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ImageDon't get caught out at a job interview – prepare for some of these tough questions and make your next interview the best one ever!

Tough Interview Question 1: "Tell me about yourself"

While this is often a question that strikes terror into the hearts of candidates, you should see this as an opportunity to build rapport with the interviewer and to show them a little of who you are.

Give a brief summary of your career in chronological order, highlighting the companies you have worked for and some of the positions that you held. Bearing in mind the skills that you want to demonstrate to the interviewer, include one or two major achievements that illustrate these. If you are still early in your career, include more information about academic or extra-curricular activities that show these skills.

You should keep your answer to three minutes at most and stick to the highlights – the interviewer will ask you for more detail if they want it. Keep your tone lively to hold their attention and don't get sidetracked.

Tough Interview Question 2: "What do you believe you would bring to this role?"

If you haven't done your homework about the company and the job role, this is where you might just as well get up and leave.

Assuming you have taken the time to find out what you need to know, you can use this question to demonstrate what you have learned about the company and the job in question. Making reference to the organisation's products, markets, strategy and competition, you should explain where and how your skills and experience will add value. Show the interviewer why you are motivated to join their firm and what they will gain by taking you on board.

Tough Interview Question 3: "What are your weaknesses?"

This question sometimes comes disguised as 'What would your team/manager say are your weaknesses?' Usually, this question is an attempt by the interviewer to see how self-aware you are and how you address gaps in your competence.

Be honest but also be aware that this is not the place to admit to a bad character trait or confess to ignorance about a skill that is critical to the job you are after! Pick on something that is not key to the job and show how you are working towards improving the weakness; it is often better to pick on a skill that you can learn fairly easily or are already in the process of improving.

Tough Interview Question 4: "Why did you leave your last job?"

Every employer is going to want to know why you left your job or why you are planning to move on. Make sure you prepare your leaving story carefully; be honest and factual, but brief, in your reply and move the focus of your response to the future and the kind of opportunity you are now seeking. Remember that an employer will ask for a reference and will find out if you are not being completely honest.

Every employer is going to want to know why you left your job or why you are planning to move on.

If your reason for leaving was due to redundancy, de-personalise your response – 'the role I was in was no longer needed by the company'/'my position was one of a number that were no longer viable for the company's new direction' – and stick to the facts.

Don't be critical of your last employer and instead show your ability to move on and to be professional. Turn your answer around to highlight the skills and experience that the role gave you. This may give you the chance to explain your desire to move on to more challenging opportunities.

Tough Interview Question 5: What are your salary expectations?

This is the question that's always best avoided until you actually have a job offer in front of you, but this might not always be possible! Before you go into the interview, it is useful to have some idea of the salary and/or package that you would ideally want – and how far you are prepared to compromise. You can then state the salary range that you would expect, showing that you can be flexible. Consider the whole package on offer and not just the base salary as this can make a major difference in terms of your total take-home income.

If you can't postpone salary negotiations until a firm offer has been made, you should do some research to find out comparable salaries for the job role and the industry that you are going after. Some job sites provide salary checking information and reviewing the kind of salaries on offer for similar jobs will also give you an idea of the salary ranges.

Another approach is to reply by asking what the normal salary or salary range is for the role in question. While not dismissing the issue of compensation, keep the focus on the fact that you see this job as a wonderful opportunity to add value to the company and to progress your career.

Need some help to prepare for interviews? Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, our experienced careers coaches can work with you – on an individual or group basis – to help you make the right impact at interview.

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