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How to respond to 10 of the most challenging interview questions
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It’s the moment of the interview every job seeker dreads. Just when you thought you had them eating out of the palm of your hand, you’re hit with a tough question straight out of left field.
While there’s no way of predicting exactly what you’ll be asked at an interview, our suggestions could get you out of a tight spot and into the next round.
Above all, a good response will show you are prepared, cool under pressure and able to think on your feet.
1. Why are you leaving your current job?
If you left, or are leaving, your job because of a personality conflict, never try to explain the situation.
You can say that you when saw this job advertised you were determined to apply because you believe you would be very well suited to it. Finish by giving an example of a skill you have that is needed in the new role.
If you are pushed on why you are leaving your current job, you could explain that you’re looking for new challenges in the workplace; but avoid negativity about past employers at all costs.
2. How do you respond to taking direction from superiors?
Here you need to emphasise your ability to work as part of a team.
Talk about a past instance when you were given a direction from a superior and responded well, or received positive feedback from a superior on how you carried out a particular task.
3. How well do you handle criticism?
Here you get to show your human side. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we learn from criticism that is important.
Employers will be looking to see that you don’t take professional criticism personally and that you are able to take it on board and use it to improve your performance.
4. What motivates you?
This is definitely not where you talk about ‘money’ or ‘fast cars’!
Mention instead something that drives you in a professional setting. Is it the satisfaction of seeing a project through from beginning to end? Or maybe it’s gaining new skills in the workplace and then seeing the benefits of using them in action? Or if you are driven by hitting and exceeding targets, then talk about that.
5. How long would it be before you make an impact if you started today?
You should say that you intend to contribute from day one, but you also need to be realistic.
Explain that it might take a little time before you fully understand the inner workings of the company to a sufficient extent that you could make a noticeable impact.
6. Have you attended other interviews?
This is a tricky one but you can turn it to your advantage. An ‘in-demand’ candidate will naturally appear more appealing to more than one potential employer or HR department.
While it’s fine to be honest about actively looking for a new position, never give the impression you’re more interested in landing another job than the one you’re being interviewed for.
7. What do you know about the company?
This is where all your pre-interview research pays off. Outline briefly what you’ve learned about the company, for example, how many countries they operate in, their key business areas or who their big clients are.
You could mention something you’ve read about the company too. Has a respected business publication written about the company’s overseas expansion... or interviewed their CEO? Make sure you keep the outline brief and positive in tone and tell them you are keen to hear more.
8. What can you offer us that the next candidate can’t?
This is where you get to show off what you’ve got to offer. Talk about your achievements to date and the areas of the business you feel you could work with and where you feel you can make a positive impact.
This isn’t an opportunity to talk about what other people can’t do; it’s your chance to talk about what you do best.
9. We’re concerned you may be a little over qualified for the position, how do you feel about it?
Explain that you’re eager to establish yourself within the organisation for the long-term. You can say that you feel your experience is an advantage, not a disadvantage.
Talk about how you will be able to make significant contributions to the company from the outset and that ultimately you feel very well suited to the position on offer.
10. What aspect of this job least appeals to you?
Less is definitely more when answering this one.
There’s really only one answer: that you’ve read through the job spec thoroughly and there is no aspect that doesn’t appeal to you. Remember, the interview table is no place for moaning.
Other common interview questions to consider:
- What do you enjoy about working in this industry
- Give an example of when you worked under pressure
- What kinds of people do you like working with
- Give me an example of when your work was criticised
- Give me an example of when you disagreed with your boss
- Do you prefer to work alone or in a group
- What are you looking for in a company
- How do you measure your own performance
- Are you a self-starter? Give me some examples to demonstrate this
- What have you failed to achieve till date
- What can you bring to this organisation
- What changes in the workplace have caused you difficulty and why?