How to Answer Five of the Most Annoying Interview Questions

How to Answer Five of the Most Annoying Interview Questions

How to Answer Five of the Most Annoying Interview Questions

As a trusted staffing firm working with candidates for more than 40 years, our recruiters have heard a lot about the kinds of questions that make candidates cringe in an interview. Here are a few of the most dreaded and our recommended approach to answering them like a pro.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Don’t look at this as a trick question, or a strategy to trap you into something. The interviewer’s motivation is to discover your level of interest and commitment to the possibility of a longer-term position. With a record high 6.2 million job openings available in the U.S., the scales are tipped in favor of job seekers in the current market. Potential employers want to know that you’re serious about your career plan and have considered a future with their company should they make you an offer. According to a survey conducted by ADP, 27% of employees change jobs each year, 17% are actively job-hunting and 46% are passively looking. Your prospective employer wants a sign that you’re looking for a career, not a job. The Muse gives some good advice on how to answer this question honestly, while still providing the desired information. Your answer should demonstrate that you have realistic goals when it comes to your career path, and that you are willing to work your way up to reach them. The article suggests a response that centers in on your professional growth. For example, “I have worked with some talented managers that acted as mentors and examples for me. I look forward to the opportunity to take on that role in the future, and I believe this company is great place for me to develop those leadership qualities and experience.”

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
The reason this question is among the most dreaded is because while most people can talk about their strengths relatively easily, weaknesses are more difficult to communicate. The goal is to be truthful without leaving any kind of negative impression in the mind of your interviewer. Monster.com recommends making a list of your skills from three categories:

  • Knowledge-based skills: Acquired from education and experience (e.g., computer skills, languages, degrees, training and technical ability).
  • Transferable skills: Your portable skills that you take from job to job (e.g., communication and people skills, analytical problem solving and planning skills)
  • Personal traits: Your unique qualities (e.g., dependable, flexible, friendly, hard- working, expressive, formal, punctual and being a team player).

Refer back to the job description to match your skills with those requested by the employer. Be prepared to reference specific examples of how you apply those skills in your professional life. Rehearse your responses out loud to get comfortable and avoid being too long-winded in the interview. When it comes to addressing the weakness aspect, you will have to say something, but keep it brief. The best strategy is to choose one skill or trait that is not highly relevant to the position, but is an area where you could use some work. For example, you could say “I don’t know that I would call it a weakness, but I am always looking for ways to improve upon my leadership skills, and my willingness to delegate responsibility.” This is one of those questions that you might be inclined to dismiss, but the clarity and precision of your response is what an interviewer is assessing, almost as much as the details you provide.

Tell me how you think others would describe you.
Company culture is becoming more of a concern to employers because of how strongly it influences employee satisfaction. Organizations have to hire individuals that are good skill matches for their open positions, but who are also a good fit with their existing team and mixture of personalities. Talking about the traits that others recognize and appreciate in you will give a potential employer a glimpse at what kind of co-worker you will be. Your interviewer will be watching for signs that what you describe is aligned with the behaviors you display in the interview. They are trying to establish what you will bring to the team in terms of interpersonal skills and ability to collaborate. This is also an opportunity to talk about potential challenges you faced, your ability to overcome them, and the people that recognized those achievements. Monster.com recommends that your response include an account of a time when you overcame a challenge or solved a problem, and end with a quote from your manager or colleague about your handling of the situation.

What is your desired salary?
This question, or rather if the employer has justification for asking it, has always been a controversial topic. There have been several staffing industry articles lately that dismiss this question as being unfair to the candidate, like this one from Glassdoor. The candidate perception is that it forces them to tip their hand as to what salary they would be willing to accept, making it difficult for them to secure a better offer. As one of the first steps to qualify candidates, companies may ask you about your salary history early on to make sure that you are in the right range for them. Just as you wouldn’t want to undersell yourself if your salary history was not indicative of your worth, you also don’t want to scare a prospective employer away if your previous income is significantly higher than what they plan to offer. The fairest response to this question that leaves both parties feeling like they have the necessary information to move forward is to provide a range for the salary you expect. Our recruiters recommend that your range begin with the lowest salary you would accept if it was offered to you, and expand to about 10% beyond that. You should never exaggerate or falsify a prior salary amount in order to leverage a better offer. A secondary reason for why employers ask candidates about past salaries is to see if the response is truthful. Many companies conduct thorough background checks on applicants including verification of previous salaries. A fabrication like this will cause an employer to question your honesty and integrity, and could cost you the job. Salary.com recommends that you visit their website to discover a market price for the job you’re applying for. Your experience in the field should determine how close to that average your actual offer will be.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
This is one of the most dreaded questions for candidates to answer; in part because they are not sure what kind of information the interviewer wants to know. Your response should always be a brief explanation of your most recent experience relevant to this position. Many candidates are apprehensive about being “all business” with this answer. They will begin with personal information, and wander down a path that leads them further away from demonstrating why they are a good fit for the job. Because this question often sets the tone for the interview, it is a classic and is not likely to disappear from the interviewer repertoire anytime soon. This purpose of this question is to gauge your ability to provide information about yourself that is pertinent to the position, and to do it in a clear and concise manner. Monster.com advises an approach consisting of focus, script and practice. You should laser-target your response to focus on your most relevant skills and experience, and how they could serve you well in this position. Write or type it out so you stay on track. This will be like a road map that you can refer back to as the interview grows closer. Practice it a few times until your response becomes almost second nature. The goal is to sound polished, not rehearsed. End with a short statement about your current situation and your professional goals as related to the position you’re seeking.

While these questions cause many candidates anxiety, it’s important to consider the motivation of your interviewer. They are concerned with the content of your responses, but they are also looking for your ability to explain yourself and articulate what makes you the best choice for the position. Even if these specific questions aren’t asked during the interview, your preparedness to answer them is still relevant, and can be drawn upon to provide intelligent and well thought out responses throughout the interview process. The ability to think on your feet is a quality that many employers look for in a candidate. The good news is, you can use these frequently asked questions as a model to structure responses that will help you

Bradley Staffing Group is a full-service staffing firm based in Wayne, PA. We are committed to matching A-level talent with best-in-class businesses. Our knowledgeable and well-trained staff brings a combined 70+ years of staffing experience to our clients and candidates alike. http://bradleystaffinggroup.com/job-seekers/

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