4 Tips To Answer Tough Interview Questions Correctly

From blatant interview questions like, "What's your greatest weakness, weakest attribute, or most significant failure.” To soft, “What might your previous employer say?" Even softer, “You certainly seem to have a lot of strengths, but we understand no one is perfect.” The question will come one way or another, everyone knows it, yet still befuddled by it. There have been many Rules of Thumb (R.O.T.) developed over the years, from making light of the question with an answer like “Pizza!” to true confessions, putting a cloud over everyone, to developing a response that actually demonstrates a strength, “I tend to be a workaholic,” or “perfectionist.” (Yuk!) In principle, Rules of Thumb are meant to have very broad application such as, "when in doubt, get out." Great advice if you are in the middle of an intersection and the light changes. Would it apply in the final seconds of a game, you’re down three points and have the ball? What, you’re going to walk off the floor? I don’t think so. I find many R.O.T. (pun intended) to be off the mark and misleading. What may be good for one may not be for another. That is not to say there are no rules that can be applied; there are. Just choose your medicine carefully. When you have to answer tough interview questions, here's the first rule...


Interview Rule #1 - Stay Positive... ALWAYS!

The “what’s your greatest weakness” question is your opportunity to shine. One way is to demonstrate you are a positive person by nature. Everyone likes a person with a positive nature, right? Remember you are in the interview to make yourself desirable for hiring, so you might say, “I rarely sit there and think of myself in those terms, nevertheless, I do want to respond to your question,” or something on those lines. Notice by the way I did not say, “I rarely sit there and think of my weaknesses.” Here’s a rule of thumb that always applies: Do not use or repeat negative terms, even if the interviewer throws it out there. Here are three other rules I suggest you follow for efficient interview preparation:

Interview Rule #2 - No Superlatives!

Keep it singular. Superlatives such as “weakest” or “worst” or “biggest” indicate the greatest degree of whatever is it describing. “Worst weakness” is the weakness of the highest degree implying there are other weaknesses of varying degrees but weaknesses nonetheless. That begs the question, “What are some others?” Likewise, “need most to improve” implies there are others areas for improvement. In any case, try this as an alternative, “If I had to come up with one...” (No negatives, no multiples.)

Interview Rule #3 - No Absolutes!

The absolute, as in “My weakness is...” states the weakness exists unconditionally: utterly fixed and not likely to change. WOW! Wouldn’t it be better to be a little less restrictive, something more conditional like, “It could be I am…” Conditional responses suggest you yourself are not completely convinced of it. This type of response also accomplishes what the bungling technique of using a “strength” to describe a weakness consistently fails to achieve – your “weakness” may not be a weakness after all.

Interview Rule #4 - Keep It Real!

Your “weakness” should be one (singular) that is subjective – of your person. Humanize it! “If I had to come up with one (singular) it might be (non-absolute) somewhat (qualifier) of a lack of internal patience (human). I seem (unconvinced) to have strong tendencies to expect the same from others I do from myself (human). Not just in terms of results – I’m smart enough to realize not everyone has the same level of skill, abilities and education (real). I do however, expect others to give their best effort, and if that’s not there, then yes, that might (conditional) bother me to some degree.” Ah! “Bother me to some degree,” is human, non-absolute, qualifier, and conditional. Don’t you love it?! Another tact, similarly keeping it real, could be an incident resultant of some area where improvement was needed (potential weakness) that turned out to be a learning experience and later grew into a personal asset, thus giving you, once more, an opportunity to showcase strength.

In Summary...

Proper interview preparation can be completed by simply doing your homework. Think critically and be honest with yourself. Ask friends or colleagues the same: Critically and honestly, what they think may be your one weakness. When you have the answer, internalize it. In other words, take it to heart. If you don’t, your response may come across like a sound bite, no matter how long and hard you practice sounding unpracticed. When you speak from the heart, you won’t sound “rehearsed,” you will sound “aware” – conscious of yourself, a characteristic we all value. Enjoy this article? You've got time for another! Check out these related articles:   Photo Credit: Shutterstock

When most people think of Nike, they think of shoes, retail stores, and, of course, athletes. That's all true, but there's more. Behind Nike's walls, you'll find the doers and thinkers who design, create, and innovate every day. There are also data scientists who discover and leverage athlete insights to create the future of sport.

You might be surprised to learn about the impact you can have in Data & Analytics at Nike versus at a major tech giant. Nike employees get to work on a wide array of challenges, so if you're obsessed with math, science, computers, and/or data, and you love sport, these stories may inspire you to work at Nike.

SHOW MORE Show less

Employee loyalty is something every company longs for. It's estimated employee turnover costs as much as 130-200% of an employee's salary. When a talented, knowledgeable, trained employee leaves, it's bad for business. And, when lots of them leave, it can be the kiss of death.

SHOW MORE Show less

If you saw our first video, you might have heard about the interview situation one of our viewers, Remi submitted. He was in an interview and was asked the question: How many cows are there in Canada right now? - What a weird question but this is a technique that some hiring managers are using these days.

SHOW MORE Show less

If you saw our first video, you might have heard about the awkward situation one of our viewers, Kevin submitted. He is a college student who's working a part time job to make ends meet. The manager/owner of the company has become a micro-manager who watches him work on camera and reads his company emails. A bit over the top wouldn't you say?

SHOW MORE Show less

All work and no play can create a tense and unwelcoming environment. Studies have shown that employers that offer additional perks have employees that are happier and more loyal to their place of employment. If you are looking for an employer that acknowledges how important it is to give its employees a place to de-stress and bond with their co-workers, check out these companies!

SHOW MORE Show less

In this week's episode of "Well This Happened", we want to know what you would do if you worked for an owner who micro-manages you my watching you work on camera and reading through your company emails.

We want YOU to be the career coach and tell us which one is the RIGHT answer!

Think you know? Vote below, and stay tuned for later this week when we announce the right answer (and why the other ones are wrong).

SHOW MORE Show less