The questions you don’t want to hear…

How to tackle those nasty questions.

You know what it’s like, the night before you go for an interview everyone starts to churn out their horror stories. Interviews where the interviewers fire impossible questions at the poor interviewee. Most of these are completely untrue, but it’s amazing how easily a question can throw you.

Open questions are the ones that provide the rope with which candidates can hang themselves. For example, the classic “What is your biggest weakness?” is an invitation to a)land yourself in it by admitting your addiction to “anything with Simon Cowell in it” and viewing his website during working hours, or b) give a bland answer that is forgotten before you’ve even stopped speaking. In this instance it’s best to concentrate on something that’s positive, like “I’m a perfectionist”, or “I demand a lot of my team”, or “I’m sometimes too focussed on meeting deadlines”…

But what other questions are sitting waiting for you, and how can you prepare for them?

Interviewers always know that you’ve either already finished or are about to finish your current employment and that there must be a reason for that – be it the end of a contract or a fall out with the boss, be prepared to talk about your past employment in a positive light. If it was your decision to move then be prepared to justify it.

Then there are the classics like…Why do you want this job? Why should we give you this job? What is it about you that’s right for this role? Here it’s worth having an answer ready based around the job description – treat this as their shopping list and show how you meet the main items.

Questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years time” need an honest answer – this one’s quite difficult to lie about. Perhaps speaking to your agency will help – at MAC Scientific we like to have an idea about a proposed career structure for our candidates and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t share this with the interviewer. If they’re hiring you for a temporary contract then don’t be afraid of saying that you have no intention of being in this country in five years time (if that's the case) – at least you are showing that you have ambition and goals.

Other questions where you have to imagine yourself in the role are an opportunity to show how enthusiastic you are about getting the job. When answering these it’s best to smile and say what you would like about certain situations.

Questions where you are asked to think on your feet, such as “Tell me about a current affairs item currently in the news that matters to you and why?” are asking you to do two things, firstly show you are adept and secondly provide an insight into what interests you, and how passionate you are about them. There’s not always a need to be serious and tackle a “heavy” issue in this type of question, but it’s a good idea to talk about something that you do care about, as this will show in your answer.

It’s important to remember that all questions are an opportunity for you to talk about why you are right for a role – keep that job description in mind, and the elements that you want to bring out in your CV, and bring them into you answers whenever possible. Then, come back with some prepared killer questions of your own…