Recruiters love to use tricky interview questions in a job interview or at an assessment day to catch candidates out. It’s not supposed to be a walk in the park. Here are some of their favourite questions, plus our best interview tips. You’ll be shining in all the right ways.
Just like for any assessment you should aim to answer interview questions with the STARR technique;
- Situation: context for the interviewer, describe the situation.
- Task: what did you aim to achieve?
- Action: explain what you did in order to complete what you set out to achieve.
- Result: make sure it’s a specific and clear event.
- Reflect: reflect on how things worked out.
Here are a few interview questions and answers to help you put your best foot forward – always.
1. ‘What is your most significant achievement?’
This does not only look at your achievements but also your values and attitude. Recruiters are normally looking for you to talk about something away from your education.
Do NOT answer with “I got a 2:1” or something along those lines, that doesn’t make you stand out from anyone applying for a graduate position… Funnily enough… Choose something that was a challenge for you to show recruiters you had to be determined, dedicated or confident in order to succeed. Try to pick something that you feel passionate about as you will engage more with the recruiter. It can be anything, like when you climbed Mount Everest (well Snowdon, but that’s basically the UK’s version, right?) played your first gig, or made it to the final of a sporting achievement, even though you didn’t win!
2. ‘What motivates you?’
This is more about your motivation in life, what you enjoy doing and do well. Give them an insight into how you would fit in the team and your suitability for the role. It can also be phrased as interview questions like ‘what are you passionate about?’ or ‘what motivates you in life?’ this does not mean ‘what are your motivations for applying for the job?’ or ‘what are your career aspirations and goals?’.
Do NOT answer any of these interview questions with ‘money’, ‘I want to work at this company because XYZ’, ‘waiting for Friday, bevvies, and baes in the local boozer’. The best approach to answering this is to be honest and align your answer to the role and company you applied for. Think about the similarities in your course and wider interests, work out what you have enjoyed in previous roles/ companies and what environments you thrive in.
3. ‘How do you manage your time and prioritise tasks?’
Your strategies and tactics for getting organised. Be ready to describe whatever approach you use. They are NOT asking this interview question, because they are looking for an example of a time when you successfully did this. It is how not when. Your response should also show that your process is situational and can be adapted to whatever is thrown your way.
4. ‘Give an example of a time when you showed initiative.’
Avoid giving interviewers an example of when you had an idea but never did anything with it. The best answers should show a time that you were able to come up with a solution AND also act on it, allowing you to explain the effect your decision had. Your answer should show that you are capable of coming up with your own ideas and persuading others to give you a chance to put them into action.
5. ‘What is your biggest weakness?’
Definitely one of the most tricky interview questions. It goes against our human nature to discuss our flaws, especially in an interview situation. The trick is to frame your answer to highlight the positives in your flaw, difficult but not impossible, by thinking about how you cope with your weakness. Try to stay away from “I am always late for everything”, or “I always get distracted very easily”.
Show that although you previously had a problem with this you have taken steps to overcome this weakness; “I have done a time management course online to help me organise my work successfully.” Or to describe a weakness that could also be viewed as a strength; “I am OCD, so I am very particular with my work. It can effect my time management but as a result I have very high quality work.” It’s fine to mention a genuine weakness, as long as you can train it. Being honest and open about this is also a skill – which most people struggle with!
6. ‘Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis.’
Essentially think about this like; ‘can you give an example of a time when you had to cope with a difficult situation?’ or ‘give an example of a time when you had to cope under pressure.’
Try to focus on a problem that you didn’t create, don’t focus on who created it, or that someone had to come to your rescue. It may be easier to give an example from previous work experience, study, extracurricular activities and travel that you were able to resolve yourself.
7. ‘Why do you think you will be successful in this job?’
Match your strengths to the qualities needed for the job, do not boast about how insanely awesome you are. With this interview question, they are trying to identify why you would be more suited to this job opposed to the others applying, so remember to do your research as it will save the day. Researching what they are looking for will allow you to match your skills, interests and experience to the company and job.
8. ‘Give an example of your lateral thinking.’
Lateral thinking is essentially your problem solving skills, by using your imagination to look at a problem in a fresh way and come up with new solutions. Think of a time you were faced with a (real world) problem, like problematic landlords or unable to meet deadlines, and somehow managed to overcome it. It probably involved an original and creative approach they wish to see.
9. ‘Where do you expect to be in five years’ time?’
Walking ‘round the zoo, with the sun shining down over me and you? Ok – yeah, work related. On a beach sippin’ a martini won’t quite cut it either. However, recruiters do not expect you to have a perfectly detailed plan for the next 5 years of your life. They simply want to know how this position would fit into your grand sorta plan, while looking for any specific red flags as an excuse to not hire someone.
Do NOT say ‘I want to be the CEO of the most successful company in the world’, or ‘I want to be filthy rich with houses all over the world’, and definitely avoid ‘no idea.’ or ‘working for you!’. You want to show off your understanding of your chosen career path. Show enthusiasm without being arrogant. Tailor your response to reflect the nature of the organisation, the sector, and your own skills and experiences, ‘Ultimately, I would like to take on more managerial responsibilities and also get involved in sales, but my goal right now is to find a position in a company where I can grow, take on new challenges, learn new skills, and build a career.’ You do not have to be super specific, but be specific enough to make sense!
Good interview preparation can help ease interview nerves, but if they still creep up, check out our advice for dealing with them!
Now that you have a few tricky interview questions and answers practiced and ready you can go ahead and nail those interviews! Still looking for interview opportunities, then checkout Magnet.me and connect with companies that are looking for someone like you!