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Job interviews are full of questions. Whether it’s about your salary requirements or what animal you’d want to be. There is no one-size-fits-all response. But, the following tips will help you prepare for the inevitable questions. Find out our tips to answer tricky interview questions. We have also created a list of the most common questions asked at interview to help you prepare.
What are your hobbies?
Although this question sounds casual and friendly, it is the question to watch out for. It is generally asked at the end of the interview it is usually “What are your hobbies?” but can also be “How do you spend your spare time?” or similar.
You can guarantee this question will pop up regardless of where you are in the career journey. It is not a trick question, but it does need a thoughtful response. The interviewer is trying to get you to open up a little more, to show enthusiasm for a non-work activity. These potential employers want to get to know you as a person. But play it safe. What seems like an interesting hobby to you could be a little weird to the interviewer. What is the best answer for such a simple and benign question? The best answer for all interview questions is to tell the truth. How you describe and embellish that truth is up to you.
Typical responses might include activities you believe will propel your career. These “hobbies” include sailing or golf (country club access potential); competing in triathlons or mountaineering (competitive spirit and fearless traits); or leading a volunteer organisation (compassion and organisation shown). All good examples if these are in fact the activities in which you spend your spare time.
For the new University graduate, spare time activities could include hanging around with friends, drinking beer, playing video games and catching up on sleep. Or the hobby could be twelve hours a day on Facebook or Instagram. Although truthful, these are hobbies best not described in detail.
For someone more advanced in a career, hobbies could include dropping kids off at school and trying to keep a household together. Or taking care of sick or elderly parents. Or, for many, a hobby is spending hours every day in a bus, car or train commuting to work. All these “hobbies” take so much time that they prevent hobbies that you would like to pursue.
If you claim you spend your time volunteering, prepare for the interviewer to ask for more details. If you say you compete in 10K road races, you may be asked about your times or your training methods.
Read more on How to Answer "What Are Your Hobbies?"
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Another tricky question at job interviews is about their 5-year plan. Many people pause and struggle when asked this, but it is actually a question to embrace.
Whatever you say must relate to the job and company you are interviewing with. You may be on a career journey and see yourself doing something completely different in 5 years’ time. But do you want to share this at an interview?
It is important to remember your primary goal - to get this job. When you start your answer, emphasise how you want to completely master the job role you are applying for. Also state which areas of this job you especially like and what you want to take with you even as you move upwards.
When asked where you see yourself in 5 years’ time, don't be afraid to aim high. If you see yourself in a managerial role, say it. No manager worth their salt will think you are a threat or getting too big for your boots. The key is to back it up. Don't tell them where you want to be, tell them how you'll get there.
It may seem obvious but never mention the money. There are some jobs that seek people who want to maximise their earning potential. But the interviewer wants people aiming for professional development rather than financial.
Once you've answered this question, why not ask it? Ask the interviewer what the business goals are for the next 5 years. It shows you have a genuine interest in the development of the company, and the vision managers have for it.
What are your weaknesses?
We all have weaknesses. We all make mistakes. Be honest with yourself. If you are unsure, take an online personality profile test. Or ask colleagues to give their opinion of what they perceive your weaknesses to be. Remember to stick with work-related weaknesses. The interviewer is not interested in irrelevant bad habits.
One thing to remember with this tricky question is to not rehearse the response. It’s impossible to role play an exact answer to this question. The way the interview goes will influence the way you respond to this question. Mentally prepare a general answer but nothing more. Most hiring managers prefer a natural reply, not a rehearsed one.
Put a positive spin on your weakness. Always highlight examples of where you have turned your weakness into a strength. Any weaknesses you reveal to the hiring manager must be those you’ve resolved.
Words such as “frustrated” and ‘impatient” will not reflect well on you. For example “I get frustrated when analysing financial information.” Instead, respond with “I don’t always find financial analysis easy. But I have attended extra training courses to gain a thorough understanding.” The answer demonstrates an ability to respond to your personal weaknesses.
Don’t use cliched responses such as “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist”. These are typical responses uttered by many candidates that sound rehearsed and false.
Your answer should be specific. By citing “lack of organisational skills” as a weakness, your response is too vague. Give specific examples, such as those mentioned above. Why are your organisational skills poor? How have you taken steps to resolve those issues?
Read more on How to Answer "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"
Tricky Interview Questions
Hundreds of Internet pages are dedicated to listing the most common interview questions (what your strengths and weaknesses are, where do you see yourself in 10 years, etc.). Employers are now steering away from these types of questions. They are introducing tricky questions that test your creativity and flair.
Below is a list of questions employers ask at interviews that you may not have thought about before. Have a read and think about how you would answer these questions:
If you had the option, would you change your college career?
How do you go about deciding what to do first when given a project?
What are the most important rewards you expect in your business career?
Provide an example of how you are a risk taker.
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
Why do you want to work for us and not for our competitor?
What did you think of your previous manager/supervisor?
What did you do in your last job to increase value?
What are some of the things that bother you?
Tell me about the last time you felt anger on the job.
Do you need other people around to stimulate you or are you self-motivated?
What management style gets the best results out of you?
How can our company offer you what your previous company could not offer?
How long will it take before you are making a significant contribution to our business?
How ambitious are you? Would you compete for my job?
What do you like and dislike about the job we are discussing?
Why did you choose a career in…?
What do you think is the most important dilemma facing our business today?
How much does your last job resemble the one you are applying for? What are the differences?
Why did you decide to join your previous company? Did the job live up to your expectations? Why are you leaving now?
Explain the organisational structure in your last company and how you fitted into it. Did this suit you?
Do you prefer to work in a small, medium or large company?
What interests you about our company, product or service?
You have not done this sort of job before. How will you cope/succeed?
Do you consider yourself successful in your career to date?
What was your greatest success in your professional career? How did you achieve it?
What has been your biggest failure in your professional career?
Did you feel you advanced and progressed in your last job?
How do you handle criticism?
What would you like to avoid in your next job?
How did you get on with your previous manager, supervisor, co-workers, and subordinates?
What will your references say about you?
What would you do if you won the lottery? Would you come to work tomorrow?
Everyone gets nervous in interviews. Sweaty palms, light-headedness and rambling speech are natural reactions to being under pressure. However, none of these will help you have a great interview. Read our blog on How to Calm Interview Nerves to prepare.