How To Answer Awkward Interview Questions

Submitted by: Neil W

Congratulations! You’ve just received a call informing you that you’ve to attend an interview for the dream job you applied for. It’s now time to focus on your interview preparation to make sure you give your best on the day.

Bring together a list general and job-specific interview questions that you could potentially be asked. Then spend time practicing how you would answer all of these questions. You should expect to practice your answers to most questions several times until you can answer each one in a way that will give an interviewer a positive impression of you.

You should also rehearse answers to the most straightforward questions, such as “Tell me about yourself” or “What is it about the job that interests you?” Many applicants spend so much time preparing for the “tough” questions, that they don’t spend enough time on what they perceive to be the “easier” ones. As a result, they can stumble in their answers to basic questions.

But what about those awkward questions, the ones you’re just not sure about?

Here are the top 6 awkward interview questions you may get asked at an interview, together with some advice on why an employer will be asking these, so that you can always give a positive answer.

1. Why are you leaving your current position (or why did you leave your last position)?

The employer is looking for potential problems you have had in the past that you may bring with you. The best way to deal with this question is to always cite reasons such as career progression, quality of life, reward package, etc. and link these to positive aspects of the job you are being interviewed for. NEVER launch into a tirade about how much you hate(d) your previous company, what a total fool you thought your boss was and so on. Always be upbeat – it projects a more confident image.


2. What do you think you can offer this company?

The interviewer wants to know how you can solve their problem. By ensuring your Resume is focused on matching you to the employer’s needs, you will have accumulated all the material necessary to answer this question.

You have the opportunity to differentiate yourself in two ways, firstly by emphasizing your strengths and secondly by demonstrating that you have researched the employer’s business prior to the interview. Give a balanced answer that highlights exactly how your strengths match the job requirements and show an awareness of what the company does.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

Someone thought up this question years ago and it has since become established as a ‘standard’ interview question. What the employer is hoping to establish is your degree of ambition for career progression. Always answer in general terms and definitely avoid staking a claim for the interviewer’s job!

This question can also be a double-edged sword. The job may carry little prospect of progression in itself. If you are keen to progress, this may not be the appropriate role for you, so you should establish what opportunities there are – perhaps it is possible (and indeed expected) to progress into other roles.

Above all, ensure as part of your interview preparation that you have established what your own job requirements are, as well as those of the employer.

4. How mobile are you?

There can be a couple of reasons for asking this question. The job may involve a lot of travel. If so, it should have been made clear in the job advert or the details you received. If it wasn’t, now is the time to establish the facts, and the expectations of the employer. If regular travel is a problem for you, say so – there’s no point in getting the job and then being unhappy.

Another reason for asking this could be to assess your attitude to flexibility in working practices. Again, be honest about your own requirements and expectations. This is the time to make sure that everyone is happy with the proposed working arrangements – and to open negotiations on any areas that need to be discussed further.

5. What are your weaknesses?

This is NOT an attempt to catch you out but an employer is trying to force you to carry out a more critical self-assessment. Have you thought about any weaknesses you may have? If not, do so now before you have to assess these in an interview situation. Once you’ve done this, you can turn them into positive, work-related statements, such as, “I tend to work too long hours.” Or “I am a perfectionist and need to make sure my work is 100% accurate.” By doing this you can answer the question and portray yourself in a positive light.

6. Why should we employ you, rather than one of the other candidates?

This is a bit like a tiebreaker question! The interviewer wants to know what your unique quality is that makes you the best person for the job. This gives you a real chance to make the job yours.

To prepare your answer, you need to know what the most important requirement of the job is. What aspect of the job is critical for success? How can you fulfil this requirement? Show an employer that you have the ability to do so and you will gain a real advantage over all other candidates.

Understanding why the employer is asking these questions will help you to prepare strong, positive answers before your interview.

A few final points to bear in mind when you are at an interview…

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on any questions.

2. Remember that the cost to an employer of recruiting the wrong person can be very expensive. The employer is also under a lot of pressure to make the right decision and may be just as nervous as you are!

3. Try to relax and enjoy the interview. The more relaxed you are, the better you will perform on the day.

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