How to prepare for the questions you fear

So, you are preparing for interview, do you know the questions you really don’t want to be asked? Have a short – well, hopefully short – list of questions that would rattle you if they came up and you weren’t prepared, writes Mary O’Brien-Killeen, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

There’s no point burying your head in the sand and hoping these questions don’t come up. It’s much better to anticipate them and have some answers at the ready.

Everyone has a question or two they prefer not to be asked, a dark corner they’d like to hide away. It might be a short-lived previous employment stint, or a skills or education deficit. Nobody has every last duck in a row. Other candidates won’t let those questions derail their interviews – and neither should you.

What matters is how well you are able to account for, or explain away, the things worrying you. A key question to ask yourself is: are the interview panel likely to spot the issue?

If they are, you should consider addressing the matter proactively. If, for example, a deficit in your education jumps out at them, you could introduce it before they get to it – talk about future education plans (if you have them in train, as opposed to some hazy future point ), or how your work experience compensates for the education shortcoming, or how you have previously learned quickly on the job to overcome what you are lacking in qualifications.

The fact that they have called you to interview implies that they don’t see this shortcoming as a debarring factor. So, try to offset it as best you can, as I outline above, and hopefully the full package you offer will be good enough for them.

Dealing with the question on the front foot allows you to get it out of the way, rather than spending the whole interview waiting for the bomb to fall.

What questions would send a shiver down your spine?

It could be the fact that you don’t have management experience, or you are not familiar with a particular software programme – whatever it is, know it, prepare for it, and decide whether or not you need to bring it up before they do.

By identifying it in advance, you give yourself a chance of gainsaying it. If you run away from it, and hope against hope that it won’t come up, you leave yourself ill-prepared.

If the deficit doesn’t jump out at them, you may not need to proactively address it, but you still need to be ready to handle it if it comes up.

A little preparation will go a long way here. The confidence you get from being ready to deal with the trickiest questions will relax you overall, rather than allowing you to become fearful or defensive: human nature being what it is, there is a tendency to fixate on the worst things you have to offer.

By doing your preparation, and knowing what you have or have not written on your application form/CV/cover letter, you reduce the problem to its rightful size, and ensure it doesn’t infect your entire interview. Remember, nobody has every last duck in a row.


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