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How to Answer The Most Difficult Interview Questions

The following 'difficult' questions are common to most tricky or adversarial interviews. In order to convince the interviewer that you are the best person for the job, you must prepare and rehearse your answers meticulously. Study the job description and the candidate profile; research the company; and match your skills and accomplishments to the employer's requirements.

When preparing your answers, consider what each question is designed to find out about the candidate's suitability for the position on offer.

1. Why are you leaving your current job?

The employer is seeking to identify problems you have had in the past that you may carry over into your new job. Always cite positive reasons for joining and leaving a company. Never criticize your previous employer or work colleagues. Avoid statements that may convey a negative impression of yourself or your ability to get on with others. State that you are looking for a new challenge and briefly explain why you see the advertised position as an important step forward in your career.

2. Why should we employ you rather than one of the other candidates?

The interviewer wants to know what unique quality makes you the best person for the job. To differentiate yourself from the other candidates, you must show that you have researched the company thoroughly and studied the job description. You should be prepared to demonstrate clearly how your skills, qualifications, and accomplishments match the employer's specific needs. It is important to convey genuine enthusiasm for the post.

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This particularly tricky question requires painstaking preparation and rehearsal. The interviewer is looking for evidence of critical self-assessment and a commitment to continuous self-development. Stress specific job-related strengths and accomplishments. Select one weakness that could be viewed both as positive and negative, e.g. you are a perfectionist who tends to work too long hours. Show, by particular example, how you have successfully addressed this tendency. Make sure to portray yourself in a positive light. Never mention a weakness that is directly related to job for which you are being interviewed.

4. Tell me about yourself.

The interviewer wants to know how well suited you are to the job and how you can benefit the company. Spend no longer than two minutes answering this question. By analysing the job description and carrying out detailed company research in advance, you will have a clear idea of the ideal candidate. Focus on your skills, qualifications, and accomplishments that relate to the advertised position. Remember that the company has a problem and they are looking for the best solution. Prove to them that you can solve their problem better than anyone else.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

This question is designed to determine your career plan. Have you well planned short-term and long-term career goals? Is the advertised position consistent with these? If hired, are you likely to commit yourself fully to the company or will you seize the first opportunity to move on? Show that you have a structured way of establishing goals. Demonstrate the importance of the job on offer as part of your career progression. Stress that you are ambitious, but realistic. Let them know that you plan to develop professionally within the company and to work energetically to obtain promotion.

6. Why do you want to work for our company?

The interviewer is trying to discover how much you know about the company. Once again, detailed company research will pay handsome dividends when it comes to answering this question. The candidate who displays a knowledge of the company and an awareness of the challenges it faces is more likely to be selected than the tongue-tied interviewee who looks perplexed when asked why he or she wants to work for that particular company.

You should find out as much as you can about the company's organisational structure; its financial history; its range of products, goods or services; its aims and objectives; its philosophy and culture; its trading methods; its history, current position, and future developments; its competitors; its training programmes; its attitude towards its customers; its achievements; and any problems it may have. Tailor your answer in terms of their needs not yours.

Be positive. Say that you like what you've heard about the company and the way they treat their staff and customers. Stress that you are confident that you can make a meaningful contribution.

Gerard McLoughlin, author of 'Four Minutes To Interview Success', has contributed career-related articles to hundreds of recruitment companies, websites and publications throughout the world, including: USA Today, JobBankUSA.com, US-Recruiters.com, etc.

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