Tough Interview Questions and Answers

This blog features a selection of tough interview questions you might come up against in graduate job interviews, along with tips on how to answer them that will help you manage your nerves.

‘What is your most significant achievement?’

This tricky interview question is designed to evaluate your values and outlook as much as your achievements, and employers often like if you can talk about your activities outside education, as well as possible achievements during employment or university. You’re more likely to come across accomplished if you choose to discuss something you’re genuinely proud of, which could be because it involved leading others, overcoming obstacles or showing resiliences. Just try not to lie or exaggerate!

‘What motivates you?’

You are particularly likely to be asked about your motivations in a strengths-based interview. This type of question focuses on what you enjoy doing and what you do well that you are aware of. This is an approach that graduate recruiters are increasingly using alongside, or instead of, competency-based questions. Try to make sure your answer draws on an example from your extracurricular activities, work experience or studies that suggests you would be strongly motivated by the job you are applying for. This means you need to have done your research into the company and know their driving factors.

‘Give an example of a time when you showed initiative.’

If an interviewer asks you to describe a situation where you showed initiative, avoid giving an example of an idea you had but never put into action. It is better to talk about a time when you not only came up with a solution to a problem but also acted on it. Then you can explain the influence your decision had when you put it into practice, especially if you can relate this to team working or developing a skill.

‘What is your biggest weakness?’

The problem with this question is that you are being asked about your shortcomings, when typically, in any interview situation, you want to keep your flaws hidden. What you need to do is to frame your answer to give it a positive spin. The way to approach this question is to think about how you have overcome the potential downside of your strengths. For example, if you’re a natural team worker, is it difficult for you to cope with conflict or assume leadership abilities? Just make sure you then finish your answer by saying how you are aware of this weakness and have been making strides to improve it.

‘Are you innovative?’

Graduates are sometimes asked to give an example of when they were innovative or used creative thinking to solve a problem. You might be concerned that your examples are just not innovative enough, but don’t worry, the interviewer won’t expect you to have done anything incredibly innovative. Instead, focus on talking about times when an idea from you had a positive impact: for example, if you came up with a fundraising idea for charity or found a way to save time on an assignment.

‘Give an example of a time when you handled a big problem.’

Remember, you can always reframe the questions to make them suit you better. This is similar to asking ‘Can you give an example of a time when you had to cope with a difficult situation?’ or ‘Give an example of a time when you had to cope under pressure’. You might find it easier to give an example if you think back through your work experience, study, extracurricular activities and travel and come up with a time when you had to cope with an unexpected problem. A good answer here can focus on when you might have had to deal with conflict within a team environment and how you personally sought to resolve the conflict to get the outcome of a project completed.

You can practise your interview with a Careers Consultant. Book an appointment on My Jobs Online.