Common Interview Questions – Are you prepared?



Contributed by Charlie Waterman

You should prepare well for any interview situation but, these days, researching the company and understanding the role is definitely not enough. Interviews can take many different forms but much emphasis is now placed on how you answer certain questions. Familiarise yourself with the most commonly asked ones and prepare some well thought through answers.

You may ask why? Consider this scenario: You are feeling confident the interview has gone well so far, you have been given the opportunity to provide good examples of how your skills and experience would be of benefit to the company and then you get asked a challenging question that you were not expecting. What do you do? Hesitate and become tongue tied or, like most people, blurt out whatever words come to mind first which, you later realise, didn’t make much sense or perhaps didn’t reflect you in the correct light?

Interviews have become ever more sophisticated and the inclusion of specific questions is designed to test you on all sorts of levels. Here is a list of the ten most common interview questions that you could be asked and suggestions on how best to respond. Some you may be familiar with, some not, but do you have well prepared answers for them?


Tell Me About Yourself?

This is typically the first question you will be asked once you’ve taken your seat and the interview formally starts. This is the opportunity for the interviewer to assess you as a person, both through what you say and your delivery. Remember, their first impression of you is of the utmost importance, so make sure you can answer it in a confident way. After all, you know you better than anyone. Keep it short and succinct, preferably no longer than 2 – 3 minutes.

So what should your reply cover?  Make sure you have done your research on what the company expects from the successful applicant, so include information on your qualifications, personality and work experience (making sure they are kept relevant to the position in question). And avoid going into detail about personal life, family etc. at this early stage.


What Are Your Weaknesses?

This seems tricky as, on one hand you want to give a favourable view of your personality and ability to do the job, while on the other, you don’t want to claim you have no weaknesses. There are several ways to answer double-edged questions like this.

So what should you disclose then? If you have thoroughly gone through the company’s profile and the job advert and description (make sure you have access to this prior to the interview), you will know the qualities the job requires, what are considered strengths and what are not.

With this knowledge you know what will be considered a weakness by the interviewer, so you can admit to those which you have that are irrelevant to the job in question. Whatever weaknesses you state, make sure your answer is a positive one by making sure you have examples of how you have overcome them in past roles.


What Is Your Greatest Achievement?

Although the interviewer is asking you about your greatest achievement, you still have to choose one that is of most relevance professionally rather than personally. This is a good opportunity to highlight how you can contribute to the company if you are successfully recruited, so focus on an achievement that applies to the position. For example, if the role requires a significant amount of problem solving and troubleshooting, you might want to recount how you resolved a persistent problem that had plagued your company for years. Explain clearly and simply the challenge, solution and outcome and wherever possible, always quantify your results in terms of savings made and increased productivity.


What Would You Like To Be Doing Five Years From Now?

This question is included to find out whether you are committed to the job and to ascertain if you are somebody who sets goals in life. It’s an undisputable fact that people who set mid and long term goals are more reliable than those who don’t.  Knowing what you want in life says a lot about your personality, for example as a person who can lead and stay motivated.

Your answer should assure the interviewer that your career progression goals are in line with the actual future plans for the company. As such, it is crucial that you do your homework on the company’s future plans so that you know what to expect for yourself and whether it will meet your long-term career objectives.


Why Do You Want To Work With Us?

This is the question designed to give your interviewer an indication of how much you know about the organisation, their culture and whether you can identify with the company’s vision and values. Every business has its strong points; just make sure you focus on these in your answer. For example, if the company emphasises its integrity with customers, then you should mention that you would like to be in such a team because you yourself believe in integrity in business.

If your values are not in line with those of the company, ask yourself honestly if you would be happy working there. Whatever you do, don’t focus on the package on offer. 

his will show that you could be someone who will easily move onto another company if the price is right. Make sure your answer focuses on 2 or 3 key points which match with the organisation’s ethos.


Why Did You Apply For This Position

Don’t at any point focus on the package on offer. Or for that matter, avoid giving the impression that you have applied purely because you need to make a living.

In fact, the best way to answer this question is to spend some time examining what you like about both the role and the company. It is likely you will find something such as the culture, work environment, or role your job will play in the future success of the business.

