How to answer tricky interview questions


Preparation is key to succeed in an interview, yet even the most thoroughly primed candidate can be thrown off guard with a confusing question.

Careers website Glassdoor has compiled a list of the 25 toughest questions asked at UK job interviews, based on stories posted on its site. So from the incredibly technical to the downright bizarre, how should you tackle these tricky questions?

Do your homework
Good understanding of the company is vital to demonstrate that you are truly interested in the business and your role within it. "Review the job description again and make sure you can describe how your skills and experience match the requirements of the open position," advises Phil Sheridan, managing director of Robert Half UK. "Curveball questions about the company or the role should not be a problem if you have done your homework."

Know what to expect
All interviews are likely to include a host of standard questions such as 'Why do you want to work for this firm?' and 'What makes you right for this role?' so focus on preparing clear and concise answers. "Always be honest," says Tony Wilmot, founder of "And make sure your answer has synergies with the outcomes of your research about the company.

"For example, if you want to work in a small, family business, then show how your skills will make you an invaluable member of the team, or if you want to work in a larger, more corporate environment, demonstrate how you'll quickly climb the career ladder."

Have the right attitude
Your persona is just as important as your answers and interviewers may be more likely to forgive the odd gaffe if you come across as likeable and genuine. "Be confident during the interview but not arrogant," advises Sheridan. "Also consider your body language. Making eye contact with the interviewer and nodding your head in agreement shows you're engaged; slouching in your chair indicates you're bored."

Be diplomatic
Honesty is key in interviews but diplomacy is even more important to deal with thorny questions such as 'Do you want my job?.' "Here for example, mention that at some point in the future you'd like to have the skills and experience to fill their role, and that you will do everything you can to work towards that," explains Wilmot. "It's about creating a sense of anticipation about how hard you will work, rather than wanting to claim the top job straight away."

Remain calm
Difficult or odd questions are posed to see how you deal with the unexpected. "Interviewers want to get a feel for how you react to being put under pressure and how you adapt to the situation," explains Sheridan. "By remaining calm, composed and offering well-thought-out responses, you will ensure that you don't get tongue tied and fail to impress."

Listen carefully
Nervous energy can easily take over in interviews, causing you to mishear a question or just keep talking to fill an awkward silence. If in doubt, ask the interviewer to repeat the question and take a moment to think before starting your answer.

"Not listening can be the sign of over-confidence, or just another example of how some people deal with stressful situations," adds Sheridan. "It is important to speak slowly, and provide specific answers to the question at hand."

Turn weakness into strength
'What are your weaknesses?' is the inevitable question that we all dread. "However you answer this question, the skill is how you follow it up," explains Wilmot. "Translate your strengths into points; for example if you're nine out of ten for being a team player, then say you're seven out of ten for getting out of bed on time. Display how you're trying to remedy this. In this case, tell the interviewer that you set three alarm clocks instead of one, and that ensures you're always into work on time. Make sure you offer up something that will combat your fallibilities and you're onto a winner."

Admit when you don't know
If you are completely stumped at a question, avoid the embarrassment of trying to make something up as recruiters are well practiced in reading through blaggers. "Hiring managers can forgive a candidate's inability to respond to a question, but not a lie. Honesty is the best policy," adds Sheridan.

"By explaining that you don't have specific knowledge in that area but can pick up skills quickly, it shows that you're truthful, trustworthy and able to handle yourself in a tricky situation."