Knowing how to answer these 10 questions will help you nail a job interview in South Africa

 ·11 Sep 2022

The Department of Labour and Employment, in partnership with the Central University of Technology Free State (CUT), has compiled a list of questions that will help prospective employees get to grips with job interviews in South Africa.

A job interview gives you the chance to convince your potential new employer that is the right person for the job, the department said.

“You have to convince the interviewer that you know what they are looking for and that you have what it takes to do the job.”

It noted that the most important aspect of the interview is to make sure that you are well prepared.

The pressure of securing a job in South Africa is increased by the high unemployment rate. Stats SA recently published the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the second quarter of this year. Despite a slight 0.6 percentage point decrease, the overall rate still sits high at 33.9%.

The unemployment rate, according to the expanded definition of unemployment, also decreased by 1.4 percentage points to 44.1 % in Q2:2022 compared to Q1:2022.

According to Stats SA, the biggest job gains were recorded in Community and Social Services (276,000), Trade (169,000), Finance (128,000) and Construction (104,000). However, there were job losses in Manufacturing (73,000) and Transport (54,000). The total number of persons employed was 15.6 million in the second quarter of 2022.

The questions 

Although you do not know which questions you will be asked in an interview, there are some common interview questions you can expect, said CUT.

“Practise and master your answers to these questions until you are able to answer them with enough confidence to sell yourself to the employer.”

Note: The following questions and answers are a basic structure for formulating one’s own answers.

1. Tell me about yourself

Most interviews start with this question, said CUT.

Divide this question into three parts: past activities – 10%; current information (present activities) – 80%; and future activities – 10%.

  • Past: Talk about your educational background. Explain why you chose a certain university and why you chose the course you studied.
  • Present: Focus on what makes you different from all the other candidates and on your suitability for the job in question. Showcase your skills, achievements and experience, and the lessons you have learnt from this experience, your leadership skills/positions, academic performance, community service, etc. Do not only mention what you did but explain why you did it and what you have learnt from doing it.
  • Future: Indicate your availability, and explain how your interest aligns with what the company is offering and why you applied for a position at that company.

“Do not summarise your CV. Rather, mention those things that make you perfect for the position.”

2. What do you know about our company?

For this question, the employer wants to determine whether you did your research on the company and how serious you are about the position, said CUT.

This means that before the interview, you should research the company online, looking at its website and relevant social media pages. CUT recommended looking specifically at their “About Us” sections.

“Do not only search for the company’s mission and vision but also be on the lookout for any available information on your prospective employer.”

3. What are your strengths?

Discuss your strengths that complement the job requirements, and that will distinguish you from other candidates. Focus on specific skills, and avoid general strengths such as “I am hard-working”.

Provide examples of situations in which you displayed those skills, and use positive words in your discussion. Do not mention a particular strength merely because it sounds good, said CUT.

4. What is your greatest weakness?

Select an actual weakness that you are currently working on overcoming.

Mention skills that are not critical for the position, or turn a negative aspect into a positive one, said CUT.

Remember that you have control over which information you want to share with the employer. Be honest, but do not be so honest that it costs you the job.

5. Why are you the best candidate?

Tell the company about what makes you unique and different from other candidates. Motivate your answer with examples.

“Do not make promises or beg for the job,” said CUT.

6. Where do you see yourself in 2/5/10 years?

Listen carefully to the period stipulated in the question, and make sure your answer is realistic.

Keep your answer relevant to the industry and the position you are applying for but show that you are ambitious.

7. Do you prefer to work independently or as part of a team?

“Keep in mind that you do not have to choose one option over another. Illustrate your flexibility, and incorporate the positive aspects of both options.”

The best thing to do is to decide ahead of time which of these ways of working (i.e. in a team or alone) is most needed for the job to which you have applied, said CUT.

8. Tell me about a problem you have encountered and how you dealt with it?

Decide on a problem you have experienced that had a positive outcome, said CUT.

Choose a problem related to the work environment, such as time management/organising/creativity, and not a personal problem.

9. How do you handle stress/pressure?

There are plenty of approaches you can follow to answer this question. However, be honest, keep it positive, and focus on how you will be an asset to the company.

Concentrate on how you will use that stress to succeed in the job added to the university.

10. Tell me about your dream job

Compare your interests, skills and goals as they relate to the requirements of the job listing.

Identify those things that overlap, and talk about a job where you can apply those skills, goals and interests.

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