No matter how knowledgeable and skilled you are, you can struggle to get the jobs you’re after if you fail to shine during the interview process. Employers only have a short period of time in which to assess your suitability for roles, and even the smallest mistake during these question and answer sessions can scupper your chances of success.

This is why it’s so important to nail your interview technique, and to help you do this, it’s a good idea to rehearse your answers to possible questions. It’s much easier to think of clever responses in advance than it is when you’re in the hot seat being scrutinised by a panel. As recruitment service provider STEM points out, although interviews vary in format, there are certain questions that are consistently asked. Here are five of the hardest, along with tips on how to handle them.

1) Why should I hire you?

Although it might seem simple on first hearing, the question ‘why should I hire you?’ in fact catches many people out. The key to answering it effectively is to make sure you know the job description in detail. This way, you can pick out the most important characteristics that the employer is looking for and state how and why your knowledge and skills match them.

2) Why is there a gap in your CV?

If there’s a gap in your CV where you were neither working nor studying, be prepared to answer questions about it. Don’t just settle for saying you were looking for jobs. Instead, talk about any volunteer work or freelance projects you did, or help you provided to family or friends. You can also mention any hobbies you engaged in that could have enhanced your skills for the job you’re applying for.

3) Why are you leaving your current job?

Many employers ask candidates why they’re leaving their current jobs, or why they left their previous roles. If you find yourself being queried on this, it’s important that you present your motives in a positive light. Don’t focus on any disagreements or problems you had with your former employer. Instead, emphasise the fact that you’re looking for new opportunities and challenges.

4) What are your main weaknesses?

You might feel like your interviewers are trying to trap you if they ask you about your weaknesses, but this is common practice. Bear in mind that employers don’t expect you to be perfect and nor do they expect you to reveal your true failings. When answering these sorts of questions, try to present a potential weakness as a strength. For example, you can talk about how you’re a workaholic and how you sometimes neglect friends and family when you’re focussing on a project.

5) Where do you see yourself in three years’ time?

Then there are those classic interview questions that try to get you to imagine where you’ll be at a specific point in the future. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid answers that can come across as arrogant and presumptuous (for example, saying you want to be company president). Instead, discuss more general things like what motivates you and what you hope to work towards.