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Answering Those Difficult Interview Questions

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 1 May 2019

There are a lot of candidates that go into an interview and assume they can just wing it. In some cases, this may work, but you should prepare yourself to make sure you are giving yourself the best chances possible. Candidates should think about some questions before they attend an interview and it can be good to rely on the job specification to try and figure out what they may ask. Ask yourself why you want this job and if you have the skills for it, you should consider these questions before you apply for the role, but these questions can help you develop some potential answers. Focus on why you want this role. Knowing what you want and why you want it can help you be more confident when talking to the interviewer. Try and develop some mock questions and answers before your interview. You may not be asked every single question you think of, but if you go in with a plan, it can make you feel more confident about being offered the role.

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

This question is a common opener for many interviews, it opens-up the conversation and allows the interviewer to learn a little about you and maybe tailor their questions. Many people overthink this question and can cause them to stumble at the first hurdle. However, it may not be as complicated as you may think. Make sure you don’t ramble on about details of you that may not necessarily matter, in regard to the job. It can be good practice to have a copy of your CV with you, so you can use it to pick out key career highlights or achievements that you have listed on there. This keeps it professional, rather than talking about something off topic.

Why are you leaving your current job?

When answering this question, it’s best to avoid any negativity. Talking down on your current/past employers will not gain you any brownie points. The interviewer may see this as unprofessional and could be seen as a warning sign as to how you may talk about them. It’s good to be honest about it, but sugar coat your answer. E.g. “I really enjoy/enjoyed my job, but there isn’t much room for progression and I think I can be doing more to reach my career goals” They will appreciate your determination to carry on and do better for your career.

What are your weaknesses?

This question is likely to come up and can be very hard to answer. You don’t want to make the mistake of being too negative. They are asking for one of your flaws, but you don’t want to give them an easy reason to not hire you. Don’t say things like ‘I’m always late’ or ‘I can sometimes bring my bad mood to work’ these may be true but are very negative and can affect the work they want you to do. A good example of an answer is ‘I can sometimes let my mistakes get to me, but I do work extra hard to try and make sure this mistake is not made again.’ – The good thing about this answer is you are pointing out a weakness, like they asked, but also making sure you are including a positive.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question can be very daunting and sometimes annoying, especially if you have no idea where you want to be in your career by that time. However, you can upsell your career goals. You can mention that you’re not sure, but make sure you say what you hope to have achieved by then. It can be good to stress your interests in a long-term career, especially if you’re applying for a permanent job. Be specific and include a bit of your knowledge from the job spec. They want to know that they are hiring the right person and you will want to be there. So, don’t tell them you want to be a designer in 5 years, if you are applying for an analyst role, they may see you as a dead-end employee. A good example may be; ‘My goal right now is to find a position I enjoy and grow with the challenges presented to me. I would like to develop my management skills but ultimately I want to be able to develop in a role and work for a company that supports my growth.’

Why should we hire you?

This can often be a chance for you to stand out from the other candidates. Take this time to refer to the job spec and point out the things that you think would be very compatible to you. (Hopefully there are a few) They will appreciate that you have taken time to learn about the job role specifically whilst showing that you are the right person for the job. It’s important to talk about why you would be good for a job, but it can be equally as rewarding to talk about yourself. Why do you think you would fit in with the team? And what can you personally bring to the role? - Make it your own. It’s good to practice marketing yourself, learn to talk positively about yourself and trust in your ability. Take specific parts of the job brief and link them to your own personal work stories. Back up your claims with experience about successful projects or problems you have solved. This will only strengthen your answers.

Dreaded filler questions

At some point in your working life, you may find yourself in a situation where the interviewer has just asked you ‘If you could be any animal, what would you be?’ Some hiring managers may ask these weird questions to reveal more about your character, but it’s more likely that they are trying to see how you act under pressure. Not many people expect these questions and it can really throw you off. Don’t rush your answers, it gives you little opportunity to think of an interesting answer. I can’t say if these questions will affect the outcome of your interview or not, but they really do cause worry with candidates. I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about these sorts of questions, after all, your qualifications should be able to speak for themselves.

Finally, it’s always good practice to come up with some mock questions that you may be asked during your interview. If you eliminate the element of surprise, you can come up with some well-structured answers when talking to the interviewer and relieve some of the pressure interviews can bring. You are able to give clearer answers and it can be easier not to ramble on if you have a good idea of what to say. It’s not good to memorise answers as it can seem rehearsed and can sometimes be obvious. Put a bit of yourself into your answers and have some faith in yourself. Try focusing on why you want this job and if you are right for it, it will happen. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.