You’re not alone if you get caught off guard and tongue-tied when asked those difficult interview questions. Preparing well thought-out answers for these questions will not only impress your potential employer, but will also boost your confidence levels dramatically.

Let’s look at what some of these tricky questions are, and how to respond to them.

Tell us about yourself?

Believe it or not, this is a tough one to nail while trying to not go overboard. This question presents an opportunity to summarise your qualities, skills and in just a short, succinct manner that will give your interviewer a sense of who you are. Some employers do this to measure what type of person you are, and how you will fit in their team dynamic. This is also an opportunity for you to set the tone of the interview and create a relaxed environment that you are confident in.

Typical response: “My name is Olwethu. I grew up in Thembisa, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a stylist. I love fashion because it brings me so much joy to style someone according to their budget and personality, so I decided why not turn this into a career? So I registered at Unisa and received my qualification, and here I am today, applying to be a stylist for your company.”

What do you know about this company?

Make sure that you’ve done sufficient research on the company's mission and values, and how you see yourself fitting into that space. Respond by talking about their culture and why you'd like to work there.

Typical response: “Well, you’re one of the fastest growing fashion houses in South Africa. You were headlining at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and you’ve employed over 50 fashion interns, based on what I read on your website. I’ve followed your company for a while, and you’re one of the first names I think of in this industry, so I was eager to apply and interview here.”

Give us an example of a problem you had to solve, how you did it and what was the outcome?

Think of relevant problems which are related to the job you’re applying for to show your capability to handle and overcome obstacles.

Typical response: “ I missed a deadline due to some of my colleagues not doing their part in the project we were assigned. Fortunately we were given a second chance, and I suggested we start a team weekly meeting so that everyone can be up to date with work progress. Doing that allowed us to keep track of our work and meet our deadline.”

What are your weaknesses?

You always expect an employer to ask you about your strengths, not weaknesses. It’s daunting to answer this question because it’s never comfortable to talk about your weaknesses. Remember employers ask this question to assess how you handle tricky situations; a big tip is to speak of these weaknesses as areas of development rather than things you have no control over.

Typical response: “I’m a shy person and sometimes this prevents me from speaking up. After not doing too well on a project I badly wanted to be a part of, I realised how that can cripple my future in the workplace. I’ve now started to seek help, and speak sooner rather than later when the workload is too much to handle.”

Why should we hire you?

An interview is an opportunity for you to tell the employer why they need you and what you can offer. Use phrases like “adding value’’ to describe what an asset your addition will add to the team and organisation at large.

Typical response: “I have the qualities and attitude to excel in this position. I have almost two years of experience — working in fashion retailers in Gauteng, where I was exposed to all aspects of fashion. I am a hard worker and pride myself on my work ethic. I see myself excelling and adding value to your company because our mission and vision align. There is also huge potential for growth within the company, and I am keen to explore the possibilities.”

Image credit: Ivan Prole