Don’t get tripped up by these tricky five.
You’ve done your homework, you’re looking sharp and you’re brimming with confidence for your job interview. From the opening handshake, you feel like you’re in control and this job is yours.
That is, until the interviewer asks that one really awkward, tricky interview question. How do you answer it without making yourself look bad? Could you tank all of your hard work with just one bad answer?
The answer is sadly, yes. You can. There are a lot of difficult interview questions out there that interviewers like to ask to trip you up a little and see how you handle it. The question may actually seem harmless enough until you start to answer and realize that you’re quickly headed down a bad path with your answer.
You have to be ready for these questions so you can give answers that present you in a positive light and allow you to sidestep those little traps. Here are five common - but tricky - interview questions and how to handle them.
1. Tell me about yourself/How would you describe yourself?
A chance to talk about yourself? Great! Wait a second. This could be a trap. It is a trap. Keep these things in mind with this tricky interview question:
This isn’t an invitation to brag about everything amazing you’ve ever done professionally or otherwise. Trying too hard to make yourself look good just comes across as arrogance, and nobody likes that.
At this point the interviewer doesn’t care about your pets or your grandmother’s cooking. Keep your answer geared towards your professional life in a realistic, but positive way.
Avoid using too many job interview clichés like, “I’m a people person” or “I’m a team player.” Ugh. They get used so much that they really have no meaning anymore.
To keep in mind when crafting your answer: Keep the focus on the position and the company. What trends are they following and how would you help them do that? Do they put emphasis on the local culture or charitable events? Connect the things that you care about and do well with, with the important values of the company and the particular position you want. It’s all about making the interviewer see you as a perfect fit for that job. They say, “Tell me about yourself,” but what they want to hear is “What makes you great for this job?”
2. What’s your biggest weakness?
Oh yeah. It’s great when they ask you about your biggest strengths because that’s a green light to go ahead and brag a little. Tell them why you would be a rockstar in their company. But, about halfway through your answer you realize the next, notoriously difficult interview question is coming and a little bead of sweat starts to form on your forehead. Answers for this question can make you look bad or downright ridiculous if you’re not careful.
Perhaps you know that you struggle with punctuality or you really don’t like working on team projects. Believe it or not, this is not the time to bring things like this up (Hint: Never bring them up. Work on getting better about those things). You don’t want to highlight any flaws that could take you out of the running for the job.
To keep in mind when crafting your answer: The great answers to tough interview questions focus on things you want to do instead of things you do poorly. Are there certifications you would like to get or particular skills you’d like to improve upon? You want to present yourself as fully qualified for this job, but think about those things that could take you to the next level and leverage them as your weaknesses while showing your desire to add them to your resume.
3. Why do you want to leave your current job?
If you’re currently employed and yet you’re interviewing for a new job, that means something has prompted you to make a move. Like many of these questions, what the interviewer is looking for is any type of red flag. Here are some answers you want to avoid and how the interviewer may interpret them:
“I can’t stand my boss.” I wonder what your boss would say about you? There are 2 sides to every story. Don’t bad mouth your old boss. Red flag!
“It doesn’t pay enough.” Ah, so you’re only in it for the money. You aren’t really passionate about your work. Red flag!
“It’s a bad company.” So you jump ship as soon as you disagree with how your company does something and then bad mouth them? Red flag!
“They made me do things that weren’t part of my job.” You’re unwilling to help out and reach beyond your written job definition? Not a team player. Red flag!
These are all valid reasons for moving on, but you don’t really want to broadcast that. In short, you want to avoid any answer that sheds a negative light on your current job or anyone working there. Keep the focus on you and what you want for the future.
To keep in mind when crafting your answer: With these difficult interview questions, talk about what you’ve accomplished at your current job and how you feel ready to take the next step. Mention some tasks or attributes in the new position that would be excellent learning experiences for you. It’s not about where you’ve been, it’s about where you want to go.
4. Tell me how you’ve handled a difficult situation.
Chances are that you’ve faced some awkward, difficult, and possibly even dangerous situations on the job. How you handle them says a lot about you as an employee, a person and possibly as a manager.
The key to this tricky interview question is to make sure that you talk about a situation that wasn’t your fault. If you’re handling a difficult situation, but it’s obvious that you created your own troubles, it doesn’t look good. The interviewer wants to see how you handle difficulty and if are able to think outside the box and keep the company’s big picture in mind.
To keep in mind when crafting your answer: Try to think of a time when outside forces like weather or clients created a stressful situation. Did you step in? Were you able to create a solution that could make everyone happy? This is your chance to show that you have problem solving skills.
5. Why would you like this job?
There could be any number of reasons you’d like the job that you are interviewing for at this moment. Perhaps it’s an upward career move. It may be a better commute. You are attracted to the salary, benefits or even the company’s public image. Any of these are legitimate reasons for wanting to land a new job. However, by answering this question, you will be prioritizing some of these things. You want to avoid making it appear that you’re just in it for the money or prestige and you certainly don’t want to mention if you hate your current job. Put yourself on the other side of the desk. If you were interviewing a candidate, what would you want them to say?
To keep in mind when crafting your answer: Put the focus on the company. If you’ve done your research, you can talk about some great things that the company has done. Then, you can talk about the specific position and what excites you about it. Discuss what you bring to the table to help move the company forward. Really what they’re asking is why should we hire you? Give them good reasons.
Tricky interview questions are a part of nearly every job interview. If you want to come off sounding intelligent and prepared, do a little research on common job interview questions and have some answers ready in your mind. If you do get a surprise question, just remember to keep the focus on the positive. If every answer you give helps to paint a picture of how you are the right fit for this job, the interviewer will see it too.
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