Careers advice

Most common NZ job interview questions (with answers)

You can't predict everything the job interviewer will ask, but that doesn't mean you have to go in clueless.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first job interview or your 30th, preparation is key.

The good news? Interviewers often draw on a standard pool of questions when deciding what to ask candidates, meaning you can plan responses and cut out those awkward silences.

We’re not saying you’ll be able to predict everything that’ll come up, but reading through this list of job interview questions is a great place to start.

Common job interview questions

1. Tell me about yourself

The tell me about yourself job interview question is a favourite warm up for interviewers, as it gives them a quick refresh of your CV.

The secret to a good answer is to be concise. Avoid giving a full personal or employment history, choose two or three highlights you can link to the role. Also, don’t be afraid to include a couple of hobbies to round things off.

Example:

“I’ve just finished up my degree/apprenticeship in X, and I’m now looking for my first full time job. This experience was great because I learnt A, B and C, which I also backed up through volunteer work last summer.

When I’m not working or studying, I’m really into water sports, so I spend a lot of time out on the sea with my local sailing club, or kayaking with family and friends.”

As you add to your professional experience, this answer will get longer. That’s fine, but remember not to waffle - the interviewer will come back to anything they want more detail on. Equally, if you don’t have much experience yet, go into more detail on your education.

2. Why do you want this job?

This is where knowing the job description is essential. Not only does the interviewer need to see you understand the role requirements, they also want you to explain why you’re passionate about what you’ll be doing.

Example:

“What really drew me to this role was the emphasis on delivering great experiences to customers throughout their lifecycle. While I come from a sales background, I get a lot of satisfaction from helping clients beyond making transactions. This obviously means they have a better chance of re-buying in the future.

I’m also keen to develop my account management skills, so running my own client portfolio was something else that really hooked me”.

You need to have a solid understanding of the role and the business before you enter the interview.

3. Why do you want to work here?

This is similar to the last question, but focuses on the company, not the position. Sometimes these two are asked together, or alternatively you may get, “What do you know about this company?”.

To answer this effectively, show you understand (and appreciate) the company’s mission and values.

If you want to go a step further, demonstrate knowledge of challenges from competitors, or the state of their industry. Note: make sure you really know your stuff if you’re going to do this – because the interviewer will.

Example:

“The fact the company is big on teamwork is a big plus for me, as I love to work collaboratively and bounce ideas around. It seems like a workplace where people are valued, and given the space to develop their skills.

I also really like your emphasis on product innovation. I want to work in an organisation where people try new things and are always looking to improve what they offer”.

4. What are your biggest weaknesses?

The one everyone fears. You don’t want to present the interviewer with a huge red flag, but also avoid cringe-inducing responses like “I just care too much''.

There’s actually a get out of jail free card here – pick a genuine weakness, but one that won’t greatly impact your role. For example, if you’re applying for a dentist position, a fear of public speaking is unlikely to be a deal breaker.

If you can’t think of something that works for you, other good options include:

  • Getting impatient if a project goes over deadline
  • Becoming too involved in the small details of a project
  • Having trouble delegating tasks to others

Whatever you go with, it’s vital to show you’re making efforts to improve this area, and use positive language throughout.

Example:

“I get nervous speaking in front of large groups of people. I’m fine with small team meetings, but company-wide speeches make me anxious. In my last role, my manager helped me work on this by letting me lead training workshops, and I started to see a real improvement over time”.

5. What are your greatest strengths?

To prepare, use your Trade Me Job Profile and make a list of your core skills. Then, narrow this down to four of five. The shortlisted examples should:

  • Match the central aspects of the job description
  • Have solid examples behind them

Example:

"My greatest strength is planning complex projects to meet a series of deadlines. For example, I had to run several experiments to gather data for my dissertation, all of which needed careful coordination to complete on schedule.

This piece of work also required great attention to detail when analysing the information, and strong written communication skills to form robust conclusions”.

If you're job doesn't involved public speaking, this can be a great weakness to choose.

6. How would your current colleagues describe you?

The interviewer wants to know what you think of yourself, and how you think others see you.

This answer should contain honesty, modesty and examples. Don’t claim you were the office legend, and don’t tell the interviewer you never spoke to your colleagues because you were too busy working.

Example:

“I hope my teammates would describe me as helpful and hardworking. It was a collaborative workplace, and we all bought into that. For example, one of my colleagues often struggled to keep on top of the admin side of his work, so when I’d hit my target, I’d take some of this workload off him.

Also, if I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it, and I had a reputation for always pulling my weight.”

7. Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict

The interviewer doesn’t expect you to have been best mates with everyone you’ve met – conflict happens. The question is how you cope with it. Use the STAR method and an example to effectively answer this.

Example:

Situation/Task: “During a group project at uni, one of my teammates missed a deadline for his portion of the work, and when I asked him about it, he got very defensive.”

Action: “I was surprised by his reaction, but made it clear that I wasn’t having a go, and just wanted to ensure everything was finished on time. This calmed him down, so we sat down and decided it’d be better to move some of his work to another team member. We consulted with her, and she was happy to do this, so this is how we went forwards.

