Good answers to tough interview questions – Part 1

No magic answers

First off I don’t have a magic wand to help anyone get a job – I really wish I did. Also I don’t claim that my answers are 100% perfect as these types of questions and answers are very subjective and what might impress one person may completely fail to impress someone else.

Having trained interviewers for 17 years I have to say I take a fairly dim view of many of these questions because of their subjective nature, however they are still being asked in interviews around the country. I’ve spoken with the people asking the questions to try and understand why they are asking them and what constitutes a good answer in their eyes and this is what I’ve come up with – hope it helps!

5 Tough Questions

1. Are you overqualified for this position?

Why? The short answer is they’re worried you’ll cause problems with the line manager or leave as soon as a better job comes along. In the current financial climate people often apply for jobs way below their usual payscale. If that’s you, or if you’re making a lifestyle change, then make be absolutely sure in your own mind as to why you want the job you’re being interviewed for.

Possible answer: “On paper, yes I do appear over qualified, however I’ve made a major lifestyle change over the past 12 months and am no longer looking to work at my previous level. I believe the additional experience and expertise I could bring to the role will be valuable to the organisation.”

2. It would seem that you’ve been out of work for sometime now…

Why? They’re worried that since you left your last job you’ve been sat on your backside watching daytime TV and will struggle with routines such as getting in on time, they’re also worried you may be a little rusty.

Possible answer: “Since I finished my last role I’ve spent time volunteering at the local homeless shelter. I’ve also used the opportunity to improve my IT skills by taking advantage of free courses which have been on offer at my local library.”

3. You were in your last job a long time. How do you think you’ll adjust to something new?

Why? Their concern here is that you’re too stuck in your ways and not open to new challenges, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’re still flexible and adaptable.

Possible answer: “Although I was in the same role for 10 years the job evolved a lot during that time. I learned new IT systems and was closely involved in the roll-out of two major customer service initiatives.”

4. Do you feel your lack of experience could be a problem?

Why: Pretty straightforward question this – they’re worried you don’t know enough or don’t realise why you’re getting into. A common question for graduates or those who have more qualifications than front line experience.

Possible answer: “I have experience of working within a similar field (mention specifically) and have a strong theoretical knowledge of the subject. Having rersearched the role and your organisation I feel confident that I will be able to get up to speed very quickly and welcome the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.”

5. Tell me about yourself.
Why: I’ve often been told that the reason this question is so ambiguous is because they want to hear whether the interviewee talks about work or non work things, so I’d strongly adovate a mix of both if no further guidance is forthcoming.

Possible answer: “Well as you can see from my CV I’ve worked in the XXX field for 20 years now and have gained many key skills along the way. Outside of work I enjoy hiking, reading and visitng the theatre.” (They’ll no doubt be looking for more than this so do expand were appropriate.)

And finally…

As there’s a very good chance you’ll get asked questions which aren’t on this list then here’s my suggestion; before you leap in stop and consider for a moment why they are asking the question – once you’ve got an idea why they’re asking it then you’re in a much better position to answer it. Tough interview questions really aren’t so tough once you know why they’re asking them. Which is why, for the questions above I’ve tried to identify why they’re asking it before I’ve given a suggested answer to give you some ideas.

Beth Pipe is a Learning and Development Professional and freelance writer.
You can find more of her professional work here:
You can also follow her at @cumbrianrambler on Twitter.

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