Answering tricky questions at the interview

Curve ball

There will always be those questions where it seems like there is no good answer, that no end of preparation will suffice, that one way or another you’re going to come off looking clueless, arrogant, useless or all three.

But don’t fret. We’ve scoured the internet and spoken to bosses and recruiters about some of the curve ball questions that they like to throw into interviews. Even if these don’t come up, the advice should get you thinking about how to deal with questions that seem impossible to tackle.

Tips to remember
Try and back up every answer with an example if you’ve got one. If you haven’t, don’t make one up – you might have to refer to it again and may end up caught out.

Take your time to think about the question. There’s no time limit. Think about the sort of thing that an employer would want to hear.

Sometimes one question will seem like it’s the same as another, only worded differently. This is because a lot of interview questions come as standard, so (after you’ve read this) browse the web and look up the sort of questions you may be asked.

Don’t be afraid to not have an answer. Sometimes there won’t be an example that works or you won’t understand the question. This happens to most people once in an interview. Better to be honest than to waffle for a while without giving an answer.

“What are your weaknesses?”

Despite the temptation, don’t say “I work too hard”.

Honesty is always valued and no-one’s flawless. The key is shaping your answer into talking about your desire to learn and overcome weaknesses. Reference something that you’ve struggled with in the past and then explain what you’re doing or what you did to overcome it.

”Why did you leave your last job? / why are you leaving your current job?”

As mentioned above, honesty is always valued. However, “I didn’t get on with my boss” or “I couldn’t be bothered walking in” might seem harmless but you could end up sounding difficult or lazy.

Instead, discuss your desire to grow and make them see you as an ambitious and hard working person.

If you were fired from your last position and you think that will come up via a reference check, then be honest. Tell them your side of the story, try and make them see it your way.

“Have you ever had a conflict with a colleague or employer?”

Nobody gets on with everyone. We all know this and employers are no different. So if you’ve had issues in the workplace before, tell them and then explain how you went about resolving the issue.

They’ll respect you more for overcoming the issue. Just be careful not to bad mouth people (especially if it’s an employer) and also not to incriminate yourself.

As you can see, these sort of questions all seem like they’re there to trick you into looking bad. Their real purpose is to see how you handle pressure and to see if you can turn negatives into positives. So just stay calm, make sure you’re prepared and try and be as honest as possible.

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