What Hiring Managers Are Really Asking You
Decode these 6 Tricky Interview Questions and Answer them Smarter
Have you ever sat in a job interview, secretly thinking, “What did she just ask me?? What a stupid question. That has nothing to do with this job…
”Well, of course you have. Hasn’t everyone?
Chances are, you’re right: the question has nothing to do with the job. But here’s the deal: you’re wrong, too. Why? Because silly sounding questions like, “what kinds of things do you like to do in your spare time?” and “what’s your biggest weakness?” have everything to do organizational and job fit. And the manager isn’t just listening for what you say when you answer. They’re listening – and watching – for how you say it.
Before you go into your next interview, let me decode these 6 classic trick interview questions for you.
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
- Thanks to the internet, I already know a ton about you. (So don’t lie to me.)
- I want to hear a short summary of the information you think is important for me to know about you. Not looking for the story of your life. Not interested in a lot of trivia. Show me you can prioritize and communicate your personal brand in an engaging way.
2. What are your hobbies/ what do you like to do in your spare time.
- Do not tell me that you just love working so much that you have no hobbies. Really. Don’t do it. Whoever gave you that advice was wrong. Hiring managers are looking to hire a human being who is capable of interacting successfully with the other humans at work. Not interviewing robots here.
- Please do tell me about activities you honestly enjoy that involve working collaboratively on teams. Is it a sport? Is it volunteering with Habitat for Humanity? The purpose of this question is not to judge the activities you enjoy. It’s to gauge your ability to seamlessly join teams and productively work within them. Never enter an interview without a prepared and practiced response that showcases these abilities.
- I’m looking for examples that demonstrate your enthusiasm, teamwork and leadership skills.
3. What’s your biggest weakness?
- If you even think about trotting out the “I work too hard” or “I’m just such a perfectionist” responses, I am immediately moving your resume to the “no” pile. So will most hiring managers.
- Shocking update: we want you to be honest. Yes, you read that right. Be honest about a real weakness. Have you been working on ways to better manage details and realize your towering strength is strategy? That’s the kind of stuff we want to know.
- I need you to demonstrate your maturity, self-awareness and willingness to take accountability for your imperfections and developmental areas.
- I want to hear about the concrete plan or concrete steps you’re following to work on that weakness. In other words, show me you care about being a great employee.
4. Where would you like to be 5 years from now?
Translation: Your answer to this question will reveal a lot about you, including:
- You have actually thought about this question as part of your job search. I really don’t need to hear a specific job title but I do need to know you have goals and how you hope to achieve them. Do not end your response with the adorable phrase, “unless I win the lottery.” (You’d be surprised how often I hear things like that.) Answers like that tell me that you don’t derive any deep satisfaction from your work.
- You’re able to demonstrate a balance between personal ambition and a healthy dose of realism. If you say you’d like to be “right here, doing this job,” I’m not going to love that answer. But if you say you’d like to be the CEO, I might not take you seriously
5. Why do you want to join this company?
- Please, please give me answer that demonstrates a genuine interest in this company.
- Your ideal answer will reveal your understanding of the company’s mission and values and how they mesh with your strengths, goals and work style.
6. Have you ever been fired?
- I’m actually not looking for dirt on you and, believe me, as much as the question might make you cringe, it’s having the same effect on me. But I’m asking because, if you have been fired, I need to understand the circumstances.
- If you say no but you actually have been fired, we’re done. All done.
- Show me how you handled such a difficult circumstance. Are you able to take some personal accountability? If so, what have you changed so it won’t happen again?
- No insults. Even if you were truly the victim of a political battle, during the interview, you cannot trash the people involved. Instead, have a well rehearsed explanation that avoids all flame throwing, shows me that you were able to learn something positive, and what you gained from the experience.