How to deal with difficult interview questions?

Job interviews become a nightmare for some and tough for others but never a piece of cake for anyone. If we’re not well-prepared, some questions can leave us frantically searching for an answerand that shows through our body language visible to the interview panel. During a job interview, we may be asked a variety of questions, some professional, some personal, some relevant and some very irrelevant but that is the nature of the corporate life. I am personally not in favour of asking questions about candidates’ personal lives.

While some interview questions are common and expected, others may surprise you. It is important to prepare as much as possible for unexpected scenarios. You can do this by preparing a few examples and asking others in your industry for unexpected questions they’ve been asked in interviews. You can also ask for a moment to come up with a thoughtful answer.

Here we are capturing just five key questions most interviewers ask simply to learn more about the candidates. We may capture more questions in article 2 of this series.

1. Tell us about yourself

Interviewers would likely ask this question at the very outset in the interview process, and candidates might have to answer it in early-stage phone or zoom interviews. This one question needs to be prepared quite professionally. During interviews, we all hear very interesting answers starting with the date, time and place or birth to the schooling and so on and so forth. This all isn’t required.

To answer this question, one should provide a quick synopsis of one’s education, highlights of his/her professional experience and achievements and what brought him/her to the position applying for.

2. What’s your greatest achievement?

Employers might ask this question to understand what you consider to be your most valuable accomplishments i.e. what is your understanding of accomplishment? What you regard as a milestone achieved? Can you differentiate between an ordinary task assigned vs. a real project?

To answer, think about a most recent instance that is ideally related to the job in some way. Your greatest achievement can be anything that portrays you in a positive light or an assignment that you’re proud of accomplishing. Briefly explain the achievement, your role in it and how did you add value.

3. Tell us about your strengths

During the interview process, it’s likely that the hiring manager will ask you to describe your strengths at some point. Many candidates probably wonder how to answer what are your strengths without bragging too much or risk appearing narcissistic. It’s important to be prepared for this question and have a statement ready. Even if you aren’t asked this question, you will be aware of your strengths and what you can bring to the position.

Rather than just blurting out, “I’m detail-oriented and hard-working”, or merely listing off your strengths, you can craft a compelling way to deliver your story while highlighting what you can bring to the position. Make sure to include a range of strengths, including knowledge-based skills, skills that you can share with teams, soft skills and personal traits to demonstrate your versatility.

4. What are your weaknesses?

Interviewers can ask this very question at any stage during the interview. Sometimes, they ask weaknesses before strengths and vice-versa. Candidates may sound arrogant if they say that they aren’t aware of or they don’t have any weaknesses or flaws, Be realistic. As humans, we all have our own limitations. One should appear humble and willing to learn without scaring off the hiring manager with a monumental weakness that you can’t overcome.

Preparation and having a response ready are paramount to a successful job interview. When thinking about your weaknesses, it’s essential to choose attributes that you are proactively working on or demonstrate steps you are taking to turn that weakness into a strength. Telling a relevant story or elaborating on how you are working to change this weakness can only strengthen your case.

5. Where do you see yourself in next 5 years?

For most candidates in junior roles, it may be difficult to predict where they’ll be in next five years but candidates in mid-careers or senior level must clearly know the answer. This would reflect positively on their career orientation and futuristic approach. By asking this very question, the potential employer wants to assess that how a candidate plans on staying with the company for the long haul and how much ambitious he/she is.

For example, if you’re interviewing for a startup don’t say, “I want to own my own company in five years.” Don’t choose a role in the future that’s completely different from the role that you’re being interviewed for.

Key takeaways:

Lastly, No matter how hard one practices for an interview, chances are one will still face questions in any interview that one didn’t expect. Although this might not bring us much comfort, the good thing is there are several things wecan do before and during an interview that will allow you to better handle these situations with internal courage and good sense of humour.

It is also often difficult for many people to discuss remuneration, but you should come prepared to discuss your salary and benefits expectations. If you’re unsure about what salary is appropriate to ask for the position you’re interviewing for.


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