This post originally appeared on the SkillStorm blog: www.skillstorm.com/blog
Perhaps never in our history has the competition for a job been so intense. Before you walk into your next interview, be aware that you’ll likely face some tough questions intended to throw you off your game. Why are more and more companies incorporating tough questions into the interview process? To see how well you adapt, problem-solve or think creatively on your feet. Some questions are designed to get you to reveal both desirable and undesirable characteristics about yourself, perhaps without you realizing it.
As a jobseeker, think about putting the same effort into an interview that you would into a final exam. It is quite probable that your competition will have more education, more experience or could be willing to doing the job at half your desired salary. Here are seven tough interview questions and their answers to help you be prepared to handle any type of question when you’re sitting in the hot seat.
1. Why is there a gap in your work history? In these tough economic times, interviews understand that it is taking applicants longer to find employment. The intent of the question to elicit a response that demonstrates you’ve continued to find ways to stay productive.
a. A good answer: Keep your answer focused on your career. Mention any freelance, internship and volunteer work you’ve done. If you’ve completed any classes, workshops or certifications include those. And if you have not done any of the above, discuss the steps you’ve taken to stay relevant, such as webinars or books you’ve read as well as how you’ve been taking care of yourself mentally and physically.
2. What’s your biggest weakness? This question no longer is asking for a weakness that is really a strength in disguise. The intent is for you to acknowledge a real weakness. Employers know that people are not perfect, they just want to understand how well you can communicate and what steps you’re taking to address your own weaknesses.
a. A good answer: State your weakness clearly and follow it up with the steps you’ve taken or are taking to compensate for it. For example: I am extremely impatient. I expect my employees to prove themselves on the very first assignment. If they fail, my tendency is to stop delegating to them and start doing everything myself.
To compensate for my own weakness, however, I have started to really prep my people on exactly what will be expected of them.
Source: 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions
3. What is the biggest risk you’ve taken? Some positions require an employee with determination. In sales, you’re likely to hear no more than yes. This question is tricky because it is not only asking how you handle failure; it is asking how you rebound afterward.
a. A good answer: It is not about sharing the biggest risk, but the risks that demonstrates a failure and rebound as well as your willingness to take a chance and succeed.
4. If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be and why? This was a question asked at Bank of America. Silly questions are becoming more common and are used as a way to match candidates and corporate personalities.
a. A good answer: Sometimes there is no ‘correct’ answer. Take the question seriously, but not too seriously that you can’t show a fun side to your personality.
Source: Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
5. With all your experience, why would you be willing to take an entry-level position? The interviewer is trying to weed out people who are looking for any position until something better comes along from those who are starting over in a new field.
a. A good answer: Sometimes you need to take a step backward to move your career forward. Starting in an entry-level role would allow me to learn your business from the ground up.
The career that I've been in is so different than yours that I would love the opportunity to start over again in your field. The salary cut will be well worth it.
Source: 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions
6. What did you dislike the most about your last job? The intent of this question is to determine if you would be a good fit for the company, department or team. For example if the position requires you to do presentations and you say you didn’t like talking in front of large groups, you’re not going to be a good fit.
a. A good answer: I liked pretty much everything about my previous job. However, I am ready for advancement and I didn’t see an opportunity in the immediate future.
Thinking of applying to Google? Be prepared for the mother of obscure, tough questions. Google’s philosophy is that, “good interview questions are like take-home test. The challenge is to come up with an answer the interviewer has never heard before that’s better than the last answer,” according to William Poundstone, author of Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
7. How would you describe this position to an 8 year old? The intent of behavior questions are to, well explore your behavior under tough circumstances. This type of question is intended to evaluate your communication skills, and your patience.
a. A good answer: Miscommunication is a huge problem in business. Most people aren’t skilled at explaining their ideas to another person. When you answer this question, include how you would make sure the 8 year old understood what you were saying and include non-verbal the cues you would look for.
Job interviews can be tough. The goal is to make a great first impression, that doesn’t mean you need to ace all the questions. How you present yourself can go a long way and to quote a woman’s deodorant, “never let them see you sweat.”
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