So you’ve found your dream job, submitted an application and now you’ve been progressed to the next stage (congrats!). However, there is just one big thing standing between you and your exciting next career step – the, often dreaded, interview! The thought of this turns many people into a bag of nerves, conjuring up images of scary looking panels of interviewers asking probing questions that you can’t think of an answer to whilst on the spot. Even though some nerves are good and give you adrenaline to perform at your best, being too nervous can be extremely detrimental when representing yourself. Don’t panic if you can relate to all of this – this blog is here to help!
“Fail to prepare and prepare to fail”; an extremely pertinent expression in the world of interviewing. There are plenty of blogs that can advise you on how to research the company prior to interview and help with how to answer the most common interview questions. This blog, however, aims to aid you to prepare answers for those slightly more tricky questions that you may not have considered but an interviewer often throws in specifically to see how you cope.
First and foremost it must be said that all answers in an interview should be honest! If you are lying an interviewer can often tell or you will soon be found out if you are given the role. So this blog should be used as a guide but be adapted to your own truthful answers. Also, remember that answers should never be scripted. Preparation is important for making sure you include certain skills and experiences in an interview but remember it should be a two way conversation. Preparation should leave you with a rough guide of what you want to include which can be adapted depending on how the interviewer approaches topics. Having a script will make you sound less genuine and often put yourself off if the interviewer does not ask exactly what you were expecting.
Secondly, remember that tricky questions are often used to test you. This means they may make you feel slightly defensive but do not react in this way, the interviewer will be watching very closely for this. Try to relate to the interviewer about why they are wanting to know the answer to these questions. A phrase such as ‘I’ve really thought about that and would be asking the same question myself’ can show this isn’t something you are trying to hide. Instead you have considered the issue and have a genuine reason or positive answer to turn the question around. The topic may well be making not just you but your interviewer feel uncomfortable so do everything you can to put both of you at ease.
Right now thats covered let’s move onto some of those all important tricky questions and give you some clues for how to prepare to answer them…
1. Why have you moved around so much in the last few years?
Having a ‘jumpy’ CV can often put off hiring managers, even if times have changed and a job is often no longer seen as something for life. You therefore need to be clear in your own head of the drivers behind the moves before attending the interview. It is best not to mention the negatives of a previous company that may have lead to you leaving. These could be things such as not getting along with a manager or not being given enough work. This may make the interviewer worry you are difficult to get along with or not proactive enough. Instead focus on the positive aspects of career development that you achieved by moving or the different experiences you gained from undertaking each role. The interviewer’s main worry will concern the prospect of you leaving their business after a short period of time. This will inevitably have a cost impact for them and take up further resource whilst they re-hire. How can you convince the interviewer you will stick around for more than a couple of months? If this really is your dream job why is that and why are you so sure you will stay longer than your previous roles? Depending on the character of the interviewer you could even make a joke that you know that all the moves are detrimental and therefore you are definitely planning to stay in this role a lot longer to build up a proper relationship with and understanding of a company, team and role.
2. Why do you want to leave your previous job?
As discussed before do not badmouth your previous employers or current role. This will gain you no respect and might make the interviewer question your integrity. Instead talk about the positives of this new role. “My current employer is showing no signs of promoting me” is NOT the correct way to phrase this, even if it is the case. Instead say something like “the development opportunities in this new role really excite me”.
3. Aren’t you rather overqualified for this role?
The interviewer is using this question to try to decipher if you are going to come in and act “too big for your boots” and expect a promotion before they were intending to offer it or leave after a short period of time due to the role match not being correct. State that you are aware that they might think this but this is not the case at all.
