Awkward Interview Questions - Tackling the Ones That Make You Squirm

At CY Partners, we pride ourselves on doing the very best that we can to prepare applicants for their interviews. Our consultants will give you advice on everything from how to travel to the interview site, to the stages involved in the recruitment process leading (hopefully) to your success.

Our last blog post gave some advice on some really common interview questions, to give you some confidence in approaching an interview scenario.
This week we thought we’d flip this on its head – to help you to expect the unexpected. If you have some previous interview experience, you may have had that one question that’s a bit awkward, that’s thrown you off guard and made you ? squirm a little in your seat.
So we’ve tried to think ahead of a few examples of these questions that you might not have thought to prepare for – so fingers crossed your interview goes well!

“Why is there a gap in your employment history?”

Your employer will understand that this could potentially have been for a very personal reason, so it’s ok to be honest – you may have taken time off to have children, or perhaps you went travelling. ✈️
If you can, try to think of a skill that this time off enabled you to develop, which may help you to stand out as unique or personable over other applicants.

“Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”

✔️   Do: Be honest and demonstrate your ambition. Although it is honourable to be humble and say that you want to be doing a good job and have become an integrated member of the team, five years is a long time – impress with your ambition.

✔️   Do: your research into the company. If you are a recent graduate, demonstrate how you feel this position will help you climb the authority ladder. OR If you are instead applying for a more senior position, instead discuss your ambition for the impact that you can make within the company. It is great to really think about these aspirations prior to the interview to show your passion for the role that you have applied for.

❌   Don’t: say you hope to have moved onto a bigger and better company in five years’ time. Yes, the company wants to see your aspiration, but also your commitment.

“explain why you changed career paths/ why you want to leave your current job”

Try to hold back on having a rant about your previous employer and remain positive. Whatever your reason, try and translate it into one of these examples, which instead change a perhaps negative situation into one that demonstrates your ambition, eagerness and passion for your own personal career development:
– Wanting to develop a new skill in more depth

– Seeking a Better work/ life balance

– You are wanting to relocate/ have relocated

– Desire to learn

– Aspiring to take on more responsibility

– A position with a shorter commute

– Interested by a career change

“Tell me how you think other people would describe you?”

Try not to let the open-ended nature of this question throw you. A confident and simple answer you can give is: “what you see is what you get.” This demonstrates that you are honest, open and reliable – that the really impressive applicant you are in the interview is really the person they will (hopefully) hire.

“what do you like to do outside of work?”

✔️   Do: Again, be honest. Try to discuss a hobby that develops a skill, such as volunteering, or playing an instrument.

✔️   Do: It’s also good to discuss an aspect of your social life, weather that is a sports team that you are a part of, your pets or your family – this demonstrates that you are personable and will make fast friends within the team.

❌   Don’t: Let this question relax you too much as it seems to be unrelated to work. Don’t be too honest and talk about how smashed you get on the weekend. And don’t try and impress them too much – it’s enough that you play the piano, don’t exaggerate this with claims that you hold the world record as the youngest ever piano player (unless you do, and if so, congrats!)

“what other companies are you interviewing with?”

We are currently experiencing a candidate-driven marketplace in the recruitment industry. This essentially means that good, highly-skilled candidates are scarce, giving you the autonomy to choose the company that is best for you.
The company are aware that you will be exploring similar options in the same industry and area, so don’t be afraid to state this to demonstrate that you are in high demand – this will encourage them to natch you up before anybody else.

? “Questions about salary” ?

It is recommended not to bring up salary in the initial interview unless you are asked about this directly.
Do your research on websites such as Glassdoor prior to your interview so that you are aware of what similar positions (in terms of experience, location and responsibility) are being paid. This can therefore help you to shape your salary expectations.
State your current salary, the range of salaries that you have seen in your research of similar positions, and state where you feel you personally stand within this range.
There is nothing wrong with asking for a salary from the higher end of this range – if you can strongly justify your reason for doing so.

? (good luck!) ? – Emily Wilkinson

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