Approaching difficult questions
Ensure you understand the question. Provide relevant evidence, use concise language, and include key words if there is a chance the form will be electronically scanned. Remember to use a variety of experiences to evidence your skills and attributes and be aware that, once you have thought of one experience, it may easily be the first example you recall for answering other questions. Credit colleagues (collectively) when referencing teamwork. This is important for competency-based questions aimed at understanding the role you played.
Give details of your main extracurricular activities and interests to date. What have you contributed and what have you got out of them?
Extracurricular activities can provide evidence of skills and attributes that would be useful in the work place. These may be in teamwork or business awareness. Answer with examples of personal development and achievement.
Give an example of a problem you have solved that required analysis. What methods did you use and what conclusions did you reach?
A competency-based question that requires you to provide an example.
Concentrate on the process you used to solve the problem rather on than the problem itself. Highlight examples of personal initiative, creativity or effective use of resources in solving the problem.
Describe a time when you were working under pressure with competing deadlines and it was impossible to meet them all. What was the situation and what did you do?
This question looks at your ability to work under pressure.
Try to pick an example that reflects well on your organisational skills (i.e. not chaos of your own making). Show how you:
- prioritised the tasks;
- made efforts to renegotiate on the least urgent deadlines;
- delegated tasks to other;
- communicated progress.
What extra efforts did you make to resolve the situation?
Your answer will cover a range of inter-related organisational and communication skills, as well as your attitude.
Tell us about an occasion when you had to communicate complex information. Why did you have to do this and how did you go about it? Did you achieve your desired result?
Employers are looking for particular competencies. Show your ability with a relevant example of your skills in communication with people at various levels.
Remember that communication includes:
- listening effectively;
- using body language.
You may draw on a personal or professional experience.
Be clear, concise and specific as your response will itself demonstrate part of your communication skill.
Describe a difficult team project you have worked on, the result that was achieved and how you achieved it.
This type of question asks you to address:
- time management;
- problem-solving skills.
You need to show how you have worked effectively with others. Describe your role and the roles of the others. What were the hurdles?
You may not have had an experience exactly like this. In that case, you might reply by stating that this is the case, but then give your observations on what someone else did when you were working in a team, or what you might have done.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Your answer will show what you consider to be important or difficult and what you count as success.
If you have the opportunity, discuss possible answers to the question with a careers adviser to determine their weight. You should emphasise why you consider your example a great achievement and say what it has taught you and how you have used the experience. This may be picked up for further discussion in an interview.