When you’re going to a job interview there are a number of interview questions you can naturally expect. “What are your strengths?” is simply a chance to recite the best parts of your resume. “Why do you want this job?” is just a way of checking you’ve actually read the job description. With these questions you just need to project a confident, relaxed exterior, maintain eye contact and remember to keep your answers specific.
Of course, in amongst those questions, there is the occasional blindside or questions that, even if you’re expecting them, you’re also secretly dreading. These questions aren’t included just to terrify you, however, and there are ways to answer them without being reduced to a gibbering wreck. Here are a few of the more intimidating interview questions and answers that will help you through them.
Suggested Reading: Job Interview Questions
What are your salary requirements?
This seems like a pretty innocuous question, but it does put you in an awkward position. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but you don’t want to sell yourself too cheap either. Here, ideally, you want to let your interview show their hand.
The best way forward is to simply tell the interviewer what you are earning right now, or in your last job, while explaining that you’re less focused on salary than finding a job where you can directly impact your employer’s bottom line.
Ideally, you don’t want to discuss salary any more than that until you get to the offer stage, when you’ll be in a better position to negotiate.
I notice there’s quite a gap in your CV. Could you tell me about what you were doing during that period?
The job market has been tough for a while now, and plenty of us have had to spend at least a couple of months between jobs at some point. Having this come up at interview can really knock you for six. It’s tempting to become defensive at a time like, but resist that urge.
It’s fine to acknowledge that it’s been tough finding a job- anybody who’s seen the news in the last three years will know that is true. The trick is to be able to say what you’ve been doing while looking for a job. If you’ve done any voluntary work while unemployed, now is a great time to bring it up. Likewise, if you’ve been learned or improving any skills, whether they’re related to the job you’re applying for or not. So long as you can demonstrate that you have been using your time, rather than spending it on the sofa watching daytime TV in your pyjamas, you can turn this question into a plus for you.
Why did you leave your last employer?
The golden rule here is never slag off your previous employer. It can be tempting- Lord knows it can be tempting, but the interviewer is going to hear every bad word about your last boss as future-you talking about them.
If you’re unemployed, it should be enough to say that your employer was making cuts to the workforce due the economic situation. If you’re in a job that you’re looking to leave, it’s enough to say that you’re looking for new challenges.
Aren’t you overqualified for this position?
This can be a particularly tricky question at a time when graduate jobs are thin on the ground and many applicants are just looking to get whatever form of income they can. An interviewer looking at your CV may be concerned that you’re only taking this job until a better opportunity comes along (possibly because it’s true).
What you need to do here is come up with specific, convincing sounding reasons why you want to work for this company, and give the impression that you will be there for the long haul and open to promotions.
What would you say is your biggest weakness?
This question always feels just a little bit like cheating, doesn’t it? Surely they can’t just up and ask why they shouldn’t give you the job?
Unfortunately, yeah they are. When it comes to the “your biggest weakness” question, there are two popular schools of thought. The first is the false-weakness, or “bragplaining”. This would be, for instance: “I’m just too much of a perfectionist” or “Often people say I work far too hard”. Be warned, your interviewer will see right through this with no trouble whatsoever.
The other school of thought is to pick a genuine, carefully judged weakness somewhere in the middle ground between “My professionalism is just too exemplary” and “I often forget to come to work on account of how much I drink”. A good one might be “I have trouble being assertive in group situations” (assuming of course, that being assertive in group situations isn’t at the top of your job description). However, at the same time you tell the interviewer this weakness, also tell them what you are doing to overcome that weakness- for instance, taking part in more group activities to overcome your shyness.
This approach will have you come across as honest, while at the same time showing that you’re dedicated to self improvement.
Even for the very hardest interview questions, it’s not too hard to figure out which ones are going to come up in interview ahead of time. So long as you practice your answers with a friend, and research the employer thoroughly in advance, you should be confident enough to take n the interview with ease.
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Good luck in your search,