How to tell employers what they want to hear

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Employers will throw some curveball questions at you but here's how you tell them what they want to hear.

Interviews and application form questions are purposefully tricky. You will face questions where your answers will satisfy a multitude of queries about your suitability for the role. The subtext in interviews is rife as they prise apart your skills, experience and personality. The only way you can be successful with these sticky questions is to know what they are really asking and how to tell them what they want to hear.

So here are 5 typical questions you will face in your graduate interview and how to answer them.

1. What are your weaknesses?

Difficulty rating: 7 / 10

What they want

These questions are completely loaded and nearly always come up in interviews. They are effectively asking you to expose your shortfalls - the last thing you want to do in an interview. You may be asked to list three or four weaknesses you perceive for yourself - but you must be honest.

What you should tell them

Always prepare your weaknesses (and strengths) before you go into the interview and don't worry that they will harm your chances too much. Employers understand that you are not the finished article or the candidate of their dreams. One key aspect you must show is your awareness of these weaknesses and you can caveat them with steps you are taking to improve.

2. What has been your greatest achievement?

Difficulty rating: 5 / 10

What they want

Employers want to understand what you regard as a big achievement but they also want to see where your priorities are. You may well be worried that your greatest achievement is not viewed with the same prestige you feel it deserves. Don't let this get you down, you should be proud of your biggest achievement - no matter what other people say.

What you should tell them

There is a fine balance about what you should count as a greatest achievement as these things are so personal. Don't be boring with your achievement and don't think employers will be impressed with grades or You might have overcome a phobia, reached a personal goal in sport, worked on an exciting and meaningful project - whatever it is you should tell the truth. Let it show off your personality as well as your hard work and commitment.

3. What are your hobbies?

Difficult rating: 4 / 10

What they want

Employers want to know what you are like as person and that you will be able to bring something to the office beyond your skill set. You should never underestimate how important it is to come across as likeable and a good fit for their working environment.

What you should tell them

Like all interview questions, you should tell them the truth. Everyone socialises and goes to the pub, but what is it that makes you unique. Are you a keen student of Ancient Egypt? Do you play crocket? Life drawing? Trainspotting? Whatever it is - make it unique.

4. Why do you want to work for this company?

Difficulty rating: 8 / 10

What they want

Employers are always interested in why candidates have chosen them in particular. They like to know especially why them. Sometimes it is vanity but more often it is to see if you understand the company's ethos and values and to see if you can match them with yours. Either way, the simple answer of "It's a job and you will pay so I can do fun things on weekends" will not suffice.

What you should tell them

It is important you do your research before any interview and you can always do more research. You should know the company inside out before you set foot in an interview room. However, it only takes one key thing that appeals to you about your role that can be the sweetener. For example, you may be allowed to take control on projects and you'd like the leadership opportunities. Or their training programme looks well rounded and different to their competitor's for reasons X, Y and Z.

5. Why do you want this job?

Difficulty rating: 11 / 10

What they want

No matter what job you apply for, the interviewer will want to know why you want the job. Again, "cash for fun stuff and eating" is not a viable answer, however finding a real motivation might take a bit of soul searching. It is not an easy question to answer but think hard about why you have chosen that career, that role and at that company.

What you should tell them

You might have known what your calling is since you were in nappies, but many won't. Employers want to see you are prepared and suitable for the role, but also it is something you genuinely want to do. Motivation is vitally important when you are spending a minimum of 40 hours a week doing it. So be honest - why are you devoting a significant part of your life to this endeavour?

We're afraid only you can answer that.