Ask the experts: Acing your interview

I suppose many of us have been asked a tricky — or slightly off-the-wall — question during a job interview.

I did spare a thought however for teenagers facing an interview at Oxford University when I recently read about the questions they could be asked. Candidates might be handed a cactus and asked to describe it, or quizzed about what kind of musical instrument they would invent, according to a recent Guardian article. It kind of puts being asked your strengths and weaknesses in perspective, doesn’t it?

However, far from trying to terrify prospective candidates, the university has released sample interview questions in a bid to explain the reasoning behind the apparently bizarre inquiries — plus what they want to see from candidates.

The prestigious university’s approach to interviewing is often echoed by employers — and, rather than trying to catch you out or embarrass you, these sorts of outlandish questions are asked to uncover information standard interview questions don’t suss out — as well as testing your ability to handle stress, according to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal Europe.

To help you make sure you’d have the response to a killer question, we’ve assembled a panel of experts to answer all your questions about job interviews. So, whether you’re struggling with nerves, finding it hard to know what to expect or you’d like more advice about improving your chances of landing a job, join us on 2 November at 1pm.

Rowena Simpson is business development manager for, a global online job board for the oil and gas industry, and the recently-launched Rowena offers experience and insight in successful CV writing and interview techniques, and how to succeed in the online job market.

Denise Taylor is a chartered psychologist, an award-winning career coach with Amazing People and an expert in assessment and recruitment. Denise is the author of How to get a job in a recession and Now you’ve been shortlisted.

Trevor Penton is MD of Free D Coaching. He is also a communication coach and former RADA actor.

Elizabeth Bacchus is a career coach, change management consultant and founder of The Successful CV Company — a CV and cover letters provider.

Rowan Manahan is founder of career management consultancy Fortify Services and author of The Ultimate CV.

Clare Whitmell is a Guardian Careers expert and qualified business communication trainer. She is also a blogger on CV writing and job hunting tips at

Katie Insley is a manager at Hays Human Resources, recruiting for HR professionals across the east Midlands and East Anglia. Katie specialises in finding senior level HR professionals in interim and permanent positions.

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