Picture this: you’re in the middle of an interview and more than confident that you’re killing it! You’re doing an excellent job of presenting your skills and qualifications for the position. You’ve practiced your answers the night before and are sure you will ace this one. But suddenly, the interviewer throws you a curve ball by asking an unexpected question. You start to silently panic as your illustrious visions of landing your dream job begin to spiral away at breakneck speed. What do you do?
While it would be impossible to think of every question you could possibly be asked, you will inevitably be asked some questions during an interview that you hadn’t thought of prior. Every job interview will have tough questions, and there are definitely valid reasons for this—but sometimes these tougher-than-normal questions can take you out of your comfort zone and completely derail you. Here are a few helpful tips on how to answer tough questions during your interview.
What are some of the most difficult questions you’ve been asked
during an interview?
At the top of the list for tough questions is the infamous, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” question. While a laundry list of strengths may easily come to mind, no one really wants to discuss the areas where they may lack and potentially risk becoming a less-than-desirable candidate. Still, discussing the weak areas within your abilities does not have to be a negative. The key here is to put a positive spin on your faults to demonstrate not only your flaws, but how you’re working diligently to fix them. Be candid about the areas that you are working on and be sure to explain how you are improving them. Your weaknesses should be valid (simply presenting a positive trait as a weakness doesn’t work anymore). Be sincere and turn your flaws around as an advantage to ace this question during your interview.
Gaps in Dates
Another uncomfortable question is, “Why are there so many gaps in your resume?” Even though there are many valid reasons as to why someone may have been between jobs, employers may be curious to understand why you were not working during those times. This question can become really problematic when it imposes upon your privacy. For instance, you may have had a family emergency or serious health matter to attend to that you’d rather not discuss. Or you may have taken a hiatus for your own personal well-being or to travel. The best thing that you can do here is to briefly talk about what happened during those times, explaining why the gaps were important and how they do not hinder your ability to contribute as an employee. You really want to assure the interviewer that there was a valid reason for those breaks in dates. For instance, you should never say that you simply didn’t want to work during those times or otherwise paint a picture that you were idle. What you want to demonstrate is that you care about your work history and that during those breaks you were still developing your skills as a person and as an employee.
Demotions & Terminations
Another uncomfortable topic during interviews is that of termination or demotion. Similar to “Tell me about your weaknesses”, the dreaded “Have you ever been fired or demoted?” question may never be an easy one to discuss (especially if you were at fault). This is because discussing times where you did not meet company standards or otherwise under-performed can bring up insecurities. But the reality is that such instances are a part of life as well as a huge part of the business world. As such, this question fairs best with an open and honest response. For instance, talk about why those things happened, why you were let go or demoted, what you learned from those experiences, and how you came out better. Ideally, you shouldn’t try to defend yourself in front of the interviewer and also avoid making negative comments regarding your former employer altogether. Instead, focus on the good that came out of the situation and how you’ve grown as an employee and overcome challenges since that time.
When Illegal Interview Questions are Asked
Do keep in mind that there are always questions that an interviewer should never ask. In an ideal world, illegal or inappropriate questions would never be asked but there are times when an unscrupulous interviewer will get carried away. Innocently, an interviewer may ask, “So how does your husband feel about you taking on this job?” Or, “Do you have children or plan on having them soon?” Questions pertaining to family, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or race are all off limit topics. You can get around such questions in a number of ways. You could stop the interviewer and let him know that these are personal questions which you cannot answer. Or you could strategically dodge the question and instead turn your answer back around to discuss job-related topics. Either way, you want to show respect and professionalism until the very end. Sure, some interviewers may be completely out of line or have ill intent, but it’s more important to represent yourself adequately and to show that you are the strongest candidate. Aim to this end and you will have great results by and far.
Successfully Navigating Tough Questions
Answering tough interview questions is never easy. But with a little creative foresight, you can achieve success no matter what questions are tossed your way. No matter what the interviewer poses, the best way to ensure you get past each difficult question is to prepare in advance. Practice your responses, have pre-planned answers, and take on each question with confidence and poise.
A few additional helpful suggestions are as follows:
Remember, the best offense is a good defense. Preparing for an interview in advance is the best way to ensure that you will be at peak performance when the time comes to answer the toughest interview questions.
What are some of the most interesting questions you’ve been asked during an interview?
To learn more about how to prepare for the tough interview questions, schedule a call today to speak with one of our career experts.
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