6 Tricky Interview Questions
1. Tell me a little about yourself?
This question is oh-so simple, but in its simplicity there is also scope for falling at the first hurdle. We don’t want you to fall. There are some easy steps you can take, and the first part is: do not detail your entire employment (or personal) history. You need to give a pitch. As with all pitches, you’ll want to be concise and equally as important, be compelling. You’re only describing yourself, but you’re trying to shows exactly how you fit the bill for the role. One tactic would be to reel off a couple of particular achievements that it might help for the interviewer to know about (help you, that is), before finishing with how any prior experience has prepared you for this specific job.
2. How did you hear about us? (Or for bigger companies, how did you hear about the position?)
Just like the first, this question is misleading in its simplicity. If you’re feeling a little nervous it would be easy to take this as a polite passing question, with no real importance. Don’t be a fool. Everything is important. If you brush this off with a quick answer – ‘Oh, I saw an advert online…’ – you’re missing another purpose built opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
“So what, I should lie?” No. That’s not what we’re saying. This is a chance to display your passion for or connection to the company/job/industry. If you heard about the position at a networking event or through a professional contact, now is the time to name drop (keep it subtle though). Even if you really did find the job online, if it just popped up in front of you, make sure you can say what caught your eye. Don’t just say the salary…
3. Why do you want this job?
Again, don’t say the salary. What you need to do is simple, show that you’re passionate about the job. Before the interview, have a think about what excites you about this line of work and how you’ll be able to flourish in the position. Have a look through the job specification, there will be key factors about the position, which of these appeal to you the most? In terms of your answer, identify a couple of specific things that make the role a great fit for you and then put a cherry on top by saying what it is you like about the company in particular.
4. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
The interviewer isn’t usually trying to identify a major red flag to put by your name when they ask this question; on the contrary they’re trying to gauge how honest and self-aware you are. Granted, of you say that you can’t handle any responsibility, or you hate working with people, this WILL count against you. You need to try to identify something which isn’t vitally important, which is an actual weakness (no saying “my weakness is I’m too perfect!”), but which you are working too improve. If you haven’t been comfortable with public speaking, perhaps discuss this and the methods you have been employing to improve.
5. What is your greatest (professional) achievement?
Even if they don’t stipulate that they’re asking for your greatest professional achievement, this is probably what they’re looking for, so don’t talk about that autograph you got as a teenager… What will really help you stand out is a proven track record of amazing achievements, quantifiable results and great figures. Don’t be shy, now is your chance to show off. We recommend using the S-T-A-R method: To do this, set up the situation and outline the task you were required to complete. This provides the context in which you stood out, and now for the standing out: You should spend the bulk of your time describing what you actually did (Action) and what you achieved (Result). It’s important to stick to the first-person pronoun here – it is all about what YOU did, not your team or colleagues. With your results, give the interviewer figures! Did you save the company money? Great, but how much?!
6. What do you like to do outside of work?
Another question that might seem to be only asked to be polite, but like the others, it has a deeper purpose. An interviewer will ask personal questions to see if you fit the company culture and to gain some insight into your personality in a more rounded way. You don’t need to keep it entirely professional here, feel free to give examples of what you actually do for fun. On a semi-serious note though, keep your answer respectively. Saying you love sport, playing it and watching it with a few beers, that’s fine. Saying you love going out drinking most nights probably isn’t. Would that sort of person turn up to work hungover? That’s what they’ll be wondering…