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How to answer difficult interview questions.

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How to answer difficult interview questions.

Job interviews come in many different formats. To help you prepare it is always a good idea to ask your recruiter for some sort of guidance on what you can expect. Organisations tend to have preferred techniques dependent on their own objectives so you will find each experience will be different. Planning answers to some of the more standard questions such as “What are your strengths and weakness” is still necessary, but considering what the interviewer is trying to achieve with their questioning will enable you to put your best foot forward.

Remember, these questions are not there to intentionally trip you up! They are designed to challenge you so you have every opportunity to showcase your skills, experience and thought processes. There is rarely a right or wrong answer, so as long as you present yourself authentically, you will increase your chance of success. 

Below are our top tips for success for some of the interview questions our candidates tell us are the most challenging.

Character Based Questions

These kinds of questions are giving you the opportunity to introduce more about who you are. Why are they challenging to answer? The best answers will be ones that are well thought through and show you have taken the time to self-reflect. If you haven’t, you could be caught off guard! They will often cover your strengths and weaknesses, your ambitions and motivations. 

For example:

  • Tell me about yourself?

  • What are your weaknesses?

  • How would your colleagues describe you?

Top tip: You need to keep your answers short and to the point. If you find it hard to sell yourself, think about the traits you have that your friends, family and colleagues value and give examples of how these traits have helped you navigate your work life and professional relationships. 

Behavioural Questions

Behavioural questions are looking to find out more about how you act in certain situations so a future employer can determine how you would act in the future. The questions will typically be asking you to describe a challenge or conflict, and ask you to describe how you overcame it. Questions could be something like;

  • How did you resolve a conflict at work?

  • Tell me how you made a mistake at work then learned from that mistake?

  • Describe an occasion where you had to motivate your colleagues?

Top Tip: It is always a good idea to share what you learned from an experience, even if you are not explicitly asked.

Competency Questions

Competency questions are designed to assess if you have the specific skills and experience for the role. The best way to prepare for these is to have a full understanding of the job description and identify the skills they are looking for. They could be time management, leadership, creativity, problem-solving, communication, influencing or team work. 

Prepare examples to demonstrate your capabilities in each of these skills. Examples questions are;

  • Give me an example of your management style?

  • Describe a time where you had to make a difficult decision.

  • How to you prioritise tasks you have to work on?

Top Tip: You can use the “STAR” methodology to prepare examples – Situation, Task, Action and Result. This will help you keep your answers structured and concise. 

Technical Questions

Technical questions tend to be the area interviewees are the most comfortable, so the challenge is to not be too complacent! If you are interviewing for a job that requires a high degree of technical knowledge such as engineering, surveying or planning, our advice to stand out from the crowd, is to read around your subject. 

  • What software packages do you use and to what level of competency?

  • How do you keep you skills up to date?

  • What do you see as the biggest challenge that the [engineering] team will face in the next 12 months?  

Top Tip: Be aware of current trends in the market, or around the company you are interviewing with so you can demonstrate you understand the wider context. You should also be honest if there are gaps in your knowledge, and instead show a keenness to learn.

As with all interviews the advice is always to be prepared, know your CV inside out, do your research on the people, the company and the industry, take your time to give considered answers, and if you are not sure about a question – ask for clarification!

Want to see more interview advice from experts? Click here.

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