Awkward Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

If you’re getting ready for a job interview right now, well done! You’ve already beaten the vast majority of the candidates who applied and there’s a very good chance the graduate job could be yours.

Hold that thought in your mind.

Because we know as well as you do that the prospect of doing a job interview is enough to reduce even the most confident person to a quivering bag of nerves.

But there is one tried and tested method for combatting fear and acing job interviews, and it’s not rocket science (unless of course you’re being interviewed by NASA).

The secret? Preparation, preparation, preparation.

People who stand out in an interview situation are those who’ve clearly gone the extra mile in their research. You can do so much more than merely browsing a company’s website or reading their LinkedIn page.

You can better understand the industry as a whole by reading specialist magazines online, following columnists, bloggers and thought leaders in the space, and looking at any press articles the company has featured in the past year or two. The company may have a newsletter you can subscribe to or produce a podcast you can listen to.

If the company is consumer-facing, you could pose as a customer and take notes about your experience, and read online reviews on Google and Trustpilot to get a sense of how they’re doing with their customer experience.

This kind of insight can elevate your answers and boost your confidence, so you can present your best self in what is always a nerve-wracking situation.

The good news is that, although interviewers don’t have to stick to a playbook, most of them do.

You can be pretty sure that you’ll need to answer these template job interview questions:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What can you offer our company?
  • What kind of culture do you think you’d thrive in?
  • When could you start?

Likewise, anticipate any concerns and think about how you might tackle them. Be prepared to talk about anything likely to raise questions e.g. why you didn’t get higher grades at school or university, applying for a role unrelated to your degree, gaps in your studies or work, or lack of relevant work experience. Address these in a positive way, explaining that you’re keen to learn.

Some interviewers will throw in a curveball question. If you get one of these, don’t panic.

Know that the interviewer has only asked you this question to get an idea of your thought process. They want to understand how you think, to see if you have logic and initiative.

One real-life example: If you were asked to unload a jumbo jet full of jelly beans, what would you do?

With questions like this, there’s clearly no right answer. The interviewer is testing your reasoning. Start by asking questions for clarification e.g. Are the jelly beans in packets or loose? Do they need to be fit for eating afterwards? Where’s the jet parked? And then unpack your thinking, step by step.

A few more real-life examples…

  • If you were a fruit, what would you be?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you?
  • How many cows are in Canada?

And, finally, most job interviews will end with you being asked: Do you have any questions for me?

The answer to this question is always ‘yes’, as this is another opportunity to show you’re well-researched and intent on securing the job. Grads we’ve met have missed job offers by failing to ask any questions, as interviewers didn’t think they seemed interested enough. You could ask:

  • What reservations do you have about hiring me?
  • What steps has the business taken to create a positive work environment?
  • What is the single most pressing issue facing the business today?

And remember, a job interview is a fact-finding conversation for both sides. Try to enjoy yourself, and don’t be afraid to let your personality and sense of humour shine through as you build rapport.

Blog collaboration with HelloGrads.

Julie and Sophie Phillipson are founders of HelloGrads, the graduate support site, and the co-authors of a new self-help book for final-year students and recent graduates: Survive & Thrive: A Graduate’s Guide To Life After University (available from Amazon). It’s packed full of helpful tips on careers, interviews, work experience, budgeting, renting, and more