5 tricky interview questions and how to tackle them with confidence!

A job interview is a very important step to get your foot into the door that can lead you to your dream career. It is a process in which the potential employer assesses your knowledge, skills and abilities to ensure that you are the appropriate candidate both for the position and the organization. Experts say that you typically have 10 – 15 minutes to sell yourself to your potential employer. It is therefore pivotal that you prepare well in advance and practice as much as possible so that you can give it your best shot and shine at your interview.

Preparation for job interview can be very intensive process and it is vital that you go prepared to tackle some of the common, tricky questions which can be difficult to answer. Whether you are a new immigrant looking to establish your career in another country or an experienced professional, you might have experienced moments of nervousness at the interview when suddenly darkness surrounds and you feel the blood going down your spine. It has happens to the best of us, so don’t worry because you are not alone!

Handling tough interview questions is both a science and an art. It is generally helpful if you prepare few solid, candid answers to these questions and rehearse them well so that you can defend them succinctly and effortlessly. In the following section, we have provided some tips, which you might find useful to understand and answer them in a comfortable and relaxed manner.

Tell me something about yourself?

This question is usually an ice breaker to start a conversation although some of you might feel that the interviewer is not informed and hasn’t read the details provided in your resume.

Science

Do’s

  • Understand what the employer wants to know about you. In other words, you are being asked to summarize what you can bring to their organization.
  • Use the WASP principle – Work, Attributes, Skills and Personal traits.
  • Provide a brief summary in 4-5 sentences about your educational, professional background, relevant work experience, typically within 45 seconds.
  • Know what to say and what not to say. Employers generally select based on your knowledge, behaviour, skills, abilities and select personal attributes.
  • Do not talk too much. Understand that this is just the first question and you will get more opportunity to talk about your skills and abilities later.
  • See this as an opportunity to present yourself to your potential employer and be a good ‘sales person’.
  • Carry a copy of your latest resume just in case. It reinforces that you are well organized.
  • Be calm and a smile on the face won’t hurt.
  • Don’t get anxious to oversell your talents. Know that too much of anything is bad!
  • Make good eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Keep your hands on your lap and sit straight on your chair.

Don’ts

  • Know what to say and what not to say. Employers generally select based on your knowledge, behaviour, skills, abilities and select personal attributes.
  • Do not talk too much. Understand that this is just the first question and you will get more opportunity to talk about your skills and abilities later.

Art

  • See this as an opportunity to present yourself to your potential employer and be a good ‘sales person’.
  • Carry a copy of your latest resume just in case. It reinforces that you are well organized.
  • Be calm and a smile on the face won’t hurt.
  • Don’t get anxious to oversell your talents. Know that too much of anything is bad!
  • Make good eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Keep your hands on your lap and sit straight on your chair.

What are your goals for next 3 -5 years and how are they aligned with this job?

Science

Do’s

  • Assuming you have already figured what you want to do career wise, provide your short term and perhaps a long term career goal in a sentence or two.
  • Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). For instance, “I aim to secure an executive position in the Sales department by improving sales figures and overall customer satisfaction”.
  • Provide cues on how the specific position aligns with your goal(s).
  • Some of us may have entrepreneurial instincts and may like to have their own firm in 3-5 years. Although you may get carried away and share such dreams, most employers would see this as a potential risk. So, please be careful.
  • Employers want to know specific goals you may have set for yourself (if any) and are not inclined to listen to stories about your dreams and aspirations. If you cannot describe your goal in a sentence, it is an indication that perhaps you need to re-think your answer.
  • Employers want to understand if you know what you want to do with your career because if you are not clear what you want to do with yourself, it may be risky to offer you a responsible position. Make sense? Keep this in mind while answering.
  • Employers ideally like to hire candidates who would like to stay long term with their company – it is quite expensive to train new hires and often challenging to do a proper knowledge transfer when employees leave. Make sure you have this in the back of your mind.

Don’ts

  • Some of us may have entrepreneurial instincts and may like to have their own firm in 3-5 years. Although you may get carried away and share such dreams, most employers would see this as a potential risk. So, please be careful.
  • Employers want to know specific goals you may have set for yourself (if any) and are not inclined to listen to stories about your dreams and aspirations. If you cannot describe your goal in a sentence, it is an indication that perhaps you need to re-think your answer.

