Handling interview questions

Job interviews are nerve-wracking enough without tricky questions to trip you up. It's important to remember what the interviewing process is about, to evaluate your ability to do the job. Challenging questions will allow the interviewer to see how you can think on your feet and cope with stress.

  • When faced with a difficult question, there is nothing wrong with a brief contemplative pause before answering.
  • Seek the opportunity to turn the question around and sell yourself, focusing on the company's needs and your abilities.
  • Ask the interviewer to repeat the question if you don't understand it - try to determine what the interview is looking to find out.
  • Remember the interview is a two-way process, you are there to demonstrate you ability not only to speak out but also to listen.
  • Try not to stray from the point, offer relevant information to the question.
  • Always offer positive information.

Interviewers' favourites:

    Tell me about yourself
    This is a good chance to impress an employer, but it is a deceptively simple question that can have a variety of answers. The employer is really interested in how you would fit into the company, so keep your answers as pertinent to the company and its work as possible.

    Why do you want this job?
    The employer wants to know that you are genuinely interested in the company, and not just looking for something to tick you over for a few months. Say that you view the position as your natural next step. You like the firm because … show off your knowledge and make all that research you have done worthwhile.

    Why should we offer you this job?
    You need to show how you can add new skills or ideas to the job. You could try thinking about any weaknesses you perceive in the company, and how your past experience and unique abilities could benefit the company.

    Why did you leave your last job?
    The interviewer may want to know if you had any problems in your last job. If you did not have any problems, simply give a reason such as: it was a temporary job or you want a job better fitted to your particular skills.

    If you did have problems, honesty is the best policy. Show that you can accept responsibility and learn from any mistakes you made. Explain any problems you had and, and don’t be tempted to slag off the employer concerned. Demonstrate that it was a learning experience that will not affect your future work.

    What's been your biggest success at work?
    The interviewer wants to see that you can use your initiative. Talk about your own achievements rather than how you helped someone else achieve. Perhaps you had a difficult goal you had to reach? Think about how you handled meeting that goal. It is a good idea to think in advance of a few key moments from past jobs that demonstrate how well you handle different situations.

    Why did you choose this career path?
    This question is particularly pertinent if you are changing job or sector. You need to convince the interviewer that you have a clear idea of the industry and your value. To make the employer understand how you could fit in, talk about the transferable skills you have picked up over the course of your career. Also stress what aspects of their industry are attractive to you.

    Where do you see yourself in five years time?
    Although it is difficult to predict things far into the future, the employer will want to hire somebody with drive and a sense of purpose. They will also want to know they can depend on you, and figure out if they can offer what you really want. Avoid choosing specific job titles you aspire to, instead mention skills and responsibilities you would like to take on.

    What is your current salary and how much are expecting?
    When you talk about your current salary include the whole package with any perks such as car, pension, interest free loans and bonuses. Don't suggest you are earning far more than you are, it is easy to check. Make sure you know the salary range for similar jobs and professions by checking with totaljobs salary checker, recruitment agencies and other job adverts in specialist publications. You could try putting the onus on the interviewer to make the first suggestion by asking how much they are prepared to pay the best candidate. You then have a negotiating point.


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