david scoppa

by David Scoppa

In my work, I am regularly helping people prepare for interviews. Interview preparation is so important to improving your chances of securing the position and your preparation should centre on responding to potential questions.

Rehearsing your responses means having answers based on the job advert and position description as well as being prepared for one or two tricky questions you may not have planned for or expected.

I truly believe no interview question is ever designed or presented to try and trick you however they can definitely test you. Such questions thus can be crucial in succeeding in an interview and give you the opportunity to showcase your point of difference to the other applicants.

To help your next interview, here are some tricky questions and suggestions on how to answer them:

Why did you apply for this position?

This question, or something similar, will generally be the first in every interview you attend. Used as an ice-breaker in recruitment speak, it is aimed to get you talking and settled. It may seem like a relatively straight forward question however you would be surprised at how many people have not thought through their motivation for the position and what they can bring to the role.

Focus your response on your passions and strengths, referencing how the position or area of work excites you. Be careful not to give a too detailed answer or provide a lengthy narrative of your career history to date. Make your introduction succinct and positive and be sure to introduce the key strengths you can bring to the position. A positive response will give you a confidence boost and set you up nicely for the remainder of your interview.

Do you have any weaknesses?

Do not be fooled by this question. The interviewer will expect you to have a ‘weakness’ and saying you do not have one or are a perfectionist who works too hard is not the best response.

Think of the question as an opportunity to describe an area you would like to develop or a skill you would like to improve. The key is to talk about an area that would be reasonable to development such as improving a technical skill, learning/improving software or one of my favourites which I used to say, public speaking!


What are your strengths?

Sometimes the obvious questions are the hardest. Identifying your strengths gives you the opportunity to showcase your greatest achievements and highlight the core skills you can bring to the position. Be positive and proud of your achievements and what your strengths are.

Remember to keep your response short and focused on 3-4 strengths you are able to elaborate or expand on if asked. Be prepared to back up your strengths with specific example and know how you have developed these skills over time into your strengths.

Have you ever made a mistake?

Like the weakness question, this is asking you to reflect on your ability to learn from past mistakes and be able to solve problems following a mishap in your career.

Interviewers here expect a response. The challenge is to give an example that won’t damage your chances of securing the position but demonstrates a time when things went wrong and your reaction to it. Your response to the mistake is key and not the actual mistake itself, so don’t fear this question. Choose a time where you were able to resolve your mistake with minimal disruption and remember to describe what you learnt from the situation and what measures you have put in place to prevent it from happening again.

Interview questions come in all shapes and sizes. The more time you spend preparing and thinking about your answers, the more comfortable you will be at the interview. Where you are not sure of a question, seek clarification to ensure you can give the most appropriate response.

A good tip is to reflect after your interview, jotting down the questions and your responses. In doing so, you highlight what worked well and areas you may need to improve on. Use this experience to continuously move forward, helping your preparation for your next interview.

For more interview advice see CareerActually’s tip sheets and The Essential Career Guide