Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ten of the Toughest Questions (and Answers) Interviewers Ask

Written by Thien Van Tran

Congratulations on making it into college! Now you just need to get your hands on some real-world experience in an internship, or maybe a full-time job, and look at you, you grown up! Shouldn't be too hard, with your college degree and all, right? Well, first you have to get past this.

The Interviewer

Depending on how prepared you are, this person may appear different. If you happened to come to an Interviewing Skills workshop or watched the Interviewing Skills webinar, your interviewers may look like this.


But most likely, you'll encounter something like this.

You don't want to get caught off guard and made to look like a big ol' drooling baby, which is never a good look for anything. Not even a drooling baby.

So how can you avoid this? Practice interviewing!! Here are some of the toughest questions you can be asked in any interview. Now, some of these questions may seem familiar to you, and that's because I straight up stole them from the internet they are behavioral questions that can be used in almost any interview.

10.Where do you see yourself in five years?

This one isn't too bad, but it's easy to ramble on if you don't focus on relevant aspirations. For example, you don't need to mention that you want to get married soon, have kids, or lose some weight. You want to hint at the fact that you want to stay with this company for a while and grow alongside it. An example of an answer could be, "I want to secure a civil engineering position with a national firm that concentrates on retail development. Ideally, I would like to work for a young company, such as this one, so I can get in on the ground floor and take advantage of all the opportunities a growing firm has to offer."

9. What sets you apart from our other applicants?

This is where you focus on the value you'll bring to the position. Describe how your previous experiences, skills, qualities, and willingness to work hard make you a valuable asset. Focus on specific skills, but don't forget to show that you are passionate about the position or company.

8. Describe a time when you had to deal with a challenging coworker.

"This one time, I had a disagreement with one of my coworkers, and it was pretty bad, but we worked it out and now we're cool." Or better yet, "Naw, dawg, I'm cool with everyone." Chances are, your interviewer is not as bro as you are, so these may not work as well as you (and I) would believe.

The answer to this question is not, “No.” Conflicts arise in the workplace, and employers want to know that you will be able to resolve them effectively. Everyone has worked with a difficult coworker, so impress your interviewers by describing how you used teamwork to successfully complete the task while remaining professional. Feel free to talk about learning your coworker’s strengths and weaknesses, and respecting the differences in work styles or skill levels between your coworker and you.  The best situations to talk about in response to this question deal with work-related (not personal) conflicts. Describe a time where you and a colleague differed on your approach to an assignment. Then, explain the steps you took to come to an agreement. The anecdote should not end with a description of who “won,” but rather how you reached a compromise with your colleague.

7. What is your greatest failure?

It’s no shame to acknowledge a previous failure – in fact, the ability to recognize your own failures and learn from them is an important quality and will work in your favor, as long as you demonstrate the right attitude towards such experiences. Failures usually provide us with our greatest lessons, and the ability to learn from them shows maturity, self-awareness and an ability to grow. The key here is to acknowledge where you went wrong and show that you learned from your mistake, took a positive lesson from it and moved on. If you can demonstrate that you never made the same mistake again, that will impress your prospective employer.

Be specific – describe the situation and your reaction to it, outline the lesson you learned and how you would approach a similar situation today. For instance, let’s say that in your early career you failed to deliver an important project on time because you didn’t manage your time and prioritize properly – then you can say that you learned an important lesson from this and are now a stickler for organization and keeping things on schedule. Or perhaps in your first project management role you failed to communicate effectively with your team, but ever since then you have ensured that weekly meetings are held where everyone has input and all issues are clarified to make sure everything is on track.

6. Why should we hire you?

The easy answer is that you are the best person for the job. You want to make sure that the interviewer gets this idea, but you don't want to say it so brazenly. Just back it up with what specifically differentiates you.

Drive home exactly why you believe you are uniquely and fundamentally and beyond any shade of a doubt qualified for the specific role being discussed. This is where your homework comes into play and you need to really understand what the employer is looking for in terms of skills, strengths, values, track record and cultural fit. Align your goals and interests with the employer’s and reiterate that you are confident you can not only meet the deliverables and perform the requirements of the role but really excel! Show confidence, enthusiasm and energy without being boastful or arrogant.
5. What is your ideal workplace?

Emphasize your flexibility and your ability to be productive, happy and efficient in any number of environments. This is not the time to demand the corner office with the park view or uninterrupted closed-door policy. Versatility goes a long way in today’s fluid workplaces and you need to show that you are able to focus on the job at hand and “fit in” seamlessly regardless of extraneous factors be they the physical surroundings, team dynamics or general level of noise and activity in the office. Indicate examples of how you have managed to excel in the past in suboptimal work environments and done so quite happily. Convey that you like the challenge of fitting into a new role and know from your history and track record that you can adapt immediately regardless of the environment.

4. Do you have any questions?
If you just respond with, "No, I have already heard what I need to know," it makes you seem disinterested and complacent. However, you should also be careful to avoid the wrong topics. If you ask the wrong questions, you could immediately invalidate the rest of the interview. "How often are you allowed to work from home?," and "How much will I get paid?" are some examples that are not ideal. With these responses, you can unknowingly communicate that your top priorities are avoiding coming into the office as much as possible, and money.

You should ask about 2-3 questions about what you have interests in. Here are a few sample questions:
  • "What is the immediate need on your team that you are hoping to fill with this position?"
  • "What projects can I contribute to right away?"
  • "How would you describe a typical day on this team?"

3. What is your greatest strength?

Don’t be afraid to “toot your own horn.”  This is the time to do it. Hopefully you already know what you’re really good at but if not, make sure you give it some thought.  Also, in the case of an interview, you’ll want your strength to relate to the job.  Maybe you’re a really good runner but if this is a sales job, that probably isn’t relevant.

2. What is your biggest weakness?

The key to answering this age-old question is not to respond literally. Your future employer most likely won't care if your weak spot is that you can't cook, nor do they want to hear the generic responses, like you're "too detail oriented" or "work too hard." Respond to this query by identifying areas in your work where you can improve and figure out how they can be assets to a future employer. If you didn't have the opportunity to develop certain skills at your previous job, explain how eager you are to gain that skill in a new position.

"In my last position, I wasn't able to develop my public-speaking skills. I'd really like to be able to work in a place that will help me get better at giving presentations and talking in front of others."

1. Tell me about yourself

While this might be an intimidating question, it’s actually one of the best opportunities an interviewer can give you because you can answer any way you’d like. It seems like an easy interview question. It's open ended. I can talk about whatever I want from the birth canal forward. Right? Wrong. What the hiring manager really wants is a quick, two-minute snapshot of who you are and why you're the best candidate for this position. So as you answer this question, talk about what you've done to prepare yourself to be the very best candidate for the position. Use an example or two to back it up. Then ask if they would like more details. If they do, keep giving them example after example from your background and experience. Always point back to an example when you have the opportunity.

Prepare for this question by going over your resume as well as the qualifications and responsibilities listed in the original job posting. Then, give your interviewer a short summary of your background and career path thus far, making sure to focus on those experiences that are relevant to the position. The description should end with why you applied for this role, how it fits into your trajectory and why you are excited about it.

Best of luck!

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