Tips for Answering Six Sticky Interview Questions

May 20th, 2013
HireVue Team
Video Interviewing

No two situations are ever exactly the same, but as a general guide, these are the types of questions that could come up in a traditional or online video interview. Here’s advice from Fast Company on how to answer six tricky interview questions honestly and impressively.

1. Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

tell me about yourself

This question helps the interviewer evaluate how you handle yourself in unstructured situations. It gauges several things, including the impression you'd make when interacting with people on the job, how articulate and confident you are, and the trajectory of your career. It also helps the recruiter get a sense of what you think is important and what has caused you to perform well. Though this question is a difficult one to answer, take it as an opportunity to describe yourself positively and focus the interview on your strengths.

Here's how to answer it: Focus on what interests the interviewer, and highlight your most important accomplishments. Start with your most recent employment and explain why you are well qualified for the position. Then have a story ready that illustrates your best professional qualities, and how those qualities have helped you in achieving your goals.

2. What is your greatest weakness?

frustrated office worker

Fast Company recommends preparing an answer to this question well in advance. "An impressive and confident response shows that the candidate has prepared for the question, has done serious self-reflection, and can admit responsibility and accept constructive criticism. Sincerely give an honest answer (but not a long one), be confident in the fact that this weakness does not make you any less of a great candidate, and show that you are working on this weakness and tell the recruiter how."

3. Tell me about a time when you didn't get along with a superior.

workplace disagreement

Responding that you haven't encountered this situation, can send out a signal that you aren't seasoned enough or haven't been in situations that require you to develop a tough skin or deal with confrontation. Focus on a time when you have had a differing opinion with a superior, and explain how you presented your reasons and openly listened to other opinions as well.

4. Describe a situation where you were part of a failed project.

people coffee tea meeting

Own up to your mistakes-- the recruiter is not looking for perfection. Answering this question sheds light on your level of responsibility, your decision-making process, and your ability to recover from a mistake. Illustrate what you learned from the experience and that you can take responsibility for your mistakes-- show that you’d like to think that you have learned something valuable from every mistake you have made. And above all, have a brief story ready with a specific illustration. Conclude your story on a positive note, with a concrete statement about what you learned and how it benefited the company.

5. What do you do when you're not working?

Hobbies outside of work

Especially for senior positions, it's important for hiring managers to know about the candidate’s qualities that will impact his or her leadership style: is the person well-adjusted and happy, or is he or she a company zealot? Discuss hobbies or pursuits that interest you, but avoid dwelling on any political or religious activities.

6. Why did you leave your last position?

empty conference room

Be honest and straightforward, and don't dwell on any conflict that may have occurred. Fast Company suggest that you highlight positive developments that resulted from your departure, whether it was that you accepted a more challenging position or learned an important lesson that helped you to be happier in your next job.

Continue your interview prep and learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked interview questions here.

Continued Reading - Five Important Interviewing Techniques