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Quick Guide to Tricky Interview Questions

We all have to deal with tough interview questions. Whether you are being interviewed to be an Administrator or a Director you are bound to be asked a couple of questions that will make you perspire slightly more than usual.

1. Tell me about yourself?

First of all this question is not a free for all for you to blab on about your personal life or to give a complete biography of your entire life. The purpose of this question is for the interview to check to see if you are articulate and to see if you can remain on point. Please do not bore the interviewer by telling them when you were born, what your favourite food is, or that you feel like you are the most popular person on the planet because you like to socialise with friends. If you do rabbit on about your personal life you are likely to see the interviewer’s eyes glaze over or if they are worth their salt they will interrupt you and move on to the next question. By this point though, the odds are you have lost your chance.

When confronted with this question never, ever, ever ask, “What would you like to know?” By asking this it shows that you lack insight into the purpose of the question. You need to develop a good short, sharp response that encapsulates your abilities to do the job with subtle hints about your personality that will be a fit for the type of company you are interviewing for. So do your research!

Most candidates find this question difficult quite simply because most people do not know what the interviewer wants to hear. This question is an opportunity to sell yourself as a professional and by throwing in a little nugget about your personality shows that you are indeed human.

Structure your answer around these two points:

What interests the interviewer?

Simply speaking the interviewer wants to hear about your experience and qualifications. I will emphasise again that you should not babble on about your personal life. The key to a successful interview is to match your qualifications to the role. This is all the interviewer is looking for.

Emphasise your important work accomplishments

A good candidate will have a short spiel ready which will set out clearly why they are the best person for the job. This ‘commercial’ should be no more than two minutes in length and should be a powerful story telling the interviewer about your most important work achievements. A story told well is the most powerful tool you have when in an interview as the listener is most likely to remember it and you will create likeability which will bode well for the rest of the interview as you will have created a strong connection with the interviewer.

2. How long have you been with your current (or most recent) employer?

If you have been lucky enough to be granted an interview and have job-hopped your way around recently this question will highlight this fact. Be prepared for some additional questions if this is the case. The truth is that high performing employees tend to stick with their employer on average for 3-5 years.

The job hopper is unlikely to be with the same employer for 3 years. A candidate can also be viewed as a job hopper through no fault of their own. If you have worked for companies that have been acquired, downsized or closed then you could still be put in this bracket. If this is the case just be honest. You have been asked in for an interview so you are half way there. If you are having difficulty in getting interviewed with companies and you feel that the reason is job hopping then I would suggest you start or increase your networking activities.

3. What is your greatest weakness?

The answer is definitely not that you are perfectionist or dealing with difficult people. Some people even have the audacity to say that chocolate is their greatest weakness.

If you want to impress with this question your response needs to reflect the fact that you have given some serious thought to it. You need to show that you have the ability to take responsibility, in that you have recognised the weakness and are working on it.

Be confident, give a sincere honest answer, tell the interviewer what steps you are taking to rectify it and keep it brief.

4. What are your strengths?

As in the first question here don’t blab on about how good you are. Pick 2-3 areas that are relevant to the role and speak briefly about them.

5. Tell me about a situation where you did not get along with a superior?

A big no no here would be to say, “I have never found myself in a situation whereby I did not get along with my boss.” The interviewer would instantly be thinking that you are being a little economical with the truth. This answer may be true for you but highly unlikely. We have all had to deal with some sort of confrontation at work. If you are the sort of person who genuinely never disagreed with a superior then it may show that you are not terribly experienced. Seasoned employees and good employees at that will have had differences of opinion with their bosses and will sometimes engage in low level confrontation. If you are a little scared of this question you need to realise that confrontation is good. You have to display that you dealt with this confrontation in a positive way and more importantly are able to resolve it.

6. Tell me about a situation where you were part of a failed project?

The point of this question is for the interviewer to find out your level of responsibility and to find out how you recover from mistakes, your decision making process and if you are able to own up and take responsibility. If you are unable to respond to this question it will highlight the fact that you may not have the right experience for the role you have applied for. The interviewer is not looking for perfection but they are looking for an experienced human being.

7. How do you keep yourself busy outside of work?

Be careful with this question. Your answer must be appropriate. If you are interviewing for a role at a senior level the interviewer will want to know what kind of a person you are and how this might influence your leadership style. The undertone to this question is: are you well-adjusted or are you a company militant? It is acceptable to briefly discuss hobbies, if you take part in team sports make sure you mention this. Do not discuss religious or political activities as this may divisive. Prove that you are human and that you have a life outside of work.

8. Why do you want to leave your current position?

Be honest and keep your answer simple. The interviewer will be listening for any potential conflicts in your current role which have influenced your decision to leave. Highlight the positives and you are looking for new challenges in the future.

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