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How to Answer Common but Difficult Job Interview Questions

July 25, 2017


Tell me about yourself.
At first, this question seems simple enough. After all, who can better talk about you than you? But what is an employer looking for when they ask this? They probably do not want to hear your entire life story, so be sure to stick to your professional history. Ashley, a hiring expert from Cardinal Health, says this: “Start with your experience from school, focusing on why you chose your major and what it is about the respective field that intrigues you. Be sure to show your passion here. Next, I would walk through any experiences you have had to date and highlight the areas that are most relevant to the position. The interviewer wants to hear why you are the best fit for the position, so don't focus too much on areas that would not apply to the position or the company.” 1

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Again, this question may not seem too difficult; maybe you’ve thought about it and know exactly where you want to be in ten years. Whether or not you know exactly what you want to be doing down the road, you should tailor your answer to the employer you are interviewing with. Not only do interviewers want to see that you are ambitious and have professional goals, they want to know that you are focused on development and advancement within that company. Many companies will prefer someone who wants to stay and grow there, not someone who will leave within the next few years. 

Tell me about a time…
If you are asked a behavioral question like this, it is more than likely that the employer is trying to understand how you acted in the past, and how you will act going forward. It can be stressful to try and think of a good example of your past behavior on the spot, so make to take a moment to think and collect yourself. Rachael, a hiring expert from Merck, suggests this: “You should try to apply the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) Method to any [behavioral] question they ask, so you can answer it effectively and completely. The key takeaway for the interviewer is to see how you performed in the past, as it is a predictor of how you will respond in the future.”

What is your biggest weakness?
Nobody enjoys talking about their shortcomings, and the last place you probably want to have that conversation is during a job interview. Nevertheless, this is one of the most common questions, so it could be beneficial to think of how you’ll respond before the interview. Ashley, a hiring expert from Textron, offers this advice: “Make sure you don’t lie or try to gloss over your weaknesses. Ultimately, most employers want a candidate who’s reflective about their skill sets and accurately assess their skills and abilities.” 3 When stating your weakness, you can also discuss how you are trying to address it and grow from it. This will show employers that not only are you self-aware, but you are constantly working towards self-improvement.

A Completely Random Question
Sometimes an interviewer will throw in a completely random question that has nothing to do with the position or the company. Don’t be thrown off by these questions that seem to come out of left field. They are usually an attempt to throw you off and see how you handle it. Steve, a hiring expert from Caterpillar, says “If you remain calm and thoughtful in this situation, it tells the interviewer that you will do the same when something unexpected happens on the job.  If you become flustered and nervous, they assume you would negatively react to an unexpected situation at work.” 4 Before you answer, take a deep breath and compose yourself. These questions do not necessarily have a right or wrong answer, so just answer candidly.


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