How to answer tough interview questions - part 1

How to answer tough interview questions - part 1

You've trawled job advertisement sites, you've sent off countless CVs and you've followed up 'on spec' letters with more polite phone calls than you care to remember - but now it's starting to pay off.

At last, interviews are beginning to come through. It might be more of a trickle than a flood at first, but that doesn't matter, because one of them could be for your dream job in physiotherapy or the pharmaceutical industry.

This is a positive step, but it's also understandably nerve-wracking. You want the job, but you're going to have to face a person or panel of people who'll act as gatekeepers for the company and will have to whittle down their shortlist of candidates to just one successful applicant.

Since you're likely to be applying for a high-level, sought-after position, you may also find that the interview is in-depth and relatively hard-going.

How can you ensure you have great answers ready for some of these tough interview questions?

The key is preparation. Although it's hard to predict exactly what you'll be asked, there are typical questions that get put forward over and over again. Thinking about them in advance and coming up with watertight responses could help you to stand out from the crowd and show interviewers you're the person for the job.

To help you, we've put together a list of some of the most common 'difficult' questions and suggestions as to how you might answer them. Let's take a look so you can begin your interview planning.

1. Why are you moving from your current employer after such a short time?

If the last spot on your CV shows you have only been in your job for around a year, you may get asked why. Employers want to be reassured that you aren't a job-hopper and that they won't be wasting time and effort in recruiting you, only to have to repeat the process before long.

Ensure you respond in the positive, even if you've hated your last role. Say that you have an intense interest in the field and that you have received a good start in your career, but demonstrate that you haven't necessarily been able to use your skills as you expected. Perhaps the direction of the company changed during your time there, which you can also highlight.

Importantly, remember that no work experience is ever wasted and look for case studies you can say you learned from. Then highlight that, when you saw the advertisement for this role, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

2. What are your faults and weaknesses?

Another common one - and you mustn't respond with real weaknesses. Don't say you have a tendency to be lazy and dislike sharing, whatever you do! Instead, turn your negatives into positives. Say things like you have a tendency to take on too many projects at once and that you get carried away with enthusiasm.

Another good one is that you feel you need to work on delegating projects to others (if this is something you'll be doing in your new role).

3. How does your experience make you suitable for the role?

Even if you haven't had a job much like the one you're applying to before, you need to look into your past work experience for transferrable skills. Perhaps you have a degree in your dream industry, but have been working as a staff nurse for a few years to tide you over.

If this is the case, then point out that you have enjoyed working in a team and have learnt a great deal from communicating with patients on a daily basis. You can also point towards improving your workplace efficiency due to strict time management. Anything is grist for the mill here.

4. What don't you like about your current job?

Again, don't be too honest for this question and launch into a diatribe about your current employer's many faults. Once again, you need to extract a positive response from this negative-focused query. Paperwork is a common problem in many jobs, so you could pick this out and say that you have become used to getting tasks like this done quickly and efficiently, rather than letting them pile up because they are less enjoyable than others.

Use this question as a way of identifying what you're looking for in a job, rather than saying what you don't like.

5. What do you think will keep you enthusiastic about this company for a long time to come?

You haven't got a crystal ball and there's no way of knowing if you'll want to move on again eventually should you get the job. But to answer this question, assume you'll be sticking around in the long term.

Say that you find the industry fascinating and ever-changing with something new, and that you hope to be able to take part in research and development of fresh ideas to take this further.

You can also say that you look forward to working with other departments and that the atmosphere seems friendly and full of people who appear to enjoy their jobs.
We'll take another look at some more tough interview questions and savvy responses to them in our next post.