Interviews can be nerve-wracking. The candidate who is well-prepared, however, will have considerably more success. Preparation includes planning ahead so that one arrives in plenty of time for the interview, dressing appropriately for the job applied for and maintaining a positive attitude throughout the interview. Former bosses, co-workers and workplaces should never be badmouthed regardless of how unpleasant they may have been. “I’m looking for a new challenge” is one diplomatic way to express the desire to leave a workplace. Another is talking about the opportunities to grow in a new environment.
Diplomacy is also an important skill in answering tough interview questions. One question that causes problems for many interviewees is “What are your weaknesses?” The wrong answer to this question, of course, is to truly give the interviewer an exhaustive list of one’s weaknesses. A better approach is to respond with a weakness that isn’t really a weakness. “I’m a perfectionist” can be a weakness but it also lets an employer know that getting things right is important. Answers implying that one perhaps works too hard or is too dedicated to a project are also effective. Another alternative is to tell a story about a weakness that shows one’s problem-solving strengths and how one can learn from errors and improve.
“Where do you hope to be in five years?” is another interview question that candidates may stumble over. It’s important to consider the motivation behind asking this question. The interviewer wants to know whether their organisation is simply a stepping stone for the candidate or if this is someone whose long-term goals are aligned with the company and its mission and an answer in line with this will be most impressive. Planning ahead for an answer that demonstrates this alignment is a wise choice.
Questions about salary negotiations can also be difficult to navigate. Candidates who name a figure that is too high may price themselves right out of a position while others may be in danger of going too low. It’s a good idea to research salaries ahead of time keeping in mind your experience and qualifications, but this is a rare example of a time when the best response is to lean toward the evasive. Deferring the answer to this question as much as possible, while also emphasising an enthusiasm towards the work and the position itself is usually the best approach. If the interviewer persists on a figure then give a bracket figure from between this and this is what I was hoping for but I realise I must prove myself within the job role first. This way you maintain realistic expectations for the future even if the salary is not as high as you had hoped.
Many companies will wrap up interviews with a couple of questions to see just how much candidates know about the jobs they’re applying for. It’s possible that interviewers will ask specific difficult questions about the work the company does in order to test candidates’ knowledge. Interviewers might also ask more open-ended questions. One could be “Do you have any questions for us?” In both cases doing research about and gaining appropriate knowledge of the company and position will serve the candidate well. The answer to the second question should always be affirmative followed by a well-planned question. The question should give a sense of the candidate’s breadth of knowledge about the company and the job applied for.
Job candidates can practise ahead of time by role-playing with friends or even in front of a camera to see how they perform on sticky questions like these. They should also pay attention to things like body language, facial expressions and hand gestures. Trying to keep them as positive, open and honest as possible during these more difficult questions will allow you to come across in a better light than someone who might make noises or strange facial expressions under pressure. For these really tricky, end of interview questions the best policy if you really cannot answer is to say that you do not know but you would look forward to having the opportunity to learn about it. With good advance preparation and careful planning, job seekers can excel at even these types of difficult interview questions and land the position.
Marie Warren works for Recruitment Revolution.com the only on-line recruitment agency specialising in finding the perfect match between candidate and job. Marie has worked at several recruitment agencies and has great advice for all those looking to stand out from the crowd by using specialist on-line recruitment techniques. She has a keen interest in business, history and science and enjoys writing and reading in her spare time.