Result: Moving this work meant the guy who’d blown up was able to focus more on what was left, and we probably ended up with a better result. He eventually apologised, and said the stress of the deadlines had just gotten to him a bit”.

Workplace conflict happens, it's how you deal with it that matters.

8. What is your greatest professional achievement?

Pretty self-explanatory, but if this is your first job interview, you can talk about personal or academic achievements instead.

Note: this question asks for an achievement – so pick one. Again, the STAR method should be your go-to.

Example:

“In my last role as an agency project manager, we had one client who nearly cancelled because their projects often ran over deadline thanks to a complicated approval process.

When I took over the account, I organised meetings with their team to alter our approach and stop this from happening. Not only did we achieve our goal, as a result, the client rebought for more than their original deal. That was a pretty good feeling.”

9. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A good answer here aligns your objectives with what you’d learn from the role you’re applying for – the interviewer wants to see you’re ambitious and working towards long term goals. Note: while you don’t need to say you’ll definitely still be there in five years time, you probably don’t want to name drop another business.

A similar question vein is, “What is the dream job?”. The idea is the same, but the lack of time frame gives you more freedom to think big.

Example:

“Ideally, five years from now I’d like to be a site project manager, with responsibility for meeting deadlines and for the health and safety of my team.

I think this role is a great step towards this, not only in terms of the technical skills I’ll gain, but also the experience in working in larger teams on a wide range of projects.”

The interviewer wants to see you're ambitious and looking to the future.

10. Why are you leaving your current job?

Do not rag on your old boss, this always looks bad. Even if you hated the work, or left in bad circumstances, make this answer about how keen you are for new challenges and experiences.

Example:

“I learnt a lot from my previous role, but I’d reached a point where development opportunities were starting to slow down. Being able to grow my skills is really important to me, so I thought it was time for a change”.

You may also be asked the similar, “What are you looking for in your next role?”. Again, this is all about showing you’re looking to the future, and hoping to grow professionally and personally through the opportunities the role would present you.

11. What work environments do you like best?

This question aims to discover if you’ll fit the company culture, and the day-to-day realities of the role.

For example, if you know you’ll be working mostly independently, you could mention you enjoy being able to manage your schedule. Conversely, if the role centres around teamwork, you’ll want to discuss your love of open communication and brainstorming sessions.

What work environments suit you best?

12. What are your salary expectations?

Yikes. There’s only one tactic here – research the average salary for your role.

You’ll likely find a range, and we’d recommend naming the uppermost figure as your response, but let the interviewer know you’re flexible and open to salary negotiation.

Some people choose to lowball the figure in an attempt to make themselves a more desirable candidate. We don’t recommend this for two reasons:

  1. It can backfire: if you name a sum well below the industry average it shows that either you haven't done your research, or that you don’t value what you bring to the table.
  2. There are average salaries for a reason: you deserve to be rewarded for your time, which is why salaries exist. Most employers are happy to pay their staff fairly, so there’s no need to undervalue your worth.

13. Why should we hire you over other candidates?

Double yikes. How can you know where you’re better than the other candidates? You can’t, so don’t go this route.

This question is the ultimate chance to sell yourself by going beyond the core skills you’ve already mentioned. Talk about how easily you’ll fit into the culture, the energy you’ll bring or the problems you can solve. Note: if you mention how you could improve the business, be prepared to talk specifics.

Example:

“Well, on top of my skills as an IT technician, I have a track record for solving problems through the use of data analytics – which is also something I really enjoy. This means I’d be in a great position to help the department run more efficiently, which you mentioned was one of your goals for next year.

What’s more, with my passion for the environment and sustainability, I’d fit in well with your values surrounding making the business more eco-friendly.”

What makes you stand out from the crowd?

14. Tell me how you deal with stress

“I never get stressed'' is not the right answer here. You’re not superhuman, so there’s no shame in admitting you experience stress from time-to-time. You know the drill, STAR it.

Example:

Situation/Task: “In my former copywriting job, I had tight deadlines almost everyday, and clients would lose patience quickly if work was delayed. This meant I had to work very quickly and accurately, while also carrying out admin tasks on the side.”

Action: “Given how much I had to do, it was tempting to dive into the work on Monday morning. However, I’d always make myself review everything I had to do that week, and create a priority list.”

Result: “This meant I could identify which tasks would take longest, so I could make an early start on them and not risk getting behind. I found this was very effective in preventing deadline stress.”

15. Tell me about a time you’ve overcome a challenge

Do you run for the hills, or look for a solution?

Example:

Situation/Task: “During one of the busiest periods last summer, we discovered one of our ingredient orders had been filled out incorrectly by a new staff member. As well as being a significant waste of money, this meant that we were missing stock we needed.”

Action: “To offload the unwanted ingredients, I rang around other restaurants until we found someone willing to buy it from us. I then got on the phone with our supplier, and asked for an emergency delivery. Luckily, I have a good working relationship with them, so they agreed to do this.”

Result: “While we didn’t recoup all the money from the original mistake, we got the majority back by being able to move the ingredients on. More importantly, however, we were able to produce our normal goods for our customers.”