Interviewing well is definitely a life skill that can be learned and honed through your career; although a candidate who is too polished and over-rehearsed can be as much a turn-off as one who’s clearly unprepared.
Our advice for a successful interview experience is simple; Relax, try to be yourself and make sure you’ve done your homework on the company you’re hoping to join. But that said, it can all go to pot if you’re thrown a curve ball question that leaves you stumped. Some of the most common and seemingly simple interview questions can be the trickiest to answer. That’s why it’s important to consider what you might be asked and how you plan to answer – before the big day.
At Merston Peters we’ve been recruiting in the agricultural sector for over 25 years and in that time we’ve arranged in excess of over 10,000 client/candidate interviews. As industries go, we’ve found that people in agriculture are generally no-nonsense, straightforward individuals so interview questions tend to be very much to the point, with little time spent beating around the bush (and more time walking round the field).
Here’s a quick summary of the top 5 interview questions and our suggested answers:
Q: What would you say is your greatest weakness?
Don’t attempt to blag that you don’t have any weaknesses – that would just sound pompous! It’s also a bit cliched to talk about your only weakness being that you’re a perfectionist or similar. It’s important to turn the answer into a positive but you also need to sound human too!
A good way to answer this type of question would be to talk about a weakness that you have improved on or overcome. For example, perhaps you struggled to be a team player but now you work extremely well in a team environment. Explain how you changed this about yourself – it will give you the opportunity to talk through how you work with others and give the interviewer more in-depth understanding of you and your skills in a particular area.
Q: What salary are you looking for?
With some employers this could be a switch-on or switch-off question. It shouldn’t be, but sadly in some cases it is. The answer to this question can also make a difference depending on whether you have applied for an advertised role along with many others, or if you have been specifically head-hunted. Either way, talking about money is alway an emotive subject, so here’s our advice:
You don’t want to undersell yourself and likewise you don’t want to out-price yourself. You could buy some time by offering that once you further understand the full responsibilities of the position you’ll have a clearer idea of the remuneration to expect for the role. You could also add that with the excellent reputation of the company you’re confident that the package for the right candidate would be a fair one. If the job was advertised with a salary band ‘dependent on experience’ you will need to ensure you can convince the employer of your worth at the higher end of that bracket.
Q: Why should we choose you for this job?
Remember, an interview is a snap-shot opportunity for an employer to get to know you. It’s impossible for them to fully appreciate all your attributes and experiences in this fast-track situation so it’s your responsibility to give them all the facts that add up to you being the right person for the job.
Match your skills to what you know they’re looking for and communicate this in such a clear and concise way that they can’t help but convince themselves you are perfect for the role. Where a new role involves dealing with particular customers, products, specific software or certain geographical areas, remember to keep mentioning these in your discussions as it will give the interviewer a feeling of confidence that you are already very familiar with what will be required in the role.
Proven track records, relevant experience and role-appropriate skills always rate highly but at the end of the day you need to connect with your interviewer and assure them that you have the right personality for the company too.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the future?
This question can easily be a banana skin. Don’t talk about your ambitions to run your own business or your desire to run the company you might be joining – unless you’re applying to be MD, Chairman or CEO of course.
Speak positively about your goals and objectives which relate to the position you are applying for. Having researched the company in detail you should have an idea of how you can help them achieve their objectives. There is no harm in enquiring about the potential career path beyond the role you’re applying for, or growth potential within the role. This will demonstrate just the right level of ambition whilst assuring the interviewer that you’re not intending to treat the role as a stop-gap or that you will be moonlighting to develop you’re own business whilst in their employ!
Q: Why do you want to leave your current job?
Never speak negatively about your current or previous employers. An interview is definitely not the place to air your views or to gossip – it won’t reflect well on you. In particular, if you are being interviewed by a competitor of your current employer, resist the temptation to bad-mouth them and whatever you do, don’t give away any trade secrets. Your interviewer will only think you could potentially do the same to them sometime in the future.
It would be good to explain that while you’re happy in your current position, the research you’ve done on the company you are looking to join leads you to believe they would be a better fit for you.
Even if it’s true, don’t mention any clashes of personality or the fact that you don’t get on with your boss. This sort of talk rings very loud alarm bells for potential employers who will just draw the conclusion that perhaps you’re high maintenance and not easy to get along with.
These are just 5 of the most typical interview questions that are used time and time again. For more detailed guidance on interviewing specifically in the agricultural sector just contact us here at Merston Peters. Our longstanding heritage of over 25 years across the agricultural supply sector means we’re well placed not just for the best roles, but for the best recruitment advice for both clients and candidates too.