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Tough Interview Questions and How to Respond

3192341451 c79179e0c1 Tough Interview Questions and How to Respond We're No Angels movie

There's no doubt that at some point in your professional career you'll find yourself in an interview situation where you are forced to evaluate your negative qualities or performance. Some interviewers love these high pressure types of questions.

Putting someone in the pressure cooker for too long will surely lead the candidate to second guess if the opportunity is truly where he or she would like to land. If used sparingly and with tact, some important self-critical insights could help both sides discover the right fit.

Some questions are just outright inappropriate like "Why aren't you making more money at this point in your career" (rude and presumptuous) or "Why should (or shouldn't) I hire you? (an unprepared interviewer). There are some more tactful pressure questions that should be prepared for and given some thought.

For example:

Tell me about your last performance review. In which area were you most disappointed? Knowing what you know now, how could you have improved your performance?

The most talented and top performing employees always strive to improve themselves. Your job is to explain a specific situation or shortcoming and follow it up with how your performance could have been better. It's important to show your prospective employer you can take responsibility for these issues and that you have learned from them.

Where do you disagree with your boss most often? Tell me about how you handled the last situation where your boss was wrong and you were right.

Disagreements will occur in any working relationship over time. There's a fine line between sticking up for yourself and always being ready to wage war when opinions differ. The interviewer is wants to know how the candidate resolves the issue. Be careful not to gloat about the victory. Particularly in PR agencies, where team work and positive relationships between the staff are highly valued, the hiring manager needs to see potential staff member can keep an objective view even when the emotions and the stakes are high.

Meeting with a hiring manager who uses too many of the negative stress questions during the interview process could be a good cue to proceed with caution. But don't be so quick to dismiss a few of these types of questions for a bad work environment. It could also be a sign of how you are coming across. There's a fine line between confident and cocky. I tend to use these types of questions when a candidate crosses the cocky line to bring him or her down a notch before making a decision to proceed in the process.

Photo credit: Crashmaster



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5 Comments - Add yours!

Allison (March 30th, 2009)

Thanks for this post, Lindsay. These types of questions are so tough to answer – it really is a fine line to walk.

Patrick McSweeney (March 30th, 2009)

thanks for this post. In a future post, can you address depressed wages and flat hierarchies? The agency I work for has frozen salaries for the past few years (and limited bonuses) and has a very flat reporting structure — so that the everyone is a direct report to the department director (VP of PR) and titles are not reflective of skills or experience.

Amy (March 30th, 2009)

Great post, good information! I will be graduating this May, and have been asked by some interviewers what type of salary I expect. How do I answer this diplomatically?

Jamie (March 31st, 2009)

Great post. While those example questions are definitely tough, they at least help the interviewee share a lot more about themselves than the old and tired “What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses.”

Any advice on how to answer questions when the interviewer is clearly unprepared and struggling to pass the time?
That was likely the case when I got asked “What three people, dead or alive, would I have dinner with?” in an interview a while back.

AustraliaWorks (March 31st, 2009)

thanks for the great tips Lindsay :) i especially found your disagreement question very helpful! anyway if you have a moment, I compiled a list of 50 most asked interview questions and answers :) maybe you will find it useful too!

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