A job interview is hard enough. There is a certain amount of stress that comes with riding on how you present yourself to get the job you want or need. When you go in for a job interview, you are looking to improve your current life situation. How you answer those questions that get thrown at you is going to make or break you in some cases.
With the stress you’re under and that nature of those questions, it’s hard not so go completely blank. That is pretty much the worst case scenario though. If you stutter, stop making eye contact, blush, and look up at the ceiling for the answer, you may have lost already. By being prepared for those daunting questions, you let your potential employer know that you’re on your game. Practice answering the traditional manager’s questions. The best way to do this is to know the heart of the company so you’ll have to do your research.
Here are 15 of the tricky interview questions and how you can best prepare yourself for them. These questions have underlying meanings so don’t take them at face value. How you answer them will give your interviewee an idea of loyalty, intelligence, how well your work under pressure and how much you want it.
1 Please tell me a bit about yourself.
Yes, it’s hard to talk about yourself but it can also be exciting. Imagine that you are the star of the play and all eyes are on you. You are important and this is your time to shine. This question is harder to answer in the right context than you might believe. You don’t want to come off as plastic, saying some generic thing about your dedication etc.
What a potential employer is really asking here is your early years, education, work history, and career experience. The most important point being your career experience so put a lot of emphasis on that. Keep it short, keep it simple. There are plenty of other questions that will target other aspects of you and your talents.
Talking about your cat or your snowboarding hobby isn’t really what the employer wants to hear. You also don’t want to fall into a head spin of your whole job history. You can talk about your accomplishments and career highlights if you really want to grab their attention. You just have to be really certain on how you portray those accomplishments.
2. How did you hear about the position?
It may seem irrelevant to ask how you heard about the position but what they’re really asking is if you were referred. Employers believe that referrals are going to be the best hires. If you were referred, that’s great. Emphasize that in your answer. Let them know who you know in their organization and how you know them. Of course if the person is your Thursday night drinking buddy, maybe think of a clever way to leave that detail out. If you are lucky to have connections in the company, many of the other questions won’t be so treacherous to answer. You’ve already won a small piece of their hearts over.
A stat through a job seeker survey found that out of 4,347 job seekers and 128 HR professional, there were 71% of HR pros that believed referrals were the best way to find good workers. An employer is going to like your style if you leveraged your network to get the interview. That already shows initiative to them.
It isn’t really a matter of who you know but the fact that you were able to communicate, network and prove you are a team player that the employer sees. When they know that you practice the art of networking to get what you want, they have already seen you in action and it’s impressive. You don’t have to have a good friend at the firm. It could literally just be an acquaintance.
If you weren’t lucky enough to leverage a relationship to get your foot in the door for that interview, you’ll have to explain why you wanted the job. Tell them what caught your eye about the position and why you’re the right person for the job.
3.What do you know about our company?
This is literally only awkward if you didn’t bother to look at what the company is about. If you don’t have a clue, shame on you. When doing for a job interview, you really have to do your homework. Check out their business publications, how they market themselves, find out what their values are.
If you have done your research, you’ll also have to answer the question correctly. Check out newspaper articles on the company to see what actionable measures they take within the business world and the community. Knowing their strategies and initiatives will be important for you to know. Company culture has also become an important part of work life. Check it out and be honest with yourself as to whether it resonates with you. If it does, you should have no problem conveying that.
When you know everything there is to know about a company (or whatever they’re willing to let the public know), you have an advantage over other people applying for the same job. It shows you can find information for one. It also shows that you’re knowledgeable about the company and have come into the job interview with your sights set on what you want. This allows you to tailor all your answers based on what you know about their company. Make sure you let them know that you understand the future goals of the company and how you think you can contribute to that.
4.What are your greatest strengths?
This question is being asked so an employer can find out if your strengths are what they need. This helps them figure out if you’re the right fit essentially. It also lets them know how you feel about yourself. If you have the confidence to look them straight in the eyes and say you are really good at a specific thing, that can be impressive in itself.
This question is a great opportunity to highlight what you’ve done in your work history. Tell them your highlights and the ways you have helped other organizations. Tell them what your greatest skill sets are and what you’ve accomplished in the past.
