Job interviewing can be an unnerving experience, but if you know how to handle some of the stickiest situations encountered in interviewing you can be that much more confident. Here are 10 of the stickiest.
1. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: If You Can't Get a Word in Edgewise
Not every professional who conducts job interviews with candidates knows how to conduct an interview effectively. In fact, some are downright lousy at it.
If you find yourself with an overly talkative interviewer, make as many mental notes as you can. Stay calm, and wait for your turn to speak. Even a nonstop talker will likely eventually ask if you have any questions. At that point, you can ask questions or describe your fit with the company and the position based on the mental notes you made.
However, one thing to note with a talker is this: If they are trying to sell you on the company or the role, they may already love you. It's possible that they are trying to ensure you want to work there too.
2. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: "Tell Me about Yourself"
Of course, this question is not a question at all but a request for a command performance. It's the most commonly asked interview question yet it frequently still rattles interviewees. The trick is to make your response a clear summary of information that is specifically targeted to the job you're interviewing for. You might say:
"My professional background has been centered on preparing myself to become the very best financial consultant I can become. I am an undergraduate student in finance and accounting at Boston University. My experience is in retail and higher education. Both aspects prepared me for this career."
The interviewer is not looking for your autobiography and probably is not interested in your personal life. Practice this elevator pitch in advance, and you'll go far.
3. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: "What is Your Greatest Weakness?"
The conventional wisdom about responding to this question used to be that the candidate should spin a weakness into a strength. For example: "I'm a perfectionist and don't believe anyone can do the job as well as I can, so I sometimes have a hard time delegating."
That type of response has, however, worn out its welcome with interviewers. Other approaches include offering a weakness that is inconsequential to the job or denying that you have any weaknesses that would stand in the way of your performing the job effectively. But, everyone has a weakness.
A solid response: "As you can see from my resume, I have not worked in the human resources department. However, my varied career background helps me to bring expertise that I think will contribute to the team. And, I look forward to the opportunity to grow my experience in this area."
An approach that seems to work well here is to address something that the hiring manager most likely already perceives as a weakness. Therefore, if you were interviewing for a human resources role but had no official HR experience, you might say this: "As you can see from my resume, I have not worked in the human resources department. However, my varied career background helps me to bring expertise that I think will contribute to the team. And, I look forward to the opportunity to grow my experience in this area."
4. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: "Why Should We Hire You?"
The unspoken part of this question is: "Why should we hire you instead of someone else?" This is your chance to pitch your professional capabilities. Describe what sets you apart from other candidates. The employer will make a significant investment in hiring and training you, so prove that you're worth the investment.
You could say: "I believe I'm the best person for the job. Like other candidates, I have the ability to do this job. But beyond that, I offer expertise that makes me the best person for the job – my experience managing a team of 12 people. Though this role only requires the employee to manage four people, my experience managing and leading 12 team members to success demonstrates that I can accomplish incredible things with a team of four."
5. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: Brainteaser Questions
Occasionally you'll hear an interview question that's just downright weird and certainly doesn't seem to have anything to do with the job. For instance, "If you were an ice-cream cone what flavor would you be?" Or, "How would you weigh a plane without scales?" Interviewers often ask these brainteaser questions to see how quickly you can think on your feet and whether you can avoid becoming flustered.
Don't let a brainteaser question rattle you. Take a moment to gather your thoughts and respond as calmly and clearly possible. There is rarely a wrong answer to this type of question, but quick-thinking candidates can turn the response into an opportunity to impress the employer.
6. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: Illegal Questions
It's illegal to ask about age marital status, children, childcare arrangements, and the like, but employers still do. Sometimes they'll come up with subtle ways to ask, such as by inquiring about when you graduated or whether or not there's a wedding ring on your finger.
It's best to address the concern behind the question rather than the question itself. While it may also be tempting to point out the illegality of the question, doing so likely won't endear you to the interviewer.
As unlikely as it sounds, you may find yourself hearing downright inappropriate questions, such as: "Do you have any children, or plan to have any soon?" If you hear something that sets off a red flag in your mind, the most important thing to do is this: Take note of the questions and recognize that they were unprofessional. Remember that they happened, and use that information to help you decide if you want to work for that company.
7. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: Salary Questions
As a screening device, interviewers often ask early in the interview what salary you seek. If you ask for more or less than the employer is willing to pay, the interviewer can eliminate you before spending a lot of time with you. That's why the best tactic for salary questions is to delay responding to them as long as possible — ideally until after the employer makes an offer.
Try to deflect salary questions with a response like this: "I applied for this position because I am very interested in the job and your company. I know I can make an immediate impact once on the job, but I'd like to table salary discussions until we are both sure I'm right for the role." Alternatively, you can ask the interviewer to help you to understand their salary range.
In certain states and in certain cities, questions about your salary history are illegal. These laws began rolling out in 2017 and will most likely continue to expand. Regions that ban this question include California, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York City. Before you answer a question about your salary, check to see if it is legal in your region.
8. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?"
It's always uncomfortable to discuss the circumstances that led to your departure from your last job. If you were terminated, don't lie but don't dwell on it either. You could explain that you and the company were not a good fit; thus, you and the employer agreed to part ways.
If you are asked why you're leaving your current job, focus on the positive reasons you would be interested in a new job. You can say that you want to expand your talents. You are interested in moving into a new industry. You're extremely excited about their products and services.
Bottom line: Always speak positively about past and present employers, even if your experience has not been positive with them.
9. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: "Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?"
Interviewees often hear the question "Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?" In your answer, strike a delicate balance between honest ambition and your desire to continue working at this company long-term.
Avoid responses that suggest that you don't plan to stay with the company. In other words, sharing that you dream of starting your own business or running for Congress is not a wise move.
10. Tough Interview Questions and Answers: The Video Interview
One type of interview that throws off jobseekers is the video interview. Employers may ask you to record and submit answers via video to a website. Alternately, hiring managers may request a live video chat.
If you must do a video interview, then prepare wisely. Test the technology before the big day to ensure that everything works. Set up your camera in a well-lit area. Hide any clutter from the camera's eye. Dress nicely from head to toe. Why? You might have to stand up to tend to your surroundings — you can't have PJ pants on for that!
Final Thoughts on Succeeding in Job Interviews
Job-seekers need to think of each interview question, especially the difficult interview questions, as opportunities to showcase accomplishments and strengths. Every response should build momentum toward convincing the interviewer that you deserve to advance to the next level whether that level is another round of interviews or a job offer.
If you have a tough interview, remember this statistic from Glassdoor: "On a five-point scale, the optimal or 'best' interview difficulty that leads to the highest employee satisfaction is a four out of five, with five being the most difficult."
If you're not getting interviews, maybe it's time to improve your resume and cover letter. Learn how below.