Top 5 tough interview questions

Job interview
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

27 March 2017

The job interview can be a daunting experience at the best of times. But how well would you handle one of these curveballs thrown your way?

A report produced by Glassdoor Economic Research has suggested that tough interviews have a correlation with higher levels of job satisfaction among successful candidates further down the line.

Unusual questions at the early stages of the recruitment process can indicate not only job suitability but whether someone is a good fit for the company culture.

The recruitment and employer review specialists also released this list of the most challenging interviewer queries as reported by UK job candidates. Here's our advice for answering them.

1. “What on your CV is the closest thing to a lie?”

Position: Marketing and Communications Employee

Company: The Phoenix Partnership

Claiming that everything on your CV is 100% true might avoid a few awkward feelings but likely won't impress your interviewer. They want to see how you react to being challenged, how willing you are to admit to mistakes and the measure of your own abilities.

Hopefully, everything relating to qualifications and past experience is accurate, so the best place to find an embellishment is in your personal statement or equivalent section. Pick out something to elaborate on and turn it into a constructive, honest assessment of that trait.

For example:

I have referred to myself as a self-starter and, while that's true, I do sometimes require guidance on particular projects.

2. “What am I thinking right now?”

Position: Regional Director

Company: TES Global

Chances are, you aren't psychic and therefore won't be able to give the exact right answer. This question is designed to assess how well you read situations and people. It can also be an opportunity to point out something about yourself that you particularly want the recruiter to notice.

Your answer is largely dependent on the situation. If you think the interview is going well, then perhaps inject some clean humour or get a little creative with your response. However, if you think that the interviewer possibly wouldn't respond well to a light-hearted statement, make a positive inference about yourself.

For example: 

You're thinking that my level of achievement is impressive for someone who only recently moved into this sector. Would you like to discuss anything in particular from my career history?

3. “How would your enemy describe you?”

Position: Advertising Sales Grad Scheme

Company: Condé Nast

Do you have someone in your life that you would consider to be an 'enemy'? Probably not, unless you live a particularly dramatic life. This question falls under the same purview as 'What is your biggest weakness?' in that you should take something negative and turn it into a positive.

Flat out denying that anyone would say a word against you may not only appear as though you are hiding something but could also make you seem too passive. You are part of a competitive process and should, therefore, paint yourself as a contender, though not difficult to work with. 

For example: 

I wouldn't say that I have 'enemies', but I am fairly competitive and my peers may point out that I'm not shy about my ambitions.

4. “If you had a friend who was great for a job and an identical person who was just as good, but your friend earned you £2,000 less, who would you give the job to?”

Position: Associate Recruitment Consultant

Company: Hays PLC

A morality question with a hint of nepotism, your interviewer is looking to gain insight into your priorities as well as your reasoning skills. Scenarios like this aren't supposed to be easy and the person asking the question wants to know if you can be relied on to make the right call.

Generally, hiring friends, especially at a monetary disadvantage to the business, would likely be frowned upon. You should demonstrate that you can be practical, but don't seem heartless.

For example: 

In any hiring situation, I would feel compelled to treat all candidates on an even playing field. I would have to offer the job to whoever was going to be better value or a better fit for the company. Not to mention, I think a friendship could easier survive a fair decision made in a professional setting than a potential firing down the line if it doesn't work out.

5. “What’s the most selfish thing you’ve ever done?”

Position: Graduate Consultant

Company: PageGroup

Tread carefully with this question. It's likely that they want an answer that has professional context but it would be a major mistake to admit to unethical behaviour.

Again, you want to strike a good balance between honesty, positivity and professionalism. A potential employer doesn't want to hear that you would be willing to throw others under a bus for your own gain, but they don't want to hear about eating all of your sibling's sweets as a child either.

For example: 

I was tasked with choosing one of our team to attend an international business conference. I genuinely felt that I would benefit the most from the opportunity and so nominated myself. I learned a lot from the experience and it helped me move our whole team forward - but it could be considered a selfish move.

Topics

  • CA life

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