Tricky Interview Questions: What They Really Mean & How to Answer Them
The interview can be a painstakingly grey hair-growing process. It is quite an unnatural process, talking about yourself for most of the time. Finding that balance between self promotion and arrogance, modesty and underselling yourself is a fine line.
And then they ask you, “How do you fit a giraffe in the fridge?”
Interviews are as much about understanding you as a person than solely work experiences. Examples of how you have managed to successfully implement your competence into quantifiable results for previous employers is important, but not everything.
Here are 6 tricky questions you may face in an interview and some suggestions on what to say to help you prepare for your next interview.
Tell me about yourself
This is tough because, well, it’s not a question, it’s a statement! Usually one of the first questions asked and is a bit of a warm up and an employer asks it to see how well you structure things in unstructured situations. Keep it short. Find a structure that can cover a important aspects as to what has developed you into an excellent employee. Maybe your childhood, education, work history and anything extracurricular that may be of relevance. As this is a warmer, avoid mentioning key experiences from your work history, there will be plenty of time for this in the remainder of the interview.
Why should I hire you?
This is your chance to show you have done your homework and prove how your competencies and experience match the job requirements. Be sure to mention and highlight experiences from the past that demonstrate this. Using the STAR method, Situation, Task, Action, Result is a fantastic way to successfully answer this question. The most difficult step, however, is selecting the most appropriate example relevant for the position.
What are your strengths?
This is difficult because you don’t want to sound arrogant but at the same time you don’t want to undersell yourself. Avoid cliches – which can be difficult.
An employer wants to know how your strengths will be relevant to the position. Mention your strengths, an example of its success and then revert it to how you believe it is relevant to the position you are applying for. 2-3 strengths of yours that are relevant to the position should suffice. Try to keep it short and to the point.
Tell me about a failed project?
Similar to another challenging question ‘What is your Biggest Weakness?’ no one likes talking about what they haven’t done well. However, this can be equally important. It is vital that we never leave a lasting impression that is negative with the employer so when faced with a situation like this always try to turn the situation around. In this case, an employer doesn’t want to hear how you completely messed up a situation, they are more interested how you reacted and what you have done to compensate the failings. Tell them:
- What the mistake was.
- How you dealt with it in the initial realization. Did you cower behind excuses? Blame someone else? (I hope not!)
- What you did to try and rectify the mistake in the short term.
- What you have done to:
- Make sure it doesn’t happen again in the long term.
- How you have learned from the mistake and turn it into a positive.
No one likes talking about failure, but if you can demonstrate how you have learned from it and developed a strategy to combat future problems such as this then this is what the employer will be looking for.
What do you do when you are not working?
The more senior the position, the more employers will ask you questions about your personality as they try to gauge influencing factors about your leadership style. With this in mind, you want to demonstrate activities that highlight both your ability to integrate with large groups and your sense of individualism. Involvement in sports clubs, social groups or any community involvement are great group examples and personal hobbies such as reading, item collecting can be interesting personal subjects. There is no real right answer, however there are answers to avoid such as any cultural, religious or political activities that may conflict with the employer.
How do you fit a Giraffe in the Fridge?
With personality questions comes the old curveball. They want to see how you react to unexpected situation. How well can you think on your feet? Outside of the box? And how innovative you can be? This is a rather famous example to which a common response is:
Why not think outside the box, impress them, ask for a pen and paper and do this.
The biggest thing to remember about interview questions is they all have an underlying meaning. The best interviewers are the ones who can identify the real meaning, select the most appropriate example and deliver it in a clear, structured and convincing way.
I would advise to think of 3-4 examples of different experiences to the same answer. This way you can ensure you are not constantly pulling out the same example throughout.
Hope this has helped in your interview preparation. Good luck!
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