In the first of our new series, CEO of Excel Recruitment Barry Whelan takes you through some tricky interview questions designed to really test you and more importantly, how to ace them.



In the below examples, the interviewer ask seemingly simple questions that get the interviewee to reveal information they may have been trying to conceal; questions that break through the traditional interview noise and clutter, and get to the raw information.

How would you describe yourself in one word?

Why do they ask this? The question is likely being asked to find out your personality type, how confident you are in yourself and how you would ‘Fit’ the organisation recruiting.

How does this question trip you up? This question can be a challenge, particularly early on in the interview, because you don’t know what personality type the company is looking for and whilst there is no point pretending to be something you are not, there are also many ways (and Personality Types) to get the job done. People are multifaceted, so putting a short label on oneself can seem nearly impossible.

What response should you give? Always stick with the conservative route. For instance if you’re reliable and dedicated, but your friends praise your clever humour, go with the former.

If you’re applying for an accounting job, the one word descriptor should not be “creative,” and if it’s an art director position, you don’t want it to be, “punctual,” for example.

In general, most employers today are seeking team players that are level headed under pressure, positive, honest, reliable, and dedicated, however, it would be a mistake just to rattle off adjectives that you think will be well received when in fact this is an opportunity to describe how your best attributes are a great match for the job as you see it.

How does this position compare to others you are applying for?

Why do they ask this? They’re basically asking ‘What other jobs are you applying for?’ The recruiting manager is just trying to find out how active you are in the job market. Once you open up, they want to see how you speak about other companies or positions you’re interested in and how honest you are.

How does this question trip you up? If you tell them that theirs is the only job that you have applied for that will send up a red flag. Very few job applicants only apply to the one single job — so they may assume you’re being dishonest. However, if you openly speak about other positions you’re pursuing, and you speak favourably about them, the hiring manager may worry that you’ll end up taking another job elsewhere, and they won’t want to waste their time.

What response should you give? Leave things open, express your desire to find the right role. Perhaps tell them that there are several companies with whom I am interviewing, however, I’ve not yet decided the best fit for me. This response is positive and protects you from having to bad mouth or talk up competitors.

What kind of manager and colleagues have you had the most and least success with, and why?

Why do they ask this? Interviewers are trying to ascertain if you generally have conflicts with people or personality types. They also want to know how you work best.

How does this question trip you up? You can run the risk of appearing difficult if you admit to unsuccessful interactions with others. You may also inadvertently describe some of the attributes of your prospective Manager.

What response should you give? Firstly, concentrate on giving more good than bad news. It’s always best to start out with the positive and downplay the negatives. You don’t want to be evasive, but this is not the time to outline all your personality shortcomings either. Here you have an opportunity to speak generally about traits that you admire in others, yet appear flexible enough to work with a variety of personality types.

For an example try, ‘I think I work well with most people and a variety of personalities’.

What would you do if you won €6 Million tomorrow?

Why do they ask this? They want to know whether you’d still work if you didn’t need the money. Your response to this question tells the employer about your motivation and work ethic. They may also want to know what you’d spend the money on, or whether you’d invest it. This tells them how responsible you are with your money, and how mature you are as a person.

How does this question trip you up? Questions that are out of left field can ambush you, causing you to lose composure. They have nothing to do with the job at hand, and you may wonder if there is any significance to them. If you don’t pause and gather your thoughts before you respond to a question like this, you might lose your cool or come back with a clanger.

What response should you give? They want to hear that you would continue working because you’re passionate about what you do and they also want to know you would make smart financial decisions. If you’d do something irresponsible with your own money, they’ll worry you’ll be careless with theirs.