When you’re telling your potential employer about yourself, don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear. Be real. If you get hired for a job based on skills you say you have and don’t, chances are, you won’t be happy in the company anyway. Give the interviewee specific skills that you feel really confident in. A non-specific answer would be communication. A specific answer would be that you excel at responding to the media if there was a problem with the company that went public.
5.What are your weaknesses?
This is one of the ugliest questions to be asked. It’s like admitting we aren’t perfect which nobody really likes to do. You might worry whether you are going to shoot yourself in the foot by admitting that there is some part of you that tends to fall short. The thing is, the question isn’t really that deep. You don’t have to pour out every negative thing you’ve done.
You should also never say that you don’t have any weaknesses. That just shows how easy it is for you to be totally dishonest. It can also show that you don’t really have self-awareness. That right there is a weakness ironically.
Don’t bluntly say that you’re always late or you don’t work well in a team environment. The best way to answer the question is to show that you know who you are and you get where you struggle at work. Furthermore, explain what lengths you’re going to in order to improve those weaknesses. Say you’re not great at public speaking but you’ve joined an organization to improve that skill, share this information.
6.What is your greatest professional achievement?
This is a common question that gives you the opportunity to highlight a great thing you’ve done in your career. Take advantage of it. Back up the good things you’ve done with specific examples of challenges you faced and how you managed to overcome them.
Hopefully you’ve prepared some real examples of the true impact you had at your company. If you happen to have data or stats, that’s even better. Talk about sales conversions, how you made the company better, and anything else that proves you’re valuable. Quantify the amount of time, resources, and revenue you created or saved for the company.
If you’re a software developer, maybe your software ended up saving the company a lot of money saved in man-hours. This would be something relevant to mention at this time. Try to not just tell your potential employer what you accomplished in the past but also how it improved that company. Employers are particularly interested in knowing how you can make them and save them money.
7.Tell me about a challenge or conflict you faced at work and how you dealt with it.
Conflict resolution in the work place is a touchy subject but it’s important for an employer to know how you handle it. Conflict is reality in the workplace regardless of how professional the environment is. Challenges arise, things get stressful, personalities clash. How do you manage it? That is the question. An employer will want to know how you react to hard decisions and challenges that can be frustrating in the work place.
When an interviewer asks you behavioral questions, they want to know how you dealt with certain situations in the past. Your performance at your last job tells them a lot about how you manage yourself. It goes without saying that employers want you to be able to get along with all kinds of people. Clients, managers, coworkers, service people like the mailman, couriers, and the catering company who drops off sandwiches for a meeting.
When an interviewer asks you this question, they want to know how you will manage conflict. So do your best to clearly answer the question in order to convey how well you deal with conflict. You want to make them believe that you are a good team player. The best way to do this is to explain a past conflict that provides just enough detail to get the back story. Talk about key actions you took to defuse the situation. The main point of the answer is to illustrate how you resolved the problem. Make sure there is a happy ending.
8.Where do you see yourself in five years?
Employers ask this question so they can see where your career is going. They want to know if what you want will fit in with their strategies for the future. If you are planning to leave the country in two years’ time and they plan to expand your department simultaneously, this could be cause for concern. Hiring managers also ask this question to gauge whether you’re setting realistic goals for your career.
They want to know how ambitious you are and what you are hoping to gain from working at their company. Companies are really starting to care more and more about what your goals are. There is a theory that if an employee doesn’t see a path up, they will be looking for a path out.
A company is going to want to ensure they make your skills, experience and interests relevant because if they can’t, you’ll leave. When they know what you want, they can nurture your growth and development within the company. Companies know this is the secret to creating loyal employees that will stick around. Basically, just be honest with what you hope this company can do for you in the future.
9.Why are you leaving your current job?
A bit of an awkward question but valid nonetheless. It’s important to keep everything about your employer as positive as possible. Don’t talk about the downfalls of the operation or your feelings towards it. It’s more important to focus on why you’re excited at new prospects.
