
watched this company, right from my secondary school days,
and I believe in her dream, I believe in her future, and I want to be
part of its success; 3, I have always valued integrity and from my
knowledge of this organization, I know integrity is the
watchword. This integrity-driven environment falls in line with my
career goal, my ideal workplace.
I was asked same question in another interview, this time around
with an oil marketing firm and my answer was: I have long
watched this company from afar, and I am impressed with its
giant strides. Here is a Nigerian company, managed by Nigerians,
doing extremely well in a sector dominated by foreign operators. I
will like to be part of this success story. So in essence, just look
for the high points of the organization interviewing you and carve
your answer around it.

4, Why should I hire you? :
This is somehow related to the above.
The answer to the above may also suffice, but in addition, you
may add your strengths, your special skills. If I were to be on the
hot seat, in addition to the above, I will add: I have been involved
in a number of engagements in the past and I have never failed.
From my primary school through university, through professional
qualifying examinations, to the places I have worked in the past, I
have been outstanding. I don’t believe your organization will be
an exception. So if you hire me, I have no doubt that I will excel.
Your organization cannot be an exception.

5, What are your strengths?
This may not be the success decider
because truth is, everybody, including your competitors for the
job, will always have something good to say about himself. So
common answers to this include: I am a fast learner; I am a
team player; I have always exceled in all I do; etc. I don’t know of
any stunner of a response other than these common answers.
This question can also come as: what are your selling points?
Also, depending on how you are able to maneuver, answer to
question 4 above can also be modified as answer to ‘what are
your selling points?’ too. It can also come as, what are your
competencies?

6, What are your weaknesses?
I remember an interview I did with
an investment institution in late 2006, my first interview
experience, just few weeks after finishing university. I had read a
lot about interviews (that was basically what I spent the most of
my final year doing) and known that you don’t say you don’t have
any weakness. My response to that question was:
“Hmmnnn, a couple of people have told me I can be impatient
while working with a team, especially with slow members. When
two, three people say something, they may not wrong. So I think
this is a weakness I am working on. In actual fact, the desire to
achieve a team goal drives my impatience as I hate failure. But I
have come to realize individual differences, especially in pace,
and I’m beginning to adjust.”
Need I say, I saw the panel interviewers nodding their head sub-
consciously. The basic principle in answering this kind of
question is, don’t say you don’t have weakness, tell your
weakness and make it known you are working on it. Also, ensure
it’s a weakness that is tolerable. God help you if you say your
weakness is sleeping on duty.

7, Why do you want to leave your current company?
If you are
moving from one organization to another, expect this question.
Sometime early last year, I was interviewing with one company in
the downstream sector. I was then working in another company,
its biggest rival in the industry. I was asked this question: why do
you want to leave ABC Plc for our company? The basic principle
in answering this kind of question is knowing the strength of the
one you’re interviewing with over the one you currently are. One
was a Nigerian company, the other was a foreign multi-national.
That was what drove my response:
“No doubt ABC Plc is a good organization with good
management. I have been there for four years and I came of age
there. However, I had always wanted to work in a multi-national
organization, where I will have the opportunity to hone my skills
at the global place. I believe your organization offers great
platform to achieve that.” Note that I did not bad-mouth my then
employer. That is in line with a golden principle of interview –
never bad-mouth your employer.
Still on this question, if it was the other way round, i.e you
currently work in a multi-national and you are interviewing with
its Nigerian competitor, and same question is asked, just look at
the strength of the Nigerian company. If I were in that seat, I
would answer thus:
“I have watched your organization from distance, and from what
I read in the media, your company has a good rating and is doing
Nigeria proud in the sector dominated by foreign participants. I
am a Nigerian, I believe in Nigeria. I believe in things Nigerian.
I’m impressed in a Nigerian company doing this and I will like to
deploy the experience I have gathered working in a multinational
to the development of a Nigerian enterprise. I believe in the future
of your organization, and as a Nigerian, I want to be counted as
part of the success.”
Same is applicable if you are moving from Diamond bank to
Zenith Bank for instance. Just look for the advantage of one over
the other and package it as reason you want to join them. God
help you if you go say pay is your motivation, although we all
know that that is the motivation for 70% of career movements,
especially for non-managerial positions.

8, What pay do you expect?
Truth is, if you’re interviewing for
entry level position, you have practically no say in the pay.
Almost 100% of companies have their pay structure and know
how much they will pay you already. If Zenith bank, for instance,
pays entry level employees N3m per annum, you can’t get more
than that, except you have relevant experience. So most times, at
entry level positions, this question is inconsequential, but it may
be your undoing. Imagine asking for N10m as entry level in GTB
– it can annoy your interviewer and an otherwise inconsequential
question can mar your chance.
Personally, I –and people I know that are top management staff
in big organizations – always advise that you don’t say an
amount. Respond with something like: “ABC Plc is a well-
structured organization and I believe you will fairly place me
where I fit within the structure (knowing full well that you’re entry
level), with commensurate remuneration.”
But if pressed further, you can state a sum, preferably a range,
which you must have researched. A good way to research is to
ask people that work in the organization what entry level pay is
or you put a thread in a forum like Nairaland, where you are
guaranteed of good response. You may add 1 or 2m on top. For
example, you know Ecobank pays N3m for entry level position,
you may call 4m for them at the interview.
If however you have some special skills or qualifications, you can
charge a premium for that. For example, you have CFA, very
marketable qualification, you can be daring and request for pay
that is more than what is ordinarily obtainable for that position.
Or you are coming with Imperial or Harvard certificate.
Experienced hires are also in good position to negotiate.

9, Do you have any question for us?
This is another area you can
dazzle. Don’t ask the general question every Ade and Ada is
expected to ask. Research well. Have your question at the back
of your mind, although you can change it for a better one if in the
course of the interview something more interesting comes to
your mind. Interviewing with upstream oil companies, you can
ask question around how they have been able to cope in the face
of security challenges that threatened the sector; interviewing
with a GTB, you can ask them how they manage to emerge even
stronger in the face of the crisis that hit the sector few years
back; interviewing with an Oando, you can psyche them up,
asking how they did the wonder of being the most successful of
all privatized government enterprises. Everybody likes to be
praised, explore this psychology.

Share This Post

9 Comments

  1. Nice update

  2. Very good news

  3. Thanks for that

  4. very good

  5. Ok

  6. Good

  7. Good

  8. Nice post

  9. wow I love that, it’s really impressive

Leave a Reply