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How to Answer 7 Tricky, But Common, Interview Questions

Topics: Career Advice

Interviewers aren’t necessarily trying to trip you up when they ask tough questions. However, if you’re not ready, their inquiries could cost you the job.

Certain tough questions tend to come up more often than others. So, consider these seven common — but tricky! — interview questions before your next job interview and the tips for how to approach them. Doing so will help you prepare to be at your best during your next job interview.

1. What’s your biggest weakness as an employee?

Male and Female Workers
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Being asked to discuss your biggest weakness is a classic tricky interview question for sure. Although, the interviewer’s intentions usually aren’t sinister. They simply want to get to know you a little better.

So, with that said, what you don’t want to say is that you don’t have any weaknesses. Not only is that untrue (sorry, but no one is perfect) but it doesn’t help the interviewer learn anything about you as a candidate.

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Instead, try to frame your answer around positive aspects of your experience or your skills. If meeting one-to-one with clients is a part of the job, for example, you could talk about how you feel comfortable and adept working with others in that way. Then, admit that larger group presentations isn’t your strength, by comparison. Just make sure that the skill you’re highlighting as a weakness, relative or not, isn’t a requirement for the job.

You could also talk about a skill that you’ve improved or are working on currently. This shows the interviewers that you understand your weaknesses and that you take steps to address them. Demonstrate that you’re the kind of employee who’s committed to self-understanding and self-improvement. For example, you could say that a certain skill isn’t your strength — but that you know it’s a good skill to have, even though it’s not a direct part of your job, so you’re taking a class online to help you improve your abilities in this area.

2. Why do you want to work here?

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When you’re asked why you want to work with a company, you’ll want to respond with an informed answer. Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. And, show that you’re enthusiastic about how you can help the company meet their goals.

Hiring managers are trying to determine how you’ll fit in with the culture of the organization when they ask a question like this, so be sure to speak to that, too. You’ll also want to show that your goals align with the job that’s being offered. Talk about how you can help the organization get where it’s trying to go and how the company can help you meet your goals, too.

These days, there’s absolutely no excuse for not doing your homework about a company ahead of time. So, before your interview, be sure to do some research online. Seek to better understand the mission and culture of the company. Use the resources you find to think about what the organization is looking for in an employee. Then, consider how your skills and abilities, and your future goals, could fit with the company’s objectives.

3. Why are you leaving your current job?

Why People Quit Their Jobs
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There’s something about being asked why you’re leaving your current job that is especially cringe inducing. Being asked “why are you…” about just about anything can make a person feel a bit defensive, so that’s part of it. Plus, you understand the importance of being positive in an interview, and answering this question can sometimes make that a little difficult.

Still, it’s important not to talk negatively about the company you’re leaving or the people who worked there. A good way to do that is to focus on what you’re moving toward rather than what you’re moving away from.

It’s perfectly all right to say that you’re looking for a fresh challenge, new responsibilities, or the opportunity to learn and grow in different directions. Talk about what you want in your next job, rather than what you didn’t like about the old one. And, be positive and generous when discussing the company you’re leaving behind. It will help inspire confidence in your prospective employer.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

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Interviewers like to ask where you see yourself in five years, or 10, because they want to get a sense of your anticipated career trajectory. They’re curious about what you’re hoping to get out of your next job. And, sometimes they’re also trying to get a sense of how long you’re planning to stay if they hire you.

Fielding this inquiry is a little tricky, no doubt. But, if you focus on sharing your goals and ambitions while demonstrating that this position aligns with your expectations, you’ll knock it out of the park.

When preparing your answer, think about where this position would likely take you and how that lines up with your goals. Then, you’ll be able to respond in a way that’s truthful and that could help you land the job.

So, for example, you might say that you’re excited about how this job opportunity could further deepen your expertise. You’d like to be seen as a real master of this work in five years. And, you know that this job would allow you to get that experience.

You might also talk about how you imagine taking on more responsibilities in the years ahead. You’re looking forward to working with the excellent managers there to help you learn better managerial skills yourself, for example.

