Does the thought of a job interview send you into a flat spin? If so, you’re not alone, job interviews can be daunting for even the coolest of job-hunters!

Preparation really is the key to success. However, whilst you can easily prepare for the questions that most employers ask, many will look to catch you out and see how you cope under pressure by asking intentionally difficult questions.

Based on detailed feedback from both candidates and clients, we can help you to get a head start.

The Nine Toughest Interview Questions (and how to answer them!)

1. Why do you want to work here?
While this question might seem straightforward, it’s important to put some thought into your answer. Saying that you want to earn more money isn’t exactly going to wow the hiring manager….unless it’s a commission-based sales role, in which case your money focus could be a feather in your cap. For non-sales roles, be careful as a money focus could make them worry that you’ll jump ship the minute you get a higher paid offer.

Avoid this answer and instead talk about what impresses you about the company’s culture, its clients or the progression opportunities available. This will ensure you’ll make a good impression.

2. Why did you leave your last role?
This question can be one of the worst, especially if you left your previous job on bad terms. Answer with great care, as your response will give the hiring manager an insight into how you deal with professional conflicts. Negative comments may well be valid, but best to keep them to yourself!

Maybe suggest that your futures weren’t aligned, that the organisation didn’t offer suitable career progression, or that you wanted to join a bigger company. This will show that you are ambitious and confident in your abilities to succeed, but you’ve also indirectly complimented the company you’re interviewing for. A sure-fire way to tick some boxes!

3. What did you like and dislike about your last/current job?
Be careful with how you answer this one. You could easily rave about the pros of your old job and slate the cons, without realising the interviewing company shares the same negatives. Ouch.

When giving your answer, be sure to tread carefully. Suggest that while you may not have enjoyed certain aspects of the job, you still approached them with the same professionalism and work ethic that you bring to any task or project.

4. How would your colleagues describe you?

Your ability to get along as part of a team is as important as your skills and experience. Avoid hinting at the fact that you were the office clown at your last job, as employers could perceive that you’re immature or unprofessional. While it’s important to have a sense of humour, reiterate that your colleagues thought of you as a very well respected and professional member of the team.

5. Where do you see yourself in 3/5/10 years?

In most cases, this is a sneaky trick question! Unless you have a master plan, you won’t have a quick answer to this. What the interviewer is looking for here is loyalty.

They won’t expect you to devote yourself to the company in the interview. However, they will be intrigued by an answer that hints at staying loyal to one company and working your way up through the ranks. After all, they won’t want to hire someone who will be gone in a year.

6. What would you say your weaknesses are?

Oh the dilemma of this catch-22 question! If you say that you have no weaknesses, you’re lying. Nobody is perfect. However, if you run off a long list of weak points then the hiring manager could hesitate to progress your application.

Deploying a “cautious honesty” would be our best advice. Give one or two areas for improvement, and don’t go into too much detail. If possible, try to turn them into a positive. For example, perhaps you hate public speaking, but challenge yourself by hosting monthly presentations to your department. It’s important to be clear and say that you hope you can work on your negatives so they’re no longer weak points in your skillset. Determination is a massive tick for employers.

7. What critical feedback do you often receive?

This is very similar to the weaknesses question. The interviewer is trying to find out what your former/current boss pulled you up on and, more importantly, what you learnt from it.

Lies will be very transparent, so there’s no point saying you have a spotless record. Everyone receives the dreaded “constructive criticism” at some point in their career. When giving your examples, explain how when you’re given feedback, you quickly act on it and rectify the situation. Employers will like the sound of a candidate who actively responds to constructive criticism.

8. Are you a perfectionist?

A resounding yes to this question will raise eyebrows. While you might think that this impresses employers, they might not be entirely comfortable with a perfectionist as an employee. Potential employers might worry that you don’t finish projects on time, due to them not being up to standards (in your eyes).

It’s all about giving a balanced answer and objective examples. Whilst a perfectionist can be problematic, the hiring manager certainly won’t want somebody who only works to the minimum standard. Explain that while you ensure your quality of output is good, you also pride yourself on your time management and organisational skills.

9. What can you bring to the company?

Employers love asking this question, so make sure you prepare for it! Try to avoid talking about how your experience aligns with the job and that you’re a perfect fit. The interviewer already knows this – why do you think they invited you for the interview in the first place?

Spend some time looking at the website, check out recent news about the company. Do they support any charities? Have they recently won any awards? Have there been any significant changes in the business recently? Use this information and tailor your responses accordingly. It will help you to build rapport and demonstrate that you are a great match for their business. Make a point of saying that your personality would fit in well with the company culture, that you’re driven, determined and ambitious and that your experience speaks for itself. The company will want someone that will fit into their existing teams well whilst also doing a really great job.

Grab a pen and paper, grab a coffee…..and spend some quality time preparing for your interview: if you can tackle these tough interview questions, you’ll be ready for anything

Good luck!

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