Nine nasty interview questions...and how to answer them

It’s not a nice feeling. You’re sat in a job interview which, up until now, seemed to have been going pretty well. But then your prospective new boss decides the time is right to mix things up a bit. 

Fixing your gaze, they wheel out their big gun question. Your mind goes blank, your stomach sinks, your cheeks flush. You haven’t a clue what to say.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We asked the folks at Jobseeker Forum to fill us in on nine of the trickiest interview questions and how to deal with them. 

What do you think that you can bring to the company? 
It is useful to learn the aims and ethos of the business you are applying for (which is usually on the company website) and illustrate how you can relate to and reinforce their company values. Even lightly suggesting a service that you feel the company is missing, and how you would go about including it, can win creativity points.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 
Not everyone has a five-year plan, but it put across that you are dedicated to the industry you are applying for by sharing a vision of your own career path. Before any interview, ask yourself how the job are applying for could fit into your grand career scheme and try and work that into your answer.

Can you tell us about a time you have made a mistake in the workplace?
Everyone has made a mistake; the important part of the answer is how you went about fixing it. Go in prepared with a few examples in mind - this will demonstrate that you can be self-critical, can overcome issues and shows your human side.

Why did you leave your last job? 
Employers will want you to be reliable and dedicated so they may need you to ensure them that you aren’t just going to quit out of the blue. If there is a valid reason for not working, just be honest. Good references help put any employer’s mind at ease.

Do you have any questions for us?
The worst answer to this is ‘no’. It never hurts to take well thought out questions with you written-down, so that you can prove your interest without it seeming like you’re insincere. For example, asking the employer what valuable skills the role will help you develop will come across an insightful question, while asking about wages may come across as cheeky or presumptious.

Tell me about yourself
Learn how to concisely summarise your best personal qualities and put it into the context of the job you are applying for. Sell yourself in positive and genuine way, without any arrogance. If you have good writing or organisational skills, for example, which are relevant to the position, speak up. However, if you see yourself as a master at something, play your confidence down a little.

What skills from previous jobs can you bring? 
Even if you feel that your previous experience isn’t relevant, you can cite skills such as customer service or teamwork/personal responsibility, for example. However, it is even better to think of any experience you have had in any life situation which could help you in your potential job.

Why this position and why this company?
This is where you would outline the different skills and experiences you hope to gain from the role, as well as your knowledge of the company, and what attracted you to it. If you are applying for a job at Deep Sea World because you aspire to be a marine biologist, for example, let the employer know why you believe it is the best place to develop your skills and passion.

Do you have any negative qualities? 
This is a silly one, as no one will ever be wholly honest when asked. If you admit to not being great at maths when applying for a writing job, fair enough. However, if you’re bad at timekeeping for example, tell a white lie and buy a diary. If you are an early riser and won’t be willing to work nights, speak up so you’re not put on the late shifts. If you have an injury and can’t lift heavy objects, don’t pretend otherwise, and so on. 

What's the most horrible interview question you've ever been asked? Let us know in the Careers section

TSR provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Jobseeker Forum, a free website which offers impartial news, reviews and information to help you find the right path to employment for you. Jobseeker Forum is on Twitter and Facebook.