Every candidate should expect a tough interview question or several in the course of her job search. A good interviewer is only doing her job when she probes for your Achilles’ heel.
Unfortunately, many fully qualified job seekers don’t anticipate tough questions, stumble when they respond to them and take themselves out of the running. In addition to questions about your skills and experience, here is a sample of the kind of tough questions you should anticipate.
When have you failed? Most of us have fallen short of the mark at least a few times in our career. The hidden opportunity behind this question is to demonstrate to the interviewer what you have learned and how you have grown from the previous mistake. To prepare, identify a situation that was memorable but not catastrophic, ideally something that happened early in your career or at least a few years ago. Keep the story short and shift from the situation to “what I learned was . . .” and explain why the situation won’t happen again.
Have you been fired? If you were laid off due to COVID-19 or a business downturn that is different from being fired for cause. If you were dismissed for cause, own up to it. This is an opportunity to demonstrate what you learned from the experience and show that you are ready to move forward with your career. “Yes, I am sorry to say that I was.” Briefly explain the circumstances and what you learned from it. Do not play the victim card, that will get you shown to the door.
Aren’t you over-qualified? This question is sometimes used to disguise a hiring manager’s concern about age or salary expectations. Responding effectively will help you turn a perceived negative into a positive for the company. Prior to the interview brainstorm reasons why an interviewer might consider you over-qualified. Develop a rationale for why your qualifications make you “well qualified” rather than over-qualified. Sell your qualifications as a plus not a minus.
What do you expect to be doing in five years? First, research the position carefully to be sure it is a good fit now and will provide a springboard for career growth. When responding you want to walk the fine line between being interested in the current position and leaving the door open for future promotions. “Ultimately what I am doing in five years will depend upon my performance and the growth opportunities offered by my employer. I feel confident that I will be able to take on increasingly greater responsibilities as time goes on.” Here you can refer to what you have learned about the company’s direction, goals, or products and where you can see yourself contributing.
Before every interview get into the hiring manager’s mindset. Ask yourself, “What are possible concerns the manager might have about hiring me? How can I best communicate my skills, experience, and value in this situation? What questions might an employer want answered? How can I demonstrate my unique qualifications during this interview?” Thinking through and preparing responses to these questions will polish your presentation and give you an edge during your next interview.
©2021 Mary Jeanne Vincent. All rights reserved.