Recruitment expert reveals how to answer difficult interview questions

Recruitment expert reveals how to answer the MOST difficult interview questions – including your ‘greatest weakness’ and ‘favourite hobbies’

  • One in five bosses plan to make furloughed staff redundant when scheme ends  
  • Recruitment expert has shared tips to equip you with the skills for interviews 
  • Tony Gregg, CEO at Anthony Gregg Partnerships, said you should ‘stay calm’
  • Also revealed how to maximise your CV and what hobbies to reveal to employers

It’s undoubtedly a bleak time in the jobs market, with one in five bosses planning to make furloughed staff redundant when the scheme ends this month.  

Brexit, the pandemic and furlough have created a perfect storm for the UK employment market, meaning many industries are fighting hard to survive the ongoing pandemic, and competition for jobs is fierce.

If you’re on the hunt for a new role after losing your job – or simply desperate to get out of your current one – it’s never been more important to ensure you stand out from the crowd.

To equip you with the skills for those virtual interviews, FEMAIL spoke with Tony Gregg, chief executive at Anthony Gregg Partnerships, a high end recruitment search business placing senior and board level roles across the UK and Europe. 

Tony recruits top retail director talent from the likes of John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Fortnum & Mason and SCS into their new roles. 

To equip you with the skills for those virtual interviews, FEMAIL spoke with Tony Gregg, chief executive at Anthony Gregg Partnerships, a high end recruitment search business placing senior and board level roles across the UK and Europe (stock image). 

Here he shares the top ten questions most frequently asked in interviews – and how you should best answer them.

Tony revealed: ‘There are some questions that are asked frequently in interviews and you should prepare your answers beforehand. 

‘If you are faced with a difficult question, make sure you stay calm, don’t get defensive, and take a moment to think about your response before you answer.’

Meanwhile he said interviewees should ‘personalize responses as much as possible.’   

Question 1. Tell me about yourself  

Tony revealed interviewees should be ‘brief’ and ‘to-the-point’ when answering questions during the discussion. 

He said: ‘Identify some of your main attributes and memorize them.

‘Describe your qualifications, career history and range of skills, emphasizing those skills relevant to the job on offer.’ 

Maximise your CV by making it ‘obvious’ why you’re the right person for the role  

Tony revealed: ‘A CV should not be a CV that fits all job opportunities. 

‘A great CV takes time and effort, creating a document which highlights your skills and experience and maps to those required and described in the job description. 

‘Imagine you are the potential employer, sifting through lots of CVs.

You should want to make their life as easy as possible by making it obvious why you are the right person for the opportunity and at least warrant an interview.’ 


Q2. What have your achievements been to date? 

Tony advised highlighting a recent achievement could be beneficial in an interview scenario.

He said: ‘Select an achievement that is work-related and fairly recent. 

‘Identify the skills you used in the achievement and quantify the benefit it had to the company.’

Tony continued: ‘For example, saying, “My greatest achievement has been to design and implement a new sales ledger system, bringing it in ahead of time and improving our debtors’ position significantly, saving the company $50,000 per month in interest”.’ 

Q3. Are you happy with your career to date?

The recruitment expert explained: ‘This question is really about your self-esteem, confidence and career aspirations.

‘The answer must be “yes”, followed by a brief explanation as to what it is about your career so far that’s made you happy. 

‘If you have hit a career plateau, or you feel you are moving too slowly, then you must qualify your answer.’

Q4. What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it? 

Tony said: ‘The purpose of this question is to find out what your definition of difficult is and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. 

‘In order to show yourself in a positive light, select a difficult work situation which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences.

‘Explain how you defined the problem, what the options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. 

‘Always end on a positive note.’

Tony Gregg, pictured, is chief executive at Anthony Gregg Partnerships, a high end recruitment search business

Q5. What do you like about your present job? 

Calling this one of the most ‘straightforward’ questions asked in an interview, Tony  explained: ‘All you have to do is make sure that your ‘likes’ correspond to the skills etc. required in the job on offer. 

‘Be enthusiastic; describe your job as interesting and diverse but do not overdo it – after all, you are looking to leave.’ 

Q6. What do you dislike about your present job?

Tony said: ‘Be cautious with this answer.

‘Do not be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses that will leave you open to further problems.’

He continued: ‘One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company, such as its size or slow decision-making processes etc. 

‘Give your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job.’

Mention hobbies where you work as part of a team  

Tony explained: ‘Chatting about personal interests are a great way to begin an interview, especially if they are a shared interest with the interviewer. 

‘Already you will have something in common – a connection.

‘But the biggest reason as to why hobbies are included in the CV is that they create an ice-breaker, therefore are a great way to get you feeling a little more comfortable and more relaxed.

 ‘Hobbies which involve activities like reading are OK to mention. 

‘What will help you stand out, is including other activities where you perform as part of a team. 

Also providing examples of ways in which you use your spare time to stay fit, show that you are motivated and look after your well-being.


Q7. What are your strengths? 

The recruitment expert said: ‘This is one question that you know you are going to get so there is no excuse for being unprepared. 

‘Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. 

‘List three or four proficiencies e.g. your ability to learn quickly, determination to succeed, positive attitude, your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal. 

‘You may be asked to give examples of the above so be prepared.’

Q8. What is your greatest weakness?

Tony explained there are several ways to answer the difficult ‘weaknesses’ question.

He said: ‘Do not say you have none – this will lead to further problems. 

‘You have two options – use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience, not ability, on your part in an area that is not vital for the job. 

‘The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered to be a strength, and the steps you have taken to combat it.’

He continued: An example would be, “I know my team think I’m too demanding at times – I tend to drive them pretty hard but I’m getting much better at using the carrot and not the stick”.  

Q9. Why do you want to leave your current employer? 

The recruitment expert revealed candidates should remain positive when discussing current employment.

He said: ‘State how you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, experience and a change of environment. 

‘Do not be negative in your reasons for leaving. It is rarely appropriate to cite salary as your primary motivator.’

Q10. Why have you applied for this particular job? 

According to Tony, asking this question reveals the interviewer may be looking for how good of a fit you could be in the role.

He said: ‘The employer is looking for evidence that the job suits you, fits in with your general aptitudes, coincides with your long-term goals and involves doing things you enjoy. 

‘Make sure you have a good understanding of the role and the organization, and describe the attributes of the organization that interest you most. ‘

Other questions to consider when preparing for a job interview  

  • How does your job fit in to your department and company?
  • What do you enjoy about this industry?
  • Give an example of when you have worked under pressure.
  • What kinds of people do you like working with? 
  • Give me an example of when your work was criticized. 
  • Give me an example of when you have felt anger at work. 
  • How did you cope and did you still perform a good job? 
  • What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with? 
  • Give me an example of when you have had to face a conflict of interest at work.
  • Tell me about the last time you disagreed with your boss. 
  • Give me an example of when you haven’t got on with others.
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group? Why? 
  • This organization is very different to your current employer – how do you think you are going to fit in? 
  • What are you looking for in a company? 
  • How do you measure your own performance? 
  • What kind of pressures have you encountered at work?
  • Are you a self-starter? Give me examples to demonstrate this?
  • What changes in the workplace have caused you difficulty and why?   
  • How do you feel about working long hours and/or weekends? 
  • Give me an example of when you have been out of your depth. 
  • What have you failed to achieve to date? 
  • What can you bring to this organization? 

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