How to answer tough interview questions

You’ve made it to the interview stage of the application process… but the struggle’s not over yet!  Sooner or later you’ll have to confront the tough interview questions that are bound to pop up. These are usually asked in order to identify any weaknesses or gaps in 1) your work history or 2) your performance as an employee, so just make sure you don’t unwittingly spill the beans, and that you remain calm and competent throughout.

Some typical ‘tough’ questions are:

Why is there a gap in your work history?

It’s fine if you have a gap in your work history – we’ve all had a point in our careers where we’ve been unemployed or between jobs. Just make sure you explain it to your advantage. Any type of experience that is conducive to personal or professional growth will be an excellent example… such as taking time off to grow your portfolio, acting as a consultant, freelancing, etc.

Why should I hire you?

This can be a tricky question to answer, as you don’t want to come across as boastful. Instead, be confident in your abilities (but not overly so), and match your skills to the job at hand. Just be sure to back-up your answers with work-relevant examples. Platitudes like “I’m a hard-worker” or “I’m passionate” are essentially meaningless, and won’t impress so much as bore the interviewer. This is an opportunity to reiterate your most impressive strengths – so make the most of it!

Tell me your biggest weakness

Instead of revealing your greatest weakness, take this time to show them that you’re not only self-aware, but also looking for ways to improve where you fall short. It’s also imperative that – if you state a weakness – it isn’t one that would hinder your work. Saying you have poor time management will almost immediately eliminate you as a candidate. Alternatively, don’t pick a clichéd response like “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist”. Instead a small weakness, like a fear of public speaking or being a bit shy, will suffice… not to mention it won’t present itself as a threat to your doing a good job.

To round up: no matter the question, the key is to back-up your answers, and to think about how your experience and knowledge applies to the job at hand. As long as you’re cool, calm, and clued-up, you’ll be sure to do well!

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