Oh no! Did I really just say that??!!
There you are…smack dab in the middle of an interview…and you are knocking it out of the park!! ‘Tell us about yourself,’ you pass it with flying colors. ‘Why did you choose your major?’ That’s a cake walk and you even made the interviewer smile. Things are looking good and you can see the offer letter with your name on it already and before you know it, the interviewer drops one of those TOUGH interview questions on you: ‘What is your biggest weakness?‘ All of a sudden your palms get sweaty, a knot forms in your throat, and your seemingly breeze of an interview suddenly hit a rough spot.
Questions, like the one above, are generally thrown into the question pile to throw you off. Future employers want to see what you are made of and how you think on your feet. I mean really, what are you going to say on that conference call when an executive calls you out for an answer. Well, I have created a list of three pretty difficult interview questions with bad answers, critiques, and a better answer. I have to admit some of these responses are some that I have heard as my time as an interviewer. Which ones are real, maybe I’ll tell, but either way they aren’t responses that would make someone want to hire you.
1. ‘What is your biggest weakness?’
Bad Answer: ‘I’m usually never timely and I don’t do well with a lot of work. I usually have a hard time staying on task and making sure I get things done on time.’
Critique: Okay I just have to say, this was a real response that someone actually used. I’m pretty cool, calm, and collected, but even this response had me testing my limits. Honestly, he or she just said that their weakness is having a job. They are definitely not going to impress an interviewer with that one.
Better Answer: ‘Seeing that this is my first opportunity to gain true professional experience, I think my biggest weakness is the fact that I don’t have a lot of professional or corporate experience. I know it will be a major adjustment, but everyone has to adapt at some point in time. I just know after doing my research on your company that you have the tools and resources to make sure that someone like myself catches up to speed quickly and can become a significant contributor.’ This still expresses that he or she doesn’t have a lot of experience and might not even be a good ‘corporate’ worker, but at least he or she knows they are in the right place to learn. This is also a good time to say you are looking to strengthen your public speaking, time management, or analytical skills as well. These are all things that you can apply to any job in any industry
2. ‘Tell me about a time you worked with someone that you didn’t like.’ ‘What happened and what was the outcome?’
Bad Answer: ‘I got stuck working with someone in my class on a project and as soon as I realized that he was in my group, I went straight up to my professor and asked could that person be switched into another group. I told the professor that I was too busy focusing on finding a job and graduation to be dealing with a slack group member.’
Critique: From the first sentence, the response sounds like this person generally throws people under the bus. There wasn’t even an attempt to work with the person or even see what that person could bring to the table. It definitely makes the person sound very self involved and not a team player.
Better Answer: ‘Not all the time are we going to be fortunate to work with people of similar characteristics and work ethic and I’m assuming that it’s no different in the workplace. I have been assigned to work with multiple people that I wouldn’t have chosen to work with. The first thing I try to do is outline the common goal of the group. What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? Another thing I’ve learned, is that everyone has strengths. Asking others what they are good at and what they would like to do is a good way to get people on board. People that I generally might not have been fond of tend to be easier to work with once they know they are valued and are working towards the same end result. It’s not easy and I’ve had my fair share of tough group members, but the situation teaches you both to be collaborative.’ Remember guys, we all have to have our slice of humble pie at some point.
3. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
Bad Answer: I will have been working for your company for five years and I’d like to be an executive or possibly even CFO. I know it’s a lot of work, but I am a hard worker so I think I can do it.
Critique: Just like response number one, this was a REAL response. I promise to you that I’m not lying. This just shows a lack of maturity and frankly not a good grasp on the real world. Very few of the brightest of the brightest become management in five years let alone reach executive status. This might make one look like they are not taking the interview seriously. Definitely an easy way to get crossed off the list.
Better Answer: ‘If I am afforded the opportunity, I will have been working for your company for five years and in that time I hope I would have grown as an employee to truly learn the business of your organization. In five years, I would like to be a strong contributor to a team in either the Operations, Marketing, or Finance department. ‘ Although it’s unlikely that you would jump around to different departments that fast either, at least it shows you are thinking ahead and that you are trying to find where you fit in the company.
Well there’s plenty more tough interview questions and bad answers where that came from. Now it is time to hear from you! What do you think is the toughest interview question out there? How do you generally respond to them? If I get a lot of comments, I might have to do a part two.
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