Lots of people go into interviews thinking that they can just ‘wing it.’ After all, there are so many potential questions an interviewer can ask it’s almost impossible to predict, right? Wrong!
Sure, some questions are always going to be a surprise but most questions, including difficult questions, can be prepared for. We tackle some toughies for you, here…
So, tell us about yourself
Often an interview opener – this is a question and trips most people up. It’s mainly used as an ice breaker to get the conversation flowing but don’t make the mistake of rambling.
Instead, take your CV with you and pick out some career highlights. If this is your first job then explain how life experiences have made you suitable for the position. You can include hobbies and interests that may be complimentary to the job.
Do NOT spend more than 5 minutes talking!
Why do you want THIS job?
If you’ve done your research (and you should have) you can point out aspects of the company that appeal to you. Talk about the position you are looking to fill and why you are the best candidate. Talk about the positives of the job ad – what made it jump out at you and think ‘yeah, I’d be good at that!’ This is your chance to explain!
What did you dislike about your last job?
If you do have previous work experience, even part-time or holiday jobs, avoid making negative comments. Instead, talk about the frustrations of your last role that THIS job could fix and always ALWAYS start with a positive. E.g. ‘I really enjoyed my working experience and I’ve learnt a lot and grown as a person. However, I now know that I’m ready to take the next step with my career.’
How do you respond to criticism?
Don’t say: ‘I do NOT like people criticising me!’
DO say (and believe): ‘I welcome constructive criticism as it helps me to learn and get better at my job. Nobody is perfect but I always make sure that if I make a mistake, it’s the first and last time.’
What are you most proud of?
This can be a puzzler! Go to the interview prepared with a few examples of your successes at school, college, volunteering or part-time job and, if possible, use examples to back it up. E.g. ‘I worked really hard to set up a conflict-resolution forum at school and won an award for it. It’s still going in fact it’s grown since I left.”
What are your weaknesses?
Yup, this one almost ALWAYS comes up! Don’t ever give a negative – stroppy, always late, violent are all no-nos! Also try to avoid the obvious ‘I’m a perfectionist’ as it’s a common answer. Stand out from the crowd and expand on your answer, turning a negative into a positive e.g. ‘I sometimes take mistakes too much to heart. However, I make sure I learn from them and never make the mistake again’.
How do you respond to stress and pressure?
An employer wants to know what you will actually be like in a busy place and how reliable and calm you will be when things go wrong. Give examples of times when you have met difficult deadlines or handled tricky people.
This is often a closing question and gives you the chance to stand out… Talk about your experience and skills but also about YOU as a person – your attitude and interests and why you’re uniquely suited to the job. Sell, sell, sell! You are, after all, marketing your own brand!
IMPORTANT! Don’t forget that you need to ‘walk the talk!’ If there are aspects of your personality or behaviour that are not socially acceptable, you will need to work on improving them. Personal skills development is an important part of becoming successful in your career – and in life!