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Pitfalls and bear traps

How to handle those tricky interview questions.

You can’t ever be prepared for every single interview question. Every interviewer is different and although they wouldn’t want to admit it, some interviewers could have better interviewing skills!

The good news is that if you didn’t have most of the skills and experience the interviewer is looking for, they wouldn’t have invited you for an interview. If you have taken all possible steps to give a good first impression and done your homework on the vacancy and the firm, you are half way to success!

Fine tune your answers

You don’t want all that good work to be undone however by making a mess of a tricky interview question. The following tips might help:

· Did you actually understand the question? Obviously if you have been asked something simple, it won’t do you any favours to ask the interviewer to repeat the question. If however the question was put in an unclear or confusing way, you may want to ask the interviewer (calmly and politely) to repeat it.

· Would it help to break down your answer? You don’t want to waffle and lose track. Often you might be asked a question which is really two questions in one, for example “Can you tell me about your current position and whether you find it challenging?” This is two questions. Start with a straightforward description of your current role then expand to deal with the second aspect of the question.

· Are you talking for too long? This may not be your fault; your interviewer may be combining questions and asking for too much information at once. The way to deal with this is to simply give a précis answer and say that you can expand on aspects of your response if the interviewer would like you to. This gives the interviewer the opportunity to fine tune their question and focus on the areas of most interest.

Deliberately difficult!

Some questions are specifically designed to be difficult and to test your response. On occasions you may be asked a question on which you may have a particular view but this may not be the right time to express that view at an interview. For example, if you are asked about your working relationship with your boss, and you have a very difficult relationship with him/her, try to focus on the positive. If you respond by criticising your boss, your interviewer may think you are difficult to work with. After all they don’t know your boss! Focus on the positive, for example “I have a lot of respect for my boss’s abilities as an accountant.” The fact that you don’t have the same respect for their people skills doesn’t need to be mentioned in an interview!

There may be aspects of your CV which are not as strong as you would like. For example, you may have a 2.2 degree. Your interviewer may ask you why you got a 2.2 and it may well be a sore point! Again, the key is to focus on the positive. Don’t be defensive or argumentative. You could say, for example, “I was disappointed with my class of degree but I feel that I have shown my academic ability with my subsequent success in my professional exams”

If you are prepared, cool and confident even the trickiest of questions won’t throw you!