Interviews are designed to do just one thing: identify the best possible candidate for the advertised job.

And sometimes it may feel that the question being asked have been designed to deliberately catch you out or make you question whether you are up to the job or not. But that’s not their intention.

So if you want to avoid an interview disaster, Paul MacKenzie-Cummins has come up with these answers to some of the toughest interview questions.

  • Tell me about yourself – Resist the temptation to start talking about your life history. What your interviewer is looking for is a quick two or three minute snapshot of who you are and why you are the best candidate for the job.
  • What are your salary expectations? – You should have done some research into the average salary and remuneration that this type of position will pay. Try to deflect the question by turning it around and asking the interviewer about the salary on offer. Typically, they will start with a lower figure than they are prepared to offer because they want to keep their costs down. So if you are pressed to give a number, its best to give a range to avoid pricing yourself out of contention.
  • Why should we hire you? – This can be a killer question and can make or break your chances of winning the job. How you answer will depend on how well you have probed your interviewer about their requirements and expectations. What the interviewer is really asking you is, What can you do for my business? And your response needs to answer that very question.
  • Why did you leave your last job? – You know this question will be asked at some stage, so have your answer ready in advance. The rule of thumb is to always remain positive about your current and previous employers because you never know when your paths may cross again. Besides, who are you going to turn to for a reference?
  • What are your weaknesses? – Career manuals are full of ways to tackle this question. And most of them seem to suggest that you should take one of your strengths and portray it as a weakness. For instance, ‘I work too much’. But this could actually work against you as it may imply you do not organise your workload effectively. Instead, opt for a genuine weakness, like ‘I used to struggle to plan and prioritorise my workload. However, I have taken steps to resolve this.’
  • How would your former colleagues describe you? – This is a sure sign that the interviewer likes you and is already thinking about contacting your previous employer for a reference. Answer this question in the way that you would like to think your employer would respond – ‘I have an excellent working relationship with my manager and we have mutual respect for each other’.