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Nailing those curly interview questions

Job interviews can be stressful, but thorough preparation can help to reduce anxiety. Knowing how you are going to respond to the following questions, and practicing the responses over and over again (out loud), will ensure that you not only seem prepared but that you impress the panel on the day.

What interests you about this job and why would you be a good fit?

While this is a pretty stock-standard interview question, answering it well requires some thought. You need to make sure you have a good understanding of what the role entails and what they are looking for, then design your answer around this.

Suggestion: Decide on your top 2-3 selling points or skills and explain how these would benefit the organisation.

Why are you looking for a new role?/ Why do you want to leave your current role?

The interview panel might ask this question for a couple of reasons - they really want to know the answer, and they want to see how you talk about your current workplace. It will give them idea of your level of professionalism and discretion.

Suggestion: If you don't like your current role or employer, think of a tactful way to say this, perhaps highlighting one part of the role that doesn't suit you and say why the role you are interviewing for would be a better fit for your work style. Or even better, say that you have learned all you can in the role and are ready for your next challenge.

Why is there a gap in employment?

I find it's best to be honest about any obvious gaps in your employment history.

Suggestion: If you were on leave (parental, carers etc.) or a career break, simply state that. If your job was made redundant, state that. If you have had a very long gap and have done some volunteer work in that time, don't forget to mention that.

Tell us about a time when you made a mistake at work or made a work decision that you wish you could change.

We've all made mistakes at work at some stage - some big, some small. The panel will be more interested in how you overcame the mistake rather than the mistake itself.

Suggestion: Show your problem solving and analytical skills by demonstrating the steps you took to overcome the mistake. For example, if it was a process mistake, explain how you reviewed the policy and process and put changes in place to ensure it didn't happen again.

What are your weaknesses?

I'm not sure this is asked very often these days, but if it is, don’t say you don’t have any! You need to be (relatively) honest.

Suggestion: Have at least one 'weakness' as an example and explain how you have learned to harness it. For example, you may not be great at delegating work to staff, but have used strategies to overcome this weakness, or you are not good at public speaking but have been taking a course (and it’s not vital to the job anyway). Alternatively, choose one that is not relevant to the job at all. For example, you may not be creative but that’s fine as it’s a straightforward administrative role.

Why have you had so many short roles/moved jobs so often?

These days it is fairly common to be employed on short-term contracts, so this one is easy to answer.

Suggestion: Simply state that you have been pursuing contract work and the jobs/projects were completed before you moved on. You might like to say that you have now decided to pursue a more stable/permanent role (if it is one).


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