Don't get tripped up by these tricky interview questions.
You've done your homework, you're looking sharp, and you're brimming with confidence for your job interview. From the opening handshake, you feel like you're in control and that this job is yours. That is, until the interviewer asks that one really tricky interview question. How do you answer it without making yourself look bad?
There are a lot of difficult interview questions out there that interviewers like to ask to trip you up a little and see how you handle it. The question may actually seem harmless enough until you start to answer and realize that your answer isn't necessarily doing you any favors.
Luckily, there is a way to make sure you answer these questions accurately and effectively: preparation. You have to be ready for these questions so you can answer in a way that presents you in a positive light and allows you to sidestep those little traps. Here are five common — but tricky — interview questions, and how to handle them.
Tell me about yourself
A chance to talk about yourself? Sounds great! But, wait a second — this could be a trap. Keep these things in mind when answering this tricky interview question:
This isn't an invitation to brag about every amazing thing you've ever done professionally or otherwise. Trying too hard to make yourself look good just comes across as arrogant, and trust us, nobody likes that.
At this point, the interviewer doesn't care about your pets or your grandmother's cooking. Keep your answer geared towards your professional life in a realistic, but positive way.
Avoid using too many job interview clichés like, “I'm a people person” or “I'm a team player.” They get used so much that they really have no meaning anymore.
Instead, keep the focus on the position and the company. What trends are they following and how would you help them do that? What type of company culture do they have? Connect the things that you care about with the important values of the company and the particular position you want. It's all about making the interviewer see you as a perfect fit for that job. They say, “Tell me about yourself,” but what they want to hear is “What makes you great for this job?”
What's your biggest weakness?
It's great when they ask you about your biggest strengths because that's a green light to go ahead and tell them why you would be a rockstar at their company. But, about halfway through your answer, you realize the next notoriously difficult interview question is coming and a little bead of sweat starts to form on your forehead: What is your biggest weakness? Answers to this question can make you look bad if you're not careful.
Perhaps you know that you struggle with punctuality or you really don't like working on team projects. Believe it or not, this is not the time to bring things like this up; you don't want to highlight any flaws that could take you out of the running for the job.
Instead, focus on things you want to do instead of things you do poorly. Are there certifications you would like to get or particular skills you'd like to improve upon? You want to present yourself as fully qualified for this job, but think about those areas of expertise that could take you to the next level and leverage them as your weaknesses while showing your desire to add them to your resume.
Why do you want to leave your current job?
If you're currently employed and interviewing for a new job, that means something has prompted you to make a move. With many of these questions, what the interviewer is looking for is any type of red flag. Here are some answers you want to avoid:
“I can't stand my boss.”
“It doesn't pay enough.”
“It's a bad company.”
“They made me do things that weren't part of my job.”
These are all valid reasons for moving on, but you don't really want to broadcast that. In short, you want to avoid any answer that sheds a negative light on your current job or anyone working there. Keep the focus on you and what you want for your future.
With this difficult interview question, talk about what you've accomplished at your current job and why you feel ready to take the next step. Mention some tasks or attributes in the new position that would be excellent learning experiences for you. It's not about where you've been, it's about where you want to go.
Tell me how you've handled a difficult situation
Chances are that you've faced some awkward, difficult, and possibly even dangerous situations on the job. How you handle them says a lot about you as an employee and as a person.
The key to this tricky interview question is to make sure that you talk about a situation that wasn't your fault. If you're handling a difficult situation, but it's obvious that you created your own troubles, it doesn't look good. The interviewer wants to see how you handle difficult situations, and if you are able to think outside the box and keep the company's big picture in mind.
Try to think of a time when outside forces created a stressful situation. Did you step in? Were you able to create a solution that could make everyone happy? This is your chance to show that you have problem-solving skills. Showcase these skills using the STAR method, which will help you effectively organize your response when answering this type of question.
Why would you like this job?
There could be any number of reasons you'd like the job that you are interviewing for at this moment. Perhaps it's an upward career move. It may be a better commute. You are attracted to the salary, benefits, or even the company's public image. Any of these are legitimate reasons for wanting to land a new job. However, by answering this question, you will be prioritizing some of these things. You want to avoid making it appear that you're just in it for the money or prestige, and you certainly don't want to mention if you hate your current job. Put yourself on the other side of the desk. If you were interviewing a candidate, what would you want them to say?
Put the focus on the company. If you've done your research, you can talk about some great things that the company has done. Then, you can talk about the specific position and what excites you about it. Discuss what you bring to the table to help move the company forward. Really what they're asking is why should we hire you? Give them good reasons.
Tricky interview questions are a part of nearly every job interview. If you want to come off sounding intelligent and prepared, do a little research on common job interview questions and have these answers ready in your mind. If you do get a surprise question, just remember to keep the focus on the positive. If every answer you give helps to paint a picture of how you are the right fit for this job, the interviewer will see it too.
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Editor's Note: This article was originally published on our sister site, TopResume.