Once you know why you want this job, you can then prepare a response that will relate to how well you fit with the position. For example, if you like the analysis work involved because you enjoy discovering more about customer behaviours, bring up that inquisitive nature of yours. Convince them that you are can offer the majority if not all the skills and traits they require and above all convince the interviewer that you will be an asset to the company.


Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Here, the interviewer is trying to gauge how much the job fits to your expectations. You may have quit your last job because you were unhappy about something or you may actually have no opportunity for career progression in your current role. There could be a wide variety of reasons for leaving a job. Whatever your reason is, the interviewer wants to make sure that you will be committed to their role and the business and not leave because your expectations are not met.

But whatever your reason, make sure you put a positive spin on your answer. Never complain about what made you unhappy or make derogatory remarks about colleagues or management, this is a real no, no in interviews. Instead focus on your career goals and how the job you are applying for provides a better environment for growth than your previous or current one. Emphasise what you have learned in your most recent role and the valuable skills you can now offer.


Why Should We Hire You?

This is the answer where you link your skills, experience, education and your personality to the job itself. So you must be utterly familiar with the job description as well as the company culture. Always remember to include actual examples of your experience and achievements to date.

It is possible that you may not have as much skills, experience or qualifications as the other candidates. So what can you say that will set you apart from the rest? People are attracted to someone who is charismatic, who can show honest enthusiasm and drive and who clearly loves what it is that they do. When you emphasise your compatibility with the job and company, be sure to portray yourself as a motivated, confident and energetic person, who could be a real asset to the team in which they work.


What Are Your Salary Expectations?

You should really avoid going into detail on this topic until you are offered the job. However most interviewers can and do ask this question. Salary negotiation is a tough and delicate matter and some may use this question hoping that you will be the first to give a figure and set the benchmark. The repercussions of this are you could get a job offer but not at either the salary you want, or one that is market average right now.

If you have applied via a recruitment consultancy, then discuss this in detail with them prior to the interview. As part of their service they will negotiate the best package possible for you if you are offered the job, which will be in line with the salary range the company is offering.

If you have applied direct, the company may well have advertised a salary range. A good rule of thumb would be to state a figure within that, at what level is your choice.  You should know your market, and if you are offering a rare skill set this means you may well be able to command a salary well above the average in your field – just don’t be greedy.

At other times, this question is designed to let interviewers see if money is the only thing that matters. So, remember to emphasise that your priority lies with the job and not just the pay packet.


Do You Have Any Questions?

This is normally the last question you will be asked before the interview ends, so it’s your chance to finish the interview on a real positive. Even if you don’t believe this is the role for you, make sure you have at least 3 prepared questions and ask them. Replying that you’ve got nothing to ask will always leave the impression to the interviewer that you are not really interested in the job.

The interviewer is going to be attracted to proactive candidates who ask intelligent questions. Make sure they aren’t those with obvious answers that you could easily get if you had done your research thoroughly. Instead, try to incorporate your knowledge of the industry and the company into a question that will address a genuine concern of yours. That way, you get to impress your interviewer and assess for a final time whether the job aligns with your expectations.

A good question to ask is what your chances are of landing the job, but make sure to word it in the right way. Thank them for taking the time to interview you and express your enthusiasm for the position before asking if there is any reservation for hiring you. This will be your final chance to address any concerns the interviewer might have of employing you. Stay calm and reply objectively rather than taking any criticism personally.

Hopefully these tips give you some food for thought in your interview preparation. Planning really is worthwhile and answering succinctly to any question posed ensures you will come across as confident, positive, decisive and organised.

Harnham blog & news

With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

Visit our Blogs & News portal or check out our recent posts below.

