They may be clichéd, but there are five notoriously difficult interview questions that come up time and again. Despite us all knowing that they are likely to be fired at us when applying for office support jobs in London, we can still come a cropper. Rather than stumbling through an answer which you clearly should have been able to guess was coming, read on to discover what the hiring manager is actually looking for in your answer.
1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
It’s unimaginative, but it gets trotted out with alarming regularity. This question is a real problem for the humble soul. To make life easier, split the answer into two parts:
Start with your strengths: Focus on your strengths and sing your praises, giving clear examples of why you believe in them. However, try to think how these strengths actually benefit the company with the role you’re applying for.
Then move onto your weaknesses:Don’t shy away, lie or try to cloak up a strength as a weakness (perfectionism anyone?!). What matters here is that you not only have the ability to identify your weaknesses, but also the insight to explain how you overcome them.
2. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This question isn’t really about you (even though it sounds like it). It’s about how you envisage your own goals being completely in line with those of the business. Therefore, to answer it, you need to know a lot about the company values and culture. Show the interviewer how your own personal future, and that of the company, are aligned.
Also, don’t spell it out as what you can get from the company, talk about what you can give!
3. Why do you want to work for us?
This is your opportunity to show your connection with what the company does, and why you want to be part of that. Don’t simply talk about factors such as the pay or the short commute! Make it clear how your values align with those of the company, and how you share in their vision and mission. At the same time, try to explain why it’ll be in their interests to have you working for them.
4. Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge...
What isn’t indicated in this question is that they don’t want to know about any challenge. They want to know specifically how you will overcome challenges that may present themselves in your new role at their company. That doesn’t mean that you have to have faced those challenges before, but you do need to be able to illustrate how you’ve used relevant skills that can be transferred to those challenges. So, paint a picture but also bring it back to the role you’re applying for.
5. What happened in this gap on your CV?
Ouch, everyone panics when this one comes up! However, the trick is to remain calm and collected, as well as unapologetic. Be absolutely honest e.g. “I had time off caring for a sick family member.” What you should also do is demonstrate how you were maintaining relevant work-based skills during that time. If there’s a gap because you were actively looking for work post-redundancy, you need to show how you developed new skills during your time. Gaps are fine, but doing nothing with them is not!
Interviews can feel intimidating, but with some preparation, you can answer these particularly tricky questions, not least because you now know that they will probably come up!
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