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7 tricky interview questions & how to tackle them

Posted by: Rebecca Craighill
Company News

Wouldn’t it be great if we knew exactly what the hiring manager is going to ask? Unfortunately, we’re not mind-readers. But we are a team of specialist recruiters and a lot of our work revolves around how to shine in an interview. Having stock answers for every question won’t make you stand out, but what you can do is put some thought into how you’re going to battle through some of the most common tricky questions out there.

So here’s our guide to tricky interview questions and how to craft the perfect response.

1. Talk me through your CV

This question isn’t a test on how well you can memorise your CV. Rather, it’s a chance for you double-down on all those key skills and experience you’ve acquired over your career. Have you talked about your leadership qualities? Give an example of when you demonstrated this.

This is also an opportunity to bullet-proof your CV. If there are any gaps in your employment history, make sure you can account for them and explain how and why they came about. You’re not going to be turned away because you were unemployed for six months but your interviewer is looking to know why it’s there. Did you go travelling? Were you putting your energies into a personal project? Were you made redundant and you spent that time hunting for the perfect job? These are all acceptable explanations.

2. When were you last out of your comfort zone?

Whether you’re moving into a new industry or going for the same role in a different company, every job is different. You’re going to spend your first few weeks or months in a new job out of your comfort zone and the hiring manager is wanting to know that you can deal with this. 

The key word here is adaptability: are you someone who can deal with change and adapt to a new way of working? There will be ups and downs in any new job and you need to be resilient to get through them all.

Tell the interviewer about a time when you were taken out of your comfort zone (or took yourself out of your comfort zone) and how you tackled that. Show them that you’re up to the challenge of jumping into the unknown and coming out on top.

3. What are your goals for the future?

It’s important to have a clear career plan. In five years’ time what role would you like, at what company, with what salary in five years’ time? These are all important questions to ask yourself. The interviewer is wanting to know that you’ve put serious thought into this and being able to demonstrate a career strategy means that that you’re a proactive and motivated individual.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all business. Hiring managers genuinely want to know about your personal aspirations, especially if these factor into your work decisions. Do you envision buying your first home in the next five years? If so, that tells an interviewer that you’re ready to put down roots. On the contrary, are you planning to live abroad? That might tell them that you’re not a long-term employee for them.

4. Why do you want this job?

Hopefully you know what’s involved in the job you’re applying for and you’re sure you want it. This is your chance to be honest about why you think you’re the perfect candidate for the role. But more than that, it’s key to explain your professional and personal reasons for wanting the job.

Does this role line up with your business plans for the future? Maybe you’re wanting to craft a career in sales and this recruitment position will give you the chance to do that.

On the personal side of things, what’s motivating you go get the job? Does it pay a lot more than your current role which will help you save up for your new house or car? Does it offer the flexible hours you need to look after your children? Demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’ve gone after a job which aligns with your professional and personal aspirations and motivations.

5. Do you enjoy working to targets/deadlines/KPIs?

Every job has key performance indicators (KPIs), so it’s important that you are comfortable working towards them and that you enjoy meeting them - they should be one of your biggest professional motivators.

This is your chance to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you can identify and meet KPIs. If you’re working in a sales or recruitment industry, then deadlines and targets will also factor in to your performance. If you don’t enjoy working towards these then perhaps it’s not for you.

Demonstrate that you are dedicated to KPIs, targets and deadlines and you’ll tell the interviewer that you’re the one for them.

6. What other opportunities are you looking at?

It’s important to answer this question honestly and don’t fall into the trap of playing games. Telling a hiring manager that you’re looking at a hundred other jobs won’t make them want you by default. Similarly, they won’t feel special if they’re the only company you’re interested in.

It’s worth considering why you want the job (see above). If you’ve said you want to pursue a career in recruitment, but you’ve only applied to one or two companies, then the interviewer might think you’re not that serious when it comes down to it. After all, if you really wanted a recruitment role then you’d be applying for a dozen or so, right? 

7. How do you spend your spare time?

This classic “hobbies & interests” question is about how your personal activities align with your professional duties. Are you going for a role which demands long hours and a get-up-and-go attitude? If so, you might want to avoid saying that you enjoy a good lie-in and you spend your weekends in front of the TV.

Imagine a candidate who says they jump out of bed at 7am on a Saturday to get the weekly shop done. Then it’s off to the gym for a couple of hours, before visiting some friends and family for the afternoon. Their Sundays are filled with day trips and adventures. What does this tell you about the candidate? It says that they’re active, self-motivated, responsible, and capable of managing and prioritising their time - a perfect fit for a career in sales or recruitment!


Further Reading

6 things not to say in an interview & what to say instead
5 ways to make a great over-the-phone first impression
6 essential interview questions you should always ask
5 CV cliches you need to avoid

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