Some interview advice is universal. It holds up no matter what. For instance, always talk about your past experience using quantifiable achievements whenever possible. Talking about your professional accomplishments is easy to prepare for, but what happens when the hiring manager asks a difficult question where the wrong answer could paint you in a negative light?
The following 4 questions are some of the toughest interview questions out there along with strategies for answering them correctly.
Tell Me Why You Left Your Last Job
The answer is usually one of three things:
- I hated it there
- I wanted more money
- I was fired
Hiring managers know these are the real reasons, but answering correctly can be problematic. The problem isn’t the reason you left, or are planning to leave, it’s in how you approach your answer. Interviewers are looking for you to be transparent and address that reason head-on while showing class toward your previous employer.
Don’t try to hide it. Own it with grace and composure. Say “I wasn’t a good fit for the corporate culture,” Instead of “I hated it there.” It’s all in your phrasing.
What Are Your Salary Requirements?
You’re walking a tightrope with a question like this. The challenge is to avoid undervaluing yourself while being careful not to put too high a price tag on your skill set either. So how do you come up with a number that communicates both confidence and humility?
Turn the question around. There’s no law against asking what the salary range for the position is. That’s a good strategy for any interview question. You’re looking to establish a dialogue. Don’t be afraid to ask the employer questions too. This demonstrates your flexibility as well as your professionalism.
“The Google Question”
The Google question is a new kind of interview question that’s emerged since the tech giant became such an ubiquitous part of our lives.
“The Google question” refers to a question completely out of left field meant to test your ability to solve a complex problem on the fly. It often takes the form of a brain teaser or morally ambiguous scenario that’s open to interpretation. These aren’t questions with easy answers that you can prepare for in advance, but they are becoming more and more common in interviews all over the world.
An example of a Google question might be, “How would you solve the homelessness crisis in San Francisco given only 3 months to achieve your goal?”
While you might not be able to develop a scripted answer for these type of questions ahead of time, there are a few strategies you can employ in case you encounter a Google question.
- Re-frame the question in your own words
- Describe your thought process to the interviewer
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions
The goal is to demonstrate your problem-solving abilities under pressure. Establishing a dialogue and giving the interviewer a window into your thought process is the best way to tackle this question.
What is Your Greatest Weakness?
In my opinion, this is the toughest interview question that you’re likely to encounter. You want to highlight your strengths and accomplishments, not languish in your defeats.
The good news is that hiring managers are looking for a specific quality when they ask questions like this, that you know how to adapt, overcome, and grow within your job role.
Tackle the answer head on. Avoid cute or cheesy answers like “My weakness is that I’m a perfectionist.” Instead, tell them something you truly feel you need to work on, then tell them what you’ve done to work on it.
One word of warning: avoid weaknesses that are outright scandalous or show a lack of character.
If All Else Fails…
No matter how prepared you are, interviews are always stress inducing, especially when the interviewer throws you a curveball. When all else fails, remember, this is meant to be a conversation between you and your future employer. A little dialogue goes a long way and allows you to be liberal with your answers. You may find a surprising steak of creativity in what you come up with.