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It’s the simple interview questions that can trip you up

At last, you’ve got an interview. You have thoroughly  researched the company, tweaked your CV and even stalked the CEO on Facebook – and now you just have to make it through the pesky interview process.

Increasingly, companies throwing curveball questions during the interview process. Asking about seemingly unrelated topics can help give a company a wider snapshot into a person and their life.

But whilst you may know what animal you’d be and how to sell a fridge to an eskimo, it’s actually the more straightforward questions that can catch an applicant out – and they’re the most vital.

Top recruiters were asked to reveal the interview questions every candidate should know the answer to by heart – and how to handle them if one is thrown your way.

What are you proud to have accomplished at your last job?

This question gives the interviewer the opportunity to learn your strengths. Simply saying: “I increased social media engagement” isn’t going to give your interviewer a sense of what you accomplished. Instead, tell them how you increased social media engagement for the company and why your help was valuable.

It’s important to master the art of the humble brag to make a good impression. Feeling proud of your accomplishments is fine. Endlessly discussing your value to the last company you worked for gives the impression you are arrogant.

How would your previous manager describe you?

Why are you being asked? An interviewer will use this question to gauge how you see yourself in manager’s eyes, and to determine how well you get along with management.

Remember, if you’ve given (or plan to give) your previous manager as a reference, the interviewer can confirm your answer to this question, so it’s best to be as honest as possible. Talk about your attitude toward work, ability to work in a group and the positive aspects of your working relationship with your old manager. If you don’t get along with your old manager, try not to let this influence your response, and instead talk about your role within your previous team.

Why are you looking to leave your current job?

The interviewer wants to know that you have clearly thought through your decision to leave your current job, and that you know what you want out of your next role.

Never use this question as an excuse to complain about your current or previous employer, as it will make you sound unprofessional. Instead, take the opportunity to explain areas in which you’d like to be more challenged, projects you haven’t had the opportunity to work on, or simply elaborate on why this move is right for you at this time. Focus on the positive aspects of what else you have to offer professionally and how it fits within the role you’re applying for.

Tell me about a time when you messed up at work. How did you fix your mistake?

Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone has the ability to quickly solve them on their own.

This question is not a trap. It’s the employer’s way of learning if you are able to fix your mistakes. Honestly talk about a mistake you made, but focus mainly on how you solved the problem.

Begin by saying: ‘A time I messed up at work was when I gave a customer a quote that was considerably lower than it should have been. I realised my mistake and immediately told my boss about the situation. I knew the business was going to take a hit financially, so I offered to work longer hours until I had worked off the debt from my mistake.’

This answers the interviewer’s question but focuses more on the positive parts of the mistake.

What is your five-year plan?

When interviewers ask this question, they want to know if you will last at the company.

Picture where your career is going. Maybe the job you’re applying for is only a stepping stone to a bigger and better career. Letting your potential employer know their business is nothing more than a pit stop on your career road trip could cost you the job.

Instead of letting an employer know you don’t plan to stay with the company long-term, think about what you hope to get out of the position. Talk generally about how you hope the position will prepare you for your next career move. Mention your desire for career growth within the company.

Only apply for jobs if you honestly see yourself working there for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, it’s not fair to you, the company, or the person who would actually be the best fit for the position.

What is one of your flaws?

This question is very often treated as a joke or a way to turn a negative into a positive (I’m too perfect. I’m an overachiever. I never give up), said Annie Griffin, Chief Happiness Officer at Manifest London.

“I’ll tell you what I like, I like to hire human beings not machines. I like to hire someone who is upfront, honest and comfortable in their own skin. Everyone has flaws, I wasn’t born yesterday.”

“Show me that you are a person who has awareness and honesty. Maybe you hate getting out of bed. Maybe you speak too quietly. You let papers pile up on the printer.”

“When people recognise a flaw it shows a hunger for improvement and that is always desirable.”

Describe how an apple tastes to someone who can’t taste.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. This question reveals your ability to think critically. Take a moment to think about how you will respond.

One way to answer the question is: “I would describe the taste of an apple as refreshing because of how juicy they are. While a person may not be able to taste, they can probably feel the juice as they bite into the apple. When I think about apples, I imagine the fresh, juicy sensation that comes with taking my first bite.”

Even if your answer isn’t the same as the rest of candidates interviewing, it shows your ability to think on your toes. Your interviewer will appreciate whatever answer you give as long as you provide a reason for why you chose the description you used.

What religious holidays do you practice?

It is illegal for an interviewer to ask you about your religion, age, marital status, if you’re a parent, or your sexual orientation. Employers use these questions to discriminate against applicants in the hiring process.

Don’t assume your interviewer is intentionally asking illegal questions. One in five interviewers unknowingly asks an illegal interview question according to a recent.

There are three ways you can answer this question.

If you feel comfortable answering the question, just answer it.

Or, instead of responding to the original question, try answering the question you think the interviewer is trying to ask. Interviewers asking what holidays you participate in religiously could be their way of finding out if you will be unable to work on specific days of the year.

Finally, if you feel the question is too personal, you can refuse to answer it. Decline to answer respectfully and let the interviewer know the answer will not impact your work ethic. However, refusing to answer might result in another candidate receiving the job offer.

Do you have any questions?

This is an opportunity for you to determine if you’re right for the company, but the interviewer will also use this to uncover what’s important to you in your career.

Prepare plenty of questions in advance because most of the answers will likely be covered during the interview itself. When you are given the opportunity to ask questions it’s important that you have at least one question to ask.

Here are a few suggestions: What is the difference between being good and great in this job? What are the opportunities for training and development within the business? What do you enjoy most about the company, culture and your job here?

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