Knowing the right thing to say in an interview isn’t easy. After all, open-ended questions may leave you rambling away to yourself, trick questions might throw you and seemingly obvious questions might stump you.
To avoid turning into a bumbling mess, do your homework and be prepared. Have some answers in your back pocket to help you glide through the meeting. Remember, the interviewer isn’t trying to trick you! They want you to succeed and are trying to get to know the real you.
Of course, it’s important to present an authentic representation of yourself in the interview. Otherwise, you could arrive on your first day and find you’re a terrible match for the role. But we always want to present the best version of ourselves, so give yourself the tools to do so. To start you off, here are five common tricky interview questions to overcome.
1. ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’
This question comes up time and time again. It’s simple, but effective and therefore a firm favourite for many interviewers. This is because there’s almost no way to answer it positively; it’s designed to elicit an honest response one way or another.
In the past, you may have been told to say you were a ‘perfectionist’, or that you ‘struggle to stop working’. Essentially, framing a positive as a negative. However, this has become a cliché and won’t win you any points with your interviewer.
Instead, demonstrate your humility and self-awareness. Everybody has areas that they’d like to improve; so be willing to share yours. However, remember to contextualise.
Think of a time where your flaw has caused you difficulties in the workplace and suggest how you would have approached the situation differently in hindsight. This is key, as it shows you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and improve.
2. ‘Why do you want to leave your current job?’
Unless you’re currently self-employed or unemployed, the interviewer may want to know why you’re leaving your current position and looking to find a new job. This requires a bit of delicate footing to avoid the red flags that the interviewer is looking for.
So, here’s what to watch out for when answering tricky interview questions like this:
- ‘I didn’t like my team’ – This suggests that you’re a poor team player or won’t get on well with others.
- ‘My boss is awful’ – This is unprofessional and reflects badly on you. Plus, don’t forget that your boss may have connections to the interviewer!
- ‘It’s a bad place to work’ – Unfortunately, this is subjective, and others may enjoy that workplace. This statement adds no value to your answer
While all of these answers may be true, you don’t want to appear as if you’re a complainer. Keep the tone light and focus on you and your aspirations for the future.
You could say that you feel like you’ve reached your potential in your current position and are ready for a new challenge. It’s all about the positives that you can bring to the business.
3. ‘Tell us about yourself’
The generality of this question can be a real stumbling block. However, it’s actually a nice question to answer and gives you the chance to sell yourself. Just don’t get caught up in details; the interviewer doesn’t need to know about your first pet or what you get up to on a Saturday night!
Likewise, don’t dive into your CV and reel off all of your previous jobs. Instead, focus on summarising your past, present and future experiences in your career. Think about how your career path has led you to this point, making sure to finish by explaining what you hope to do next (and why you want to work for this company).
Don’t forget to give examples to back up any statements you make; ideally quantifying your achievements. If this isn’t possible, use realistic values to provide an overview.
4. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
When you’re asked tricky interview questions like this, you might be thinking, ‘what? But I haven’t even got the job yet!’ However, the recruitment process can be costly to a company and they want to know that you’re in it for the long run. Ergo, this delightful question.
Hiring managers want to gauge your ambition and whether you’re serious about the role. So, make sure you do your research beforehand. Scan the job description thoroughly, research the company’s targets and align your answer with these.
As long as you show your ambition and that you’re prepared to go the distance with the company, you’ll nail this question!
5. ‘Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge’
This is another of those tricky interview questions where it can be easy to get lost in your answer. That’s why it’s important to remember the ‘STAR’ method when considering your response:
- Situation: Set the scene and some background on your example
- Task: Describe your responsibility in that situation
- Action: Explain what steps you took to address it
- Result: Summarise what outcome your action achieved
What’s important to remember here is that the interviewer is trying to see how you react under pressure. But you don’t want to give an example where you caused the problem as well! Think of a time where the situation wasn’t your fault, but you came up with a solution successfully.
Outline your problem-solving skills and demonstrate what a star you are (no pun intended).
Master these tricky interview questions
While you don’t want to memorise your answers word-for-word, you need to prepare in advance if you want to overcome these tricky interview questions. The interviewer will expect you to be nervous, so just relax, be yourself and focus on your answers.
However, you want to demonstrate that you’re a competent individual who won’t crumble at the first sign of a tough subject! These questions are as much about showing that you’ve prepared for the interview as what you actually say. So, plan ahead to give yourself the best chance of landing the job!