MORE Difficult Interview Questions

Following on from an earlier blog on interview questions, here are some more interview questions interviewees commonly dread, or answer badly.

Interview dread difficult horrible questions hate

I said before that understanding why you are being asked something is key. Once you know that though, some questions are still a bit of a danger zone.

"Tell me about yourself?"

If you immediately shrink and think how much you hate talking about yourself, you might miss an opportunity with this one. 

If you immediately think, oh good I'm the sort of person who is fine when I get to interview, I like to talk about myself, then you may answer this just as badly.

"Well, I'm a Leo, born in a small town, eldest of 3, my first word was..." STOP.
DON'T just ramble through your whole life story. PLAN beforehand, rather than avoiding in your preparations and then answering on the spot. What is most relevant to helping the interview decide to hire you? What do you want them to know, remember and maybe ask more about?

This questions is a gift if you plan because it is your chance to summarise your key strengths, why they should hire you. In fact, another more direct way to ask the question is "Why should we hire you?", or "Why should we hire you above other candidates?" If it's at the beginning of the interview, it can be your chance to influence follow up questions.

No real traps or right answers. They genuinely want to get to know you but think in advance which aspects to cover: experience, skills, personality, values, motivations? Not everything.

Pick the points you can back up and where you are strong for the role. Avoid the areas where you know you are a bit weaker, or good but lacking in evidence. So, if you lack experience and know you aren't going to win the race on that basis, you would instead focus on perhaps why it's a perfect next step in terms of where you want to go and how your values fit with the organisation. Another candidate may have more experience but not show such a good understanding of the organisation and such a close fit. Or the interviewer may see you as more likely to enjoy and put energy into the role than someone who has done it all before.

Why do you want to work for us?

I can see eyes rolling at this one. Occasionally there might be one employer you have in your sights and no other, most of the time though you are applying for more than one and may even have problems telling them apart.

This is critical though and also, in my experience, it's the question most likely to cut you out of the short list if it is asked on an application form.

Employers aren't completely naive, they don't expect you to say you were born wanting to work for them and will never leave. On the other hand they are, understandably, fairly focused on themselves. So they need to conclude that you are genuinely interested and feel good about the prospect of working for and with them.

Show two things with your answer and you will do better than most candidates. Firstly, that you have done your research so that you don't say you want something they clearly can't deliver. Or that you like something about their culture which isn't how they see themselves at all. Secondly, that you have thought about yourself. That you have some awareness about what you want from work and your employer, that you know what you enjoy and what drives you and how they fit for you. You might touch on your strengths, because most of us want to work to our strengths.

But be careful, this question is not a re-hash of "why should we hire you?"

Oh okay great simple, you might think.  The company website says they offer: the biggest player in their field, internationally renowned, with a great culture focused on the development of individuals but with a fantastic team spirit. That's what you want so answer done? Well no, not quite.

IF your answer could be applied to their competitor, so perhaps all of the biggest 4 professional services firms, or even to any big international employer, then it's not good enough. You must get more specific than that, dig further and I mean beyond just what the marketing/ PR department of the organisation put on their website. Your reason for choosing that company may be something competitors also say, but show how you have checked that out for yourself critically - perhaps by talking to people working there, perhaps from your experience, perhaps from digging deeper into what they mean by 'team spirit'. 

IF your answer could be applied to almost any candidate, then you also need to get more specific. I haven't met many people who don't want 'interesting' work, but what does that mean for you? You may genuinely want to work for a big international company, but why do you? Why is that important to you? Think about how you will make the most of that, why you will benefit. Again, what is it that you want to keep you motivated and enjoying your work?

So, many candidates get focused on selling how much they will bring. Of course interviews are about that. But don't forget to think a lot about what you enjoy and what you are looking forward to doing or doing more of. A good answer will show that you bring self awareness, critical thinking in making choices, commitment and enthusiasm. 

Best of all, if you prepare for these questions well you won't be faking anything. You will be going for opportunities you are genuinely excited about and the interviewer gets to talk to someone authentic. How refreshing is that?!

If there are other interview questions you dread let me know. Or book comprehensive interview preparation where we can: predict, talk through and practice until you feel confident and can actually enjoy interviews!

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