July 22, 2013, by Jemma Utley

Three tough interview questions revealed

By Sarah Allen, Employability Education Projects Officer (Social Sciences)

‘Death will be a great relief. No more interviews’ – Katharine Hepburn

Sometimes it may seem like the interviewer is part of some cruel joke, asking you cryptic questions that are only devised to confuse. The truth is they need to ask these questions to determine whether you are the right person for the job, and if you can handle pressure professionally and confidently. The types of questions and interview experience depend on the role and organisation but there are some that you can prepare for.

There will normally be information about interview content on the employers’ website and make the most of our recruitment events by talking to recent graduates or company representatives. In the meantime we have outlined three of the main types of interview question to help you get started!

‘How can you help our company to grow?’

Most companies have a set strategy for the next few years. Research any relevant commercial information using their website, their social media channels and in the news including industry magazines e.g. The New Scientist. Consider how this will affect your career with them i.e career progression and opportunities for innovation. How could you help them achieve their aims? Do you have evidence from past experience?

‘Give me an example of when you…’

…Demonstrated a desired skill. Give examples from your education, extracurricular activities and work experience of skills listed in the job description and on their website. Competencies that recruiters look for include time management, leadership, problem solving, adaptability, interpersonal skills and teamwork. Avoid scripted answers; you will come across as wooden and you need room to improvise.

Use the STAR technique to help answer these questions

  • Situation – outline a problem or issue you faced and set it in a time context
  • Task – explain your task
  • Action – explain in sequential steps your response to the situation. What did you do?
  • Result – explain the outcome. The employer will be looking for a positive response

‘What is your biggest weakness?’

This may seem like a trick question, but demonstrates where you can improve, and your self-awareness. Don’t answer with: ‘My biggest weakness is that I’m too committed to work!’ Think of something genuine and provide an example of how you have overcome that weakness. For example, ‘I get nervous during presentations so I practise them beforehand in front of my family and friends.’

Need more advice? Book a careers appointment, check out our interview webpages, and keep an eye out for even more interview-based articles! Still stuck on your CV? Have a read of  ‘CV cliches: Part one’.

Posted in Applying For JobsCareers AdviceInterviews