How to answer difficult interview questions
Difficult interview questions are the nemesis of job seekers, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t excel. Here, we help you to craft winning answers in your next interview.
Difficult interview questions are feared by all job seekers. So if you have an interview lined up, it’s time to start thinking about what you might be asked and what your answers could be.
Though it’s impossible to know exactly what will happen in your interview, it’s safe to make a few assumptions.
Now, we know that in most graduate interviews there will be some tricky industry specific questions but here we take a look at the most common tricky questions that are likely to come up in most interviews.
General hints and tips
Prepare your answers before the interview
Prepare some answers for typical interview questions, and have a couple of examples of projects or roles that you’ve been involved in where you made a difference.
Even if the exact questions don’t come up, you should have plenty of things to talk about in terms of your skills and experience.
Stay calm and take your time
You’ll never perform at your very best if you’re stressed out, so just relax! It’s easier said than done, but remember that at the end of the day, you’re just going to be having a chat with another person about your skills and experience!
Take it seriously, but don’t spend too much time worrying about it. Have a cup of tea and a take a walk before turning up at the venue, just to get everything clear in your mind.
If you’re really struggling, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your interviewer if you can return to the question at the end.
You want to impress, but this should never mean lying about your skills and experience. It’s pretty likely that you’ll get found out in the end, and this could even result in you losing your new job.
Don’t feel pressurised into coming up with a faultless answer for every question. If you’re asked about your management experience, for example, and you’ve never managed a team, draw in some anecdotes from when you lead a project at uni or were the captain of a sports team.
You’ll have plenty to talk about if you’re prepared, and it doesn’t mean that you have to bend the truth!
Tricky questions and winning answers
Tell me about yourself
This is a popular opening question for many interviewers, so you should have a response ready. Keep it brief and try to give an overview of what you’ve done, where your interests lie, and how you want to progress your career. Be careful not to look like a work-a-holic though and be sure to include some of your “extra-curricular” activities.
I’ve recently graduated with a degree in Business Studies. I’ve always been interested in marketing particularly, having studied it as part of my degree and taking part in several work placements in the field during university. I’m now really keen to pursue a career as a marketing assistant in a retail business. At the weekend I play football for an 11-a-side team and enjoy an active lifestyle.
What are your weaknesses?
Don’t fall into the trap of coming out with a cliche such as “I work too hard!” Be honest about something that you think you could be better at, but put a positive spin on things. So, for example, if you’re an introvert and struggle to make yourself heard in group situations, say something like this.
Sometimes I can be a bit of an introvert but I try to push myself out of my comfort zone to improve my skills in this area. I recently volunteered to be in charge of a university project, and I also spoke in front of a large group of people in my part-time job.
Why do you want to work here?
With this one, you need to come across like you’ve done your research. Make sure that you know some great facts about the business that make it brilliant to work for, then tie in your knowledge with your own skills and experience.
I was really impressed about the business’s role in the local community. It’s something that I’m personally passionate about and I’ve got previous experience working in the field myself. Finally, being part of a small team attracted me towards this role as I enjoy collaboration and communication with my colleagues.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This is yet another tough one, as you want to come across as ambitious without seeming like you have ideas way above your station! Again, honesty is the best policy. Stating your plans with an element of flexibility is a good approach.
I’d like to gain more experience in the marketing field and pick up skills in social media management and public relations to help me to add more value to the business I’m working for. I’d like to progress to a marketing management role, but my priority at the moment is to gain a good understanding of the function and add as much value as possible.
Who was your best boss and who was your worst?
The interviewer is looking to see how you interact with previous bosses as well as see if you have learnt anything from previous experiences. The trick with this one is to be honest but not too detailed.
I have had some great bosses and some that were more challenging. I have taken some excellent advice from the good ones, some of which I’m still in contact with and learnt what not to do from the ones that I felt were not as good.
What annoys you?
This question is sometimes asked by employers to see if you will fit in with their companies culture and whether you get easily angered.
Now is not the time to announce your hatred for children or spilling your beer. It’s ok not to have anything that annoys you and your answer should be about general annoyances rather than one in particular.
I try not to let many things annoy me. If something is starting to bug me I tend to take a minute to think why the thing might be starting to get on my nerves and then I tend to calm down about it.
Give an example of when you didn’t meet an objective
You should always have an example of a situation at work or university where you failed to complete a project to your satisfaction but then you went back to rectify it after realising your mistake.
Don’t fall into the trap of saying that you have never failed to reach an objective and try to keep your example relevant to the industry if possible.
In my previous job I have to write a proposal for my boss. I had to run it past my supervisor first and she mentioned that it was not at a good enough standard to present yet. I asked my boss for a small extension and told him that I wanted to make sure that the proposal was perfect. I then spent the time to correct my mistakes and then ran it past team members before presenting it my boss. Needless to say, the proposal was approved.
Do you have any questions?
Always prepare a few questions! It’s your chance to find out more about the business and the role. Avoid questions about pay and benefits, and focus more on the job itself and the opportunities it might provide.
Is there any extra information that I could give you about myself or any answers from the interview that you would like me to elaborate on?
Do you have any tips for answering difficult interview questions?