Ever been in an interview and the interviewer throws a tricky question at you? Did you ever feel like you are being put on the spot or someone is trying to catch you out?
You can be as prepared as you possibly can for interviews, you can research the company and know the job description inside out, but unless you have written the questions yourself, there is a pretty slim chance you’re going to know what to expect.
Unfortunately, your resume and experience may not be enough to get you through an interview. Your CV will have been enough to get you face-to-face with the company, but you will need to demonstrate the ability to think on your feet and show how you think through a problem to get through the interview stage.
Below are some examples of questions you are likely to be asked and a few tips on how to answer.
Your last role
Tell me about a situation that made you want to leave a job
What part of your current role are you least interested in?
What one thing would you change about your last company?
These questions can lead you down the path of making disapproving comments about former colleagues or managers. It also runs the risk of showing that you’re not able to recognise and solve an issue as it arises. Criticising a previous employer is not a good look, and I would always encourage candidates to be very positive when talking about leaving a role. Talk about all the great things the role did for you, what you learnt and how you gained in experience. A good way to explain your reason for leaving is to focus on the positive reasons for joining the new company rather than a negative reason for leaving the last; i.e “I want to gain exposure to a large ERP system” versus “I am tired of working on out-dated systems” – it’s all about the positive spin, look forward, not back.
Tell me about the culture of your last role?
What kind of culture do you work best in?
What type of culture are you looking for in your next role?
There are no right or wrongs here. One man’s meat is another man’s poison! We all have our own preferences when it comes to culture fit. Cultural fit is key when recruiting, and something which impacts the candidate just as much as it impacts the employer. Candidates will apply for roles and go through the interview process often without taking company culture into consideration, purely focusing on receiving a job offer as the end goal. Really think about what roles you have enjoyed in the past, and which environments you may not have fitted into so well. Find out about the team and culture at the company you are interviewing for. Are they sociable? Do they do after work activities? Are they collaborative in the way they work, or do they work autonomously? Ask as many questions as you need. In some cases, you may even have the opportunity to meet the team you are going to be working with.
Why do you want to work for us?
Why are you interested in this particular role?
Why do you want to work in this industry?
These can be popular questions for companies in specific industries such as media, advertising and retail for example. Big brand, well-known companies will get inundated with hundreds of applications, and quite often will attract applicants who are more interested in getting the company name on their resume rather than really thinking about whether that job is for them. As much as it is flattering for a business to have candidates knocking down the door to work for them, the interview process will look closely at ensuring the candidate is right for their business and can do the role in question. Think carefully about why exactly you want to work for them and what you can bring to their business. Simply saying that you are desperate to work in fashion will not cut the mustard! We can’t all be Carrie Bradshaw!
Other people's thoughts
If I were to call your referee, what would they say your strengths and weaknesses are?
If I met with your last two managers, what five words do you believe they would use to describe you and why?
Although this is a hypothetical question, this enables the interviewer to clarify if any further questioning is required around behaviours and competencies. So just bear in mind to match your strengths to the skills required in the job description of the position you are interviewing for. If you have copies of performance appraisals or reviews, talk about the positives that were mentioned. Make sure that anything you do say will be repeated and reinforced in any future references. There is no point in claiming to be Batman when you’re really Robin – or worse still The Joker.
Working styles & behaviours
Tell me about a time that you took a risk and it went wrong?
What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken?
What motivates you more; fear of failure or desire for success?
Some roles will need a considerable amount of determination, perseverance and tenacity. These questions will show how the candidate is able to pick themselves up after taking knocks. These questions would also be relevant for sales or very KPI-driven roles that could involve taking some sort of risk in order to gain. When answering these questions remember to think of good, concrete real-life examples and try to keep the answers positive. Be aware of other behavioural based questions that will ask for examples too, such as “give me an example of when you had to deal with an irate customer”, or “give me an example of when you have gone beyond the call of duty in your working life”.
If you were a car, what make and model would you be and why?
How would you prefer to be perceived? Richest, most knowledgeable, an expert or most successful?
If you were the sole survivor of a plane crash, what would you do and why?
What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?
What song best describes you?
The list is endless, and the questions get even weirder and wackier. Ultimately the answer itself is somewhat irrelevant. The interviewer often uses this type of question to see how you react to an unexpected situation. Can you think on your feet or do you simply stare back like a rabbit in headlights? The thing that will set you apart from other candidates is how you choose to think about the question or problem. The key to answering these questions is to not panic, and not to worry about giving the cleverest or funniest answer. The most important thing is to demonstrate how you have thought about your answer, and do your best in terms of matching it to the job description, and the skills and competencies that will make you successful in that job.
Remember, if you fail to prepare for an interview then prepare to fail!!