The Do’s and Don’ts of Difficult Interview Questions

OmarPart 1
Interviewing: arguably the most impending fear of any job seeker. Whether looking to enter the workforce or in search of a new career opportunity, an interview is almost certain to happen. Yet two things remain true for job seekers: 1. Most don’t prepare effectively for an interview and 2. Most don’t prepare because they are unsure how to approach the “difficult questions” of interviewing – which all affects confidence.

Based on my experience helping participants in the community prepare through mock interviews and speed interview sessions, I find the above to be true across all industries and ages. So, I have compiled the Do’s and Don’ts of difficult interview questions I found job seekers to have the most difficult time answering and I want to provide a way to answer interview questions effectively that will hopefully calm the pre-interview nerves and strengthen that confidence needed to land that job!

Let’s start at the very beginning:

Tell me about yourself?
This is typically the first question that initiates the interview and is like the summary portion of your resume:

Don’t: Mention any matters regarding your personal life (e.g. age, family, disability, etc.). Disclosing information from the beginning that is not pertinent to the job is not beneficial to anyone. On the contrary, it can raise concerns regarding how your personal life could interfere with your performance on the job.

Do: Prepare a 30-second statement about your knowledge, skills, and abilities that will contribute to the company within 30 seconds. This is known as the 30-second commercial or elevator speech. This will help let the employer know your value from the beginning and create a great first impression.

Tell me about a time…
This is what’s known as a behavioral question. The interviewer is asking you to recall a previous challenge you faced and how you handled it. The idea is to predict how you will handle similar situations in the future if you are hired.

Don’t: Divulge and extend your answer by talking negatively about your previous colleagues, bosses, or company, especially if you want to maintain a professional connection in the long run. Many interviewees lose track of the reason for the question this way. Moreover, your interviewer may develop the impression that you will do the same if and once you part ways with them. Remember you are seeking a new opportunity with a fresh start, best not to bring up old issues that can no longer be resolved.

Do: Prepare a CAR statement to keep you on track to answer objectively. Essentially you want to create a little story with a beginning, middle, and end: briefly mentioning the Challenge you faced (leave out names), move on to the Action you took to resolve the problem, and lastly emphasize the positive Results of your actions with percentages, reports, awards, etc. Interviewers have a keen ear for production value that showcases the impact you can make.

What is your greatest strength/weakness?
This one may feel like a trick question, but it is only a matter of the substance and wording of your answer.

Don’t: Give a generic answer such as “I am a hard worker/ I work too hard” or emphasize negative traits, especially if they are essential to the role in question (e.g. your weakness is time management and your job requires you to submit periodic reports on time).

Do: Always assess your knowledge, skills, abilities, and identify what is most important to the job and state a strength based from this. Determine what is least important to the job and identify your weakness based on this, and let the employer know what steps you are taking to turn your weakness into a strength. Remember to emphasize the positive and minimize the negative with your wording. For example, instead of stating “my greatest weakness is…”, consider putting a positive spin by saying: “something I look forward to getting better on/learning is… by doing…”

These are just three of the most difficult questions that interviewers gather a first impression of you. Stay tuned for the questions that people have difficulty answering toward the end of an interview…

Omar Martinez is a Regional Facilitator for Workforce Solutions in the Houston – Galveston Region. Prior to joining the team, Omar served as a resource specialist helping customers get back into the workforce by reviewing current labor market information, job-readiness skills, and community resources. Omar’s continued driving force is to help customers get a job, keep a job, or get a better job by conducting job skills seminars throughout the 13 counties of the Gulf Coast region. He holds a B.S. in Psychology and a Minor in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Houston.



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