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 interview questions.

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 - or 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 had.

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 research.

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. 

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