Weekly News Digest - 18th-22nd Jan 2021

This is Harnham’s weekly news digest, the place to come for a quick breakdown of the week’s top news stories from the world of Data & Analytics. KDNuggets: 20 core Data Science concepts for beginners The field of Data Science is one that continuously evolves. For Data Scientists, this means constantly learning and perfecting new skills, keeping up to date with crucial trends and filling knowledge gaps.  However, there are a core set of concepts that all Data Scientists will need to understand throughout their career, especially at the start. From Data Wrangling to Data Imputation, Reinforcement Learning to Evaluation Metrics, KDNuggets outlines 20 of the key basics needed.  A great article if you’re just starting out and want to grasp the essentials or, if you’re a bit further up the ladder and would appreciate a quick refresh.  Read more here.  FinExtra: 15 DevOps trends to watch in 2021 As a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that DevOps has come on leaps and bounds in the past year alone. FinExtra hears from a wide range of specialists within the sector, all of whom give their opinion on what 2021 holds for DevOps.  A few examples include: Nirav Chotai, Senior DevOps Engineer at Rakuten: “DataOps will definitely boom in 2021, and COVID might play a role in it. Due to COVID and WFH situation, consumption of digital content is skyrocket high which demands a new level of automation for self-scaling and self-healing systems to meet the growth and demand.” DevOps Architect at JFrog: “The "Sec'' part of DevSecOps will become more and more an integral part of the Software Development Lifecycle. A real security "shift left" approach will be the new norm.” CTO at International Technology Ventures: “Chaos Engineering will become an increasingly more important (and common) consideration in the DevOps planning discussions in more organizations.” Read the full article here.  Towards Data Science: 3 Simple Questions to Hone Python Skills for Beginners in 2021 Python is one of the most frequently used data languages within Data Science but for a new starter in the industry, it can be incredibly daunting. Leihua Yea, a PHD researcher at the University of California in Machine Learning and Data Science knows all too well how stressful can be to learn. He says: “Once, I struggled to figure out an easy level question on Leetcode and made no progress for hours!” In this piece for Towards Data Science, Yea gives junior Data Scientists three top pieces of advice to help master the basics of Python and level-up their skills. Find out what that advice is here.  ITWire: Enhancing customer experiences through better data management From the start of last year, businesses around the globe were pushed into a remote and digital way of working. This shift undoubtedly accelerated the use of the use of digital and data to keep their services as efficient and effective as possible.  Derak Cowan of Cohesity, the Information Technology company, talks with ITWire about the importance of the continued use of digital transformation and data post-pandemic, even after restrictions are relaxed and we move away from this overtly virtual world.  He says: “Business transformation is more than just a short-term tactic of buying software. If you want your business to thrive in the post-COVID age, it will need to place digital transformation at the heart of its business strategy and identify and overcome the roadblocks.” Read more about long-term digital transformation for your business here.  We've loved seeing all the news from Data and Analytics in the past week, it’s a market full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, get in touch with us at info@harnham.com.

Weekly News Digest - 11th-15th Jan 2021

This is Harnham’s weekly news digest, the place to come for a quick breakdown of the week’s top news stories from the world of data and analytics. KDNuggets: 20 core Data Science concepts for beginners The field of Data Science is one that continuously evolves. For Data Scientists, this means constantly learning and perfecting new skills, keeping up to date with crucial trends and filling knowledge gaps.  However, there are a core set of concepts that all Data Scientists will need to understand throughout their career, especially at the start. From Data Wrangling to Data Imputation, Reinforcement Learning to Evaluation Metrics, KDNuggets outlines 20 of the key basics needed.  A great article if you’re just starting out and want to grasp the essentials or, if you’re a bit further up the ladder and would appreciate a quick refresh.  Read more here.  FinExtra: 15 DevOps trends to watch in 2021 As a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that DevOps has come on leaps and bounds in the past year alone. FinExtra hears from a wide range of specialists within the sector, all of whom give their opinion on what 2021 holds for DevOps.  A few examples include: Nirav Chotai, Senior DevOps Engineer at Rakuten: “DataOps will definitely boom in 2021, and COVID might play a role in it. Due to COVID and WFH situation, consumption of digital content is skyrocket high which demands a new level of automation for self-scaling and self-healing systems to meet the growth and demand.” DevOps Architect at JFrog: “The "Sec'' part of DevSecOps will become more and more an integral part of the Software Development Lifecycle. A real security "shift left" approach will be the new norm.” CTO at International Technology Ventures: “Chaos Engineering will become an increasingly more important (and common) consideration in the DevOps planning discussions in more organizations.” Read the full article here.  Towards Data Science: 3 Simple Questions to Hone Python Skills for Beginners in 2021 Python is one of the most frequently used data languages within Data Science but for a new starter in the industry, it can be incredibly daunting. Leihua Yea, a PHD researcher at the University of California in Machine Learning and Data Science knows all too well how stressful can be to learn. He says: “Once, I struggled to figure out an easy level question on Leetcode and made no progress for hours!” In this piece for Towards Data Science, Yea gives junior Data Scientists three top pieces of advice to help master the basics of Python and level-up their skills. Find out what that advice is here.  ITWire: Enhancing customer experiences through better data management From the start of last year, businesses around the globe were pushed into a remote and digital way of working. This shift undoubtedly accelerated the use of the use of digital and data to keep their services as efficient and effective as possible.  Derak Cowan of Cohesity, the Information Technology company, talks with ITWire about the importance of the continued use of digital transformation and data post-pandemic, even after restrictions are relaxed and we move away from this overtly virtual world.  He says: “Business transformation is more than just a short-term tactic of buying software. If you want your business to thrive in the post-COVID age, it will need to place digital transformation at the heart of its business strategy and identify and overcome the roadblocks.” Read more about long-term digital transformation for your business here.  We've loved seeing all the news from Data and Analytics in the past week, it’s a market full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, get in touch with us at info@harnham.com.

