Let's go straight into it without further ado.
1. What are your weaknesses?
The most dreaded question that many struggle to answer and hope they will not get asked. Do you really answer this question honestly or do you use it as another opportunity to show off? With this question, your interviewer is really trying to assess your self awareness, honesty and reflection skills.
Let's be honest, we all have weaknesses. You certainly should not answer this question by saying: "I do not have any weaknesses" or "I cannot meet any deadlines" or "I have a temper and cannot tolerate mistakes". All this will very likely send red flags to your interviewer not to short list you any further or select for the job. Also, please do not say "I am a perfectionist". Most people say it and guess what, I do not think anyone believes it anymore. You cannot lie. Most employers want to see that you can reflect and improve. They want to see what you have put in place to improve your weakness. Think about something you are not particularly strong at but could easily improve. For example:
"In my current/previous role, I could have been better at delegating tasks more. OR I have never felt fully comfortable talking to large audiences. It is something that I am actively working on and always seek an opportunity to present to large audiences to ensure I am improving. I still get nervous, however, it never holds me back. The more I do it, the better I get at it."
2. What are your salary requirements?
If you are asked this question, either prior to a job interview or at a job interview, you need to be ready to answer this question. You can do your own research (Glassdoor for example or talk to you colleagues/friends who may work in a similar/same industry) to give you an idea of how much you could ask for and market/industry rate for the relevant role and location. Some organisations do disclose this information on the job advert with a minimum and maximum salary. So if this question does crop up, I suggest that you say that you have seen it on the job advert and that it is in line with your salary expectations.
If they have not disclosed the salary on the job advert and ask you this question during short listing exercise or during the interview process, I suggest that you say you are flexible and happy to negotiate the salary within their allocated budget for the role. This could be a brilliant opportunity to ask (unless they mention it first) about allocated budget for the role. You are trying to get as much insight as possible. If the salary is just too low for you, then I suggest that you are honest and confirm it either verbally or over email that you are no longer interested in the role due to the low salary.
3. Do you have any questions for us?
Normally, you would be asked this question at the end of the interview. I suggest that even if you have no questions to ask, prepare a few as it will demonstrate that you are keen and enthusiastic about the role and organisation. Please bear in mind that any interview process is a two way business. You are also assessing if they are the right place for you. For example, you could ask following questions:
What would an average day look like in your organisation?
What projects are the team working on at the moment?
What sort of budget would I be allocated?
Is this a brand new role or replacement?
How would I be trained?
What is the performance review process like?
What is your favourite part about working here?
Who would I be reporting to? (unless already interviewed by a line manager)
How would you describe your company culture?
What are the next steps in the interview process?
4. Why was there a gap in your employment? | Why did you leave your last organisation? (if you have any and if you did not explain in your CV already)
You have to be honest. Do not try to lie and cover up any gaps. Any prospective employer is very likely to check this either with your previous employer or through other references. If it turns out you lied, this is very likely to be used as grounds for any termination of contract.
Most people take a career break these days to travel or revaluate as to what they would like to do next, or take care of their children or family members or even study/continue with their education full time. Unfortunately, sometimes people get made redundant as their positions were no longer required. If this happened to you, just make sure you are honest about it. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Redundancies or lay offs do happen from time to time which is a perfectly valid reason as to why you have a gap in employment.
The best tip to answer this question is do not overshare. Keep it short and simple, 1-2 sentences will do and do not try to be mysterious. They do not want to know the full details. For example, "I took a career break to go travelling across Australia for 6 months".
You could also talk about new skills you developed during your time off. Volunteering, courses, classes etc. You can talk about softer skills such as problem solving, adaptability, flexibility, thinking on your feet, quick learning and critical observation.
Make sure you emphasise that you are now ready to work again and look forward to the opportunity. You could say that you are looking forward to a new challenge and stretch as well as learning new skills and gaining new experience.
Also, make sure you are confident about your achievements. These can be gained at work and outside work, do not downplay your achievements and feel embarrassed that you had to take a career break. It is all about how you think about it and present to your interviewer.
Move on from this question as quickly as you can, there is no need to dwell on it too much. As I said, just keep it short and simple.
5. Could you tell us about a time when you had to disagree with a decision made at work?
With this question, they are testing your ability to have difficult conversations and your communication skills. We all know that disagreements do happen. They want to know how you approach it, your actions and how you build relationships. Be mindful of your intent and impact here. Firstly, intent means the results you need to achieve or the message you wish to communicate. Secondly, impact means how your behaviour is actually received by the other person.
Again, make sure you prepare your answers and never lie as they may check it with your references. Whatever answer you may come up with, make sure you answer it in a positive way, even if it was a difficult disagreement.
They will be assessing your past behaviours to anticipate as to how may tackle a similar situation in the future, especially if you are going for a role where being challenging is a key part of the role. I have done a special blog on how to do a competency based interview and what they are all about that is relevant to this question and much more. You can find it HERE.
Also, do not be afraid to admit you were wrong if that is what happened in your example. Admitting that you were wrong is a good trait to have. In fact, I personally value when people give an example that clearly shows they were wrong and steps they put in place to correct their actions going forward and any learnings they have to share as a result of it.
Please do not say or pretend that you never had a disagreement at work, this will only make you look like a 'YES' person.
For example, "I once disagreed with my colleague who was giving some advice to a customer. Rather than question his capability in front of the customer, I spoke to him after the customer had left. I explained and provided more information as to what he could have advised the customer so they had full information available that was up to date new guidance. My colleague confirmed that he had missed the team updates meeting and was grateful that I tried to help him do his job better and thanked me for help."
Make sure that you do not say you argued, had a fight, made a scene, tried to blame anyone etc. If you struggled to work with your old colleagues, what evidence would you be giving them to reassure you would be a good colleague to work with?! Make sure you do not bad mouth the old organisation as it just does not sound professional and does not represent great role modelling.
6. Are you interviewing with any other companies?
This is a tough question, they want to see how popular you are as well as finding out about supply and demand in the market. They may also try to predict what sort of salary you may be offered by competing companies. My advice is to link it back to the company.
For example you could say, "I am in the beginning stages of my job search. I am attracted to positions that are going through a transformational journey"...and then you can say something specific about the role to emphasise you are interested in working for them.
If you are already in negotiations with another company, you can share this. However, it can either help or disadvantage you. I personally would not mention it.
Now that we have covered these 6 most difficult interview questions as well the 6 most common easy interview questions, you should be ready for any interview that you get invited to.
I also offer a range of Upgrade Yourself | Personal Development 1:1 services/programs one of which is to review and draft your CV/Cover Letter together and start preparing you for upcoming interviews. You can find out more HERE.
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