Tough Interview Questions
The silence left by an interviewer is not an invitation to babble or a license to ramble. In fact, it is a calculated tactic used by many a sophisticated employer to make you do precisely that. Avoid breaking the silence and above all don’t lose your cool. Stay casual and relaxed, maintain your friendly demeanor and wait for the employer to break the silence. Remember in an interview the nonverbal cues you give are being observed as closely as your words, tone and diction.
2. Tell Me A Little About Yourself
Stick to business and to those aspects of yourself that specifically related to the job at hand. This is not the time to pretend to enjoy soccer if you don’t know how many people play in a team, who won the last World Cup and what the rules of the game are. Nor is it the time to reveal personal information that has no bearing to the professional setting and might impede your chances of success. This is your chance to really sell yourself and expound on all those character traits, accomplishments and success stories that have a direct bearing on the job. Reassert why you are there and your interest in the position and reaffirm why you are uniquely qualified and suitable for the role at hand. Substantiate your claims with concrete and positive examples from your past experience that reflect on your abilities, aptitudes and values. Show that you understand the requirements of the role and portray yourself in the best light possible to occupy that role by virtue of your goals, interests, strengths, skills and past successes.
3. Tell Me a Story
Trust us, the interviewer is not interested at this specific moment in pop culture, nursery rhymes or the sequel to the latest blockbuster. He is interested in his bottom line and in finding a candidate who can augment that while being a pleasant and welcome member of the team. Stay focused on why you are there and what the interviewer is looking for. Asking a question to get the conversation back on the most relevant professional track is your best course of action. “What would you like to hear about?” may narrow the parameters but then again the interviewer may not be forthcoming. You can then volunteer “Can I tell you about why I am here today and why I truly believe I am uniquely suitable for this specific job” and proceed to reiterate with passion and sincerity why you firmly believe you are unequivocally the best person for the job.
4. Why Should We Hire You?
This question delivered sometimes in a condescending manner may come at a late stage of the interview by which time you thought you’d already expounded on all your virtues or it may be used as a shocker right at the beginning. Either way don’t be discouraged or exasperated. Use it to drive home exactly why you believe you are uniquely and fundamentally and beyond any shade of a doubt qualified for the very specific role being discussed. This is where your homework comes into play and you need to really understand what the employer is looking for in terms of skills, strengths, values, track record and cultural fit. Align your goals and interests with the employer’s and reiterate that you are confident you can not only meet the deliverables and perform the requirements of the role but really excel! Show confidence, enthusiasm and energy without being boastful or arrogant. Above all be sincere. Your sincere and honest interest in the job and faith that you will perform beyond all your expectations will communicate itself to the employer better than any canned superlatives and coined metaphors.
5. What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with?
Every workplace has its unique personalities and character profiles, some less ideal to work with than others. This is not the time to point fingers, generalize, compartmentalize or wax lyrical about your ideal team environment. Show you are tolerant, flexible, easygoing and able to get along with practically anyone and resolve conflicts professionally and productively. Say you understand everyone brings to the table their very own skills, strengths and experiences, that you enjoy the challenge of working with new people and can really appreciate the differences. Emphasize that you are a teamplayer who enjoys interacting with and bouncing ideas off of others and thrives on the feedback and reinforcement, the energy and vitality inherent in effective and collaborative teamwork.
6. How do you handle stress?
Stress is an inevitable part of life and the employer needs to hear you realize that and have already mastered the art of recognizing stress and coping with it effectively. Mention that you take time to really think through a situation before reacting and never allow matters to blow out of proportion or lose your calm. Give an example of a particularly stressful project you worked on and how you managed to reduce the stress level through proper planning, organization time management. Show you have an arsenal of real stress-busting habits too which successfully serve you in ameliorating stress whether they be yoga, running once a week, meditation at night, swimming, meeting up with friends, or some other sport, hobby or activity that shows you positively for the well-rounded person you are.
7. What was your biggest failure?
Obviously this is potentially your opportunity to talk yourself out of the job so be very careful and above all don’t bring up a failure that has any impact or ramifications whatsoever on the job at hand. You may bring up something relatively insignificant that happened very early in your career and turn it into a story of remedial action and great success as directly affects and impacts your potential for contribution to the present job. Demonstrate that you have dramatically learned and grew from that experience. You may mention for instance a formal training program you really wanted to get into that you were not permitted to join and how that forced you to pursue your own learning tangent which actually proved much more rich, fruitful and relevant to your chosen career path. Or talk about an account you lost very early on in your career due to sheer inexperience and how you instantly took remedial action, learned from your mistakes, took the counsel and advice of your boss and mentors and won the account back and have since made them into one of your biggest customers.
8. To what do you attribute your success?
The interviewer probably wants to verify that you really are successful professional at this stage by gauging your sincerity when you respond to this question. He/she is also interested in your value system and character. Mention some of the values you hold most dear to you – honesty, integrity, character, discipline, and mention that you are an energetic, ambitious “doer” who has always been very persistent, organized and disciplined in setting and meeting goals. Don’t be arrogant or over-confident when answering this question or ramble on endlessly as this is also a “likability” question. Remember to attribute some of the success to the wonderful people you have been blessed to work/ learn with – whether it is a unique boss, mentor, teacher, peer or group of people.
9. Describe a situation where you were faced with a problem that had no precedent?
This question probes your problem-solving and analytical skills. How well can you think outside the box, wrap your mind around a particular quandary, get the full measure of it and formulate the means and method to resolve it in an exemplary fashion? This question is especially relevant in the case of start-up companies or divisions, consultancy roles and many positions which require braving uncharted territory and designing new systems and procedures and operating apparatus. You need to show creativity, clarity of thought, confidence in your analytical and problem-solving skills and willingness to take a risk and create your own precedent.
10. How do you deal with difficult customers?
Give an example of a difficult client you had to work with and how you maintained the relationship and made it profitable by really listening to him, respecting his needs, issues and constraints, following-up rigorously, maintaining very high professional standards and not allowing ego to get in the way. Chose an example where you were able to really turn the situation around to everyone’s advantage.
11. What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Choose a significant success story and make sure you position it in terms of how it positively impacts your potential for success in the new role. Give facts and figures to elaborate if possible. You may want to talk about winning the most important account in the industry if that is relevant to the job at hand, about your relationships with clients which have won you an unrivalled track record at client retention, or about exceeding ambitions goals through hard work, perseverance, client follow-up, effective communication and cohesive teamwork. Show how you mobilized resources and gained approvals and how you then carried through to successful implementation and follow-up without losing sight of either the big picture or the details and while effectively negotiating several difficulties on the way.
12. What is your ideal work environment?
Emphasize your flexibility and your ability to be productive, happy and efficient in any number of environments. This is not the time to demand the corner office with the park view or uninterrupted close-door policy. Versatility goes a long way in today’s fluid workplaces and you need to show that you are able to focus on the job at hand and “fit in” seamlessly regardless of extraneous factors be they the physical surroundings, team dynamics or general level of noise and activity in the office. Indicate examples of how you have managed to excel in the past in suboptimal work environments and done so quite happily. Convey that you like the challenge of fitting into a new role and know from your history and track record that you can adapt immediately regardless of the environment.
Muhammad Naveed Rahmat