Weekly News Digest: 4th-8th Jan 2021

Happy New Year! This is Harnham’s weekly news digest, the place to come for a quick breakdown of the week’s top news stories from the world of data and analytics.  TechRepublic: How IT can prepare for the coming hybrid work environment As the world continues to feel the pressures of COVID-19 , remote working is no longer the temporary and novel approach to work that we had envisaged. Vaccines are being approved and healthcare professionals are supporting its rollout across the globe. And, as each dose is administered, we move one step closer to what is likely to become a hybrid working situation. It is therefore pressing for tech leaders to prepare for a shift to this style of work. TechRepublic have explored how these leaders need to ensure that their technology is agile enough to support the needs of the workforce. Yet they also need to look beyond the tech, to redefine how teams work together. Read the full article here. Forbes: 350 CMOs: 3 Marketing Supertrends For 2021 ... And The No-Hype Future Of Marketing Tech We’re a big fan of this piece from John Koetsier, writing for Forbes. He describes how the marketing trends of the year ahead will take a focus on the holistic transformation in a digital-first world. Drawing on the thoughts of a range of Chief Marketing Officers, Koetsier explores that a mixture of new, emerging technologies will see the evolution of marketing to put digital right at the core. Openpath CMO Kieran Hannon, “Now meaningful customer-centric digital transformation can accelerate.” Suzanne Kounkel, Chief Marketing Officer for Deloitte, “Fusion is the new ecosystem. Fusion is the art of bringing together new business partnerships, customer insights, and digital platforms to create ecosystems.” Tristan Dion Chen, CMO of University Credit Union, “It is without a doubt crucial to recognize how COVID-19 has ushered in a strong sense of empathy as a driving force within the marketing industry.” The marketing industry is set to experience continued innovation and growth. Read more on this here. ZDNet: Facial recognition: Now algorithms can see through face masks Last year was a year unlike any other. The complete shift in the way we have had to go about our day-to-day lives, brought about by the ongoing implications of the COVID-19, is still being felt now. One of these changes to our lives is the compulsory requirement to wear a face mask when leaving home. Now, of course, this requirement has brought up some challenges for using our technology, such as banking and payment applications, which need facial recognition to activate it! However, ZDNet have reported that algorithms can now see-through face masks (pretty sweet, right?) The US Department of Homeland Security has carried out trials to test whether facial recognition algorithms could correctly identify masked individuals. This could be a real support for travel, banking and mobile technology in the future. Read more on the trial here.  Towards Data Science: Predicting the outcome of NBA games with Machine Learning The NBA season is back and well underway. Will the Los Angeles Lakers take the top spot again this year? Lots of fans will be making their own predictions as the season begins, but new research has been used to help predict the outcome of NBA games – with the help of the insightful tech that is machine learning. Focusing on five core steps, the team at ‘Towards Data Science’ used Big Data Analytics to help them predict the outcome of games: Scraping Relevant DataCleaning and Processing the DataFeature EngineeringData AnalysisPredictions Through the research, they found that the best published model had a prediction accuracy of 74.1 per cent (for playoff outcomes), with most others achieving an upper bound between 66–72 per cent accuracy. That’s scarily good! Click here to read more on the study and see the statistics in action. We've loved seeing all the news from Data and Analytics in the past week, it’s a market full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, get in touch with us at info@harnham.com.

