Helping you to prepare for difficult interview questions

When it comes to getting your first job, one of the things that most candidates worry about is interviews. In particular, how to handle difficult questions. Every interview is different and you will have to think on your feet (and don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to consider each question before giving your answer), there are however some questions that every interviewer has up their sleeve.

Preparing for difficult interview questions

Helping you to prepare for difficult interview questions

When it comes to getting your first job, one of the things that most candidates worry about is interviews. In particular, how to handle difficult questions. Every interview is different and you will have to think on your feet (and don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to consider each question before giving your answer), there are however some questions that every interviewer has up their sleeve.

What are your biggest weaknesses?

This is one of the questions that people dread the most, no-one wants to admit in an interview that they aren’t very good at something. As a result people make one of two mistakes:

  • We come up with “weaknesses” that we don’t think will impact the job that we are applying for such as “I am not very good at lifting heavy objects” which isn’t much of a weakness for an accountant.
  • We try and come up with the “clever” answer that tries to show a strength as a weakness for example; “my biggest weakness is that I am, a perfectionist or a workaholic”, or “I care too much about my work”, or “I have an obsessive attention to detail.”

These answers may raise a smile with your friends, but every interviewer has heard them before. This is your opportunity to show them what an asset you would be to their business.

To prepare for this interview question, here are three simple steps we think you should go through:

Step 1:

Spend a little time and write down a list of your weaknesses. If you can’t think of any weaknesses, then your number one weakness is that you lack any self-awareness! If you can bear it, ask your friends and family where they think your weaknesses are and write them down.

Here are some common weaknesses that you might be able to relate to:

  • Keeping track of paperwork – at home bills, junk mail, birthday cards all get stacked up in little piles all around the house.
  • Planning work – given half a chance, you will leave everything to the last minute.
  • Handwriting – remember how a 5 year old writes? Well some people never evolve beyond that!
  • Public speaking –a lot of people get really nervous at the thought of speaking in front of lots of people.

After 20 minutes or so you should have a pretty long list of things you have problems with, you can now move on to step 2.

Step 2:

Appraise each of your weaknesses and decide, do you need to work on this weakness or can you ignore it?

For example:

  • Keeping track of paperwork – this is a massive issue in any line of work, so you need to overcome it.
  • Planning work – again, a big issue when you have multiple deadlines to meet, so overcoming this weakness is extremely important.
  • Handwriting – is this really a problem for you? Most people type everything, so this might not necessarily be a weakness to prioritise working on.
  • Public speaking – this is usually a requirement for most senior positions, so if this is you, then you really need to work on this.

Step 3:

How have you overcome these weaknesses in the past, or what would you do to overcome these in the workplace?

  • Keeping track of paperwork – keeping a rigid filing system at work may help to overcome this. You could say “In previous jobs I have implemented my own referencing system for invoices. I was obsessed about referencing working papers in audit files.”
  • Planning work – using your outlook diary to block out time to deal with lengthy tasks to ensure that you have time to complete work to meet deadlines.
  • Public speaking – putting yourself in a position to speak whenever you can, one of the best ways to get used to public speaking, is to do more public speaking!

Now if you have been honest with yourself, you have all the tools you need to answer the question. You should now pick at least 2 of these weaknesses and think about how you would give your answer in an interview.

Interviewer: What is your biggest weakness?

Me: “I am not very good at managing multiple deadlines. And as a result, sometimes projects are completed late. As there is a conflict with other work that I am carrying out. To overcome this I plan my time very carefully. I use my outlook diary to allocate periods of time to complete work before it is due, since implementing this system I have been able to meet all of the deadlines that I have been set.”

Suddenly you have a set of great answers that demonstrate that you have the self-awareness to understand where your shortcomings lie and also the ability to take action to remedy these problems.

Why not take a read of ‘What makes a successful interview?‘. Written by Skills & Development Caoch, Iain Hunter.

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