Interviewing Tips for Those Painful Questions

What are your strengths? What’s your greatest career accomplishment? What are your career goals?

If you think these are tough interview questions, you’re in for a big surprise. These are what most career coaches consider basic questions and every job seeker should be able to answer them with a near flawless response.

So what happens when the interviewer throws you a curve ball? What happens if they ask you about a part of your job history you’re not necessarily proud of?

Those tough questions can trip up even the most savvy professionals. Here’s some expert advice about how you can answer five of the most difficult interview questions and come out looking like a rock star.

Why do you have a gap in employment?

Employers know becoming unemployed happens, but if it’s been awhile, it’s logical they’d ask about it. It’s not necessarily the reason you lost a job they are interested in, but what you’ve been doing in the interim. Freelancing, volunteering, and taking classes are all great answers. Taking care of a family member is valid, too. Enjoying extended beach time daily? Not so much.

What would you change about your last job?

This seemingly harmless question can be loaded. Many job candidates are tripped up and their answers turn into a huge venting session. Making disparaging comments about your boss, colleagues, or previous employer is a huge red flag. Instead, focus on yourself directly and things you feel held you back, such as dated technology or lack of career advancement opportunities.

Describe a disagreement you had with a boss or your team.

No one gets along with co-workers at all times. There’s bound to be a disagreement periodically. However, talking about conflict can be difficult and it’s easy to play the blame game. An employer wants to get insight into how you handle problems, so it’s best to share a story where you actively helped achieve a solution. Be sure to describe the situation in detail and then explain how you helped facilitate a cohesive result. It shows you are a problem-solver.

Solve a crazy problem that seemingly has no solution.

Tech giants are notorious for asking tough questions in which the interviewer needs to solve a difficult problem. If you’re faced with one of these types of questions, don’t worry. Rather than focusing on getting the answer right, think about the process you’d use for getting to the answer. The interviewer is more interested in how you think than if the answer is right. If you have the ability to be agile and think outside the box, they’ll be impressed.

Explain a complex process to a second grader.

Every industry has complex terms and processes. It’s essential that you know your stuff. If you do, you’ll be able to boil down complex concepts into simplistic terms, and that’s what this question is really getting at. If you can explain 3-D integrated circuits to your 7-year-old niece, then you not only understand the concept, but you excel in communication skills. Remember, in answering these types of questions, keep it short and sweet. That’s the beauty of simplicity.

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