Talk about your motivation to learn new things. Talk about the company itself and why you want to work for them. In a way, you’re deviating from your relationship to your current job. Explain that the role in their company is something you feel truly passionate about. You think your talents are best served under that position and the company itself.
If you happened to be let go or laid off that is a simple enough answer that really doesn’t need much more explaining. Focus on the future and what you can do for them.
10.Have you ever been fired and why?
This is not an easy question to put a positive spin on if you experienced a bad termination. The best thing is to remain positive and portray it as a great learning experience. Being fired doesn’t mean that they won’t hire you.
Getting fired is a great growth experience. It teaches you how to be a better worker for future employers. Make sure you tell them that you learned from your mistakes and grew as a result. Talk about how it molded the exemplary employee you’ve become today.
11.Why is there a space between your employment?
Employers often see a gap in your employment as a red flag. Regardless of an economy that caused a lot of people to be off worker for months at a time, employers simply don’t like it. The best thing is to be honest about what you were doing.
If you went on a soul search mission to S.E. Asia, tell them. Explain the positive benefits you got out of doing something like that. How it has allowed you to become a more rounded person. Sometimes, you can be looking for work for months at a time with no luck. Your skills are just not necessary at that particular time. If this is the case, explain that it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Make sure to share what you did while you were unemployed. If you took any developmental courses like pursuing further education for your career, let them know. If you were writing, speaking, blogging, or volunteering, give them the full details. This takes away from the idea that you were just sitting on the couch being lazy. Explain how the things you did will be a benefit to your new role at their company.
12.Can you explain why you changed career paths?
It is said that most people will change their career at least three times during their professional working years. Things are constantly changing. Trends die. Companies go under. There are more lucrative opportunities happening all the time. If you were a web site developer and decided to switch to being a big data specialist, you’d be giving yourself a hefty raise and unlimited work.
When an employer asks this question, this indicates they are not one of those businesses that is living off fifteen minutes of fame. That’s a good thing. The best way to navigate your career decisions and the changes you’ve made is to tell them that their company and the position you’ve applied for is simply a better fit.
Highlight your past experience in a way that can related and transferred to the new role you want. Make them see that you’re versatile as opposed to being flaky.
13.What are your salary requirements?
In some states across the US, companies aren’t allowed to ask how much money you expect to earn for the position. It is a problem for women and minorities who just simply want a job and are afraid to jeopardize their chances. They will often be given a lower starting salary than a Caucasian man.
One way to really know what you can ask for and what is due to you is by visiting sites like Glassdoor or Payscale. They list out what the salary range is for many different roles in the work place. When they ask this question, aim for the high range of the scale. Be realistic about your skills, experience, and education as well. This is all laid out in the websites mentioned.
One of the benefits of working with a recruiter is that they often negotiate these things for you. Tell them what you need to make a living and they will work their magic to get it for you.
14.Are you planning on having children?
This is another question that employers honestly shouldn’t be asking. When you’re being interviewed and someone asks if you plan on having kids, you’re kind of in a corner to answer the question regardless of legalities.
The best thing to do is to redirect the question back to professional points. You could say that it’s not in your mind at the moment as you’re focusing your efforts on your professional life. Talk about how you’re interested in learning about growth within the company.
Answering the question on whether you want kids or not probably won’t help you get the job but it can damage your chances. Try to deviate from it as best as you can.
15.Do you have any questions for us?
You should definitely write out your questions as you go through the company profile. It shows that you are genuinely interested in the job and the company. The interview process should be a two way conversation. You should take advantage of the opportunity to find out if this is a job you really want.
So what matters most to you about this job and the company? Ask about the department and the team. Ask compelling questions that puts the interviewer on the spot. Ask them what the best thing is about working there. Ask them how long they’ve been at the company. You will see an element of humility when you take interest in the person interviewing you and of course the company.
Ask about the new projects that are being planned. Ask about initiatives and whether they do any charity work. Talk to them about strategies that the company is pursuing that you happened to find when you were doing your research on them. Your questions give you the opportunity to look very intelligent and interested.
Hopefully you will find this guidance helpful the next time you are heading into a job interview. Try to stay cool and think of it as though you are also interviewing the company. You are an asset to them and the name of the game is proving that.