Nailing the Tricky Questions: Best Interview Answers for 2019

Lucie, Octopus Personnel Recruitment Consultant explains how to use those tricky questions to your advantage in an interview.

Congratulations on making it to interview! To make sure you sail through the interview and into the job, use my top tips below to answer those tricky questions. You must, must, must research the company and the job. There are no short-cuts! So, use this quick and easy way to get started preparing for your success. Good Luck!

“Tell Me About Yourself…”

With such a broad range of possible answers, this question often trips interviewees up. It is not asking for your life story; they want to know about where you are now professionally and what you have learnt from previous employment experiences.

  • Be succinct and to the point (which means practising beforehand).
  • Pick out three key events from your work history which provide a coherent story about where you are now professionally and what you have learnt. Choose a specific skill and experience from each job.
  • Talk about what makes you excited about this opportunity – be specific!
  • Use your company research to illustrate how you already have the strengths and qualities they are searching for.

“What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

Your company research will mean you already know the qualities the company is looking for and you can use this opportunity to illustrate one you haven’t yet shown in the interview.

  • This question really lets you guide the interview where you want it to go. This is your chance to relate your most impressive success story, so take advantage!
  • Highlight a strength that is crucial to the position.
  • Don’t make claims that you can’t illustrate with a brief example or fact.

“What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?”

This is somewhat similar to the “what is your greatest strength?” question and can be handled along the same lines. You want to pick an accomplishment that shows you have the qualities that the company puts value in and that are desirable for the position you’re interviewing for.

  • Talk about an accomplishment that exhibits how you will be a perfect fit for the company and for the position you’re interviewing for.
  • Try and show some genuine passion when you’re talking about your accomplishment.

“What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”

Don’t pick a weakness that is a key competency for the job! Choose your weaknesses wisely and you show that you have taken steps to “work on it”.

  • Show that you are aware of your weakness and what you have done to overcome it.
  • Show that you are “self-aware” and that you have the ability to take steps to improve yourself – through education, experience or mentoring.

“Describe A Difficult Work Situation And What You Did To Overcome It…”

The key here is to pick a success story that shows you exhibiting the qualities/skills required at the job and company you are interviewing for.

  • Pick an example that shows you tackling a problem that could arise at the new company you’re interviewing for. This shows your value.
  • Be specific and fairly concise.
  • Use the S.T.A.R. Method:
  • Situation (Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalised description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.)
  • Task (What did you need to achieve and why? What goal were you working toward?)
  • Action (Summary of the problem and the action you took. Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? Be careful that you don’t describe what the team or group did when talking about a project, but what you actually did. Use the word “I,” not “we” when describing actions.)
  • Result (Describe the outcome of your actions and don’t be shy about taking credit for your behaviour. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Make sure your answer contains multiple positive results, preferably with a specific piece fact or figure which illustrates your success.)
  • Don’t bash anyone in your success story. (Coworker, boss or customer!)

“Why Do You Want To Work For Us?”

You need to show that you want to become an integral part of the company, to grow and develop with the needs of the business and demonstrate how your “wants” coincide with their “needs”.

  • Talk about specific things you like about the company. Do your homework before and find out the needs of the company and talk about how you’re passionate about “fulfilling those needs”.
  • Be complimentary. Most people enjoy being flattered. (Just don’t go overboard)
  • Show how your strengths perfectly align with the job position and company culture.

“Why Should We Hire You?”

The secret to success here is to be specific and evidence-based. You have already used your company research and the job description to find out exactly why the company is hiring someone for this position. Demonstrating that you understand the problem the new hire needs to solve will make you seem like the perfect candidate!

  • Show the hiring manager that you are uniquely suited to filling this position. Be the candidate that solves the problem!
  • Show you know some significant details about the company and their general practices because you have researched the firm and are prepared.
  • Tell a “success story” that highlights how you have the ‘qualities’ needed to fill their specific needs – make sure you use a different example.
  • Don’t be too modest or too arrogant; you can avoid this by being specific and factual about your role in the examples you use. Again, preparation is key!

“Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Preparation for this question is vital to seem plausible and truthful. Practise your answer so it’s fluent and coherent.

  • If you left voluntarily be sure to explain why. For example: you wanted a different challenge. How does this company offer you a specific characteristic or opportunity which your previous employer didn’t have? Explain what attracts you to this company.
  • If you were let go, be honest and explain the situation and own it. Explain what you learned from the experience, because the interviewer knows you’re human, you make mistakes, and just wants to see that you were able to do something about it.
  • Don’t bash your last company or boss or anything along those lines

“Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?”

You DO want to show that you are an ambitious person BUT you need to show that you don’t have your “head in the clouds” and are focused on the job at hand.

  • Demonstrate when you answer the question your level of commitment to the position they are interviewing you for.
  • After you have demonstrated your commitment to the role you are interviewing for, outline a realistic growth strategy that is directly tied to the role you’re in and the needs and values of the company. How will this role help you grow?
  • Stress your interest in a long-term career at the company.

“Do You Have Any Questions For Me?”

This question gives you a fantastic opportunity to stand out from the crowd and show your knowledge and passion for the company or organisation you are interviewing for. Always have a few questions prepared and have one based around something you found during your company research phase.

  • Focus your questions on the company and what you can do for them.
  • Ask about something you’ve discovered in your company research. This will show your passion and knowledge of the company.
  • Ask if there is any reason the HR manager wouldn’t hire you. (This can be a little daunting to ask BUT can really pay off. It allows you to address something they may be thinking in their head but haven’t brought up.)
Erin Belmont

About the author

I look after the marketing for Octopus – from the social media and website you see online to the events we put on throughout the year.

I love being in the middle of things, soaking up the lively dynamic atmosphere. The team at Octopus really care about our job searchers and clients and do everything they can to understand everyone’s needs and make intelligent and productive job matches. Their drive and fun loving spirit inspire me every day!