It’s the day of your job interview, and the stakes are high, but you’re ready. You dress with care, study your notes, practice your handshake, and give yourself pep talks all morning. When the hour arrives, you step into the building with confidence, make perfect eye contact and take your seat with impeccable poise. You make small talk, banter wittily, and field a simple series of questions about your background and resume. Well done so far.
Now for the tricky part. There comes a point during every interview when the fundamental questions are out of the way and the freestyle portion begins. Most interviews last between 20 and 30 minutes, and after about 15 minutes of small talk and straightforward questions, managers sometimes move on to behavioral questions in order to learn more about a candidate’s personality.
Watch out for managers who ask inappropriate, baiting, or unprofessional questions like “Tell me why I SHOULND’T hire you”, and “What is your greatest weakness?” (If you encounter questions like these, reconsider how badly you want this job.) But if an experienced and professional interviewer places you in the spotlight with a tough question, you’ll want to be ready. Consider the following answers for tricky questions like these:
“Tell me about a time when you failed to reach a goal or deadline. What happened and what did you learn?”
First, choose a scenario in which your failing had nothing to do with procrastination, laziness, or inattention. Any other weaknesses and failings are fair game, but not these. Then move quickly through the “failure” part of the story and linger on the lessons you learned and the ways in which these lessons redeemed you.
“Are you more of a leader or a team player?”
This is a difficult question because you can’t answer “both” (don’t try to say “both”), and the suggestion that you prefer one implies that you aren’t comfortable with the other. Both are required sometimes on the job, and both are required in life, but which do you honestly prefer when you have to choose? Again, move efficiently past the answer and linger on the positive during your explanation.
“The worst and most unpleasant aspect of this job will probably be (insert unpleasant task or challenge). How will you handle this on a daily basis?”
If the statement surprises, distresses, or disappoints you, don’t let it show. Pause for a full two seconds before you answer. Then explain how you intend to handle this challenge in the most straightforward and unemotional way you can. On the other hand, if you’re actually excited to hear this and the “unpleasant” aspect of the job sounds fun or appealing to you, let your enthusiasm show. Don’t hold back. There may be no better or more honest way to make a positive impression.
Need more guidance on how to field tricky interview questions? For tips, practice questions, and general advice, reach out to the Little Rock staffing and employment pros at CSS. We’re ready to help you find—and keep—the job you love.