Answers to 5 Difficult Interview Questions

By Erin Kennedy

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Preparing for a job interview can be just as intense as writing an effective resume. You're challenged with anticipating the questions you'll be asked in order to be prepared appropriately, but you also don't want to sound scripted when you answer. Here are some of the more difficult questions often asked at interviews and some possible answers to consider. Just remember, these answers are to get you thinking, not to be memorized. An interviewer will be able to see through an answer that is not fluid and natural.

 

1. Questions About Long-Term and Short-Term Goals

Your interviewer is likely looking for some key points in your answer, such as your intentions, commitment, and ambition level. Their reason for asking the question is to determine whether you are the right fit for the goals they have planned for the position.

Tell Them Your Current Situation

First of all, be as genuine as possible, even if you're not necessarily where you want to be in your career. Instead of making it sound negative, reinforce the fact that you know what you've done in the past isn't satisfactory, and you're looking for more growth as a professional.

Explain What You're Doing to Reach Your Goals

Tell your interviewer what you're doing right now to help you reach your short-term and long-term goals. This could include getting more education, certifications, or working on side projects. Having your goals tied to actions will demonstrate how serious you are about reaching them.

Tie Your Answer to the Job Description

You have to keep in mind the job description when answering the question. The interviewer isn't really interested in your personal goals unless they relate to the job opening. To do this, look through the job description and find some of the important responsibilities required. Then think about the skills you bring to the table to be able to handle those responsibilities now and in the future. If you don't quite have all of the skills for the highest levels of responsibilitiy right now, you can talk about how those skills are in your long-term plans and how you're working toward achieving them.

A Little Uncertainty is Acceptable

Being honest is always the best way to answer any interview question. If you're uncertain about any aspect of your goals, including what they are or how you'll get there, don't just make up an answer. You should have at least a general idea of some short-term goals you have, so as long as you can communicate those clearly, the interviewer likely won't penalize you if they are on track with what they are looking for.

 

2. "What didn't you like about your previous employer?"

This is a tricky question for many reasons. You may have left on bad terms, so it's difficult to say anything positive about it. However, you want to answer honestly without hurting your chances of getting the job.

Be Honest, But Not Harsh

You can't lie to your interveiwers and say your previous job was great if you know it wasn't. Your resume will include your job duties, so focus on those tasks when answering the question honestly. Talk about how you wish some aspects of your role would have been different and how the role simply wasn't a good fit for you.

Don't Bash Past Co-Workers

Never talk bad about previous co-workers. The more you talk about how you didn't have a good relationship with your boss or other employees, the more doubt will creep into the interviewer's mind that you may not be a good fit from a personality standpoint. Instead, focus on specific tasks where you may not have been able to demonstrate your full skill set and how you may have been happier if you were assigned those tasks.

Be Cautious When Discussing Job Duties

It's important to put the most relevant duties on your resume, but be careful with what you talk about in an interview. The more negatively you talk about job duties, the better the chances are that you'll end up talking negatively about a duty you may have at your new job.

Turn a Negative Into a Positive

Be positive at all times in your interview. You can address the negative aspects of your previous job while putting a positive spin on them. Talk about what you learned and how it made you a better person and worker, as a result. Tie the entire story into why you believe you're a great fit for the company's open position.

 

3. Incorporating my Soft Skills Into the Discussion

Many professionals get caught up in trying to make their hard skills and expertise sound good and forget to highlight the soft skills they have. When you're talking about high-level executive positions, every candidate will have similar hard skills on their resumes and cover letters. What can distinguish you more than anything are the soft skills you possess, since those are unique to every individual.

Important Soft Skills That Translate to Any Job

Communication, Problem Solving, Interpersonal, Innovative Thinking, Adaptability, and Critical Thinking are soft skills which are transferable to any position. Of course, there are plenty of other skills you could have, but these are some of the main ones that translate to any given job. So when discussing the job description, talk about these skills.

Show How Your Soft Skills Have Worked Previously

You're going to be asked about your knowledge and expertise. But if you really think about it, you likely used a mix of your soft skills in order to earn the knowledge you have today. Consider a particular aspect of a previous job you were an expert at. You may have become an expert at it because of repetition, but you also likely had to use critical thinking, innovative thinking, problem-solving, and more to achieve the result. Demonstrating these soft skills allows an interviewer to really see how your mind works, which is extremely beneficial when the outcome of the project you're describing was successful.

 

4. Know How You'll Address Salary Negotiations

It's important to think through strategies when it comes to negotiating your salary and think through what you are really worth.

Research Average Salaries

Salaries vary dramatically due to a variety of factors, including location, industry, education level, experience, and employer budget. What you make at a position in one location may be significantly more or less in another location. Performing your due diligence can help you learn how much you can expect to earn in a given position. Consider both local and national statistics for a clearer picture. Be sure to bring this information along to show a prospective employer.

Practice

Like all other areas of life, practice makes perfect. There is value in practicing your negotiating skills with family members or a friend before you head to the negotiating table. Make sure your loved one offers some resistance so you can practice what you will say when the time comes.

Give a Wide Margin

It's best to be as general as possible, so you don't end up with a lowball offer. On the other hand, you don't want to demand so much that they don't even consider hiring you. You can do this by giving a wide range you're looking for, or even telling the interviewers roughly how much money you've made in the past few years. Just like with writing an effective resume, how you present yourself during the salary negotiations makes a big difference in whether you get the job or not.

 

5. Questions About Employment Gaps

Believe it or not, it's more common for people to have employment gaps on their resume and LinkedIn profile today than ever before. You may have taken time off to raise a family and are now ready to re-enter the workforce, had a change of heart about your career and took time to gain education and experience in other areas, or for a different reason. If you're in a situation where you have a glaring employment gap, all is not lost.

Never Lie About Employment Gaps

Employers don't necessarily like to see employment gaps on a resume, but the nature in which you address them can make the perception better or worse. Regardless of the reason for the time difference between jobs, you always have to be honest when asked. A potential employer will see right through you if you fabricate a story about the gap, and it could cost you the job. The best response is to talk about the learning experiences you had and how you're a better employee because of it.

Many executives feel similar emotions when they're searching for a new job. They work so hard on their executive resume biography, improving their personal brand by networking and more just to land an interview. When the interview day arrives, do yourself a favor by being prepared with having done your homework and thought through questions and answers in advance. You will be much calmer during the process and present a better picture of yourself.

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