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Tackling Difficult Interview Questions

Posted on 13/01/2015 by Tanishia Evans


Interviews can be daunting and the thought of being asked a tough or tricky interview question can make us nervous before an interview begins. In recent years, the way in which interviews are approached and carried out has changed drastically and competency-based questions are an increasingly popular interview style. This style of interviewing is used to indicate your future performance and suitability for the role at present.

For example, “how do you get a needle out of a haystack?”, or “how many golf balls would it take to fill a room?”. There are no right or wrong answers for questions like these and in this situation, the interviewer is more interested in seeing how you approach the question, and how you deal with stress and pressure. 

If the role is for a Creative Director, they are probably expecting you to come up with some creative answers. If the role is for an Accountant, where you follow a lot of processes and formulae, they may expect a more logical answer. Be sure of your strengths and achievements and explain the thinking behind your answer. Remember pauses are okay. Walk the interviewer through your thinking process, show your analytical skills and how you come to your answer or as much of the answer as you know.

At the end of the day, preparation is key and can be the defining factor to the outcome of any interview. Here are three tips on how to deal with answering some of those tricky questions.

Understanding what a tricky question is to you that your interviewer could ask

Practice makes perfect after all and identifying those questions and practicing the different ways you can answer them and even different ways it can present itself in the interview is important. 

Answering questions should be clear, well structured, highlighting your abilities, with examples of what you can bring to the role. Remember, do not be afraid to pause and talk the interviewer through your thought process.

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses

It is best to know your strengths and weaknesses and what questions you may find difficult, if asked to talk the interviewer through them. The key to approaching this question is understanding that it is not actually about what your strengths and weaknesses are. Demonstrate that you can recognise both strengths and weaknesses and show how you have come about your strengths and have developed ways to stop it affecting your work if it's a weakness.

Answering questions like “why are you right for this role?”, “why should I hire you?”, “what skills and experience do you have?”

Remember, an interview is for you, just as much as the employer.

Knowing the organisation you are interviewing for is imperative, this means researching their business focus, finding out what they are up to, have they been in the news lately and what their core values are. Finding out information like this will help to understand how the job that you are seeking fits into the organisation and will help you to identify some of the goals and challenges they might face. 

Explain what you can do for the organisation and highlight your skills with examples and reiterate your excitement for the opportunity.

Research your panel or interviewer before the interview. Sometimes an employer’s social media platform can provide detailed profiles on people’s career and interests. This can give you an indication of what they might be like and help in your thinking when answering questions.

You can find more information on preparing for interviews, including CV advice, attending video interviews and more on our employability support hub on our website.