Landing an interview is often the most difficult part of the whole job process, and a crucial opportunity to showcase your skills and why you are the right fit for the role. Most interview questions are relatively easy to answer, but there are a few that can trip you up. With this in mind, The University of Law Business School has put together a list of the most challenging interview questions you might be asked at interview stage. Answer these well, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful career.
By Editorial Team. Published 08 February 2019. Last updated 22 June 2023.
So, tell us about yourself…
Avoid going into personal details and stick to the present-past-future structure. Start by revealing your most recent job or employment status, then talk a little about your job, or what you were doing before that, and finish by speaking about what you want to do in the future. This gives a perfect summary of your employment history and is generally all the interviewer wants to know at this stage.
What are your biggest weaknesses?
This one is another common and dreaded interview question. The key is to be honest, solution-focused and avoid any clichés, for example, saying you’re a perfectionist.
Here’s an example: if you think public speaking is your biggest weakness, follow up by saying you want to work on it in the future, and you’re interested in participating in some training or workshops. This will suggest to the interviewer that you’re always willing to learn and better yourself.
Why should we hire you?
To answer this question, The University of Law Business School’s Employability Manager Jo Lozinska advises: “Keep your answer short and professional, and make sure your personality and passion for the role comes across.”
What is your most significant achievement?
This question assesses your values and attitude, as well as your achievements. Be honest. It doesn’t matter too much what your achievement is, what matters is how your behaviour shaped your success. Consider the challenges and obstacles you faced and talk about how you overcame them.
How do you handle stress?
Employers want to know if you respond to pressure with a constructive, positive attitude. Answer this question by giving an example of the stress you were under and how you tackled the situation to produce a positive outcome.
The ‘job’ questions
The second part of an interview will usually be focused on the job you’re interviewing for, and why you applied for the role. The interviewer wants to find out how much research you’ve done on the company and to see how your skillset matches what is needed from the candidate.
What do you know about the company?
When you go for an interview, you should always take time to research the company you’re interviewing for. You don’t need to speak about who founded the company or any struggles they’ve had along the way, but instead, focus on what the company does and any areas of specialism. Mention any memorable campaigns or awards if applicable too.
Why are you the most qualified person for this role?
The best way to answer this question is by highlighting your biggest and most unique strengths and why these are most important to the role. You need to be confident in your strengths but not bring other candidates down in the process.
Why did you apply for this job?
With this question, the interviewer wants to see that you understand what the role is and that you’re excited about being part of their team. You should be familiar with the job specification before your interview, so make sure you look over it and are clear about what’s expected in the role. It’s also a good idea to do as much research as you can on the company before the interview.
Jo Lozinska adds: “Try to avoid responses such as ‘because the commute is easier’ or ‘because the salary is higher’. They may well be motivating factors for you, but not what your potential employer wants to hear.”
The ‘future’ questions
In an interview, many interviewers will want to know about your plans and your potential longevity at the company. An employee won’t want to hire someone they think will leave a few months down the line, as they’re looking for someone who has a real interest in building a career in the company.
Why did you leave your previous job?
When answering this question, make sure you’re professional in your response. Your focus should be on the great new job you’re hoping to get, and not on any conversations about how or why you’re not enjoying your current role. Saying something along the lines of career progression or new opportunities is suitable.
What is your 5-year plan?
This is another question interviewers may ask to try and gauge your future hopes and certainty in their company. They don’t need to know if you want to be married with kids in 5 years – but what your professional hopes are instead. Maybe you want to become a manager or head of a department. Think about what skills you’d like to develop and how the job you’re interviewing for could help you get them.
The competency-based questions
Competency-based questions are apparent in most interviews and can be tricky for a lot of people. But they don’t have to be.
Try to be succinct, clear, and focused on outcomes. Even if the outcome was negative, it’s important to spin this into a positive – what did you learn from it and how will you adapt your behaviour in the future? If you don’t have like-for-like experience in the role you’re interviewing for, competency questions are a great way for you to demonstrate that your skills are transferable and relevant.
The questions will often begin with: ‘Talk about a time where’, ‘Describe a time when’ or ‘Give an example of when’ and are all about structure. The key to answering them is to take on the STAR approach:
- Situation: Describe the background
- Task: Describe the task or challenge
- Action: Explain the action you took and how and why you did this
- Result: Explain how it was resolved and what you learned
Jo Lozinska adds: “Take 30 minutes the day before your interview to think about what examples you might want to use. Try to have a range of examples lined up so you’ll have something at the forefront of your mind in the interview.”
Some examples of competency questions are:
- Describe a time when you demonstrated initiative
- Explain a time when you solved a problem
- Describe a time when you took a risk, and did it pay off?
- Explain a time when you did something your team did not agree with. How did you deal with any negativity?
If you’re looking to kickstart a successful career in law or business, The University of Law Business School has several courses to help prepare you for the future.