Interviews are the dumps. Sweaty palms, outfit dilemmas, perpetual fear of lateness – they're all part and parcel of the job hunting process.
And whilst we can't help you with the sweaty palms and fashion faux pas, we have taken the stress out of one part of it for you… interview questions.
You’ve heard the horror stories of the weird and wonderful questions people have been asked at interview – so here are our top 10 hardest interview questions and how to answer them.
1. What's your biggest weakness?
You knew we'd start with this one, right? It's the original big dog of interview questions.
Obviously don't divulge that your ideal Friday night is eating a can of cold beans whilst watching X-files. But equally, don't go in for the see-through response of 'I'm a perfectionist' or 'I'm a workaholic'.
Be honest, be genuine and most of all show self-awareness. Answers like 'I get stressed by deadlines' or 'I find it hard to delegate efficiently' are relatable and real. I once had a boss who openly admitted in an interview that he's not great at timekeeping – even the mighty have flaws.
2. why are you leaving your current job?
Absolutely, under no circumstances is this an opportunity to rant about your current boss. You'll come across as entitled, happy to complain and even bitchy.
No matter the real situation, try and put a positive spin on it. No interviewer wants to hear that you had a massive row with Lindsay from sales and now you feel awkward. Explain that you're looking for wider horizons, to further your career or to get experience in a more varied role.
3. What's your current salary?
Normally at the Learning People we like to tackle things head on. But this my friend is a question that you're just going to have to dodge.
The true aim of this one is to find out how much you'll work for. To dodge this effectively, simply search the average salary for the role you're applying for, or better yet, reference how much you know the role is being offered at elsewhere. Once they realise that you're expecting the industry average for that role they'll probably back off. If not, you can brush it off by saying that you are aware that your current employer is paying below the industry standard. Whatever happens, don't feel pressured into letting go of personal information.
4. If you were a colour, what would you be?
This is among one of the weirder questions, but definitely not the weirdest. Don't stress over questions like this. They are simply designed to test your critical thinking and how you react on the spot. If you get really stuck, just say 'that's a really good question' and take a moment to think. If nothing comes to mind, ask if you can circle back to the question later on.
5. Why should we hire you?
Another toughy. We aren't always great at bigging ourselves up – but that's exactly what this question calls for... within reason.
The best preparation for this question is to familiarise yourself with the job description. Attribute elements of your CV to requirements on the job description. This illustrates that you've done your research, but also that you are familiar with your own CV - you'd be surprised how few people are.
Secondly, describe your personal qualities that make you a good employee in general.
6. What is your most significant achievement?
This question is designed to assess your values and attitude. Even if you're a graduate and have spent most of your life in education, try to pick something other than 'my dissertation' or 'passing my driving test'. Think of something that illustrates self-motivation as well as a life outside of work/study. For example: a charity effort, running a marathon or other sporting achievements, public speaking, helping others - teaching, tutoring etc.
7. What has been your biggest failure?
This question is a flip on the previous question, with the same intentions as the 'biggest weakness' question. What an interviewer is looking for is signs of resilience and how you cope with setbacks. For example, perhaps you tried to cook a challenging meal for your in-laws, but failed dismally. How did you save the situation? Did you laugh about it, practise, then invite them round again? Or did you cry into the cremated casserole and refuse to talk about the experience ever again?
Chances are, you've failed at something and had to pull yourself back from it. Just make sure you follow up the failure with how you fixed it.
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
No, the answer is not 'in your job'. This sounds arrogant and over competitive – plus it's practically cliché. Do your research about the company and track the likely progression. For example, if you're a marketing executive, you would hope to become a marketing manager – or be responsible for a certain area of the marketing team. If you're in sales, you'd hope to go from sales advisor to sales manager…and so on and so forth.
What about if the questions are really whacky? Check out these tough interview questions from some big brand names:
'You have a cake. How many straight cuts do you need to divide the cake into 8 equal pieces?'
This is designed to test your on-the-stop skills. No one is expecting you to jump straight to the answer – consider it and answer slowly, feel free to 'show your workings'.
P.s the answer is 8… or 'depends on the shape of the cake'.
'You work on the 60th floor of a 100 story building. You walk into your office and find a bomb sitting on your desk. It read 90 seconds and is counting down. What do you do?'
Crisis management skills? Go go go! Obviously throw it out the window, right?