Answering and asking questions at an interview

Answering Interview Questions

Often autistic people prefer closed questions (which required only you to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’), but your interviewers are unlikely to know this, and are much more likely to invite candidates to express themselves. Most interview questions tend to be open, for example ‘tell me about your strengths’ so you will need to describe your own strengths and why they would be good for this job.

In an ideal world, during the interview your answers will demonstrate some / all of the following:

  • That you have some understanding of the type of work they’re recruiting for
  • That you have suitable skills that will allow you to perform the work, if not immediately, then with a little training
  • That you have some experiences from life, education or previous roles that will help you do and/or learn to do the job
  • That you are keen to do the job
  • That you are keen to work for this company

You can think in advance about your answers in advance by using our download on common interview questions.

As well as being prepared to answer open questions, sometimes you will be asked specific the following types of interview question:

  • Competency Based Interview Questions – These questions will be about specific skills needed to do the job. The interviewer will ask you to describe a time when you had to use these skills in either a previous role, at school or in your wider life experience. Examples might include:
    • Tell me about a time you had to work successfully as part of a team, or
    • Can you describe a problem that you had to think creatively to solve?
  • Situational Questions – These questions are designed to assess your strengths, by asking you to describe what you would do in a hypothetical situation. For example, how might you sell a particular service, or how you might tackle a problem where you don’t have all the information you’d like to have.

There is more information about answering competency based and situational questions in this download.

How long should you talk for?

There is no fixed answer to this. It should only take a few seconds to answer a simple factual question. For an open question such as ‘why do you want to work here?’, an answer could be as long as 1 to 3 minutes. If you are unsure how long to talk for or don’t know whether you have given enough information, you could ask “is that what you wanted to know?” or “would you like me to tell you more?”.

Asking Questions

Normally, at some point during the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions for them.

It is important to ask at least one question, as it shows you’re interested in the role

Make sure that you ask the questions you that are most important to you first as it is unusual for candidates to ask more than 4 or 5 questions. You should therefore avoid the temptation to ask everything you might wish to know at this stage. There will be more opportunities to gather more information before you accept an offer or start employment.

It’s a good idea to think about questions you’d like them to answer in advance and take them into the interview with you. Don’t ask a question you already have the answer to. Questions might be about:

  • The company or the job (from your research)
  • What would I be doing on a typical day?
  • What do they like best about working for the company?
  • What sort of training is involved?
  • What are the most challenging aspects of the job?
  • When will you hear about the outcome of the interview?

If they haven’t invited you to ask questions don’t be afraid to do so before you leave

If you feel there is key information that the interview didn’t give you a chance to highlight, you may want to take the opportunity to do so at the end. However, be aware that some things you think are very important, maybe less important to the interviewer. The key is to ask them whether they’d be interested in hearing more about the subject. If they indicate they’ve already heard enough, then there’s no need to elaborate. If they are interested in hearing more, then tell them a little bit more, and see if they ask you any further questions. This is typically an indication that you’ve caught their interest and you can talk about the subject some more.

Asking for Clarification

During interviews there is just as much chance of