The Top Data Trends for 2021

Back in 2019, there was speculation that 2020 was going to the year for Data Science and, whilst it certainly was, the reason for its acceleration wasn’t entirely planned. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the implementation and use of all disciplines within Data, including Data Analytics, Machine Learning, AI and Data Science, grew exponentially across all industries globally.  Since March 2020, teams have been using data to help themselves navigate the unknown. By having tangible hard numbers and statistics, decision makers have been able to make informed business choices which not only make supply chains and service offerings more effective and efficient but save time and money - both crucial elements for any company, but especially in a time of crisis. This growth of Data & Analytics is set to continue as we move further into 2021 (and beyond). Figures suggest that 2020-2022 could be the biggest period of growth the industry has ever seen, from being worth $189bn globally in 2019 to an estimated $274bn in 2022. This not only means more innovation and disruption from numerous businesses globally, but also a higher demand for Data specialist recruitment.  So, what exactly could this growth look like over the next 12 months? The rise of the Machine Learning Engineer (MLE) Usually, when companies want to build a data-driven business model and analyse the data, they would hire two separate roles in order to do this: A Data Scientist to do the deep dive analysis and then build the model, this model would then be passed to an Engineer who would write the code and deploy the model so it can run effectively in a business setting and get results.  However, as a direct result of the pandemic, companies are now looking at ways to get as much as they can out of their financial investment and make their teams leaner. Machine Learning Engineers mould the roles of the Data Scientist and Engineer into one and the salary investment would be slashed by half.  But implementing this change won’t be an easy feat for employers straight away. Machine Learning Engineers will be harder to find that Data Scientists and Engineers, as many data specialists won’t have an all-round knowledge of both disciplines instead, holding specific specialisms in one area. Nevertheless, with this increased demand for MLEs, we will see people who are earlier in their careers building up the necessary skills to have the perfect CV for a MLE, making them much more employable. An increase in e-commerce  This year we will undoubtedly see an increased focus put on e-commerce. As our world becomes increasingly more virtual, companies will be trading more than ever online and, to be successful, many of them will need to invest heavily in the data and technology needed to run e-commerce efficiently. From updating their website to implementing more analysis and testing, these aspects will allow companies to better understand what their consumers are doing online, ensuring that their e-commerce platform is fit for purpose.  Amazon is a prime example of where most e-commerce retailers will be aiming for over the next few years. Aspects that we take for granted from the retail giant, such as being told when something is out of stock and the expected delivery date of our order, is in fact a very complex data and algorithm platform that takes large financial investment to perfect. However, we will likely see more and more smaller businesses looking at how they can create and build something similar for their own sites.  IR35 won’t be the death of the contractor  In 2021 the economy will continue to rely heavily on an agile workforce, however, with the introduction of IR35 in April many companies are going to pause, or stop altogether, the hiring of self-employed contractors; instead, opting for permanent members of staff. A Catch-22.  That said, this won’t necessarily be a long-term issue. IR35 started in the public sector and at that time, a lot of companies locked up and didn’t hire contractors. They suffered from losing those highly skilled individuals and became worse off for it and, over time, the issues were resolved, and contractors could once again enter the workplace without too much worry.  The business world will, of course, have teething problems with this and we are likely to see the number of contractors decline in the first half of 2021. Many of these individuals may opt to take on permanent roles for the time being, accepting a lower net income but, after a 12 month delay and with a greater understanding of the IR35 processes and legislations, businesses should feel more confidence in continuing to hire contractors, especially in high level roles. Diversity One of the biggest trends we’re likely to see in the industry in the year ahead lies within Diversity and Inclusion. The market has been traditionally quite poor when it comes to diversity, especially where gender is involved. Currently, only 18-25 per cent of the market is female and these percentages decrease the further up the career ladder you look. After the events of this year, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, more businesses in the space are going to focus on how to improve their diversity.  Of course, there is no quick fix, and this will be a theme for many years to come but 2021 will certainly be a great starting point. Internal structures and procedures will need to be revisited by HR leaders and senior teams and tackling the problem much be started at the roots with aspects such as the hiring process and attitudes towards Diversity and Inclusion within existing internal teams.2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year and one that has witnessed huge change, growth and innovation within all areas of Data. The Data & Analytics market remains full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, take a look at our latest roles or get in touch with us at info@harnham.com.

Recently Viewed jobs