March 22, 2021

Helping You Choose The Right Career!

How to Answer Difficult Job Interview Questions

4 min read

5 Difficult Interview Questions (And How to Answer Them)

Some people dread job interviews, and some people thrive at job interviews. Regardless of the category you fall into, there are those interview questions we all hate. You know the ones I am talking about. They are the questions that stump you during your interview preparations or the questions you complain to your friends about. Since I despise them as much as the next person, I am here to help you figure out where to begin building your answers.

Tell me about yourself

Clearly your answer should be different than the one you would give at a bar. Employers are not looking to hear about your spouse, kids, cats, siblings, Beanie Baby collection, etc. Instead, your answer should encompass your career goals, past experience, and why you want this job or how it would help you take a step towards your goals.

For instance, my answer would be along the lines of “As you can see from my resume, I spent my undergraduate studies focused on biological sciences and research with the intention of applying to medical school. However, once I gained experience working in health care, I realized that becoming a physician would not be a good fit for my personality or my goals to improve health care on a national scale. Therefore, I obtained a Master of Public Policy in order to further health care and social policy and address the problems I witnessed. I believe this position/your organization would help me reach this goal by improving my x, y, z skills. (Or) I believe the analytical skills I obtained through my science background would allow me to do x, y, and z at your company.”

Why did you leave your previous employer? Why are you looking for a new job?

The big no-no with this question is mentioning anyone but you. If you reference old coworkers, bosses, etc., consider the interview over. Even if you left because of personality differences, you can spin it in a positive light, such as no opportunity for growth or a new challenge. The same goes for being terminated. Do not lie about it as they will find out one way or another. It is better to hear it from you upfront. Despite being terminated, you can reflect positively by noting what you learned from the experience, whether you stubbornly still believe it was someone else’s fault or not. The answer to these questions should always be short and positive. Show them your resilience and ambition!

Describe a time you made a mistake or encountered a difficult situation

The same goes for this question. You can describe the mistake or situation without placing any responsibility on anyone else. Instead, you should focus on how you fixed the mistake and what actions you have taken since to prevent it from reoccurring.

Give me an example of team work

Basically what employers are really asking is if you know what makes a good team or what it takes for a team to function. This is a good time to drop buzz words such as communication, trust, efficiency, and appreciation. It is also smart to mention conflict resolution within the team. Knowing how to work within an agreeable team is easy, but working with a team of bullies or know-it-alls is much more difficult. So how did you handle those situations? If you use an instance of poor team work, explain what went wrong and how it could have been altered for a positive outcome.

What is your biggest weakness?

This is the most dreaded of all the dreaded interview questions. You must admit a flaw to someone that you want to like and hire you. Therefore, there are a few absolutely wrong answers. This also means there are plenty of right answers!

Let’s start with the avoid-at-all-costs answer. Under no circumstances should you state that you have no weaknesses or cannot think of any. Does this really need any explanation? No one is perfect, including you.

The other answer you are expected to avoid is perfectionism. Sadly for those of us who are truly neurotic perfectionists, this has been over used, and the employers will simply roll their eyes at you. Then you will proceed to convince them you are actually a neurotic perfectionist, and everything goes down from there. (Yes, I had this happen.)

The key to answering this question is turning that frown upside-down. In other words, you have to make a negative self-assessment into a positive one. For example, you may admit that you are not great at communicating after being ridiculed. It is something a great number of people struggle with. Add to your answer the details of how you are working to improve upon this and be specific. No one will blame you for having flaws if you recognize them and work on improving.

Hopefully your next interview will be a bit less stressful, and always remember that your questions for them are as important as their questions for you.

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