Tackling interview questions that reveal your character

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There is lots of advice on how to answer interview questions about your experience, but it is also important to remember that there are some questions posed within an interview that while seeming more informal are important not to overlook.

By thinking about answering hidden questions in advance, you’re less likely to be unnerved by these questions, many of which are designed to test your response. You’ll look and feel in control of the interview and make the best first impression you can.

Types of questions

There are two types of questions that employers are likely to ask but which aren’t immediately obvious, these are:

  1. Icebreakers
  2. Requests for information


Icebreaker questions are usually innocent enquiries unrelated to your work experience. There is nothing to fear from the questions themselves, but they are asked at the beginning of the interview so your response will largely shape the initial impression you make. It’s important to aim to sound relaxed and not take too long over making your answer.

Typical examples are:

  • Have you come far to get here?
  • Did you find the office easily?
  • Was public transport/the traffic okay?

The purpose of these questions is to break the ice and the interviewer is making polite conversation before the real questions begin. However, even within this situation, they will be alerted if your answer rambles on or reveals too much about you. Focus on remaining polite, brief and positive. Even if you have a very hard time with the buses or tubes, there’s no need to go into detail about this. 

Requests for information

As with icebreakers, these are usually straightforward enquiries, but the interview has now moved into a different phase. Some of these questions can be answered in a few words, others you may need to expand upon and go into more detail. It’s important to be aware of a trick that interviewers sometimes use, which is to leave a sustained pause after your answer. Don’t be thrown by this and feel pressured to add more to your answer; this implies a lack of confidence and you may waffle and regret what you say.

Tell me about yourself

This is probably the most common question you’ll face and it’s worth preparing a brief summary of your career and achievements. If you have relevant experience, here is where you can discuss it, and if you don’t now is your opportunity to explain why the experience that you do have can help you in the role you’re interviewing for.

Tell me about a difference you have made

It’s key here to relay a positive example of something you have achieved in your current or previous role. Ideally this should relate in some way to the position you are interviewing for to show how you will make a difference in the role.

Why are you looking to move on from your current role? Or, why did you leave your last job?

The key here is not to criticise or speak negatively or anyone at your current or previous company. You run the risk of sounding petty and bitter so it is important to stay positive and focus on why you’re keen to seek new opportunities and your desire to develop and make progress in your career.

Would you be willing to relocate (or are you willing to work overtime, nights or weekends?)

This is the type of question you need to be clear about prior to the interview. Above all, do not say yes just to get the job if that’s not how you feel. Honesty with yourself and clarity in your mind about what you’re looking for in a role could save yourself many problems later in your career.

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