3 Tricky Interview Questions And How To Answer Them

3 Tricky Interview Questions And How To Answer Them
by Jaime Petkanics
October 21, 2014

When it comes to job interviews, some questions are asked to break the ice and give you the opportunity to talk about your strengths and accomplishments. Others are a bit harder…and sometimes feel like a trap to get you to shoot yourself in the foot.

Let’s discuss 3 tricky interview questions, why they’re being asked and how to answer them.

Question 1: WHY DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOUR CURRENT JOB?

WHY ARE THEY ASKING: You probably have legitimate reasons for wanting to leave your job. Maybe there isn’t an opportunity for growth, maybe you’re looking to do more strategic work or maybe—for whatever reason—the company just isn’t a good fit. While you may feel like it’s none of their business, your interviewer is asking you this question because they want to make sure that what’s making you unhappy in your current role isn’t likely to repeat itself at their company (because hey, that’s a lose-lose situation). For example, if you are leaving because there are no growth opportunities, but the interviewer knows this company also won’t have growth opportunities, it may be something they think about before offering you the job.

HOW TO ANSWER: Be honest but diplomatic, and refocus the answer on what is positive about the company you’re interviewing with (i.e. I am looking for more opportunities for growth, but mostly I saw this opportunity and couldn’t not apply for it because [company] is a place I’ve always wanted to work). That is always a better approach than focusing on what’s negative about the company you’re currently working for. Never, ever trash your current employer. It won’t reflect well on your overall professionalism.

Question 2: WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST WEAKNESS?

WHY THEY'RE ASKING: Two reasons. The first is to gauge self awareness. Can you imagine how annoying it would be to sit next to someone every day who thought they were 100% perfect? The second is to make sure your weakness is not in an area that is critical to the job.

HOW TO ANSWER: First, give a genuine area of weakness, and not a BS one like “I work too hard” or “I stay too late.” Those are so disingenuous and everyone knows it. Second, make sure that the weakness isn’t one that is critical to getting the job done. Lastly, share how you took that area of weakness and made an effort to improve. I like to use the example of public speaking, which is a weak area for many people. Talk about how you overcame your weakness through practice, a class, coaching or just through gaining more experience doing it.

Question 3: TELL ME ABOUT A TIME WHEN YOU MADE A MISTAKE

WHY THEY'RE ASKING: Similar to the above, your interviewer is looking for self awareness, but also problem solving skills. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you recover from them that matters most.

HOW TO ANSWER: Share a mistake you’ve made and how you fixed it. I generally recommend not choosing the worst mistake of all time. Something harmless that was easily solved is much less of a risk!

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Jaime Petkanics, founder of The Prepary, is now a Career Contessa Expert. You can book a personalized career advice session with Jaime to help launch your search.