In this blog post “Tough Interview Questions Answered” we aim to answer the hardest interview questions you get asked. We want you to email us your toughest interview questions and we will pick the best ones and update this blog monthly. To get your questions answered simply email us on firstname.lastname@example.org The latest questions answered will always appear at the top of the page.
If one of our competitors offered you a job would you accept?
One of the toughest job interview questions that you might be asked is whether you would accept an offer of a job from a major competitor of the company interviewing you. It’s difficult, because if you’re interviewing for a role in that industry, it’s likely you’d be interested in a related role, such as one a competitor might offer.
The interviewer isn’t asking you to be loyal to their company before you’ve even been offered a job. Instead, they want you to demonstrate that you have researched their company’s unique features in that marketplace, rather than just applied to the job without much thought. Think of this question as an opportunity to demonstrate how much you know about what makes that company different from its competitors. Good things to mention at this point include its reputation among previous employees, or features of its employment such as good development opportunities, or any other things that make it unique in terms of product or brand. It’s fine to state examples of what you think you’d get as an employee that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. The company might also be interested to know what would make you feel proud about working there.
If you’re clever, you can include a few bits of flattery in your reply. For example, you might say that you looked into the career path at the competitor company but didn’t feel it offered as many opportunities for development. You might tie it in to your particular interests – for example, if you’ve already expressed an interest in working in a particular area of the company such as R&D, you might mention that the R&D wing of the competitor doesn’t seem as well developed as the one you’re interviewing for.
It’s also a good idea to consider exactly who is interviewing you at this point. If you’re being interviewed by the creative director and brand chief, you might like to make a few remarks about how the competitor’s branding and creative isn’t as inspiring.
It’s important to remain professional when you’re answering a question like this one. Don’t make the mistake of being too critical of competitors, as it’s quite possible that some of the interviewers may have worked at these competitors. Also aim to be sincere. Don’t lay the flattery on too thick and stick to the real competitive advantage that the company has to offer. The interviewers aren’t fishing for compliments for their company: they want to understand why you think you are a good match for it and what your understanding of that match is.
Like many interview questions, it’s important to have researched the answers beforehand so make sure you understand the company’s competitive position before you go in.
How did you choose which University to go to?
The first part of this question should be a relatively straight forward to answer for most people who went to university. However, I think the real question here is what relevance the question has to your ability to perform well in the role you applied for.
At first glance the question seems irrelevant to those who did a degree in a non-vocational subject. After all what has a degree in for example Geography got to do with for example a Head of Sales role? And on the face of it you would be right to think the question was irrelevant. What the interviewer is really probing is your competence to make important decisions. What was your thought process? How did you come to the decision you came to? Ultimately these are areas where you need to be strong in most jobs.
An example answer could be something like this:
“Having not known exactly what career path I wanted to take I decided to study a subject that I found interesting and challenging. After careful consideration I decided to read X as I found it both intellectually stimulating and I felt it would provide me with some of the skills I may need in later life. Once I had decided to read X I looked at a number of university courses, taking into account the reputation of the university, the facilities available, the teaching and examination methods and the availability of cost effective accommodation options for the duration of the course. I wanted to go away to university so that I could take responsibility for myself and learn the skills necessary to be independent. Having taken all these factors into account I decided to read X at Y University as I felt that this was the best option for me.”
Obviously the above answer is rather generic but hopefully you will understand what the above answer does. It shows that although you weren’t sure what you ultimately wanted to do when leaving university that you had carefully considered the options open to you, that you had a clear and logical thought process and that you made a decision based upon the facts as you saw them.
Please email any questions you may have related to you career that you want answering.