How to nail these tricky interview questions that throw most people off
Interviews are the dumps. Sweaty palms, outfit dilemmas, perpetual fear of lateness – they’re all part and parcel of the job hunting process.
Whilst we can’t help you with the sweaty palms and fashion faux pas, we have taken the stress out of one part of it for you – interview questions.
You’ve heard the horror stories of the weird and wonderful questions people have been asked at interview. Here are our top hardest interview questions and our advice on how to answer them.
1. What’s your biggest weakness?
You knew we’d start with this one, right? It’s the original big dog of interview questions.
Try to find a happy balance between personal and not generic. The most common see-through responses are ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I’m a workaholic’.
Be honest, be genuine and most of all, show self-awareness. Answers like ‘I sometimes get stressed by deadlines’ or ‘I find it hard to delegate efficiently’ are relatable and real.
2. Why are you leaving your current job?
Under no circumstances should you use this as an opportunity to rant about your current work situation. You’ll come across as entitled, happy to complain and a gossip.
No matter the real situation, try and put a positive spin on it. Explain that you’re looking for wider horizons, to further your career or to get experience in a more varied role.
3. What’s your current salary?
The true aim of this one is to find out how much you’ll work for. To answer this effectively without giving too much away, simply search the average salary for the role you’re applying for. Better yet, reference how much you know the role is being offered at elsewhere.
Whatever happens, don’t feel pressured into sharing this personal information.
See also: Salary negotiation tips and how to ask for a pay rise
4. If you were a colour, what would you be?
This is among one of the more unique questions and definitely isn’t the weirdest we’ve seen. Try not to stress over questions like this, there isn’t a wrong answer.
They are simply designed to test your critical thinking and how you react on the spot. If you get stuck, say ‘that’s a really good question’ and take a moment to think. If nothing comes to mind, ask if you can circle back to the question later on.
5. Why should we hire you?
This is one of the toughest, as they’re asking you to sell yourself in your answer.
The best preparation for this question is to familiarise yourself with the job description. Attribute elements of your CV to the requirements of the job description. This illustrates that you’ve done your research, that you’re familiar with your CV and the job you’ve applied for.
Take this opportunity to also describe your personal qualities that will make you a good employee and colleague in general.
See also: Become an interview pro with our top tips
6. What is your most significant achievement?
This question is designed to assess your values and attitude. Even if you’re a graduate and you’ve spent most of your life in education, try to pick something creative. Think of an example that illustrates self-motivation as well as a life outside of work/study. For example, a charity effort, sporting achievements, public speaking or a time you’ve effectively helping others.
7. What has been your biggest failure?
This question is a flip on the previous question, with the same intentions as the ‘biggest weakness’ question. What an interviewer is looking for is signs of resilience and how you cope with setbacks. Perhaps you tried to cook a challenging meal for your in-laws, but failed dismally. How did you save the situation? Did you laugh about it, practise, then invite them round again? Or did you cry into the cremated casserole and refuse to talk about the experience ever again?
Chances are, you’ve failed at something and had to pull yourself back from it. Just make sure you follow up the failure with how you fixed it and how you used it for your personal growth journey.
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
No, the answer is not ‘in this role’. Do your research about the company and track the likely progression. If you’re a marketing executive, you would hope to become a marketing manager – or be responsible for a certain area of the marketing team. If you’re in sales, you’d hope to go from sales advisor to sales manager… you get the idea.
What about if the questions are really whacky? Check out these tough interview questions from some big brand names:
‘You have a cake. How many straight cuts do you need to divide the cake into 8 equal pieces?’
This is designed to test your on-the-stop skills. No one is expecting you to jump straight to the answer – consider it and answer slowly, feel free to ‘show your workings’.
P.s the answer is 8 or ‘depends on the shape of the cake’.
‘You work on the 60th floor of a 100 story building. You walk into your office and find a bomb sitting on your desk. It read 90 seconds and is counting down. What do you do?’
Crisis management skills. Obviously throw it out the window, right?