1. What is your biggest weakness?

This is a very common question asked by interviewers but one that is very tricky to approach. The purpose of this question is to check how self-aware you are. There are a number of ways to answer this without causing the employer to doubt your competence or capability to do the job: the key is to turn a negative into a positive.

  • I don’t have much experience in this area/topic but I am a fast-learner, and keen to develop new skills. 
  • I am not that confident in public speaking but I make sure to embrace public speaking opportunities available to me; I am determined to practise and become more confident and competent. 
  • Organisation wasn’t my strongest attribute. Realising this I decided to implement a time-management plan to ensure I met all my deadlines and didn’t let the pressure build up. 

2. Why did you leave your last job?

Whether you were fired, decided to leave or your contract ran out and the company wasn’t able to renew it, having a gap between jobs can be a difficult situation to deal with during an interview. 

Make sure you’re honest as employers will seek references. If you were fired or decided to leave, explain what you have learnt from the experience and why the company and/or role wasn’t a good fit. Don’t bad mouth your old boss, but instead be positive about the experiences and skills you gained and explain what you are looking for in your new role.

If you’ve had a gap between jobs, tell the interviewer what you have been doing in that time; whether you’ve been volunteering, travelling, pursuing a sport or activity, or you’re in a stop-gap job whilst you’re job hunting, all of these activities will have given you valuable skills you can highlight to the interviewer.

3. Tell me about a time when you have failed at something.

This is a very hard question to answer so don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer if you can have a few moments to think about it or if they wouldn’t mind asking you again at the end. A key theme to all these difficult questions is to turn a negative into a positive, a failure into a success. 

  • I struggled with the online tests that are required in some application processes for graduate programmes. I realised I needed to revise and practise and I wasn’t afraid to ask for help from a tutor to discover the best way to approach the questions. This then led me to pass the tests and get me through to the next stage.
  • At my previous job my team missed our sales target for the quarter so we realised we needed to revise our approach and strategy. We had a number of team meetings to create a new strategy and had training to implement it across the board. This led us to not only meet our sales targets for the next quarter, but we exceeded our expectations.

4. Why should we choose you for this role?

This is your chance to tell the interviewer why you are the right fit for the company and the role. There is a fine line between selling yourself and bragging, so keep it concise, go back to the job description and show them how you have the skills and experience they are looking for, providing evidence to back it up. 

5. If you were an animal what animal would you be?

Questions like this are testing your ability to think on your feet and your creativity. Try and pick an animal that has positive attributes which employers seek. For example:

  • I would be a gazelle as they are smart, adaptive and alert to change.
  • I would be a lion as they are independent but work well in a team with good leadership skills.
  • I would be a dolphin as they are intelligent, friendly and adaptable.

Then link these attributes to the job description and explain how they make you ideal for the role.