9 tricky interview questions you should prep for

Manage your nerves by having a look at this overview of some tricky interview questions you might face and some simple tips to help you answer them. Recruiters love to use tricky questions that can catch candidates out, no one said it was going to be a walk in the park. So here are some of their favourite questions and some tactics for how to answer them to help you prepare, avoid stumbling, and let you shine in all the right ways.

Just like any interview you should aim to answer the questions with the STAR technique;

  • Situation: context for the interviewer, describe the situation.

  • Task: what did you aim to achieve?

  • Action: explain what you did in order to complete what you set out to achieve.

  • Result: make sure it’s a specific and clear event.


1. 'What is your most significant achievement?'

This does not only look at your achievements but also your values and attitude, and recruiters are normally looking for you to talk about something away from your education.

Do NOT answer with “I got a 2:1” or something along those lines, this is not what they are looking for. Choose something that was a challenge for you to show recruiters you had to be determined, dedicated or confident in order to succeed. Try to pick something that you feel passionate about as you will engage more with your answer, the question and recruiter.


2. ‘What motivates you?’

Can also be phrased as, ‘What are you passionate about?’ or ‘What motivates you in life?’ this does not mean ‘What are your motivations for applying for the job?’ or ‘What are your career aspirations and goals?’.

This is more about your motivation in life, what you enjoy doing and do well. It gives them an insight into how you would fit in the team and whether you suit the job role. The best approach to answering this strength-based interview question is to be honest and still connect to the role and company you applied for. Think about the similarities in your course and wider interests, workout what you have enjoyed in previous roles/ companies and what environments you thrive in. Identify the matches between you and the company you are applying to.


3. ‘How do you manage your time and prioritise tasks?’

They are interested in your strategies and tactics for getting organised, so be ready to describe whatever approach you use. They aren’t looking for an example of a time when you successfully did this, it is how not when. Your response should also show that your process is situational and can be adapted to whatever is thrown your way.


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

Avoid giving interviewers an answer/example of when you had an idea but never did anything with it. The best answers should show a time that you were able to come up with a solution AND also act on it, allowing you to explain the effect your decision had. Your answer should show that you are capable of coming up with your own ideas and persuading others to give you a chance to put them into action.


5. ‘What is your biggest weakness?’

It goes against our human nature to discuss our flaws, especially in an interview situation. The trick is to frame your answer to highlight the positives in your flaw, difficult but not impossible, by thinking about how you cope with your weakness.

A good way to answer this question is to show that although you previously had a problem with this you have taken steps to overcome this weakness; “I have done a time management course online to help me organise my work successfully.”

Or to describe a weakness that could also be viewed as a strength; “I am OCD, so I am very particular with my work. It can effect my time management but as a result I have very high quality work.”


6. ‘Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis.’

Essentially think about this like; ‘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.’

Try to focus on a problem that you didn’t create, don’t focus on WHO created it, or that someone had to come to your rescue. It may be easier to give an example from previous work experience, study, extracurricular activities and travel that you were able to resolve yourself.


7. ‘Why do you think you will be successful in this job?’

Match your strengths to the qualities needed for the job, do not boast about how insanely awesome you are. They are trying to identify why you would be more suited to this job opposed to the others applying, so remember to do your research as it will save the day. Researching what they are looking for will allow you to match your skills, interests and experience to the company and job.


8. ‘Give an example of your lateral thinking.’

Lateral thinking is using your imagination to look at a problem in a fresh way and come up with new solutions. Without lateral thinking companies would not be able to innovate and create new products, so they honour employees capable of this. Think of a time you were faced with a (real world) problem, like problematic landlords or unable to meet deadlines, and somehow managed to overcome it. It probably involved an original and creative approach they wish to see.


9. ‘Where do you expect to be in five years’ time?’

Avoid ‘no idea.’ or ‘working for you!’, you want to show off your understanding of your chosen career path and being enthusiastic without being arrogant. Try to tailor your response to reflect the nature of the organisation, the sector, and your own skills and experiences. The more specific the better.

Good luck with your interviews. Make sure you look at how to handle those nerves, competency-based questions and strength-based questions to get you fully prepared.