How to Answer Those Tough Interview Questions
Whether you’re just entering the workforce or are a seasoned professional, there will always be those few interview questions that will disrupt your momentum in the moment. Here are a few of the most common questions and interview styles that are likely to arise at some point in your career.
What are your weaknesses?
It’s tempting to choose weaknesses that are also strengths (“I wish I didn’t care so much!”) But these answers are taboo and miss the purpose of the question. Employers are less concerned with getting an accurate, subjective portrayal of your professional weaknesses. They want to see if you’re able to be thoughtful and analytical about your performance.
There are two critical components to consider when answering this question: 1) ensure the weakness described does not hinder your ability to fulfill the position, and 2) outline actions taken in the past to alleviate said weakness. We all have weaknesses but interviewers want to determine whether we can judge ourselves honestly and how we proactively address our inabilities in the long-term.
Why are you leaving your current job?
Three words: Resist the Urge. If you’re actively job searching, chances are you’re not fully happy in your current role or with your current company. Interviewers are ultimately looking to see how you handle yourself under pressure and whether you can conduct yourself professionally. Spin this question into a positive answer by focusing on the areas in your career you’re looking for additional growth, or the aspects of this prospective position or company that are encouraging you to consider other options.
At all costs, avoid complaining, gossiping, and overall negative comments about your current position, colleagues, bosses, or company. In the end, this will negatively impact the interviewer’s view of you as a professional and hurt your chances at landing your next big gig.
What is your desired salary?
If this is not information you provided prior to the interview (i.e. online application, phone screening), it’s to your advantage to have the interviewer set a salary range first. If you have no insight into the prospective salary level, your salary requirements could be too high and automatically weed you out of the competition. Or your salary requirements may be too low and you leave money on the table. Simply ask, “What is the general range you’re targeting for this position?”
However, if it’s necessary for you to set the salary requirements first, know your number ahead of time. Prior to the interview, research the average salary for that prospective role in your region. This will give you a strong estimate that will allow you to remain competitive and not stray too far from the job’s probable salary. Online salary calculators from Glassdoor and PayScale are great options to get you started.
How many jelly beans would it take to fill this room?
These are brainteaser questions. Companies like Google and Amazon are known for using these types of interview questions to determine IQ, problem-solving abilities, and to expose a candidate’s thought process. While these questions are not as common, they can certainly derail your momentum if you’re not prepared.
With brainteaser questions, interviewers are more interested in how you think than providing the correct answer. If you’re facing a brainteaser question, talk out your thought process and how you’d arrive at the correct answer. Monster has a great piece detailing how best to answer brainteasers, and is definitely worth a read for all professionals.
Describe a time in your career when you…
Questions asking you to detail past professional scenarios or to demonstrate how you’d solve a specific work-related problem are called behavioral interview questions. While some companies may just pepper behavioral questions throughout the interview, some conduct interviews that focus only on behavioral questions. The theory is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and interviewers want to understand whether your performance and behaviors will align with the role and their culture.
To prepare for these questions, research some of the most common behavioral questions and loosely prep a few core achievements, learning events, and milestones that help support different behavioral questions around leadership, problem-solving, collaboration, or conflict resolution. Preparing these talking points ahead of time will allow you to seamlessly address these questions when they arise in your interview.
While it’s not possible to anticipate every possible question an interviewer may ask, interview prep will help reduce your overall anxiety around unforeseen questions. However, if you get stuck on a question during the interview, take a deep breath, acknowledge the question, and ask for a moment to formulate the best answer possible. Take your time, be prepared, and just be yourself!
Burchard & Associates is an executive search firm specialized in accounting and finance recruiting across all business sectors, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale/distribution, healthcare, financial services, and more.