When it comes to job interviews, blunt and poorly phrased answers may spoil your chance to get hired. More often than not, interviewers throw tricky questions with the intention to identify certain personality traits or generic skills they are looking for.
Wouldn’t it be good if you can know their intention in advance? How to avoid the common mistakes in answering tricky job interview questions? Can you tell them exactly what they want to hear so that you get hired?
Here are five tricky job interview questions and the mistakes you should avoid when answering them. Find the sample answers and improvise them to suit your own career experience.
Tricky Question 1: What did you like and dislike about your previous job?
It will be a big mistake if you try to tell them that your previous job was perfect or a total disaster. If it was perfect, the interviewer may think that you will not find the job you are interviewing for as satisfying as the last one. Avoid using high pay or lots of vacation days as your likes.
On the other hand, if you say it was a total disaster, it may be viewed as negativity in personality. You need a good mix of likes and dislikes. Avoid the dislikes that you are likely to face in the job you are interviewing for.
The interviewer is trying to judge your behavioral competency through this question. Some examples on how your last job provided the opportunity for you to flex your expertise will be good. As for the dislikes, you can mention things that are beyond your control. Casually say that the dislike you mentioned is not a big problem to you and give your view on how they could be done better.
Tricky Question 2: Give me an example of a problem you faced in your previous job. How did you solve it?
You may be very capable and many problems seem insignificant to mention. However, it would be a big mistake if you tell the interviewer that you have never faced any problem in your previous job (even if it is true). Avoid answering this question with general and high level answers such as the number of cases you have handled in your previous job or the total cost you have saved for your previous company.
The interviewer is trying to judge your problem solving and critical thinking skills. You should use this opportunity to share specific cases where you solved problems effectively and creatively. Highlight the major root cause of the problem (e.g. technical, teamwork/relationship, budget/cost).
Explain the steps you have taken to solve the problem. It would be a big plus if the cases you share relates to the job you are interviewing for.
Tricky Question 3: What have you learned from your past mistakes?
Big mistake if you say you have never made a mistake! Be brief in answering this question an avoid offering too much negative examples too. Avoid faulting other people when talking about your mistake.
The interviewer is trying to see if you have the maturity it takes to examine your own mistake and learn from it. It will be good if you offer an example to show that you take responsibility about your mistake and that you have been successful in correcting it.
Tricky Question 4: Describe a situation when working with a team produced more successful results than if you had completed the project on your own.
It will be a big mistake to say that you have to capability to work alone and do not require the help from the others. Avoid saying that you can’t function independently too.
The interviewers are trying to find out your ability to work in a team. You can offer some examples whereby you participate effectively as a member of a team. Highlight how you have listened and accepted ideas from others or persuaded others to your point of view.
Tricky Question 5: Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
Don’t pretend that you never get stressed out in your previous job. Avoid saying that your previous job is very relaxing.
The job that you are interviewing for is likely to be very stressful if this question is asked. Most importantly, don’t be stressed up. Stay calm during the interview. Remember that you are well prepared if you care to read article like this one.
The interviewers want to know your approach in dealing with stress. Let’s face it. Most jobs are stressful. Share with them how you avoid stress through planning and time management. Exercises and spiritual activities are great too.
In conclusion, by avoiding the mistakes in answering tricky job interview questions, you have effectively kept your chance of being hired alive. Of course, you need more than that to get hired.
The key to success is simply to prepare well. Do your homework. Write down the key points in answering the tricky questions and the common questions. Find a good book on job interview and read it. Find out exactly what the hiring manager wants to hear during the interview. That will gain you an unfair advantage over the others.
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ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1800 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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