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Planning a better future
Planning a better future

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8.8 Tough questions

Everyone has a different understanding about what a tough question is. Here are some tips to help you through them, followed by some examples and how to approach them.

In general:

  • If you feel yourself under pressure, you’ll tend not to listen so acutely. Ask for the question to be repeated, take time and keep to the point. When you’ve answered, stop and leave it at that.
  • Try to show that you understand why the interviewers have asked you the question. If you can show that you know what they’re getting at, you’re halfway to giving an appropriate answer.
  • In response to embarrassing – rather than simply tough – questions, keep your answer simple and short.
  • Always put a positive spin on your answers to difficult questions. If you lack a particular skill, try to emphasise how quickly you learn and can develop this.

Examples of tough questions and how to answer them

  • How much are you worth? Try to delay answering this until you know the responsibilities and scope of the job, and the typical salary ranges. Mention your previous salary and any financial commitments that lead you to raise or lower your expectations. Negotiations like this might seem strange to you if your only experience is of fixed salary scales.
  • What are your strengths? You’ll have become aware of these through your self-analysis. Draw on examples from the three profiles – personal, professional and achievement – discussed in Section 8.5 to produce a rounded picture. Include any particular characteristics that you feel relate to the job.
  • Tell me about yourself. Cover relevant aspects of your life, e.g. early years (if appropriate), education, work experience, significant events.
  • Having worked for one company for so long, what difficulties do you expect in adapting to our culture? Make it clear that you understand the importance of the concept of culture by mentioning the internal diversity of companies and organisations you’ve had contact with. Describe how you’ve adapted to different sub-cultures you’ve encountered.

Activity 9

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

Here are some more examples of interviewers’ questions to think through yourself.

  • Why did you decide to study with …?
  • The classic three-part question: What kind of people do you like to work with? What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with? How have you worked successfully with this difficult type of person?
  • What are your short-, medium- and long-term goals?
  • Why have you decided to change careers?
  • What are the main challenges facing (e.g. the Health Service, education, this company ...) today?
  • Do you feel well equipped to meet those challenges?
  • None of your experience is at managerial level. How would you cope with the transition?
  • How long would you expect to stay here?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • In your present/last job, what do/did you like most/least? Why? What was your greatest success? What has been your biggest failure?
  • What do you see as the most difficult aspect of (e.g. this job, being a manager ...)?
  • How do you react to criticism?

Note down your responses in the space below.

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You've now completed Section 8 - well done! We hope that you have found your study useful and are motivated to carry on with the course. Remember, if you pass the quiz at the end of each block you will be able to download a badge as evidence of your learning and a statement of participation that recognises your completion of the whole course.