Difficult Interview Questions

Why ask me THAT ?!!

The key to answering any interview question well, particularly difficult interview questions, is to understand WHY you are being asked that question. 

For example, "What is your greatest achievement?" or "What is your greatest weakness?" Have you stopped to think what the interviewer learns about you from those question?

So why do interviewers ask about your greatest weakness then?

Well... it isn't to laugh and jeer and feel smug that they've caught you out and now don't have to give you the job! What they want to hear is GENUINE reflection and self-awareness. Followed by what you do to work with/around that weakness or what steps you are making to improve. 

It is generally not a good idea to say "oh I'm a workaholic" (or a perfectionist). Whilst these are not always a lie, they usually are the interviewee trying to look good, rather than reveal a genuine weakness.

As an interviewer, in order to rest how genuine an answer is, I always ask a follow up question to the weakness question..."and when has that caused you a problem?" Usually when someone is trying to hide weaknesses and just look good they can't say. If they can't say when it has caused them a problem then it isn't a weakness and so I ask for another. Then we get closer to the truth, so better to prepare for that in the first place.

Some candidates genuinely do find perfectionism gets in their way or may have a tendency to overwork and burnout. These are really serious issues sometimes, so make sure you have talked through with a coach how you handle those. You don't want any unmanaged weakness to scare off your potential employer.

What about greatest achievement?

This question can tell the interviewer:

  • Your interests, values and motivations, from the achievement you picked.
  • That you challenge yourself and grow because you want to achieve, so you have drive.
  • I think most importantly, it's a question about determination and resilience Huh? Well, think about an achievement and I mean one YOU are proud of, not how you compare to others...Quite likely it was an achievement because it was difficult - you had to work at it, keep trying, be creative, not listen to those who thought you couldn't do it. If you can feel the energy, drive and satisfaction just thinking about it - you've picked a good example. 

Many so called 'difficult questions' can be tackled using the above thought process. Perhaps it's more accurate to say they are popularly disliked questions! 

But when you listen carefully, understand the purpose of the question and think about your least favourite questions before the event, then you will not find you are facing difficult interview questions. Instead you can see any question as a great chance to shine over less prepared and thoughtful candidates.

Other categories of questions are difficult because they require knowledge of the role, company and industry which you have failed to acquire. If 'motivational' or 'commercial awareness' questions are likely (which they nearly always are) then you need to do that research.

Or, it may be that there are some questions which may be difficult for you personally. Gaps on your CV, questions about past decisions, questions about qualifications below expected levels, health issues. These take preparation too so that you tackle in the most positive and straightforward way. 

You can book comprehensive interview preparation where we can: predict, talk through and practice until you feel confident and can actually enjoy interviews!

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published