If you’ve been to a lot of job interviews, you probably know that interviewers take the greatest delight when they’re able to ask a question for which the answer causes you a great deal of difficulty. This seems to be their purpose. They try to ask these questions the moment you look too comfortable. Perhaps they have a good reason for such a question, such as to see how you handle difficult situations or to see whether you’re just feeding them lines you’ve memorized. Regardless, it can be a very difficult and deflating moment in the interview that may even stick with you for the rest of your life. How do you deal with tough job interview questions like this?
In sports, it is often said that a good defense prevents offensive success. The idea is that in being prepared for these types of questions, instead of being thrown out of rhythm by such questions you will throw the interviewer out of rhythm, giving you control of the direction the interview takes. You can find many examples of tough job interview questions that interviewers have used in the past with a search of the Web. If you have a good answer prepared for each of these questions, you will be able to take control of the job interview at precisely the time the interviewer is trying to trip you up. In doing so you will impress the interviewer with your answer, while gaining the power to route the rest of the interview in a direction that makes you look like a strong job candidate.
However, you must be careful that in preparing yourself for the tough job interview questions you don’t neglect more common, open-ended questions. You need to do equally well delivering answers to these types of questions. Such questions can catch you off guard when you’re nervous. The worst thing you can do is provide short answers to these questions, as they provide you with opportunities to freelance into descriptions of your strengths.
While you must recognize that you cannot be prepared for every conceivable question, you should also recognize that the more types of questions you prepare for, the better you’ll get at answering the unexpected questions. When one of these unexpected questions comes up, make a special effort to relax. You need to open your mind up, though the natural impulse is to shut it down. Feel free to use the active listening technique of repeating the question back to your interviewer to ensure you understood it correctly. You can even re-frame the question a little to make it something that is easier for you to answer in a positive way. This also buys you additional time to think about the question. If you’ve ever thought about an answer to a similar question, it will help you answer this question. If not, you’ll just need to do the best you can and then be more prepared when you enter future interviews. It may help to be honest in saying you’re not sure how to answer the question before giving it your best effort.
If it is a question with several parts to it, you may want to answer each part individually and then provide a thesis-like summary answer. You should answer the question in the fashion that comes out in a logical manner that suits the way you think. For example, if you’re most comfortable telling stories in chronological fashion, then answer the question from the earliest time to the present. Alternatively, if you’re more of a direct to the points and then fill in the evidence presenter, then answer with your main points and then fill in the reasons for each point. If you’re unsure as to whether you’ve satisfactorily answered the question, ask your interviewer whether you’ve done so.
Ultimately, it is better that you should come off as unsure or not a good candidate based on a single question than come off as someone with something to hide or worse, as a dishonest individual. Those who do job interviews ask questions and listen to answers of hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of people. They tend to know where you’re being strong and honest and where you’re weak. If you’re perceived as less than honest in any answers, you’ll be immediately ruled out as a job candidate. They know that a lot of potential employees will not be able to provide a good answer for every question and merely want to see that you respond well in situations where you do not have a good answer prepared.
Quick Tips for Tough Job Interview Questions
– Active listening is a positive trait. If you’re not sure what is being asked, repeat the question back to the interviewer for clarification. You may not look good for your answer to that question, but you will at least be able to impress the interviewer with your communication skills.
– Avoid giving out too much unrelated information about yourself. Focus your answer around facts that show you are competent to do the job.
– Focus on overcoming difficult situations. You will be asked about your weaknesses or about past failures. Your answers should demonstrate that you have learned how to be more competent as a result of these things. Make it clear you know how to avoid future pitfalls as a result.
– Stay in control. Take each job interview as an opportunity to learn how to be a better interviewee. If you stress out over the interview, it will put a cloud over the interview. Calm, cool, and collected are all good ways to be for both your sanity and impressing your interviewer.