How to Answer Awkward Interview Questions

Posted on Friday, May 5, 2017 by The Interview Oracle β€” No comments

In recruitment circles, you’ll often hear that interviews aren’t an opportunity for the employer to ‘catch out’ the candidate - and as an experienced London recruitment agency, we can assure you this is absolutely true. In fact, in most circumstances, the interviewer is rooting for the candidate to succeed, and isn’t trying to ask them deliberately tricky questions that might ruin their chances.

That said, there’s still plenty of potential for awkward interview questions to crop up – and it’s important to know how to handle them when they arise. Luckily, thanks to our years of helping candidates gain office support and top PA jobs in London and further afield, we know those tricky questions. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones…

Are you interviewing with any other companies?

Honesty is the best policy here, but the way you phrase your answer can diffuse any awkwardness from the situation. If you are interviewing with other companies, admit to it – but let the interviewer know that their company and their position is the one you feel most compatible with. If you’re not interviewing with any other companies, you could tell the interviewer that your job search is still in its early stages, but you have a number of applications pending at other firms. This means you won’t come across as a candidate who has only managed to bag a single interview!

Why should we hire you?

Eek! Talk about being put on the spot! This question is a great opportunity for you to show how much value you could bring to a firm. The downside is that it’s a question that will stick in the minds of the interviewer, so if you’re not quite sure how to answer, that could have a negative impact on your chances of being hired. Prepare your answer to this beforehand if you can – talk about your relevant skills, how well you feel you ‘fit’ the company, and emphasise that you are very keen on the position.

Can you explain the employment gap on your CV?

Many people have gaps in their working history, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you had to take time off work to care for a relative, or perhaps you travelled for a while. Maybe you joined a volunteer project or worked as a freelancer during this time. Having an employment gap is only a big deal if you were unproductive during this time – employers like to see that you’ve been busy during your time away from the workplace.

Why are you leaving your current job?

Don’t fall into the trap of badmouthing your employer – that can come across badly in an interview. You should also try not to make it sound as though your motivations are purely financial. Many people leave their current jobs looking for a higher salary, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect well on you when applying for a job. Saying that you’re ‘looking for a new challenge’ is a great answer to this potentially awkward interview question, and it works for every role from temporary PA jobs to top office manager spots.

If you were an [object], what would you be?

Interviewers like to pull out these questions to have a little fun and get a glimpse of your personality. They might ask what you’d be if you were a fruit, an animal, a pizza topping, or a plant. Try to choose something that reflects your personality and work ethic – but don’t spend too much time agonising over giving a ‘correct’ answer. This might show that you’re not great at thinking on your feet! Perhaps you’d be ant, because they work fantastically as members of a team. Maybe you’d be an apple because you’re versatile (apples can be juiced, cooked, eaten as part of a salad or a pie, just as you have a diverse array of skills!). Use your imagination, but don’t get too bogged down with this question – it’s a bit of fun, after all! 

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