Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to interviews. Preparing answers to difficult interview questions is important, and will prevent you being caught off-guard and thus, not showcasing the best of your abilities. Here below are some very common tricky questions with some guidance on how to form a great answer.
What do you think is your biggest weakness?
At interview, your instinct might be to keep any professional flaws as well hidden as possible. The tactic here is to frame your answer in a way that gives it a positive spin. You can talk about a genuine weakness that has been highlighted to you in an annual appraisal, and emphasise the work that you have done to improve this particular aspect of your game.
Why will you be successful in this position?
In answering this question, focus on matching your previous experience and achievements to this role and how you would tackle it. Give examples of successes that you have had. Go further by describing challenges that you have faced and how you overcame then, concluding that because you were successful in that particular role, by extension it is likely you would be successful in this new position.
Have you ever had a negative experience with an employer?
Part of the purpose of this question is to see how you cope under pressure, as well as hoping to elicit an honest answer. You have to be able to think on the spot (or plan in advance!) and answer diplomatically. What is a non-negotiable is that you cannot attack your previous employer - it flags you up as a potential problem employee. Also be careful not to incriminate yourself.
In structuring an answer to this, give a brief description of the circumstance and how it was resolved, being careful to avoid even a scintilla of negative emotion attached to the situation.
Give an example of a time when you have successfully managed a major crisis.
Ideally pick an example which highlights how you fixed the problem, rather than one which implies that someone else helped you resolve it. The interviewer is really asking how resilient and resourceful you are in the face of a crisis, so make sure your answer showcases your common sense, forward planning, use of initiative and problem-solving abilities.
Where do you expect to be in five years’ time?
Five years is a long time, and who knows where you’ll be in five years? Perhaps this is an opportunity to inform the interviewer of the broad direction of travel, in terms of the skills you want to acquire in order to be able to better-serve the business; the experience you want to gain in so doing; and the value you want to add to the firm.
What motivates you?
This is a common question at ‘strengths-based’ interviews, which are ever-popular. Firstly, it is important to think about what the question is not asking you, as this is a question which is often poorly answered in interviews:
What are your motivations for applying for this job?
What are your career goals and aspirations?
Rather, the question aims to search out what motivates you in life generally - what gets you out of bed in the mornings? You need to highlight what makes you tick, what you enjoy doing and whether you would excel in this role and firm. Try and be as honest as possible - what do you enjoy doing? What sort of tasks do you excel at? In what kind of environment do you work best? Make sure your answer is heavy with detail, and is related to the skills required for the job you are applying for.
How do you manage your time and prioritise tasks?
Answering this question successfully is not about finding one really good example of when you were good at time management. Rather, the interviewer wants to know your tactics and strategies for being organised. Highlight your approach to prioritising and listing tasks, describing this well and in detail.