How to answer difficult interview questions

Knowing how to answer the most popular interview questions (especially tricky ones) is the key to appearing confident and capable to a potential employer. It’s also important to practise answering tough interview questions as part of your preparation to ensure you avoid any ‘mind-blank’ moments. 

We’ve gathered some of the curliest interview questions out there so you can arm yourself with the answers you need to impress.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

This is a go-to question for many interviewers, so having a polished response to it should be a key part of your job interview preparation. Before devising an answer to this question, examine the job advertisement to ensure that you don’t highlight a weakness that’s an integral part of the role.

Be sure to keep your weakness work-related and one that you’re currently trying to address. For example a weakness could be that you’re not great at public speaking, but have been reading up on ways to sharpen your presentation skills.

Are you new to the industry you’re looking for jobs in? Demonstrate how this perceived weakness is actually a strength by highlighting your dedication and eagerness to learn by bringing up examples of your current or previous study.  Reinforce the fact that you’re up to date with industry standards, and looking forward to putting your new skills into practice in the workforce.

How to answer difficult interview questions

“Can you explain the gaps in your CV?”

It’s important to be honest when responding to this question. Answer it confidently and in a matter-of-fact way so you don’t come across as evasive. Whether it’s the fact you had to take time off due to illness or that you spent an extended period of time travelling, be upfront with your answer but always talk about the positives that may have come out of this break. Did you enrol in a course during this time, or build experience or transferable skills that could be applied to the role you’re interviewing for?

“Give me an example of a time when you handled a major issue on the job.”

It pays to have prepared answers to possible interview questions beforehand, especially when you’re required to give an example from your work history. The key to answering this question is to focus on the way you solved the problem.

Choose a situation that clearly illustrates your initiative when handling issues on your own such. For example, were you able to clear a backlog of work by devising your own new workflow? Or manage competing deadlines by arranging a meeting with key stakeholders to reprioritise the items of work?

“Why should I hire you?”

Identify the key requirements of the position based on the job description and highlight the skills and knowledge from your past that demonstrate this to the interviewer. Take this as an opportunity to sell yourself as the ideal person for the job, and don’t be afraid to show that you’ve proud of your abilities.

“Where do you hope to be in five years?”

By asking this question, your interviewer is trying to judge how driven you are and also how committed you are to the company and the career path you’ve chosen.

When answering this question it’s important to come across as being motivated and interested in the position you’ve applied for. Be sure to keep your response quite focused such as, “In five years I hope to be established in my career - leading a team on a major project and working towards a senior management role.” It shows you’re ambitious and that you have a career plan in place.