Job interviews are nerve-wracking enough without tricky questions to trip you up. It's important to remember what the interviewing process is about, to evaluate your ability to do the job.

Challenging questions will allow the interviewer to see how you can think on your feet and cope with stress. 

  • When faced with a difficult question, there is nothing wrong with a brief contemplative pause before answering.
  • Seek the opportunity to turn the question around and sell yourself, focusing on the company's needs and your abilities.
  • Ask the interviewer to repeat the question if you don't understand it - try to determine what the interview is looking to find out.
  • Remember the interview is a two-way process, you are there to demonstrate you ability not only to speak out but also to listen.
  • Try not to stray from the point, offer relevant information to the question.
  • Always offer positive information.

A great book to assist with interview questions: How to Get the Job You Want, Matin John Yate published by Kogan Page.

This is the single most important book for any serious job-hunter to read. Removes the interviewee's greatest fear: the too-hard-to-answer-easily question, including the likes of: -What can you do for us that someone else cannot do? -What are the reasons for your success? What decisions do you find most difficult? -What are your references likely to say of you?

Presenting over 300 of the tough questions only too likely to confront interviewees, no applicant can afford to ignore it. It’s essential reading for everyone on the job trail. Over 160 answers to the toughest interview questions which can be thrown at you. The book is packed with tips on how to cope under pressure, handle telephone interviews, control a conversation and turn an objection into a job offer.

Why do you want to work here?

To answer this question, you must have researched the company and be clear on the position that you have applied for. Reply with the company's attributes as you see them. Relate your experiences to the interviewers needs to ensure they can relate your skills to their vacancy. Cap your answer with reference to your belief that the company can provide you with a stable and happy work environment -the company has that reputation -and that such an atmosphere would encourage your best work. 'I'm not looking for just another job. I enjoy my work and am proud of my profession. Your company produces a superior product/provides a superior service. I share the values that make this possible, which should enable me to fit in and complement the team'.

What is the most difficult situation you have faced?

The question looks for information on two fronts: how do you define difficult? and what was your handling of the situation? You must have a story ready for this one in which the situation was tough and allowed you to show yourself in a good light. Avoid talking about problems that have to do with co-workers. You can talk about the difficult decision to fire someone, but emphasise that once you had examined the problem and reached a conclusion you acted quickly and professionally, with the best interests of the company at heart.

What can you do for us that someone else cannot do?

This question will come only after a full explanation of the job has been given. If not, qualify the question with: 'What voids are you trying eradicate when you fill this position?' Then recap the interviewer's job description, followed with: 'I can bring to this job a determination to see projects through to a proper conclusion. I listen and take direction well. I am analytical and don't jump to conclusions. And finally, I understand we are in the business to make profit, so I keep an eye on cost and return.' End with: ' How do these qualifications fit your needs?' or 'What else are you looking for?' You finish with a question that asks for feedback or a powerful answer. If you haven't covered the interviewer's hot buttons, he or she will cover them now, and you can respond accordingly.

What is the least relevant job you have held?

If your least relevant job is not on your CV, it shouldn't be mentioned. Some people skip over those six months between jobs when they worked as a cashier just to pay the bills, and would rather not talk about it, until they hear a question like this one. But a mention of a job that, according to all chronological records, you never had, will throw your integrity into question and your candidacy out the door. Apart from that, no job in your profession has been a waste of time if it increases your knowledge about how the business works and makes money. Your answer will include; 'Every job I've held has given me new insights into my profession, and the higher one climbs, the more important the understanding of the lower level, more menial jobs. They all play a role making the company profitable. And anyway, it's certainly easier to schedule and plan work when you have first-hand knowledge of what others will have to do to complete their tasks'.

Can we check your references?

This question is frequently asked as a stress question to catch the too-smooth candidate off-guard. It is also one that occasionally is asked in the general course of events. Comparatively few managers or companies ever check references but the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the more likely it is that your references will be checked. Your answer may include: 'Yes, of course you can check my references. However, at present, I would like to keep matters confidential, until we have established a serious mutual interest (i.e., an offer). At such time I will be pleased to furnish you with whatever references you need from prior employers. I would expect you to wait to check my current employer's references until you have extended an offer in writing, I have accepted, we have agreed upon a start date, and I have had the opportunity to resign in a professional manner'. You are under no obligation to give references of a current employer until you have a written offer in hand. You are also well within your rights to request that reference checks of current employers wait until you have started your new job.

Tell me about yourself

This is a good chance to impress an employer, but it is a deceptively simple question that can have a variety of answers. The employer is really interested in how you would fit into the company, so keep your answers as pertinent to the company and its work as possible.

Why do you want this job?

The employer wants to know that you are genuinely interested in the company, and not just looking for something to tick you over for a few months. Say that you view the position as your natural next step. You like the firm because … show off your knowledge and make all that research you have done worthwhile.

Why should we offer you this job?

You need to show how you can add new skills or ideas to the job. You could try thinking about any weaknesses you perceive in the company, and how your past experience and unique abilities could benefit the company.

Why did you leave your last job?

The interviewer may want to know if you had any problems in your last job. If you did not have any problems, simply give a reason such as: it was a temporary job or you want a job better fitted to your particular skills.

If you did have problems, honesty is the best policy. Show that you can accept responsibility and learn from any mistakes you made. Explain any problems you had and, and don’t be tempted to slag off the employer concerned. Demonstrate that it was a learning experience that will not affect your future job.

What's been your biggest success at work?

The interviewer wants to see that you can use your initiative. Talk about your own achievements rather than how you helped someone else achieve. Perhaps you had a difficult goal you had to reach? Think about how you handled meeting that goal. It is a good idea to think in advance of a few key moments from past jobs that demonstrate how well you handle different situations.

Why did you choose this career path?

This question is particularly pertinent if you are changing job or sector. You need to convince the interviewer that you have a clear idea of the industry and your value. To make the employer understand how you could fit in, talk about the transferable skills you have picked up over the course of your career. Also stress what aspects of their industry are attractive to you.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Although it is difficult to predict things far into the future, the employer will want to hire somebody with drive and a sense of purpose. They will also want to know they can depend on you, and figure out if they can offer what you really want. Avoid choosing specific job titles you aspire to, instead mention skills and responsibilities you would like to take on.

Have examples where you can and above all be yourself!

Jose joined New Frontiers in 2000 working a variety of roles from recruitment consultant to in-house recruiter and staff trainer and now General Manager. Jose has a wealth of travel industry experience having worked in travel for 8 years prior to joining New Frontiers with roles in retail and for a tour operator.