Even under the best circumstances, job interviews are stressful. And then, just as things seem to be going well, your interviewer throws out one of those questions.
Don’t panic. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can do this. Here are tips and tricks for successfully answering three of the most common tough interview questions.
What is your greatest weakness?
Hiring is risky. Therefore, companies are on the lookout for any red flags. With this question, the interviewer is hoping you will rashly blurt out missing qualifications and character flaws that may be a problem down the line.
Obviously, no one is perfect, so a successful answer is in the approach. Mention something you are not good at that doesn’t relate directly to the job. For instance, an engineer may not have experience in public speaking. Next, explain how you are working to overcome this shortcoming. In the example above, the candidate may have signed up for a continuing education course. This type of response shows your willingness to self-evaluate and improve.
Finally, avoid insincerity and backdoor bragging. Comments such as “I care too much,” “I am a workaholic,” and worst of all, “I don’t have any weaknesses” are eye rolling.
Why did you leave (or are you thinking about leaving) your last job?
As with the weakness question, your potential employer is on the lookout for trouble. Were you fired? Did you fight with your boss? Were you unproductive? Are you disloyal?
Regardless of the situation, highlight the positives of your current or last job. Maybe you worked with great co-workers. Maybe you gained new skills. Or, maybe you learned better management techniques (even if this was through poor management techniques). Then, emphasize your interest in exploring new opportunities, learning new skills and building your career with this new company.
As this question can quickly land you in hot water, rehearse your answer before the interview. Be brief and to the point, and never, EVER bad-mouth your past employer. Even if your old boss was terrible, complaining in an interview only makes you look bad.
How much do you expect to be paid?
This question is difficult because employers are trying to find out if 1) Are you too expensive? Or 2) Would you be willing to work for less than the market rate?
Your best bet is to know your worth. Before any interview, research the average compensation for a role. Take your experience, specific skills, and geographic location into account. If your potential employer mentions salary unusually early in the interview process, you may delay your response by saying, “I would be happy to answer this question, but first could you tell me more about the job.” If the interviewer persists, give a salary range such as $75,000 to $80,000. However, proceed with caution. This may be the beginning of salary negotiations.