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How to answer hard job interview questions

CareerBuilder | January 14, 2021

Answer hard interview questions

These are tough – here are tips to prepare and feel confident.

Job interviews are nerve-wracking and these common questions don’t make it any easier. In fact, they’re downright dreaded, based on feedback from your fellow job seekers.

While employers and hiring managers can be encouraged to tweak these questions to have more thoughtful conversations with you, it’s still in your best interest to learn how to answer them, in case they come up.

When you’re asked, “Why do you want this job?”

The obvious answer is “to pay bills” or “make more money” - but you should aim for a more thoughtful response. When you apply for the job, or you’re preparing for the interview, make note of what about sounds appealing about the job duties or a description that stuck out to you. Something prompted you to apply, right? Even if it’s as simple as how the job description perfectly matched your experience and is closer to family/with a company you like/in a new industry, you can find something to promote. Plus, interviewers are typically interested in what motivates you and what you’re looking for in a team or from a role, so frame your answer to meet those expectations.

The famed, “What’s your biggest weakness?”

Hopefully by now you know that a stealth-brag is not the way to go. For years, it was acceptable to offer something like “I’m a perfectionist” or “I take on too much work” but hiring managers have caught on. Typically, your potential employer is looking more for your level of self-awareness and how you address any issues that arise. Offer how you’ve worked to improve your skills in an area or prioritized professional development. Everyone has to learn new things on a regular basis to remain on top of their jobs – were you a pro at creative thinking and strategy but lacked formal data analysis? Share how you recognized that weakness and took action to improve.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” - which can be unclear even in the best of times

This is tricky. Employers often want to gauge how serious you might be about this role, your commitment to the industry or how you might fit into longer term company plans. But maybe this is your first job (ever or in your field), or you know that in five years, you’d like to be living in a new city, start a business or spend more time with family. Regardless, you don’t have to give away your personal life plan. Demonstrate your dedication by highlighting how you’ve earned certificates or praise, courses you’ve taken, promotions you’ve received, and share how you’d like to continue learning and growing in your next role.

Any form of “What’s your spirit animal?” “Describe in detail how to make a PB&J sandwich.”

Some companies still deploy off-the-wall tactics in interviews, usually to test how you think on your feet, solve problems and deal with unexpected situations. Since you can’t prepare for any exact answers, you can think through what makes you unique and understand how you solve problems. As part of your job interview practice, consider your problem-solving style and how you find solutions in the moment. When you’re presented with any of these scenarios, you’ll be equipped to navigate them.

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