In today's highly competitive jobs market, it's common for
employers to have many highly suitable candidates for just one or two
positions. This naturally raises the question of how they can better separate
candidates, to which one of the most obvious answers is to ask more challenging
As there's no substitute for preparation for your own next
interview, here are 10 of the most difficult questions that you may be asked, and
how you may best answer them.
1. Can you tell me
something about yourself?
This is a question where it is so easy to slide into endless
irrelevant talk about where you were born, your parents, childhood, family,
personal likes and dislikes and so on. Instead, pick out brief examples of your
personal and professional experiences that make you suitable for the position -
even have a 'lift pitch' ready to deliver.
2. Why do you think
you would be successful in this job?
Don't just wander into general boasting about how brilliant
you are - remember that this is a very specific question about what makes you
suitable for this job, as opposed to
others. Match your strengths to the characteristics that are outlined in the
job description and person specification.
3. Why are you
leaving your present job?
Like many questions that you may be asked by those
conducting recruitment campaigns, this isn't too tough a question if you
prepare well. Talk about the personal and professional growth opportunities,
challenge or excitement of taking on this position, rather than whinging about
your present or last employer.
4. Have you ever had
a bad experience with an employer?
There are two big risks with this question - criticising a
past employer or incriminating yourself in relation to that bad experience. If
you can't truthfully say that you have never had a bad experience with an
employer, at least describe a difficult situation that you emerged stronger
from as a way of demonstrating your potential now.
5. What are your most
and least favourite aspects of your present job?
Be more specific than just citing "a nice
atmosphere" - something that relates to the position, such as your
enjoyment of teamwork, is ideal. As for least favourite aspects... try to make
it something as far away as possible from the responsibilities that you would
have in this particular job, and make sure the answer illustrates either good
performance or an ability to learn.
6. Give me an example
of when you handled a major crisis
Many candidates are thrown by just how dramatic this
question sounds, so feel free to reframe it as "Give an example of when
you coped with a difficult situation". Look back through your personal,
professional and educational life and think of situations where you
successfully dealt with an unexpected problem.
7. Give me an example
of a time when you showed initiative
A big danger here is of stumbling into describing an idea
that you had that you didn't put into action. It is therefore better to
describe an idea that you did act upon, where you solved a problem by yourself
and can back it up with examples of the positive consequences that such action
8. Where do you
expect to be in five years' time?
Saying that you want to be running the company or in the
interviewer's role isn't a very insightful answer. Talk instead about your
motivations and your understanding of your likely career path in this
particular organisation or industry - this being very much a question where you
will be expected to have done your employer
9. What can you tell
me about this company/industry?
It's obvious advice to say that this requires extensive
prior research, but again, it's true. Look at the company website, its 'About
Us' section and any other details about the company's history, objectives and
values that you can find. Write down some key points to tell the interviewer
that show you are interested in a job with this
company, not just a job.
10. Do you have any
questions or anything else you would like to add?
This shouldn't be your cue to just say "no". Take
the opportunity to end the interview on a decisive and memorable note that
banishes any lingering interviewer doubts. Prepare some questions in advance
about the company's culture or even what the interviewer likes best about the
company, to demonstrate that you are interviewing them, rather than merely
being interviewed by them.
Don't be yet another candidate who thinks they're good
enough to "wing it" - by thoroughly preparing in advance with answers
for questions like the above, you will be able to gain a decisive advantage in
the race for many of the most desirable jobs.