You will usually be asked questions you may find difficult to answer in an interview. We have talked before about taking time to effectively prepare for an interview by researching the company, preparing possible interview questions and practicing appropriate responses. Interview questions vary depending on the role, industry, company culture, seniority, and what’s expected of you. Many recruiters will take the opportunity to incorporate difficult or uncomfortable lines of questioning in order to put you under pressure. How you handle this pressure provides them with a great insight into your true capabilities and if not handled well, may cost you the job.
Whilst these difficult questions can be challenging, they also provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the role, as well as your ability to perform well under stress. If you take the time to prepare for these difficult questions, you’ll be far more confident at the interview.
An important way to prepare answers is by brainstorming situations you’ve been involved in to demonstrate your point. Interviewers often use behavioural based questions which focus on your past behaviour to determine potential future success. These questions can be applied to many different areas and they help the interviewer analyse how you’ve handled situations in the past. We recommend using the S.T.A.R. model (read more about that here) to brainstorm examples and develop suitable responses. I’ve provided six tricky interview questions that are commonly disliked amongst candidates:
1. What is your greatest strength? Many candidates feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in a positive way. You need to remove that barrier and remember this is a job interview. This is your chance to stand out so focus your answer on areas relevant to the role. Talk only about work related strengths and don’t just say (for example) “I’m really organised”. Tailor your response to fit the role and use a specific example that supports your point.
2. What are your weaknesses? Don’t reveal your worst weaknesses – instead prepare two or three minor work-related flaws. There are different approaches to take with this one. You could choose something that doesn’t matter for the role, identify a weakness that could be seen as a positive, or use a fault you are working to improve. The important point is to answer honestly and remain positive. If there is an obvious gap in your experience or knowledge, you could use that as your weakness and address it directly by saying something like “I’m aware of my lack of experience in this industry, so I’ve done some research online and spoken with some of your competitors. I am confident I can learn everything I need to know in a short time frame and quickly become an asset to the organisation.”
3. Why are you leaving your current job? Stay positive and don’t criticise your current or previous boss or company. Talk about new challenges/responsibilities, career progression, long periods in the same role having achieved significant success and the desire to develop new skills/knowledge. If you were made redundant, be honest and up front and say so, something along the lines of “Unfortunately the company had to downsize a number of roles including mine.” Practice your response so you don’t become emotional or stumble over your words – be brief and stay positive.
4. Tell me about a time you missed a deadline? (or something similar where you have to talk about a negative situation). It’s important to clearly explain what happened, then focus on the positives in terms of what you learnt and how you do things differently now. For example, you could talk about how you have improved your prioritisation and time management skills after missing a deadline.
5. Why should we hire you? Don’t just say “Because I’m great at what I do”. Think about your abilities, skills and accomplishments, match those to the job description and focus on why you’re a good fit for the role. Give examples and demonstrate success. Don’t forget to show interest in the company. For example, you could mention something about the opportunity the role offers to further develop some special knowledge you’re particularly interested in.
6. What do you like least about your current job/the people you work with? Again, try to think of something that may not apply to the role you’re applying for. Answer the question, but focus on the positives such as the fact that you stuck with it or learnt something new even though the task may not have matched your strengths. If you are asked specifically about individuals, never be negative – again remain positive and if you can’t think of something in a positive light, you could just say, “I get along with most people, and I don’t usually have problems developing good working relationships with colleagues.”
Remember, there are often no right or wrong answers with interview questions – the recruiter is simply trying to gain insight into the value you can bring to the organisation. No matter what the question, try to tailor your answer to suit the job you are applying for, always answer honestly, and remain upbeat and positive – that way the interviewer will gain a good sense of why you’d be a great fit for the job.
If you would like assistance from a Career Advisor to help you prepare for tricky interview questions and increase your success rate at interviews, please see our Interview Training and Coaching service.