The beginning of a year can be a great time to start thinking about new opportunities in your career.

Now firmly on the other side of January, you may have thought you weren't enjoying your job because, well, it was January - known to be the gloomiest month of the year. 

But if, beyond the post-holiday blues, cash-strapped wallets, and dark afternoons, you're still desperate for change, we’ve spoken to an expert in recruitment to get the lowdown on how to nail a daunting job interview.

Kerry Norman, principal consultant in HR for recruitment specialists, Sellick Partnership, talks us through how to answer the most common questions interviewers ask.

With 14 years in recruitment, she also reveals how to approach salary, as well as signs that indicate interview success.

While all questions depend on the type of role, level of seniority, the business, and the hiring manager's interview style, here is a general guide:

Recruitment expert Kerry Norman

'Tell me a little bit about yourself'

"While you want to get your personality over, try to link it to the job and what they're looking for…essentially, they want a focused answer conveying your value to the organisation and department," said Kerry.

She added: "This should still be short and concise.

"For example, if they are looking for someone to grow the company and improve results, discuss that you’re known for turning around poor performance and quickly able to analyse problems and find solutions.

"Some companies might genuinely want to know about you and they will normally re-word the question to bring this out, but your first instinct should be to opt for a more professional answer."

'What are your weaknesses?'

"We always say to people to pick something that isn't necessarily a weakness," explained Kerry.

"For example, you might say, 'I'm really passionate about what I do and like to really get involved in a project, but I appreciate I spread myself too thinly sometimes,' so that's your weakness but it's a positive because it shows you're committed to the business and you'll put the work in.

"You wouldn't want to say something like 'I'm never on time for work'," laughed Kerry.

"At the end of the day, you're there to sell yourself but people struggle on those because they're not prepared for them, and they're such simple things that always generally come up.

"So you just have to pick something where although it could be a negative, such as maybe taking on too much responsibility, or you can't say no to people - actually there's a positive in there."

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'Why should we hire you?'

"This is a really broad question - again, having done your research about the business and the types of roles and their projects on the go, tailor it to that," said Kerry.

"You can talk about your strengths and about what you can personally offer and how you can add value; why you'd be good for the team.

"But it needs to be short, sharp, and snappy.

"In any interview, no one wants someone who just talks at you - they'll get bored.

"Some interviewers won't make any facial expressions, and won't talk, and that's really hard.

"It's easier said than done but try not to be nervous with verbal diarrhoea and know yourself - be to the point and practice it.

"A minute is quite a long time to talk, but you wouldn't want a five minute presentation on it.

"You don't want to over-practice because that's when you get into a kerfuffle but equally, if you don't know what your weaknesses are and you don't have a clue what you would say for your strengths, then if you don't know why they should recruit you, then you're not going to make it through the interview because they're really simple things."

'Where do you see yourself in five years?'

Kerry said this question depends on the level of seniority.

"If it's an assistant role, then you'd want to say things like complete certain exams, move onto senior role etc, which helps if you understand the structure of the business.

"You could tailor the answer to that business specifically but keep it general, for example by saying 'this type of role' - if a reference is made, it shows you're ambitious and career driven."

These pointers should be able to help you out if you land a job interview

How to ask about the salary

"When we recruit, we tell people ideally to not talk about it then we'll do the work from their side," explained Kerry.

"If you're going to an employer directly, we would say to not talk about it in the first interview stage, but if you're going to say you want a certain salary later on down the line, then you need to explain why.

"For example, 'I'm looking for X amount - I've looked at the market and I understand where my skill set lies, and I know I should be looking at salaries at this level' and be confident with it.

"You can also say 'These are the other roles I have applied for and they are advertised at X amount.'

"I once had a client who was on £18k and wanted £25k and she blew them away - she wasn't cocky, but she said 'This is what I know I'm worth.'

"If you go to an interview and they ask you what you're looking for, don't say, 'I'm looking for between 40k and 45k,' because the client will say 'OK we'll pay you 40k.'

"Think about what you want, what you realistically will be happy with and then go in at that level or slightly more.

"If negotiating, you can come down, but you can't go up.

"It would be difficult.

"Always know your market.

"If you're underselling yourself, they might be suspicious as to why you aren't putting yourself out there.

"Sometimes the salary isn't listed on the job advert, and in this case, then have the conversation with the person who is booking you in for the interview.

"But nowadays, you should be provided with that information before an interview."

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No-Nos

"Don't discuss benefits in the first stage of an interview, it's not relevant, and neither are little things like 'Do you have parking?'

"The first interview is about finding out if the job is right for you and the employer is figuring out if you're right for them.

"When interviews have gone well, talking from a HR perspective, candidates were able to articulate how they could add value; understood HR and showed passion and empathy; presented really well; built rapport; there was a good culture fit; and they were almost putting them in the place of already being in the business."

Negative and positive signals

"You can tell when someone is into you - making notes, making conversation on the back of what you are telling them - a good interview, I think, is a conversation, when it's a two-way thing and it's not just questions being fired at you - that's when you know," emphasised Kerry.

"You'll have a natural intuition and tend to know when things are going well, and it's easy to pick up when they're not - they won't be paying full attention to you, and I've even had interviewers going on their phones in the middle of it."

End the interview with a firm handshake

How to end an interview and to know if it's gone well

"I would recommend asking if there's anything else the interviewer needs, or ask if there is anything you haven't been clear on - this allows the client to then think actually, I did need more clarity on that or they might go back to answers that rang alarm bells.

"I think it works really well," added Kerry.

"Ending an interview with a good handshake is so important, and look them in the eye.

"It says a lot about you.

"Along with the message 'Thank you for your time, I'm looking forward to hearing from you'."

Regarding the 'coffee cup trick', which is regarded as a make or break if an interviewee leaves their dirty mug behind without cleaning it up, Kerry said: "It's a nice sentiment, but I don't think it would lose someone a job.

"It's manners at the end of the day and you need to be as polite as you can in an interview, for example, opening the door for someone.

"They are little things that help you decide if you're going to get along with that person when you first meet, so be aware of yourself and general etiquette.

"You could ask what the next step would be - sometimes clients say they've got another couple of people to interview and that's not always necessarily bad so don't be put off by that.

"A good signal in the final stages is often when employers walk applicants around the office, where you might be introduced to another employee in the business.

"They will often talk as if you've already got the job and you should be able to pick that up."

Kerry advises to wait four days to a week at the most for feedback before giving the company a call.

And if you receive a rejection via an automated email, she said to give them a call and ask if they can provide any further information.

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Be comfortable

Interviews are not about trying to catch you out; they want to use the time to find out about you, your skills and achievements, and suitability for the role, according to the expert.

There are a number of useful things to remember:  

Tough questions to consider

It might be worth preparing answers for tougher and more unusual questions.

While in one interview Kerry was asked 'What would the person in your office say about you who didn't like you?' She knows of one applicant that was asked 'What role would you take on during a hen party?' There are some other tough questions that could be asked and include:

On a final note, Kerry said: "It's important to remain professional, positive and to link answers back to what the interviewer is looking for - even if your answer to winning the lottery is 'Run for the hills!'"

Best of luck!