Interviews can be grueling
and even the most prepared candidates can be caught off-guard by a difficult and unexpected question.
Often, tricky questions aren’t asked to trip you up but rather to get a sense of what you’re really like so the interviewer can assess your suitability for the role. Here are some tricky questions and tips on how to answer them to bear in mind when preparing for that all important interview.
Why do you want to leave your current job?
The trap: The interviewer is looking for red flags such as “I don’t like my boss” or “I was expected to work extra hours” or “They made me do things that weren’t part of my role”. While they may be valid reasons, these types of answers won’t portray you in a good light and the interviewer may come away thinking that you are difficult to work with and unwilling to go the extra mile.
How to answer: Keep the focus on you and your future aspirations. Never speak negatively about your current/previous employers. Talk enthusiastically about the opportunity you are interviewing for and explain how it offers you the challenge/progression/opportunity to use your skills that you’ve been looking for.
What’s your biggest weakness?
The trap: Obviously you don’t want to highlight any flaws that will harm your chances of being offered the job. If you struggle with timekeeping, DON’T tell them you’re often late! If you don’t handle criticism well DON’T admit to bursting into every time a colleague pulls you up on a mistake.
How to answer: Identify a weakness that could also be seen as a strength, then explain what you’re doing to fix it. For example “I have a tendency to say yes and overcommit myself. I really don’t like saying ‘no’ but I’ve realised that it’s better than letting people down. I’m learning to take on only as much as I can deliver to a high standard, and rather than say I’m too busy to help, I give colleagues realistic timeframes I’ll be able to deliver”.
Which part of the job will be most challenging for you?
The trap: The interviewer is trying to find out if you lack any of the required skills and experience for the role. If you start talking about parts of the job description you have never done before or don’t like doing, you might find yourself out of the running.
How to answer: This is an opportunity to let your potential employer know that you are keen to sharpen your skills and continue to develop. If there’s an area where you lack formal qualifications, talk about what you are doing to build your skills – i.e. “I’ve loads of experience in creating Risk Assessments working safely but never done the formal training, so I’m doing the IOSH Managing Safely course make sure I’m up to date and aware of the latest legislation.”
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
The trap: The interviewer is trying to work out if your aspirations and career plans align with the role and the company. If you see this job as a ‘stepping stone’ DON’T admit it. Employers don’t want to invest time in recruiting and training someone who is only in it for the short term. Make sure you’re prepared to answer this question – a wishy washy answer makes it look like you don’t know where you’re heading.
How to answer: This is an opportunity to demonstrate you’ve done your research. If the company are growing, you could work this into your answer if you’re keen to progress. You don’t need to profess that you see yourself with the company until the end you your days but show that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and that you’re committed to your field.
Tell me about yourself.
The trap: This seems like a straight forward question, and interviewers often open with this but so many candidates go off on a tangent and talk for too long about irrelevant things. The interviewer most likely wants to find out about how you tackle this invitation to talk about yourself. Will you brag endlessly about how amazing you are? Talk for ages about irrelevant topics like your pets or favourite food? Or raise alarm bells by telling them about a recent breakup or childcare problems?
How to answer: Keep your answer focused on your skills, experience and career to date. This is an opportunity to get across information about yourself that will make you stand out for the role. The real question being asked here is ‘Why should I give you this job?’. So if the job adverts states that the ideal candidate is a great communicator, talk about experience you’ve had delivering presentations or influencing colleagues with your concise communication skills.