interview questions
5 tricky interview questions and how to answer them

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 focussed on your skills, experience and career to date but make it personable. This is an opportunity to get across information about yourself that will make you stand our for the role. Talk about your psychological make-up and what parallels in your personality traits would benefit you in 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 communications skills.

There are clues in every advert….

contract recruitment
6 golden rules for a successful CV

It may be stating the obvious,

but when searching for a new job, your CV is vital.

You could be the perfect person for the job but if your CV doesn’t demonstrate that, you can forget it. Make sure you get it right by following our 6 golden rules and the interview invitations will follow.

Don’t tell fibs

Although it may be tempting to stretch the truth or just outright lie on your CV, it’s a really bad idea. If you’re applying for a job that requires you to be skilled in injection moulding, don’t say you are if you’re not – you’ll be found out!

Tailor it to the role you’re applying for

Applying for jobs can be time consuming and tedious but rather than firing out the same version of your CV to lots employers, take time to tweak it for the role you’re applying for. Read the advert, think about what kind of person the employer is looking for and amend your CV accordingly. For example, if the ideal candidate should have experience in Project Management and you’ve got it, make sure your CV says so. What’s more, you can highlight this near the top of your CV, by adding a RELEVANT SKILLS & EXPERIENCE section after your personal statement. This will help the employer to see at first glance that you have skills they’re looking for.

Quantify your achievements

It’s easy to say how great you are on your CV, but you can add so much more weight to your claims if you back it up your achievements with numbers. For example, if you’ve increased productivity on the factory floor, be specific; tell them you’ve increased output by 35% over a 6 month period. Make sure your numbers are robust though, and be prepared to elaborate at interview (remember golden rule #1!).

Don’t leave gaps

Gaps on your CV tend to rouse suspicion. Employers sift through so many CVs that they’re often looking for reasons to discount candidates and whittle down to a shortlist to invite for interview. Chunks of unaccounted time are a classic reason to send CVs to the ‘No’ pile. If you’ve got a reason for the gap, state it and put a positive spin on it. If you’ve done any volunteer work, training courses or anything else that has sharpened your skills, don’t keep it to yourself, let your prospective employer know!

Proof read!

DON’T waste all that hard work honing your CV by sending it out with glaring mistakes. Errors in your CV will tell employers that you don’t have attention to detail. Use a spell checker and get someone else to read it over with fresh eyes. You may have read it 100 times but it’s amazing how many mistakes go unnoticed in your own work.

Use keywords

If you’re uploading your CV to job websites such as CV Library or Total Jobs so that recruiters can find you, keywords are really important. Recruiters will search for candidates by industry, skills, job title, qualifications etc, so make sure you can be found. Think about these keywords and include them in your CV.

staff engagement
Staff Engagement – First Impressions & Inductions

Perpetual Partnerships’ Managing Director, Garry Rogerson, talks about the importance a great induction and why it is vital to staff retention and staff engagement.

Most businesses hugely underestimate the cost of staff turnover. According to the Telegraph, staff turnover costs British businesses at least £4.13 billion each year. When considering the cost of replacing staff, most employers think about recruitment fees. However, in reality, that is only the tip of the iceberg. When you add in the time taken for a new member of staff to reach optimum productivity (an average of 28 weeks), the average cost for replacing a member of staff is estimated to be a staggering £30,614. With figures like that, staff retention and staff engagement should be at the top of every business’s agenda.

So how do we keep our staff engaged and happy in their jobs?

According to research published by Equifax, 40% of people who voluntarily left their job did so within the first 6 months and a further 16% left within 12 months. Those statistics make it plainly clear that a company HAS to make a good impression when on-boarding a new member of staff.

First Impressions

Many businesses put a lot of time and energy into finding the right candidate, but what comes next is equally, if not more important.  Making a positive first impression is a two way street and businesses should consider the first 6 months of a new starter’s employment as a probationary period for both the employee AND the business. Starting a new job can be a daunting and anxious time so, as a business, you should do your best to make the process as stress-free as possible. Employers should have a well-planned ‘On-boarding Process’ which should be followed when recruiting new members of staff.  There are three stages in the on-boarding process.

1. Period of Uncertainty – before the employee starts work

For a new employee it can feel like a really long time between acceptance of a job offer and actually starting the new role.  During this time, new recruits may doubt whether they have made the right decision and start to regret making a move but there are some simple and effective things employers can do to make a great impression and minimise potential anxiety:

  • Communicate – keep in touch
  • Ensure paperwork is sent out correctly and on time
  • Make sure they know the start time, date, location and who to ask for on their first day
  • Invite them to any upcoming social events
  • Send a welcome pack with paper work
  • Invite them to like the company LinkedIn or Workplace page

2. Induction and First Weeks

It’s vital to plan a thorough induction.  Not only does it help you and other members of the team get organised for the new starter’s arrival, they will appreciate a clear plan so they know what their first day or weeks have in store for them.  The best inductions cover the first few weeks of employment and are communicated to the employee before their start date.

During the induction process you should make the new employee feel as welcome as possible and communicate useful information about the company and their role its all about staff engagement.  There is nothing worse than turning up for your first day to find your work area and IT equipment hasn’t been set up.  Define their roles and responsibilities, clear goals, targets and mutual expectations and run through the Company’s Mission Vision and Values.

Introduce them to their colleagues and give them a brief overview of their role.  It’s difficult to remember everyone’s names to begin with so an organisation chart with staff photos is a real help to new employees and will take away the awkwardness of having to ask people their names after having being introduced.

HR Balance Poll 2017 lists the top 10 things to turn off a new employee so try to avoid these rooky mistakes:

  1. Not having own work area
  2. Manager away or on holiday on first day
  3. Left in reception unattended
  4. Everyone heading out for lunch on day one and not being included
  5. Overloaded paperwork
  6. No introduction to co-workers
  7. Left with a negative member of staff for the day
  8. Mentor too busy
  9. Left to carry out mundane tasks
  10. Lack of equipment (laptop/phone etc)

3. Harmonisation period
Once you’ve successfully managed the period of uncertainty and induction stages, you need to ensure you keep your employees engaged.  This part is possibly the most difficult and requires careful thought on behalf of the employer.

Here are some of the things you can do as an employer to keep your employees engaged and reduce staff turnover in your business:

  • Offer a forum for recognition and reward
  • Give employees a voice
  • Conduct regular one-to-ones and appraisals
  • Provide an ongoing and defined training and development programme
  • Offer defined paths for advancement based on skill development and achievement
  • Give and receive feedback at 3, 6 and 9 months on a 360 basis

Remember, employees who feel appreciated and valued by their employers are more likely to stay so every employer should give some serious thought about how they can make their business a great place to work and keep their staff ENGAGED.

Read more on how to retain your staff

Garry Rogerson is Managing Director of Perpetual Partnerships and is an experienced strategic recruitment leader with over 17 years’ experience helping engineering business attract and retain the best talent in the industry.   Garry is part of the Leadership Team run by Hopkins & Ball and is connected to a large network of professionals and leaders.  If you want to be notified about Garry’s next seminar email

Follow Garry on LinkedIn.

We have a unique and intricate understanding of the technical recruitment market. We are focused on quality of service rather than on sales and KPI’s.


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