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Careers Clinic: How To Answer Tough Interview Questions

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These pretty standard interview questions are hard to answer, come up in almost every interview and are important to get right. They are not trick questions, and while there is no ‘right’ answer, there are some better ways to respond than others.

At an interview, your potential employer is looking for insight into the value you will potentially bring to the company so every question is an opportunity for you to highlight what you can do. Keep your answers skill and fact based, and back each answer up with an example.

What are your weaknesses? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? What developmental goals are you working on?

The real question here is what obstacles have you faced in the past and how did you overcome them? Be authentic, clear, concise and honest. Everybody has flaws; do not attempt to sound perfect. Instead, communicate the fact that you are professionally self-aware, open to self-evaluation, and engage in ongoing self-improvement. Before the interview, read the job description in detail and frame your answer in light of it. Briefly describe your Achilles heal, discuss your proactive efforts to improve and highlight that your weakness, have never in the past, and will not in the future hold you back.

Have you ever had a bad experience with a previous employer or colleague?

This question is a tough one, especially if it hits a nerve. The key is to avoid (at all costs) attacking or speaking poorly about your previous employer or colleagues. The aim of this question is to put you on the spot, to assess your ability to think on your feet and to come up with a diplomatic answer. The best way to approach it is to explain how you deal with difficult people or situations. Be that clear, open and honest; professional communication has always served you well. Focus on how you resolve conflicts if they arise, stop talking, do not get drawn into a big discussion.

Do you have any questions for us?

This question is not just a polite way to end an interview. It is a searching question trying to gauge how informed, interested and engaged you are. From your perspective, it is an outstanding opportunity to see if the company is the right fit for you. The first step is to clarify any uncertainties that you might have. For example, ‘What are the most immediate projects that I will work on?’ or ‘What are the performance expectations for the position over the first 12 months?’. A further question may be about the future role. For example, ‘What are the career paths in this department/company?’ or ‘Where have previous employees in this role progressed to within your company?’ or ‘What training programmes are available to your employees?’. A nice way to finish off is to offer help to your prospective employer by asking ‘Is there anything else that I can provide you with that would be helpful?’ Never ask about salary at this stage. This question only comes at negotiation stage and once you have been offered the role.

By Sinead Brady

@CareertoLove

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