Art

  • Employers want to understand if you know what you want to do with your career because if you are not clear what you want to do with yourself, it may be risky to offer you a responsible position. Make sense? Keep this in mind while answering.
  • Employers ideally like to hire candidates who would like to stay long term with their company – it is quite expensive to train new hires and often challenging to do a proper knowledge transfer when employees leave. Make sure you have this in the back of your mind.

What is your greatest weakness?

Science

Do’s

  • When asked about your greatest weakness, try to turn a negative into positive. For instance, “I tend to work long hours and find it difficult to maintain a good work-life balance. My goal is to try and maintain the balance moving forward”.
  • Do not describe your family problems and personal issues.
  • Avoid mentioning a weakness if you are unable to do anything about.
  • If you have a serious weakness which could negatively affect your ability to perform at the workplace, mention it politely to the employer. For instance, “My typing speed is slower than that mentioned in job description. However, I am willing to take typing classes to meet this requirement if I were selected”.

Don’ts

  • Do not describe your family problems and personal issues.
  • Avoid mentioning a weakness if you are unable to do anything about.
  • If you have a serious weakness which could negatively affect your ability to perform at the workplace, mention it politely to the employer. For instance, “My typing speed is slower than that mentioned in job description. However, I am willing to take typing classes to meet this requirement if I were selected”.

Art

  • Nobody is born perfect – we are all human beings and have weaknesses. Know that it’s not bad to have a weakness.
  • Employers are not necessarily looking for a super-human person. All they want to know is you acknowledge your weakness and are doing something about it so that it does not hamper your ability to perform.

What is your salary expectation?

Science

Do’s

  • Provide a salary range only if you have done your homework well. Website like workfuture.com and jobfuture.com provide information about the market rate for certain job categories.
  • If you are not sure about the market rate or the job description is non-standard, then you are not obligated to provide any numbers. Generally you can answer by saying that “I would like a salary that reflects the responsibility of this position and my ability to fulfill them”.
  • If this is your first job or you are trying to get a ‘foot into the door’, salary should not be your main focus. You can say like “Salary is not my primary focus at this time and I am looking for an opportunity to learn and grow within your company”.

Don’ts

  • Don’t feel obligated to provide an hourly rate or expected salary.

Art

  • Although employers are generally willing to pay the right salary to the right candidate, they would like to ensure that you are going to stay with the company and that money is not your only consideration.
  • Don’t let money come in your way especially if you are a ‘new bee’ and looking for work experience. On the contrary, do not accept a pay cut unless specifically asked and you are comfortable with it.
  • Maintain your calm and don’t show your eagerness to talk about ‘money’ and negotiate. Discussing salary expectation does not necessarily mean you have secured the job.

Do you have any questions for us?

Science

Do’s

  • Be as knowledgeable about the job and company as possible.
  • Do your homework and show it well – Prepare a list of questions based on your research about the company, job description and ask for information that interests you.
  • Asking intelligent questions about the organization, role, culture, and team dynamics gives an impression that you are curious to learn and know more about the company. For instance, “How would you describe the responsibilities for this position?”
  • It is perfectly fine to ask questions to the interviewer about his/her own experiences and advancement in the company. This information will be valuable to understand the management style and career prospects within the company.

Don’ts

  • Employers like candidates who have done their homework and taken the time to research the company.
  • Having no questions to ask given an impression that you do not have your own opinion or independent thought process.
  • Do not ask for information that is easily available on the company website as you will be wasting both your and employer’s time. For instance “What does this company do?”
  • Don’t ask about salary and benefits unless specifically asked.
  • Don’t ask logistical questions like flexible timings, vacation, etc. as they can be discussed later when you are offered the job.
  • Don’t be impatient! Do not ask questions like “Am I selected?” or “When can I start?”

Art

  • Listen attentively to the interviewer and ask questions if they haven’t been answered already in the conversation or if you require some clarification.
  • Use your time judiciously and don’t get carried away by this opportunity to ask for elaborate details that are not necessary in the initial phase of interview.
  • Act like a lawyer and try to get the pulse of the company. By asking good questions, you will have good idea about the professional environment, working style and get valuable insight on what to expect if you were to work there.