The Dos and Don’ts of Answering Interview Questions

Answering interview questions is hard. Trying to determine whether an employer and job is right for you, whilst representing the best version of yourself and selling your abilities is going to put even the most articulate of us under pressure. If there was a silver bullet to interview success (apart from being right for the job!) we would say the recipe to a successful interview is preparation. Always make sure you are over prepared. Do your research and have your answers about yourself rehearsed and intelligent questions to ask.

To help you in your interview preparation we have create this article as an interview answer study guide. We asked some of the employers we work with to tell us their favourite interview questions. Underneath each question, whilst we wont be telling you what to answer because we have given you helpful advice on the dos and don’ts to approaching your answer to each of these questions. Whilst some may seem obvious you would be surprised how many of us answer with a don’t when in a pressured interview enviroment.

Why do you want to leave your current job?


Do: Be positive; talk about your aspirations for the future and how this new position is a positive step towards you achieving your long-term career goals. And be prepared to explain what those goals are. Perhaps your previous job didn’t quite offer the career progression you were after.


Don’t: Make negative comments about your previous employer, as this will give your interviewer cause to think you may do the same to them. Also, don’t tell lies! Referencing is a core part of moving careers and failure to disclose important information about why you left your previous job, i.e. redundancy, could catch up with you later down the line.

Why do you want to work for us over our competitors?


Do: Use examples of how the company’s ethos and approach fit with your own values and beliefs – this will not only show you’ve done your homework, but also demonstrate how there is synergy between their way of working and yours. Is there a project they worked on that you particularly admired? Mention anything that appeals to you about their business that their competitors don’t offer i.e. do they have a highly rated in-house training programme that you’re keen to join?


Don’t: Reel off facts. Whilst Googling the business online and visiting the company’s website are the minimum expectation in an interview these days, parroting facts is unlikely to impress or be sufficient. Again, don’t bad-mouth their competitors as a way of winning favour; you could end up working for one of them one day and people in property talk!


Where does your interest in property stem from?


Do: Reply with a genuine answer as this will always come across better than something that sounds forced or insincere. Make a list of all the things you love about property and what prompted you to take those first steps into the industry. You should also be prepared to speak about why you want to work in a certain market.


Don’t:  Say what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Employers can very often pick up on those who aren’t genuinely passionate about the industry so think carefully about what you’re going to say before answering.


What appealed to you about this particular role?


Do: Explain why this role appeals to you over other opportunities you may have come across. Pinpoint how your experience or skill set matches closely with the job description and how the role is perfect for helping you to build on your existing experience and career.


Don’t: Even if salary is your key reason for leaving your old job and seeking pastures new, try to keep this information to yourself during the interview. Draw on the other aspects of the job role and how you feel it’s the right position to take your career forward.


What three skills would you bring to this role?


Do: Keep them positive and relate them back to the job description. ‘Discipline to work on your own’ may be relevant if you’re going to be working alone off site but not so much if a core part of your role is working within a close-knit team.


Don’t: Don’t answer the question too quickly. Take your time so it’s not obvious you’ve prepared your answer beforehand; this will help convince the interviewer that your skill-set is naturally matched to the position.


How would members of your team describe you?


Do: Most jobs will involve some degree of teamwork so this is chance to show your understanding of team dynamics and how you will fit in to and contribute to the overall company structure.


Don’t: Over-egg your answer. There are inevitably going to be instances when not everyone in a team will get on – the key is to show that you can work with a variety of personality types and adjust your approach to fit in with different team dynamics.


How would you deal with a client that is unhappy with your advice?


Do: Emphasise that no matter what the issue may be, you will always act with the client’s best interests at heart. Believe in yourself and the advice you impart to clients; just because the client may not agree with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean your advice was wrong.


Don’t: Be afraid to ask questions to clarify the scenario before answering. Is there a particular aspect of your advice that may be the most likely cause for concern? This will demonstrate your desire to approach any given situation from the outset in a way that avoids any potential client disquiet before it occurs.


Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?


Do: Stress your interest in a long-term career with the company and demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow from those higher up the chain. Be honest about your aspirations; if you want to be promoted twice in five years’ time then say so as this will show your ambition and commitment to staying with the business for the duration.


Don’t: Confuse ambition and hunger with arrogance and avoid vague answers such as ‘I’d like to grow with the business and see where it takes me.” Employers look for focused and determined individuals who know what they want out of a career but not those who will do anything at the expense of others to get where they want to be.


How do you keep up to date with current affairs?


Do: Interviewers want to see that you are up-to-date with current events and understand how these may impact on the market and, subsequently, their business. Do some reading ahead of the interview so that you have at least some basic knowledge of most events affecting the industry. Good sources include Property Week, Estates Gazette, The Times, FM World and Building magazine. Be proactive too – attend some networking events or become a member of an industry body to help boost your CPD.


Don’t: Go in underprepared. It’s almost a given that the interviewer will know as much, if not more, about the industry than you do so be prepared to answer questions on recent events and explain how they are relevant; being asked a question on interest rates, for example, and looking at the interviewer blankly won’t make a great impression.


What has been your biggest achievement?


Do: Feel free to talk about all aspects of your life, aside from work achievements, that demonstrate your aspirations and values. Have you volunteered for a charity? Competed at a high level in sport? Outside achievements can speak volumes about the type of person you are and, most of the time, can be translated to apply to how you approach life at work.


Don’t: Focus solely on academic qualifications or work experience as this is unlikely to distinguish you from others. Think of other aspects of your life where you have succeeded and try to link these to the job role you are applying for.


Do you have any questions?


Do: Ask your own questions! Use this opportunity to find out anything else you want to know and show the interviewer you are serious about taking the position. You could ask things such as “What are the biggest challenges the company has faced over the past 12 months? What are the best things about working here? What further education opportunities are there?”


Don’t: Be careful not to ask any questions that have already been covered in the interview as this may suggest you weren’t listening or didn’t ask for earlier clarification on something you didn’t understand. If you’re going to ask an interviewer to expand on a topic, be prepared to talk about these subjects briefly.


We hope this has helped. Good luck in your interview!

Deverell Smith Limited, 2nd Floor, Cannon Green, 1 Suffolk Lane, London, EC4R 0AX Tel: 020 7291 0900