How to shine at challenging interview questions

How to shine at challenging interview questions

Interviews are often the most challenging part of the job application process - the part where you have to prove that you have the qualities outlined in your CV and will be a good fit for the job.

One of the problems with interviews is their unpredictability - no matter how well you prepare, there's always the chance you'll face a question that catches you off guard. How well you handle this situation could determine your chances of landing your ideal pharmaceutical job.


When you've reached the interview stage, it really is crunch time. The employer has read your CV and seen what you have to offer, and they now want you to show you have what it takes to succeed at their organisation.

Preparing thoroughly for every interview is absolutely essential. Make sure you read through your CV and the job description, and think of the questions the interviewer might ask you in relation to them.

Come up with some concrete examples of situations in which you have demonstrated the requirements set out in the job description and personal specification. If you do not have direct experience in some of these areas, think of examples from volunteering or your personal life that you could use to demonstrate your aptitudes.

Another key point to remember is to do your research. Use the internet to find out about the company and the department that the position is in, and also make sure you're up to date with key codes such as ABPI.

Asking a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview is a good way of determining whether you're ready for the real thing, or whether more preparation is needed.

During the interview

The first thing to remember in an interview is to remain calm. If you start to panic and become flustered, you'll give the interviewer a bad impression and it could prevent you from answering all the questions to the best of your ability.

Another important point is to focus on your strengths as much as you can. While you don't want to overdo it and come across as arrogant, giving examples that demonstrate your best qualities is key to making a good impression.

If the interviewer asks a question that you don't know the answer to, don't blurt out immediately that you don't know. Take your time to think about it - sometimes you'll realise that you do have something to say, after all, and the interviewer will not mind if you pause for a short time to consider your answer.

It's equally important not to just try and blag your way through an answer, as you'll almost certainly be found out. The interviewer always has the chance to ask follow-up questions, and you don't want to end up in a worse situation further down the line.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you need clarification, your interviewer will normally be happy to provide it, and obtaining further details can often give you the information you need to come up with an answer.

If you really don't know the answer, be honest about it. Honesty is often considered a valuable professional attribute, so it is a much better option than trying to talk your way out of the situation.

Although admitting you don't know the answer can seem like a negative step, you can make the best of the situation by letting the interviewer know how you would find the answer. This will demonstrate that you're not afraid to use your initiative and show a positive side to your character.

It's always important to remember that you have the opportunity to come back to the question later on. If the answer suddenly strikes you later in the interview, let the interviewer know at the end and you'll have an opportunity to redeem yourself.

When your mind goes blank at an interview, it can be an incredibly frustrating experience - but don't let it get the better of you. If you stay calm and try to turn the situation to your advantage, you'll still have a good chance of impressing your interviewer and getting the job.