Job Interview Questions - ​ the three most difficult types!

By: Lisa Spiteri

It’s easy to make yourself look good on paper. You can spend as much time as you want honing your CV, carefully wording every section to clearly convey your strengths – you have absolute control of the process. But it’s the interview process that sorts the wheat from the chaff, and here – depending on how arduous your interviewers want to make it – you are less in control.

No matter how much you rehearse and practice for interviews, it’s impossible to be totally prepared. Interviewers have a knack of throwing curve balls that can easily catch you off guard. The key to this is to develop an ability to adapt to the circumstances and be able to respond positively to any question – giving answers that will successfully highlight your skills and what you can offer, even if the aim is to potentially expose weaknesses.

Below, we’ve shared our thoughts on some of the trickier types of questions you might face...

1. The obvious

Often used as an ice breaker, “Tell me about yourself” is not an invitation to share your life history. It’s an opportunity to present a synopsis of the type of person you are and why you’re suited for the job – check out Interview Questions: how to answer “Tell me about yourself” for more pointers.

“Why do you want this job?” is a question for which many candidates often seem unprepared. Similar to “Why should I hire you?”, it requires research on the position and the company, reasons why you are the most suitable candidate for the role and how you will add value.

“What are your strengths?” is one that you can be prepared for, but make sure you can back up each strength, quality or skill with solid and tangible evidence across your career.

2. The odd

Interviewers love to see how candidates will respond to unusual questions. We’ve heard of all sorts of strange questions, but “Explain our business to an eight-year-old child” is probably one of most challenging. Designed to discover if YOU understand the company you may end up working for, your ability to articulate the business in simplistic terms will show how much research you’ve done – and, by implication, how interested you are in the company and the job.

“You have a colleague who doesn’t like you much, what would they say about you?” suggests a negative answer will be the only option. So work on ways to turn it into a positive – they may think you’re too loud, but maybe that’s how you motivate your team and their sales figures show it.

And if you’re asked “Have any of your decisions ever been challenged?” don’t be afraid to answer in the affirmative. Demonstrating the ability to take direction or criticism and – more importantly – to learn from it is a strength in itself and will win valuable brownie points.

See our blog post on answering bizarre interview questions for more useful tips on these types of job interview questions.

3. The uncomfortable

Some questions seem destined to have candidates squirming on their chairs, but they don’t have to be like that.

If asking about your strengths is an obvious question, the so is the question “What are your weaknesses?” There’s no need to humiliate yourself here, be honest about a few things that could be weaknesses but that the job will give you the opportunity to address.

“Why is there a gap in your employment history?” is a question for which you should be prepared for, if that is the case. Despite the fact that the current economic climate can make it difficult to quickly step from one job to another, you should be able to demonstrate that you’ve spent your time productively, be it working freelance or volunteering for a charity.

And finally, “Why are you leaving your current job?” is one to be handled carefully and professionally. This is not the time to be rude about colleagues or line managers, or to run down your current employers. It’s far better to suggest that you’re looking for better opportunities.

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