Our expert advice on answering difficult interview questions Part one: questions about you

 

You’ve worked hard on perfecting your CV, tailored your cover letter and now you’ve landed the big interview. You’re ready to go, you’ve gone over all your usual interview preparation and researched the company.

But are you prepared for the difficult questions the hiring manager might throw at you?

In this series, we will be tackling the most challenging interview questions employers ask and how to answer them with advice from our expert recruitment team.

In this article, we are focusing on interview questions that you’ll be asked about who you are and what you can offer the business.

“Describe yourself”

Start by giving a little rundown of your work history, pick up on key achievements and demonstrate how your career has developed. Prepare your answer in advance so you can deliver it confidently and make a great first impression.

Director, Sarah-Lee says “Keep this short and sweet; you do not want to spend five minutes discussing your own traits; however, this is your time to sell yourself!

Relay personal traits that would be advantageous to the business culture. Look at the job description for clues on this or the company CSR page. You want to describe traits that are beneficial to the job and that fit their culture.”

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

It’s normal to feel like you are being asked a trick question, but all the employer wants to see is that you can recognise your best areas and where you might need improvement.

Strengths

Choose the skills mentioned in the job advert as your strengths, that way you’ll match what the hiring manager is looking for.

Senior Business Manager, Simon Ensor says “this will show how  suitable you are for the position by using skills mentioned on the job advert and give examples where you have used the strength.” 

Weaknesses

One way to tackle this question is to show how you’ve handled a problem in the past, and the steps you’ve taken to combat it. For example: “I used to find that pressure got to me, but I’ve found ways to minimise this. I went on a time management course which has helped me to organise myself and reduce my stress.”

Business Manager, Steph Sierny suggests "talk about a weakness in the past tense (not as a current problem) or always end your example on a positive note.

The best answer I have heard is ‘I can be quite self-critical of myself and my work however that’s because I have really high standards and don’t like to let anything slip’.

Simon adds “pick something on the job description that wouldn’t be detrimental to being successful, and that can be developed. The hiring manager will already have an idea that you haven’t done it.

It gives you the chance to raise a negative but turn it into a positive by saying what you can do about it or how you can overcome that weakness”.

Avoid saying 'I'm a perfectionist’ it is such a cliché that interviewers will know it’s not true. Make sure your weakness is professional too, and not something along the lines of ‘my weakness is chocolate’.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The interviewer wants to understand more about your career goals and how this position would fit into your grand plan.

They care about your career goals because they want to hire someone who is motivated, proactive, and who is going to be loyal.

If succeeding in this role is important to you as part of your long-term career strategy, you are much more likely to perform well.

In order to prepare well for this question, research a reasonable career path which will flow from the position for which you are applying. How long does someone usually spend in that position? What are the next steps within five years?

Some employers will clearly outline pathways in the career section of their website. However, you may need to approach professionals in the field to gain an accurate picture.

Coming soon

In the next part of this blog series, we will be looking at difficult questions about your previous work history.

Follow us on LinkedIn to get the first look at part two. We also have more career advice here - https://www.elevationrecruitmentgroup.com/careers-advice

 

 

 

 

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