5 Of The Most Tricky Interview Questions & How To Provide Winning Answers

Got a big job interview coming up and you're dreading it because those tricky interview questions always leave you stumped? No worries: with our handy - and super-useful - explainer, you'll be prepped like never before.

Talk to to anyone involved in recruitment – hiring managers, agencies, career coaches – and the one thing they’ll tell you is that they’re constantly astounded at the lack of preparation from far too many of the people they interview.

The thing is, most interviewers do ask questions from a fairly set script, because this the way they can assess if you’d be a good fit at their company, whether you can think on your feet and whether you’ve got a brain in your head – you know, those kind of important things.

So doing some prep before your interview date can actually elevate you head and shoulders above your competition – and just might get you that job. Here are

woman waiting outside a lift

So I do this Powerpoint presentation inside the lift, right? Right?

Question 1: Tell me a bit about yourself

Oh God, do we dread this one. “Tell me about yourself is not a biography or a summary of your CV – it is your elevator pitch,” states careers coach Carmel Morrissey from Clearview Coach Group.

An elevator what now!? “Imagine getting into an lift with the CEO of a company and they tell you that you have until it stops to convince them as to why you would be the best choice for a role in their company,” Carmel explains. “An elevator pitch is a punchy, tailored, soundbite – which is a summary of why you should be hired.”

Right, seems like we’ve got some work to do. So what should we include in an elevator pitch at a job interview? “An elevator speech is concise and clear and uses powerful and targeted action words,” says Carmel. “It’s a summary of your key skills, education, attributes, why you’re interested in their company and how you can use your skill set to help drive the business,” she lays out.

“In order to impress with your elevator speech, you need to ensure that it rolls of your tongue and that you show your personality and sound enthusiastic, speak confidently and make eye contact. Writing out your elevator speech and rehearsing with friends and family, ensures success,” she stresses. In other words, practice, practice, practice. Oh – and then practice some more.

panel at a job interview

The lady in the middle can see into your soul. So you better not fib about those weaknesses, y’hear?

Question 2: What are your weaknesses?

No, sadly answering, “I have none *insert nervous laughter*” isn’t an option. “Generally this question is used to gauge the candidate’s level of self-awareness,” Carmel explains. “It’s important to prepare an answer to this question prior to the interview. Start by examining the job description and looking for an area where perhaps you are lacking experience or exposure,” she advises.

“The key is then to acknowledge this weakness, but compensate for it with an enthusiasm for acquiring new skills and embracing challenges.” In other words, make up for your shortcomings by showing how eager you are to learn.

Likewise, if it’s a role that’s a step-up from what you’re already doing, explain you don’t know how to do X part, but because of all your current experience doing Y and Z, you’re confident you’ll have no problem handling it. #yougotthis

career: job interview

So you used to be a hand model? Tell us some more about that…

Question 3: Talk me through your CV

“This question is a fantastic opportunity to prove to the interviewer that you are the right fit in terms of your experience and skill set,” Carmel explains.

View your CV as a journey, even if you’ve worked in unrelated industries, try to focus on the common thread between roles in terms of skills gained.

“A good rule of thumb is to view your CV as a journey, even if you’ve worked in unrelated industries, try to focus on the common thread between roles in terms of skills gained – and how these relate to the role that you are applying for,” she recommends.

“Begin by advising the interviewer of the point that you want to start from in your CV, generally starting with education, and working up to our most recent role is the most effective.”

A warning, though. “Avoid giving too much detail on any one role,” instructs Carmel. “Instead focus on tailoring your answers to the questions being asked and the role that you’re applying for.”

Got a gap in your CV? Now’s the time to explain it in a positive light: was it a travel break between jobs, a sabbatical for further study? Emphasise what you learned and the benefits it brought.

2 women in a job interview

“Basically I’d just like to earn millions.” “Hmm…”

Question 4: What’s your salary expectation?

“In the current climate, this is a hugely important question; it’s essential not to over- or under-price yourself,” says Carmel. If you ask for too much, you could ruin your chances, ask for too little and you could end up frustrated that you could have gotten more or judged under-qualified because it’s too low.”

Know the salary range for the position and check out some of the salary survey guides produced yearly by recruitment agencies.

The fix is research. “Know the salary range for the position you are applying for,” suggests Carmel. “Check out some of the salary survey guides produced yearly by recruitment agencies and know your competitive value. Take into consideration your background and experience too.”

And if the employer isn’t willing to negotiate? “Ask if there are other elements of the package that you can negotiate on such as benefits or bonus,” instructs Carmel.

woman who's just nailed a job interview

Nailed it with my clipboard of questions, I reckon.

Question 5: Do you have any questions for us?

It’s often forgotten, but interviews are a two-way street and you’re here to see if this job’s going to be a fit for you too. That said, there are things you should and shouldn’t ask at this point – especially if you’d quite like the job.

“Avoid asking questions about holidays, training or working hours at this stage,” advises Carmel. Good idea. On her list of queries that are good to go with? “A good question to ask an employer is ‘what type of person would excel in this role’? This question demonstrates that you’re interested in excelling, but more than that, the answer can provide you with a critical insight into what the organisation places value on in terms of  what they deem valuable characteristics in their employees,” she says.

Going back to the whole it’s gotta suit you too thing, Carmel says, “you can also use this information and make sure that you’re matching your most relevant skills and traits to this in the second round interview.”

Now, go forth and career conquer.