Best Career Tips: Career related services and advices

  • Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Ten Toughest Interview Questions (10.09.2015.)


“Many fresh graduates on the threshold of the world of employment approach the job interview with much trepidation. The main reason the being fear of the unknown. Walking into that human resource director’s office is akin to walking into the lion’s den for some! But understand that the interviewer or hiring manager is not out to trick you or put you in a spot with difficult questions. The interview is not designed to ‘eliminate’ you but rather to find out more about you and how you would fit in with their establishment. The key to managing interviews successfully is to first know and understand that the interview process is a meeting of evaluation for both parties – not just the company. It provides the opportunity for both the employee and the employer to get a ‘feel’ of whether they can work together. They are basically looking for positive chemistry between you and them. And although, as the prospective employee, it is basically you on the auction block, as it were, be alert and aware and take the opportunity to also evaluate if you can fit in with the company’s philosophy and work environment. GRADUAN asks several hiring managers to share some tough questions posed to interviewees. These are only examples; they are not for you to memorise verbatim as each interview will present a different circumstance and require different slants on the answers. Use it as a guide to formulate your own answers supported by your individual relevant examples.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

This is quite a common first question and although it sounds like a simple one, many candidates stumble. As an opener, it crucially sets the tone for the interview and you certainly do not want to panic. Do not go into lengthy details about your education and background – it is all stated clearly in your resume. The interviewer’s interest is in your confidence. Be clear and concise, focused and purposeful. You may want to formulate a two-minute response, which would illustrate and highlight your interests, knowledge and passion in relation to your qualifications and to the position you are applying for. This is the time to showcase your capabilities and talents, but in a confident and deferential way. For example, if you are applying for a position of a writer you may say: “Writing has always been a passion for me and I have been writing essays and articles since my school days. I was on the school editorial board and also won essay competitions. During university semester breaks, I worked as a stringer for a local daily and saw numerous articles published. My final project during my last year at varsity was a collection of critical essays based on current issues, which I have here for your persual. When I heard of an opening with your company, I saw it as an opportunity to put my writing and language skills to good use and help to fill your company’s need while doing something I am passionate about.”

2. “Why should I hire you (instead of another candidate)?”

Why indeed? One way to look at this question would be to put yourself in the interviewers shoes and look at yourself from his or her perspective. What qualities would you want to see in yourself? The Asian culture of modesty can be a hindrance in answering this question but do not let this sidetrack you. The easiest and most logical answer would be because you are the best person for the job – aren’t you? However, make sure you back this up by explaining why; bring the answer back to how passionate and dedicated you are in this field, and the training and qualifications you have. But know that other applicants would also have these so you must also set yourself apart with significant and commendable accomplishments that are related to the position you are applying for (for example, previous work experience, was on the Dean’s list, successfully managed budgets for varsity projects and so on). Show them unequivocally that you are indeed the perfect candidate. You need to portray four qualities – competence, professionalism, enthusiasm and likeability. Let them know that you are interested in the job and enthusiastic about working with them.

3. “How do others perceive you?”

The aim of questions like these is to evaluate your understanding of yourself and your social relationships, and how you relate to others. It is an open-ended question which can be answered differently but similarly, the answers can be interpreted just as differently, so be careful. You need to project confidence and certainty about your skills and abilities. Simultaneously, when you speak about what others think of you, cite credible figures and be specific about why they hold such an opinion. You may want to use sentences such as “I am grateful that my professor saw me as a responsible person and selected me to represent the university in a national conference”. Do bring along any letters of recommendation and commendation.

4. “How can you contribute to our company?”

Again, you need to highlight your passion for the job you are applying for while bringing attention back to your accomplishments and successes. Needless to say, you must be well-versed with the activities of the company and its direction as well as the duties and responsibilities which will be required of you should you secure the job. State your strengths in fulfilling this role, and mention also other similar duties and responsibilities you had in previous jobs or in varsity projects which can be applicable. For example, when applying for an accountancy job, you could mention any previous project for which you were responsible for costing, budgeting and accounting as the treasurer of a student club.

5. “Are you a team player?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding yes, but make sure you support the answer. Many candidates in their nervousness, make the mistake of just blurting out a simple yes, and then face an uncomfortable silence when the interviewer waits for a supporting explanation which is not forthcoming from them. Give examples of successful team projects which you participated in, for example organising a major sports event for college, or working on a fund-raising project. You could also bring mention team sports which have participated in successfully. When answering this, play up the importance of team rather than the individual’s role. Emphasise on teamwork rather than on individual performance, and illustrate your willingness to work and cooperate with diverse groups. You may also have to answer questions on how you handle team work issues, challenges and relationship management.

6. “What are your weaknesses?”

This is certainly not the time to run through a long list of what you are weakest at! You do not exactly want to expound on your weak points and neither do they want to know what they are, really. What they want is to see if you can identify and recognise your limitations and if you are proactive in overcoming them. You need to illustrate you problem solving initiatives, that is, mention a limitation and how you are overcoming it. As an example if you find it difficult to remember the many things you need to complete during the day, state that you have started a daily to-do list which you tick off as soon as the deeds are done. Clearly demonstrate that you are someone who understands his/her shortcomings and are willing to take positive action towards improving yourself. You could also state that you would welcome any pointers which could help you to better your work performance when you are hired.

7. “Why do you want to work with us?”

To answer this question intelligently you must first have adequate background information on the company (and make sure you do not confuse your facts if you are preparing for more than one interview!). If you know someone who is already working with the company, you can get an idea on the company’s work environment and policies which could help you in your answers. Complete your answer by stating your conviction and belief that the company can provide you with a stable work environment which you feel you could work well in. You could also comment on the company’s good standing in the industry and its positive reputation.

8. “How much do you think you should be paid?”

This can be quite a tricky question. You do not want to price yourself out of the market, nor would you want to sell yourself short and settle for less than what you are worth. It is important to have an idea of what the market rate is for the position you are applying for. Taking a leaf out of David Schwartz’s “Magic of Thinking Big”, believe in yourself, have confidence and know your value. Find things in yourself that make you more valuable and saleable and do not be afraid to project that. Having said that, you may want to put yourself in the best possible position by actually quoting a figure, support that with why you are worth that much and maybe ending your answer with “I will be willing to consider another offer that the company makes to me.”

9. “What colour is your brain?”

What?! This is an example of a crazy question targeted to stimulate a spontaneous response and throw you off balance – just to see how quickly you think on your feet. So the answer could be “…blue, because I’m a cool and level headed person, and am able to work under pressure and deadlines”; or “…red, because I’m passionate about (whatever field you are applying for) and am a go-getter who produces results and delivers the goods.” Search the web or read up on other similar strange questions.

10. “What motivates you?”

At this level, you are all probably working for the money and trying to discover your life passion but it would be wise not to blurt out these answers. Try saying something constructive such as “I find great satisfaction in getting a job well-done” or “… in seeing my hard work come to fruition to benefit others.” Employers are looking for the person behind the face and the resume, to find out what makes you tick. You want to portray yourself as someone with integrity and good work ethic, driven by the desire to be creative and productive and not merely by financial and material gain. Project an attitude of “what I can do for you” rather than “what’s in it for me”.


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