The most common tough interview questions and how you should answer them, for permanent and temporary positions.
Have you ever spent hours researching and planning for an interview, only to be hit with a stomach-dropping question that you weren’t prepared for? You’re not alone!
The types of questions you’ll be asked will of course depend on the type of role you’re applying for. But there are a few repeat offenders in the way of difficult interview questions, so here are 9 common ones that may crop up and how you should answer them, for permanent and temporary positions.
Tell me about yourself.
This is likely to be the first question your interviewer will ask you and first impressions count.
You’ll want to take them on a brief journey from the beginning to the current point of your career, but try not to overwhelm them with too many details at this stage. You’ll want to keep them interested and allow yourself to elaborate when they ask further questions.
Things you might want to include are:
Why you went into this field
Highlights of your work history
How you got where you are now
Your most recent experience
Why should we hire you?
Not only should your answer demonstrate your compatibility with the role and the company, but it should also show that you’re the best of all of the other candidates who are interviewing for it. So really get to grips with the job spec they provided and prove to them that you tick their boxes. The best way to do this is to use real examples of what you’ve done in your work before.
If you want to really go beyond what was listed in the job spec, pick out some of your best qualities and tell them why you feel this would benefit them.
It’s perfectly normal to not meet every single criteria on a job spec, but remember they’re hiring a person, not just a skillset, so just try to use a mixture of your personal attributes and experience. Be the person they would look forward to having around!
What are your weaknesses?
As much as they’re trying to gauge your experience here, it’s also a question of honesty. As much as we want to appear the perfect employee, saying “I can’t think of any” or “I don’t have any” could portray a lack of self-awareness or disingenuity.
We all have weaknesses, so what your interviewer is looking for is ways you’re addressing these or how you can turn them into strengths.
Don’t choose something that shows a poor work ethic or suggests you’re difficult to work with, like “I find it hard to work with other people and I work better alone”.
Pick one weakness to discuss, for example “I’m not too great at delegating”, which shows that you’re sincere and that you have an area you want to improve on.
Just be sure that your weakness isn’t one that’s fundamental to the role, so you don’t give the impression that you’re unsuitable for the job.
Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?
This can feel like a bewildering question when you’re interviewing for a new job, with no idea of where your place of work will be at that time. But what your interviewer is really after is an insight into your career goals and whether you both can meet those needs. So focus on how you want to develop professionally while making it relevant to the company you’re interviewing for.
Talk about all of the new experiences you want to gain or existing skills you want to become a master of. If the company has training opportunities or programmes you’re interested in, you can talk about how you think this would be beneficial for you both and where that would lead you in five years.
What motivates you?
Unless you’re applying for a sales position, “money” is probably not the answer they’re looking for. Try to focus on elements of the work environment, personal development, achieving goals, team success or company culture. As always, try to provide evidence for this and make it relate to their business.
Questions you may be asked in an interview for a temporary job:
Do you work well in a team?
As a temporary worker, your interviewer will want to know if you’ll be able to fit in with the team and adjust quickly, so come prepared with examples of how you’ve collaborated well with your colleagues, gone that extra mile to help or dealt with a challenging situation.
What skills can you bring to this role?
You’ll need to communicate that you’re capable of doing the job at hand, so draw upon your hard skills that have required training or specialist knowledge, as well as your soft skills. You can find out more about desirable soft skills
in our blog.
Why are you interested in this role?
Even though you’re applying for a temporary position, you should still read up on the company and the role to show that you are genuinely interested in them. You may not be staying there for a long period of time, but the business you’re applying to will still be looking for someone who’s serious about, and committed to, their work.
Tell me about a time when you made a mistake.
Major or minor, we all make them. And sometimes things don’t go as planned. Your interviewer will know this, but they may want to see how well you handle these situations.
Be very particular about the example you use and don’t pick something that was catastrophic. Something along the lines of missing a detail or deadline will do.
You’ll need to explain the reason for the mistake, how you rectified it and what you learned from it. It’s important to be genuine and truthful in your interview, but if you do struggle to think of an example, explain how you would rectify a mistake you made if you worked for that particular company instead.