6 loaded interview questions (and how to handle them)

Abintegro: Career Management & Transition

Unfortunately, interviewing for jobs is not something that necessarily gets easier with age.

However experienced we are with the process, there will always be one or two questions that are able to get under our skin and rattle us.

Here are some of the main offenders you’ll be hoping to avoid…and how to handle them when you inevitably encounter them:

1. Where else are you interviewing?

A favourite with inquisitive hiring managers and an extremely tricky one to answer. Start reeling off lists of names and you risk sounding desperate or less than focused on this particular employer; fail to mention anyone and it may appear that nobody wants you.

A good middle ground is to say you’ve had interest from similar organisations without mentioning them by name. Make sure to add that this is the role you really want.

2. What has annoyed you most about previous bosses and co-workers?

Handle with care. Whatever happens, resist the temptation to air grievances and badmouth any previous employers. You don’t want to come across as ‘difficult’ or hard to please.

Appear to consider this carefully and then come up empty handed. Remember only the positives as this in turn presents you as a positive person. Remember too that any ‘issues’ you have may be characteristics of the interviewer!

3. What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Loaded, with a capital ‘L’ – you don’t want to be marked down as a risk taker. Offer an example of where you tried a change in direction and it came off. It’s about demonstrating initiative and creativity rather than audacity.

4. What are your salary expectations?

Most of us get uncomfortable discussing money during an interview. Above all don’t be cowed into giving a low figure that you can’t retract. The diplomatic option could be to say that your priority is finding the right role before you come to think about salaries.

5. What’s your biggest weakness?

A favourite of interviewers through the ages. Resist the old, disguising a strength as a weakness tactic, like claiming to be “too much of a perfectionist”. Consider an aim to improve your presentation or networking skills, giving details of how you plan to do that, or instead, offer something that you’re actively working on but that doesn’t necessarily compromise your day-to-day work, like learning a foreign language.

6. When was the last time you made a big mistake at work, university or school?

A real minefield. What they’re really trying to gauge is whether you’re someone who possesses the understanding to learn from his or her mistakes. Try to give an example of a smallish error (where the consequences weren’t horrendous) and how you have adapted your way of doing things since then.

The key to answering these curveballs is to understand what they’re there for and not get flustered. Remember that it’s not personal, and the interviewer is not necessarily looking to put a black mark against your name. They’re more likely to be looking for reasons to hire you and will be reading between the lines to find the positives. Stay calm and hold your ground – with a bit of luck, you should come out the other side in one piece.

 

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