How to answer awkward interview questions

Don’t be flummoxed or put on the back foot by an awkward interview question. These answers and tips should help you out in even the most difficult situations.

Job interviews can be a bit of a tightrope act, trying to balance getting across your confidence, experience and skills without coming across as arrogant or bragging. And when your interviewer throws in an awkward question, it can throw you off your game.

A Woman Talking to Another

Here are some ways to respond to difficult questions in an interview…

Q: Are you looking elsewhere?
Unless a specific job has caught your eye, the chances are you’ll cast your net wide when looking for jobs. And you’ll probably have a few interviews lined up. Interviewers should know this without having to ask.

The reason for this question is so that the interviewer can judge whether you’d actually take the job or whether you’re likely to go elsewhere.

If the question does come up, try and be honest but don’t feel you need to tell them everything – it’s not relevant to your ability to do the role.

Q: What are your weaknesses?
This can be a tough one to get right – too honest and you’ll scare of potential employers; try to spin it into one of your strengths and they’ll see through it.

We’ve all got weaknesses at work – the key is showing a way you’ve been working to fix yours in your previous role.

Your answer should be something big enough that it’s important to your role (e.g. don’t just say your biggest weakness is your generosity), but not too big that it could seriously affect your ability to do the job (e.g. I don’t get on well with clients).

Q: Why is there a gap in your CV?
The best way to get around this question is to make sure there are no unexplained gaps on your CV. If you’ve taken a year off to travel, say so. If you had a wait between jobs, make it clear. But, for some, these gaps can be longer than we’d like.

Again, honesty is the best policy. They’ll be aware of the current situation in your industry’s job market. If it took you six months to find a job, the interviewer should know why.

If you’ve had personal problems that led to time off, let them know but don’t feel that you have to divulge any medical information. And also let them know if the issues are resolved.

A Business man Looking at a CV Questioningly and a Woman With her Head Down

Q: Are there any lies on your CV?
While there shouldn’t be any lies, as such, you may have bent the truth slightly. In your six month period of freelancing you might have only secured one job, or your role as a film producer might have been on a no-budget short film.

But these aren’t lies – you’re just holding back the full truth of the matter. As long as you can back up everything on your CV you should feel confident that there are no lies.

Q: What are your salary expectations?
This question is a bit like a game of poker – do you raise or hold? Before the interview, you should have a good knowledge of what the role pays, even if it’s not made explicitly clear on the job advert.

And with the majority of job changes, you should be looking to progress both in terms of roles and pay.

If the job advert gave a salary guide, aim towards the top end of that range. If there’s no guide, feel free to tell them what you currently earn and then say you’d like an additional X-amount on top.

Posted by Julie Tucker

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