Awkward interview questions and how to answer them

Every job interview you will face during your working career will be different, the recruiter or hiring manager will typically quiz you on your previous employment and experience. However, despite this, there are a few difficult questions that consistently crop up….

From discussing ‘your biggest weakness’, to facing the dreaded question about where you see yourself in the next five years, it’s crucial to prepare for these expected interview questions to prevent panicking under pressure!

We’ve put together a few examples of how to answer these tricky questions, so you can walk away from your interview feeling positive, assured that you’ve performed to the best of your ability and confident they’ll be calling you back!

Tell me about yourself?

This question is usually asked right at the beginning of an interview, and can be the first hurdle for many candidates. This is a chance to give a short overview of your working history and highlight aspects of your personality outside of the workplace, but to also maintain a level of professionalism.

Ultimately, this is your opportunity to come across as natural as possible and to build a real rapport with the recruiter from the get go!

For example, when this question is asked, the employer wants to find out a bit about you and what makes you tick. You don’t have to tell them where you were born or how many brothers and sisters you have, but cover a short synopsis of your education and career so far and you can also share details about the 10k you’re training for, if you play a musical instrument, or if you are a keen participant in any charity events! 

Why did you leave your last role?

Remain positive; it’s easy to start the answer to this question revealing everything you hated about your last role – but this is the worst thing you can do!

The person interviewing you wants to find out what isn’t satisfying you in your current role, they don’t want to presume you are a negative person, but instead one that has built strong previous relationships, and is now seeking further career development and progression opportunities.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

This is a question that will make any candidate feel nervous, but it’s important to answer this tactically as it will give the recruiter a sense of your ambition.

It’s advised to not come across too bold in your future desires, so mention targets you have that fit in with the current role you are applying for.

The interviewer wants to understand more about your career goals and how this position would fit into your grand plan. They care about your career goals because they want to hire someone who is motivated, proactive, and likely to stick around and work hard if hired.

Ultimately, emphasise your interest in a long-term career at the company. Your interviewer wants to know that you’re ready to settle in and grow within the organisation. If you can demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job as an exciting next step for you, and you make it clear that you are motivated to take on this opportunity right now, your interviewer will be able to see your desire for the job.

Don’t be afraid to mention goals outside of work too, if you are looking to buy a house or upgrade to a larger house this shows discipline (saving your money) and determination!

 What interests you about this position?

This question is the interviewer’s opportunity to see if you’ve done your research!

Explore the company culture and how/why you would fit into their team. Look at the job description skills you are matched with – think of scenarios where you have had to use these skills and when you have been successful. Finally, research progression opportunities – this may be clear in the job description, or take a look at their website to see any recent promotions, this could be a long term goal and great answer to the previous question ‘where do you see yourself in five years’.

What is your biggest weakness?

This question can often throw candidates into a panic when asked during an interview, but if your answer is prepared well, it is a fantastic opportunity to highlight how you have managed to turn a negative trait of yours into a positive!

Indeed, it is important to find a balance between not coming across too arrogant, but to also not appear too self–critical! Therefore refrain from stating that you are perfect and have no weaknesses, but instead share details of something you think you can improve on in the working environment, and how you have done so in the past. That way you will look more like a problem-solver and someone who his happy to make change.

Tell me about an obstacle you have overcome

A very common question! The interviewer doesn’t want to hear about an obstacle in your personal life, they want they want to see how you cope with pressure and your ability to act quickly in the workplace.

This is a great opportunity to showcase your problem solving skills. Look at the job description beforehand and have a few scenarios prepared. Think about difficult customers you’ve encountered and how you dealt with them, if you have had to coordinate or manage a large group of people and your action plan or even getting through to a client to secure a business meeting which led to new business for the company.

What salary are you expecting?

When asked this, it’s best not to pluck out a figure from thin air or base it on what you think you are worth! The interviewer will not want to hire someone who is out of their salary range, so this really could be the ‘make it or break it’ question during an interview.

The recruiter wants to see that you have done your research and uncovered what employees in the position you are applying for are currently earning. Therefore, before you enter the interview, research the job description online and find out what a reasonable salary would be for the role you are interviewing for.

If you have gone to the interview via a recruitment agency, keep it consistent with what you have told them you are looking for, as the recruiter and employer will have a had a conversation and discussed your salary expectations before the interview.

How would your friends describe you?

Finally, during an interview, the person interviewing you not only wants to test your capabilities based on your CV, but if you would also fit in well with the team!

Keep it broad; they don’t want to know your life story, but it is a good chance to highlight positive aspects of your personality.

In addition, keep it ‘work friendly’; the person interviewing you doesn’t want to be hiring a wild child, but rather someone they can rely on, and someone they can approach in a working environment!

For example… 

"I think my best friend would describe me as honest, detailed, and very organised."

"I think my best friend would say that I'm very responsible…”

"My best friend would probably say that I'm warm, friendly, and understanding."

Let us know any other awkward interview questions you’ve had to face!


Heather Mustard