Handling tricky interview questions

Handling tricky interview questions

How do you handle tricky interview questions?

The biggest fear of interviewees is not having the ‘right’ answers. The best way to overcome this is to consider the kinds of questions your interviewers are likely to ask and to think about how you will respond. Let’s look at some typical interview questions that leave interviewers shifting uncomfortably in their seats and how best to answer them.

What do you know about us and what we do?

Many hiring managers cite this as one of the most critical questions asked when interviewing candidates. One managing director went so far as to say that if a candidate was unable to answer this question appropriately it was a deal breaker. No matter how well they performed throughout the rest of the interview, they would not be hired.

What is the right approach to responding to this question? Firstly, you will need to have done your homework by spending some time on the company’s website, social media and Google to learn as much as possible about them. It’s important to understand their vision and mission along with their key deliverables. What products or services do they provide? Who are their customers? Who are their competitors? Read the ‘About Us’ page to get an overview of the company, its objectives, its values etc. You will also likely find their Annual Report published either on the website or elsewhere online which can give you a deeper insight into the company, its challenges and future plans.

Check social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc to see if there is further information you can glean about the company’s activities, customers and culture. A simple Google search can also reveal information about the company through media reports, press releases etc. You’ll start to build a picture of the company, its culture and where it’s headed. Armed with all this information, you will be well placed to respond confidently if posed the dreaded ‘What do you know about us and what we do?’

A word of warning. Your interviewer doesn’t want to hear facts and figures about the year they were established, how many employees they have or the location of their offices. What they really want to hear is that you understand their core business aims, are familiar with their approach and share their values. They want to hear that there’s a synergy between you and them and that you’re a good fit for the team and the company.

Why should we hire you?

This can be an intimidating question for those feeling less than confident about their abilities. It’s for that reason that it’s become a favourite question of many a seasoned interviewer. The best way to answer this question is to refer to the job advertisement and job description to identify the key competencies, experience and qualities the employer is looking for. Before being invited for an interview you will have already measured yourself up against the employer’s checklist and determined you were a good match.

The fact that you are sitting in the interviewee’s seat indicates that on paper at least, the employer already thinks you are a good fit for the role. It’s now your job to confirm this assumption by confirming that you tick their boxes. The best response is a natural and concise one that powerfully communicates how you are the ideal candidate. Don’t be afraid to let your personality show, a considerable part of the interview is determining a good personality and culture fit so be sure to smile, relax and be yourself.

What is your biggest weakness?

While no one wants to highlight or talk about their weaknesses, it’s very likely to be a question that crops up in one form or another during your next interview. Other ways in which this question is asked include ‘What do you feel you need to work on most?’ or ‘What will you find most challenging about this role?’. All these questions are fishing for reasons why you might not be a good fit for the role. Whether your weakness is being a poor time manager or an over-critical perfectionist, there are always ways to turn a negative into a positive. It’s important to think about an honest weakness you have but one that won’t be too detrimental to your efforts to convince the employer you’re the right person for the job. Let’s say your weakness is that you are not the most organised person and therefore have a problem with time management, as an example. The fact that you have already identified this as a weakness is a good sign. The next step is describing how you have dealt with this weakness by successfully utilising a range of resources and strategies that have helped you overcome your challenge in this area. The key concept here is that you want to show how you had a weakness which has been overcome.

Knowing what to say in an interview comes down to pre-thought and preparation. It’s a good idea to go through your responses to these and other common interview questions before your next interview, practising them in a role-play situation with a friend or family member if possible. This will help you gain the confidence needed to perform at your very best and get the job you worked so hard to get.

Picture of Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev,  RCDP, MAC

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, RCDP, MAC

Career Coach, EMCC-Accredited Master Practitioner Coach and CDI-Registered Career Development Professional with more than 20 years’ experience helping achieve successful and fulfilling careers.



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