Can you withstand a tough interview?

NO matter how well you prepare yourself for an interview some of the questions you get asked by interviewers just absolutely floor you, turning your usually well-modulated voice into a gibbering babble of incoherent rubbish. Most famed for asking horrific

NO matter how well you prepare yourself for an interview some of the questions you get asked by interviewers just absolutely floor you, turning your usually well-modulated voice into a gibbering babble of incoherent rubbish.

Most famed for asking horrifically long-winded questions needing weeks of preparatory work are management consultancies. One currently being asked by one firm involves a failing airline, reward cards and the tourism potential of a small South American country. Another has asked interviewees to choose between being reincarnated as a rabbit or a snake. Quick. A slimy reptile or a stupid fluffyhead? Think, think, as fast as you possibly can.

And yet, according to the major recruitment professionals, there are a variety of methods to prepare for and tackle the great interview unknown. The key is simply remembering that all interviewers - no matter how fiendishly mean their questions - really want to hire you and give you the job. They are desperate to fill that post and want to reassure themselves that they have picked out the right shortlist. Even when they pull the old 'good cop, bad cop' routine, as John, a computer analyst for an investment bank, recalls.

"One would ask me something perfectly reasonable about my degree course, while the other would leap forward and say something like 'do you mean to say the course contained no business modelling? How will you be able to do this job without it!'


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"I felt like my integrity was being challenged and I became quite defensive, crossing my arms and almost arguing with him.

"I suspect they were testing me under pressure - and it worked."

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Interview pressure can often be 20-times worse than anything they can actually throw at you while doing the job. Certain questions tend to pop up over and over again like that old favourite "Tell me something about yourself,": a green light to babble on and on and on about your love of wood-turning and the arts and crafts movement. But whatever you do, resist the urge and don't fall into that trap. Just concentrate on three or four key items on your CV that you want to stick in their minds and talk about those instead.

"Where do you see yourself in five years time?" is yet another interview classic, but it is surprising just how many of us flounder around and mutter something incomprehensible like: "Oh, doing this job and really enjoying it."

The interviewer may be readily impressed, but they are far more likely to chalk you up as being a low-achiever or lacking imagination.

Then again you could just take the opposite point of view and answer "Doing your job." Risky, yet bold. A better, if vague, answer is: "Building on my successes here and moving up within the company."

And yet there are some questions that can't simply be dodged by mellifluous generalisations. These are fiendishly technical questions like - "What would you deduce from a downswing in the energy current and a fluctuation of ohm levels, followed by a faint burning smell?" may well just have to be bluffed through with all the confidence that you can possibly muster - or with the plain and simple admission that actually you really don't know.

Asking your interviewer a question about the question will give you enough breathing time to think up a brilliant answer. There will always be questions with the potential to leave you groping and gasping for the answer. But it does help to keep in mind the motivation for all these questions boils down to just three basic tenets: can you do the job, will you do the job, and will you fit in here?

Angle all answers to the first by telling them about your skills and abilities, the second by demonstrating your enthusiasm and the third with your track record of teamwork will help to keep you focused under pressure.

Here are just a few more of your favourite tough questions:

1) Why do you want to work here?

2) Describe for us your ethics.

3) Why are manhole covers round?

4) Tell me how you handled a confrontation with a co-worker

5) What went wrong in your last job, then?

6) Describe a situation in which your work was criticised.

7) Tell us about the last time you lost your temper.

8) If you were the boss, what would you change about this company?

9) Tell us your five best - and worst - faults.

10) Exactly what do you think of the product in front of you?

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