The fact that you have been called in for interview shows there is an interest in you – the interviewer would not waste their time otherwise – so don’t see this as the interviewer insinuating that you’re not right for the job. If you are overqualified I’m sure you are well aware of this yet still want this role. Why is that? Is is due to the particular company inspiring you and you being excited for the development they can offer you in the long term? Is it the location of the company? Did something about the role really capture your interest? Then tell them. Make sure you state the positives of this for not only yourself but most importantly for the company. For example “this role really intrigued me and I want to bring more than the minimal experience needed to be able to be as successful and contribute as much as possible for both my own pride and to be valuable to the company. I believe this company is doing great things and I want to be part of this journey”. State that you are keen to learn from the company rather than come in and try to instruct people due to your qualifications. Make it clear that you are a team player and understand the reservations that the interviewer may have but that this is not your aim at all.
4. Do you think you have enough experience for this role?
You may well be lacking experience for certain aspects of the role but again remember they have invited you into interview so they have seen something they like. You just need to make sure you talk about it. Speak about any skills you have that can be relatable to the role. Also make sure you convey your willingness to learn – your tone of voice can really make a difference in displaying this. Make sure to sound excited and passionate. Give examples of where you have picked up something quickly that you knew little about. Suggest that you are really keen to put time and effort into learning and will take part in any training that is offered. This will only be believable to an interviewer if you truly mean it!
5. Why are there gaps in your CV?
If the gaps on your CV are small (max 2 months) it may be best to lay out your CV using years rather than months in employment. For example “2013 – 2015” rather than the exact months of employment. If you are asked for exact dates being honest for the reasons for the gaps should be more than sufficient, it is unlikely an employer would be worried about a gap of this length. However, if the gaps you have are slightly longer make sure to talk about the useful things you have done within these gaps. Did you pick up some skills which could be relatable to this role? If you are currently in a long term gap try to do something at the same time such as learning a language so that you can state this to interviewers when asked.
For a more detailed guide on how to deal with other gaps such as being dismissed from a role or long term health problems have a look here.
6. How much money are you looking for?
If an interviewer does not bring up salary or benefits do not mention this in the first interview. This interview is for you to find out whether you think the role / company would suit you (can you picture yourself working here?), as well as leaving a positive lasting impression on the interviewer. They want to know that they are going to gain value from you and not just think you want the job for the monetary value it can offer.
Incase salary is mentioned in an interview do your homework! Sites such as salary.com or hotjobs.com offer tools to help you understand the standard salary for your role. There are also lots of salary surveys that are easily accessible on the internet, some recruitment firms offer these free of charge. Make sure you keep in mind things such as geographical location as well as experience when estimating what you should be earning. It is good to aim high to show that you believe you are valuable but there is a very fine line between an unrealistically high number which makes you look like you don’t know about the market and don’t have good judgement.
7. Why should I hire you?
This is where knowing the job description is crucial. A breakdown of what the role will involve should have been provided when applying. To answer this question it is crucial to define why you would be the best person to take on these responsibilities, giving real life examples of when you have shone at these before or your knowledge of the area. Match up your experience and necessary character traits to each point of responsibility from the job description. Many companies make the judgement between two candidates with similar skillsets based on how they came across in the interview so make sure your personality also shines through! This question really gives you that opportunity so can be a blessing in disguise.
This is also where your research on the company will come in useful. What is their mission statement and core values, and how do these resonate with you? Although you may be nervous enthusiasm and passion is key when stating why you have chosen this role and career.
8. Where do you want to be in five years time?
This is a frequently asked question, often towards the end of an interview, which can be the deciding factor for a hiring manager. It is something you really need to think about and answer carefully. Being ambitious and having a clear career plan is a good thing but the business is hiring you for this role; not to take over the company just yet! They do not want someone who has unrealistic ambitions as they may be worried that if these cannot be met that you will leave. This is another one to do your research on; what are ambitious yet at the same time realistic goals?
I hope this blog has been useful and helped with the nerves rather than increased them. A top tip would be to have a practice interview with a friend or family member. Should you be interviewing through an agency, your recruitment consultant will be able to give you an idea of the types of questions that will be asked or if not get some from blogs like this and have a trial run to help with feeling prepared.
Lastly a massive good luck from me – everyone deserves their dream job so I really hope this helps you with securing yours!