9 Tricky Interview Questions

Forewarned is forearmed, which is why we've compiled a list of key hard-to-answer questions that recruiters love to ask. Read on to find out how you can best answer them.

1) ‘What is your biggest weakness?’

The problem with this question is that you’re being asked about your shortcomings, when your instinct is to keep your flaws as well-hidden as possible. What you need to do is to give your answer a positive spin. Strengths and weaknesses can be different sides of the same coin, so another way to approach this question is to think about how you would overcome the potential downside of your greatest strength.

For example, if you’re a natural team worker, how do you cope with conflict or respond to the call to assume leadership responsibilities?

2) ‘Why do you think you will be successful in this job?’

This isn’t an invitation to boast – you are being asked to match your strengths to the qualities needed to do the job. It’s a very specific question; Why are you suited to this job, as opposed to any other? Researching about your potential employer will save the day, as it will enable you to match your skills, interests, and experience to the role and the company.

3) ‘Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?’

Graduate recruiters sometimes use questions not just to elicit a truthful answer, but also to check your reaction when you’re put on the spot. This question is a test of your ability to think on your feet and to practice diplomacy. To answer this, you can either sidestep the question by saying that you’ve always gotten on well with your employers, or describe a tricky experience that highlights your potential.

The golden rule: avoid badmouthing your previous employers and be careful to not incriminate yourself.

4) 'Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis.’

This is similar to asking, ‘Give an example of a time when you had to cope with a difficult situation?’ or ‘Give an example of a time when you had to cope under pressure’. However, ‘crisis’ is a much stronger and more emotive word. Highlight examples from your work experience, study, extracurricular activities, or even travels, for a time when you had to cope with an unexpected problem.

5) ‘Where do you expect to be in five years’ time?’

This is another question that allows you to show off your employer research and your understanding of your chosen career path. You’ll want to come across as enthusiastic, but not arrogant. Tailor your response to reflect the nature of the organisation, the sector, and your own experiences and skills. Specific details will impress.

6) ‘What motivates you?’

Here, your interviewer is trying to glean an idea of the triggers that motivate you to excel in your position and give you job satisfaction. Your answers should draw on examples from your extracurricular activities, work experience, or a study that can prove you’ll be strongly interested and driven by the job you are applying for.

7) 'How do you manage your time and prioritise tasks?’

When asked this question, don’t just stop at describing a successful example. Your interviewer wants to know your tactics and strategies for getting yourself organised, so be ready to describe the approaches that you use to prioritise your tasks.

8) 'Give an example of a time when you showed initiative.’

For this one, avoid talking about ideas that you’ve never put into action. It’s much better to talk about a time when you have not only came up with a solution to the problem, but also acted on it. Then, you can explain the effect of your decision once it was put into practice.

9) ‘Do you consider yourself a leader?’

This is more than a simple yes-no question. Questions such as the one above or similar ones asking you to cite examples of leadership roles are commonly asked by interviewers to gauge your skill set and experience.

Draw from examples of any activities or projects that allowed you to be in the position to lead others or bring a team together. However, make sure to draw a balance – avoid bragging about your achievements, but don’t be too humble either. A good leader knows how to appropriately give credit where it’s due. Summarise the roles you have undertaken and let your interviewer know what type of leader you view yourself as.