What are your weaknesses? Why do you want to work for us? Could you explain this gap on your CV? These types of interview questions are likely a source of dread for many applicants, but by understanding what's required and what the interviewer is really looking for, you can navigate them with relative ease.
In this guide, we’re taking a look at 25 of the most difficult interview questions, providing some top tips on how to answer them effectively. So, whether you’re applying for that first job or your dream role, you can prepare for whatever comes your way.
Character Interview Questions
- Tell me about yourself
Tricky to answer for lots of reasons, not least because it’s often the first question an interviewer will ask. Avoid ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ by reviewing the profile section of your CV ahead of the interview and try to keep things to the point.
- What are your strengths?
Many people find it hard to ‘big themselves up’, but interviewers want to see confidence and self-assurance. Think about the feedback you’ve received from previous employers, and tailor your response to the type of role you’re applying for.
- What are your weaknesses?
Describing your weaknesses is something of a balancing act; you need to demonstrate self-awareness without setting yourself up to fail. Reinforce your responses by asserting your willingness to improve, framing the role as a means to further develop your career.
- What motivates you?
A question where it is often prudent to bend the truth somewhat; your motivations may differ from what the interviewer wants to hear (better to not mention salary, for example). Instead, think about the bigger picture – particularly how you see your career unfolding.
- Describe yourself in five words or less
A tricky question that can prove a real stumbling block. Think about your strengths and the words which encapsulate them; intuitive, creative, efficient are a few good examples to set you apart from other candidates.
CV and Work Experience Interview Questions
- Tell us about your work history and experience
Typically, interviewers will have your CV in front of them, so it’s not necessary to list your entire work history. Instead, provide a summary, infusing your response with passion and additional details which may not be evident from your CV and application.
- Could you explain this gap on your CV?
A question you need to prepare for. Explaining gaps in your CV can be tricky, but transparency is the best policy. Be honest and stay positive; you need to show that these setbacks aren’t what define you and your application.
- Tell us about an achievement you’re proud of
This question may sound relatively straightforward, but it can be a tough nut to crack if you have limited past experience. If you’re applying for a role straight out of education, focus on academic or personal achievements, and hint at how this indirectly supports your application.
- Why did you leave your previous role?
Hiring managers want to find out how dependable you are, as well as what would motivate you to leave a position. Again, stay positive here, and avoiding bad-mouthing your previous employer if things ended on bad terms.
- Why should we employ you?
It’s easy to generalise and repeat yourself with a question like this, so instead of echoing sentiments about your strengths and character, try to frame your response around the job criteria – which, after adequate pre-interview prep, should be front and centre in your mind.
Company-Fit Interview Questions
- What do you know about our business?
Another question that hinges on prep and research; head to the company’s website to find out everything you can about what they offer and how they work. LinkedIn can also be an invaluable resource, giving you an idea of company structure and tone.
- What can you bring to the company?
Try not to repeat yourself with these kinds of questions, instead framing your response on the company culture and its values. Interviewers want to see your unique selling points – what can you offer that other candidates can’t?
- Why do you want to work for us?
Another question where you may need to bend the truth, particularly if you’re applying for a job out of necessity or convenience. A little ego-baiting can go a long way here, so don’t be afraid to pile on the compliments and frame the company as one you’d be proud to work for.
- What kind of environment do you enjoy working in?
Here, hiring managers want to see if your character meets the culture of the business. They may be looking for someone who thrives under pressure, or a candidate with a calm, dependable personality that is great at managing others.
- What are your salary expectations?
An honest, frank approach works best when asked about salary expectations, so don’t hedge, and avoid ambiguity. Hiring managers understand that salary is important, and taking a firm but fair stance demonstrates self-assurance and confidence in your abilities.
Role-Fit Interview Questions
- What will you do in the first 60 days in the role?
This question requires you to read between the lines of the job spec to understand what the business wants from the position. If you have an experience-led way of doing things, even better; interviewers want to see proactivity and a clear vision for the role.
- What does success look like in this position?
Tying into the previous question, this is about getting a feel for how you measure success. Make clear your commitment to the role and frame your response around what you’ve learnt about the state of the business from the interviewer.
- What can you bring to the role that other candidates can’t?
This is an opportunity to leverage your skills and knowledge, demonstrating how your previous experience or qualifications make you a strong contender for the position. Remember to refer back to the job criteria as often as possible, ensuring that you hit the interviewer’s tick-box points.
- Why do you want this particular role?
There are lots of ways to answer this question. You could talk about how it feels like a natural next step on your career journey, or that you admire how the company works. Just be sure to make your answer as specific to the company and the job criteria as possible.
- How does this position fit into your desired career path?
Here, businesses are looking to get a feel for where you see your career going over the next few years, and that you’re wholly committed to the role they’re offering. Stay positive and avoid discussing any big plans outside of your career.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
“Working here” might seem like the answer interviewers want to hear, but it rarely is. Even if that is your goal, you can frame your answer better by discussing development and progression. And don’t be afraid to say otherwise. If you’re passionate about building your career with multiple businesses, this shows a level of proactivity and self-confidence that hiring managers should admire.
- What is your dream job?
Similar to our last point, it’s no good trying to kid an interviewer that the position you’re applying for is your dream job, particularly if it’s a junior role. Be honest and transparent, while highlighting that the position you’re interviewing for is a vital first step towards achieving your goals.
- How would past colleagues describe you?
Another way to highlight your strengths and character; here the interviewer wants to learn how you work with others. Remember, they may have contact with your previous colleagues and managers, so be honest and make your responses feasible and realistic.
- What do you like to do outside of work?
Your response to this question depends on the tone and formality of the interview, something you’ll have to gauge yourself. Some interviewers are just curious and want to put you at ease, while others want to find out how confident and self-aware you are. Recall your CV and avoid overdoing it on the detail.
- Do you have any questions for us?
One of the most critical questions at any job interview, and one you absolutely must prepare for. Many candidates fail to realise that an interview is a two-way conversation, and one in which you need to make clear that a company is the right fit for you. Ask questions and start conversations – the longer you’re in the interview room talking, the better.
So, there you have it, 25 tricky questions that may come up at your next job interview. If you’re ready to take the next step on your career journey, we’re here to help. Our distance learning courses can provide an invaluable jumping-off point towards achieving your dream role. To learn more about how we can help your career, visit the homepage or call our expert course advisers today on 0121 630 3000.