It’s great to demonstrate that you’re ambitious when answering this type of question. Just make sure that you’re projections are realistic. And, be sure to highlight ways in which this new job is a perfect fit.

5. What did you earn at your previous job?

salary history question
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Questions about your salary history should be handled carefully. But, before you plan your reply, it’s essential to understand whether providing a potential future employer with this information is in your best interest.

First things first: ideally, hiring managers wouldn’t ask. Your pay should be based on the market, meaning what other workers with similar experience, skills and job description are earning in your geographic region. (Use PayScale’s Salary Survey to find out how much that is.)

Salaries should not be based on prior earnings. When they are, it often damages workers’ bottom line. And, the practice can even contribute to the gender pay gap. Women who were underpaid in the previous job continue the trend when their next salary is based on the prior.

That being said, if you are asked, you have a decision to make — and gender plays into it. PayScale’s research has found that when a woman who is asked about her salary history and declines to disclose it, she earns 1.8 percent less than a woman who provides the information. Men who refuse to give their salary history earn 1.2 percent more on average, by comparison.

Finally, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the laws in your area before you go into a salary negotiation. Some states and cities have made it illegal to ask for salary history during the interview process.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”When a woman who is asked about her salary history and declines to disclose it, she earns 1.8% less than a woman who provides the information. Men who refuse to give their salary history earn 1.2% more on average, by comparison.” quote=”When a woman who is asked about her salary history and declines to disclose it, she earns 1.8 percent less than a woman who provides the information. Men who refuse to give their salary history earn 1.2 percent more on average, by comparison.”]

6. What are your salary expectations?

salary
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There is a big difference between asking for your salary history and asking for your salary expectations. However, in some ways, neither question is really ideal. If possible, it’s usually a good idea to let the hiring manager throw out the first number. Otherwise, there’s no way to ever know for sure that you’re earning as much as they were willing to pay.

The first step to answering this tricky question is to keep in mind that interviewers are asking about your expectations because they want to get a sense of whether or not they can afford you and what they can get away with paying you.

So, when you’re asked about salary expectations, the key is to answer in a way that shows that you’re flexible but also that you know what you’re worth.

At first, you might say that you want to learn more about the job before discussing salary. (It’s essential that you understand exactly what you’ll be doing before researching a range — two jobs can have the same title and very different responsibilities.) You might even get a sense of their budget from this conversation.

Then, if your interviewers are still asking about your expectations, you can present a salary range based upon your research. Explain that you’ve learned that this salary range is consistent with the rest of the market — this is what other professionals like you, who work in your area, are earning.

7. Do you have any questions for us?

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Toward the end of your interview, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be asked whether or not you have any questions for the people you’re meeting with. It’s essential that you anticipate this question and prepare for it.

If you say that you don’t have any questions, it sends the wrong message. Hiring managers want to know that you’re an engaged and curious person. Someone like this would have a question or two for their potential employer. So, come up with a couple of ideas in advance.

You can ask about any number of things. Just be sure to demonstrate that you were engaged during the interview and that you have a solid understanding of the company’s goals and mission. Ask about how you could help with a priority they discussed, if you’re hired, for example. Or, ask about how they anticipate the person in that role will contribute to a project that came up during your talk. You might also ask about day-to-day job responsibilities, or timelines for goals.

Make sure to ask open-ended questions rather than ones that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This will keep the conversation going. And it will help your interviewers know that you’ve done your homework and that you’re paying good attention.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the trickiest question you’ve heard during an interview? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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#5, salary history, not applicable (NA). It’s not what made at your previous employer. What is the going rate for your category or title,… Linkedin, Pay Scale, Glass Door Career Builders and the like,… along with Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Government Accounting Office (GA0). These give perspective, and along with soul searching of what you are worth, of where you are in the grand scheme of wages. BLS and GAO will give some idea as to whether or not you can afford to live in that area, by comparing your annual gross wages to the GAO’s Average Median Annual… Read more »

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