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Turn Flustered into Fantastic – Arm Yourself with Some Smart Responses to these 6 Tricky Interview Questions

Posted: 08 February 2018

Job interviews are a stressful experience for most. Interview questions can fly at you thick and fast and, combined with the inevitable nerves, will catch you out if you’re not expecting them. If you want to avoid that rabbit-in-the-headlights feeling, get to know these tricky interview questions and how to go about answering them.

6 tricky interview questions and how to answer them

1. How would your friends/colleagues describe you? 

This helps to assess your personality, confidence and what you’re like to work with. You need to find the balance between being arrogant and self-deprecating. Self-assured yet modest will cast you in a good light.

Example answer: “I’d like to think that people see me as pretty easy-going and someone who can be relied on to get the job done”. 

Avoid saying: “I’m a total party animal!” You want to be seen as professional and work-oriented.

2. What’s your greatest weakness?

Though this seems negative, you can put a positive spin on it by showing how you’ve bettered yourself. Explain how you’ve kicked a bad habit or overcome personal obstacles.

Example answer: “I used to take criticism really personally and get down about it, but now I see it as a positive opportunity for me to improve myself and my work. I always learn from my mistakes” 

Avoid saying: “I don’t have any” – this will only annoy the interviewer and comes across as cocky. “I’m a perfectionist” – the most clichéd response to this question, and one that they’ll have heard hundreds of times before. Choose something that will make you stand out.

3. How did you overcome a challenging situation?

Demonstrate your resourcefulness, resilience and problem-solving abilities. This will indicate how you cope under pressure and deal with stressful situations.

Example answer: “Some of our catalogues had been printed with several errors. I put in place a checklist to be completed for every project, including it being reviewed and signed-off by several people. As a result, people took ownership over each project, and any errors were picked up and corrected before being sent to print.”

Avoid saying: “I was rushing a project and just wanted to get it done and over with, so I didn’t bother checking it before sending to a client. My boss wasn’t happy, but I apologised and promised it wouldn’t happen again.” Don’t give the impression that you’re incompetent or lazy – always show how you were proactive and found a practical solution to a problem.

4. Why do you want this job?

Research the company’s culture and the specifics of the role, always relating your answer back to this. You want them to see you’re really engaged and passionate, whilst possessing the right skills for the job.

Example answer: “I love what your company’s been doing with email marketing recently and feel my skills and experience as a Marketing Executive would allow me to contribute to this, and help develop future campaigns.” This shows you take an interest in the company and have spent some time researching them.

Avoid saying: “I just need the money, I’m willing to take anything!” Desperation is never a good look!

5. Why should we hire you?

This is your chance to hammer home your unique selling points – make sure you’re memorable for all the right reasons! Explain how you’ll benefit the company and what you’ll contribute to the team. If you have a specific skill or relevant experience then be sure to highlight this and relate it back to the role.

Example answer: “My experience in Sales and my proven track record for meeting targets on time makes me an excellent fit for this role.”

Avoid saying: “Because I’m the best choice you have.” Vague statements that aren’t supported with evidence or an explanation won’t help sway the interviewer; be specific and give reasons to back up what you’re pitching to them.

6. Tell me about yourself…

Deceptively simple, but don’t be fooled by this one! They’re not looking for a run down of your hobbies, or how you like to spend a lazy Sunday…Relate your passions and history to the job or industry. Talk about how your interests have developed through your life and how this has shaped your career ambitions.

Example answer: “I’ve been interested in animals ever since I was a child. I discovered I had a real passion and desire to learn more about them after a family trip to the Zoo. I took a keen interest in studying Biology throughout school and college, and knew that I wanted a career which allowed me to explore this further.”

Avoid saying: “I’m a Pisces, love hiking in the Brecon Beacons, and have the cutest little terrier called Ted!” Don’t give them a run-down of your Tinder profile…!

There’s no avoiding those pre-interview jitters; all you can do is be as prepared as possible beforehand. Do your company research, know your CV inside out, and revise a broad range of interview questions – both standard, and the toughies. Practise your answers with a friend or family member, so you’ll be cool, calm and confident when the interviewer hits you with a tricky question.

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