Top Tips for Handling Ambiguous Job Interview Questions

Everyone knows that horrendous sinking feeling when an interviewer throws a seemingly unanswerable question at you unexpectedly.

It’s those questions that are so simple, you feel they can’t possibly mean that. Or the ones that are so open ended you don't have a clue where to start. Nothing ruins a day quicker than a question that leaves you speechless.

And while it generally depends on the interviewer themselves as to how difficult and awkward their questions are, there are some things you can do to prepare should the person sat at the other side of the table really want to test your mental agility.

Don’t rush in

If you get a question that you weren't expecting, don’t rush in headfirst for fear of silence. The person interviewing you has asked you for a specific reason, and gauging how you react to a difficult situation is probably one of them.

Just take a moment to think it over in your head, if nothing comes to mind and you find yourself struggling, ask for some clarification. Most questions will be somewhat related to the role, the business or you as an individual, so just take your time and give it a go.

What motivates you?

This is a tricky one that has the potential to be open ended, but on the other hand you don’t want a closed response like ‘money’ as this could make you seem one-track minded.

You may have a set of goals that you want to achieve in your professional life. For example, hitting deadlines, ensuring that your work is completed to a high standard, and so on.

What’s your worst quality?

Upon hearing this, many are tempted to answer with a negative that’s not really a negative at all. Something like: “Oh, my worst quality is that I work too hard”.

Whereas you might think this is a brilliant move in the chess match that is a job interview, it may not be as likely to get you to check mate as you think.

If the interviewers are experienced then chances are they’ve heard this all before from the hundreds of others who thought they had a great idea.

The best bet here is to be honest - within reason anyway! Don’t come out with “I don't work well with others” or “I’m always really late”, but do try and think of some task where you have maybe struggled in the past.

Talk about an issue you’ve had before and how you overcame it, maybe your last role showed you just how organised you need to be or perhaps you had a confidence issue when talking to small audiences. Your answer shouldn’t be so much focussed on your “negatives” but on what measures you have taken to address and dealt with them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

This one really is an interview favourite. It catches so many people out because it can highlight just how much, or how little, you’ve thought about your career.

It’s also a great way for a potential employer to see how much you want the job and if it plays a big part in your future plans. The company could be investing a lot of money in training you and so it’s in their best interests so see how much forward thinking you have done.

There are many ways to answer this question, but really you just have to keep it fairly simple. Make sure you're ambitious, realistic, professional and, most of all, honest.

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