Securing that all important interview is only half of the battle. The other (albeit more important) part is getting through it and successfully answering all the questions a recruiter might ask. But no matter how much you prep for those questions, you’re only human. And you may still find yourself struggling on the more difficult questions, and this includes the seemingly simple ones!
First and foremost, honesty is always the best policy. It can be tempting to bend or even stretch the truth. But let me tell you now – you will be caught out! It’s just not worth the hassle to lie in the moment. Even if you think it might make you look like a better candidate. So how do you answer a difficult question?
What experience do you have?
At first glance this might not seem like a difficult question. At this stage you should have your resume memorized and are probably able to reel off every single one of your previous roles. But this could be considered a difficult question if you’re a grad and your only previous experience was that summer you worked at Starbucks.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might be someone with a vast amount of experience, but perhaps you’re moving industries? How do you answer this question if you’re applying for a tech role but all your experience is in marketing for example?
In both cases I would advise to focus on relevance. It might seem unrelated but any skills you learn in one role will be transferable to a future role regardless of industry. So if your only experience is working in Starbucks but you’re applying for an office assistant role, why not highlight all the organizational skills you picked up? Being in a sales focused role would have helped you develop skills on how to deal with high pressure situations. Think about busy sales periods here, where you would have had to develop skills to enable you to multitask and work to quick turnaround times. All great skills that are relevant to any office role.
Why do you want this job?
Without the risk of sounding desperate, answering this question can be tricky. You have to find that perfect balance of passion for the role and field you are going into with just the right measure of adoration for the company.
Thinking about answering honestly again, ask yourself the question first. Why do you want that job? If the answer is ‘I need the money’, then perhaps you shouldn’t really be applying in the first place. But let’s face it, most first jobs we apply for after graduating aren’t always our biggest ambitions. If you’re applying for a relatively junior role, you could answer them by explaining what you want to get out of the position.
You may have ambitions of starting your own business one day, and learning the ropes in an office role and growing within the business will help you reach your own goal eventually. Employers want to see drive, so whilst this answer might show that you won’t stay in the role forever (and no one expects you to either!). It demonstrates your personal drive which is a quality that any employer would want to see.
It’s also key to highlight why you have chosen their company. This is where it helps to do your research on the company as well as the hiring manager. You can highlight any positive initiatives that the company has rolled out as one of the things that attracted you to them in the first place.
Have any questions for me?
Probably one of the most important questions, this is where you can recover from any earlier answers you don’t feel you answered sufficiently. Or at the very least you can further emphasize how suitable you would be for the role. For example, if you feel that you didn’t talk enough about your technical skills, this is where you could ask about the software or programs they use. That way you can respond to answer that you’re familiar with them or have used something similar.
This is also a prime opportunity to ask any questions you have, which shows you have a genuine interest in the company. There is nothing worse than getting to this final stage, only to go blank and not have any questions prepared. So make sure you brush up on potential questions you can ask.
However don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking them. Respond to their answer or ask follow-up questions. You need to show a real interest when asking your question, otherwise the recruiter will assume you just memorized them and aren’t really engaged with the company.
All in all, preparation is key. Always be honest in your answers and your questions. Also don’t forget to pause and take a breath. Nerves can get in the way and often causes us to stumble on our responses. So relax, and think before you answer.