A few years ago, Google became notorious for putting questions of stonking difficulty to job interviewees. After much criticism, these eye-watering posers were eventually abandoned but for the unfortunate people hoping to land a job with the corporation, the experience no doubt left scars.
Here are just a few of Google’s little gems presumably crafted to bring out applicants’ creativity, ingenuity, mental versatility and articulacy:
– How many piano tuners are there in the world?
– Describe the colour yellow to a blind person.
– How many golf balls fit into a school bus?
– How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?
Don’t worry, you’re unlikely to be faced with questions like these at your job interviews, but don’t be complacent either. Just because you’re in the running, that coveted job isn’t in the bag just yet.
Often, it’s in the later interview stages when competition is stiffer and the stakes are higher, that the questions get harder, not as hard as Google questions but tricky nonetheless.
Here are ten of the knottiest questions you’re likely to be asked:
- What is your greatest weakness? This is a common late-stage question and it’s not easy to answer well, but a word of advice, don’t say, ‘I don’t have any weaknesses’. Everyone has weaknesses, so focus on turning any weaknesses you have into positives by saying something like you work too hard or you’re a perfectionist. On the other hand, you could take a gamble and be honest because some interviewers aren’t looking to trip you up, they simply want to find out whether you are self-aware and able to criticise yourself.
- Can you tell me a little about yourself? That’s an easy question, you think, but think again. You ought to avoid a detailed account of your passion for stamp collecting and you should resist a full no-holes-barred run-down of your education and previous jobs. Instead, try to base your answer on your achievements and the highlights of your life that may qualify you for the job.
- Why are there gaps in your employment history? Any gaps, whether caused by unemployment or sabbaticals, are a negative to a potential employer so sound positive. Explain how your time not working allowed you to focus on discovering new skills. Maybe you took classes or volunteered, anything that suggests positive action. Avoid at all costs giving the interviewer the impression that you watched a lot of daytime TV or honed your computer game skills. If you were fired from a job, be honest and say what you learnt from your mistakes.
- What salary do you deserve? Tricky, especially if you feel uncomfortable negotiating payment. Do some research online about what salaries similar jobs might command so you’re not way off the mark.
- Where do you see yourself in five years? Don’t say, ‘I have no idea’. Try to forge an answer that suggests you have ambition, goals and plans. An interviewer will pay real attention to your answer because he and she will know it’s in a company’s best interests to nurture these qualities and keep good people.
- Why should I hire you? Prepare for this one and single out your past achievements so that you can show a good track record. The interviewer is trying to find out how ready you are for the job so highlight your abilities and accomplishments as they could be applied to the job itself. If you are over-qualified for the job, reassure the hirer that your high-level skills can be used in the job advertised.
- What do you know about our company? Do your homework and write down a few key points to show that you’re interested and well-informed. Look for newspaper articles which may help you size up the company’s strategies, plans and values.
- What would your worst enemy say about you? This question has everything to do with how you react to others and the way you feel that people perceive you. The interviewer isn’t interested in your worst enemy so there’s no point trying to paint him or her in a bad light. Focus on making a positive from a negative.
- What didn’t you like about your last job/why are you leaving your current job? This is a tough one, but you need to be honest and positive. Whatever you do, don’t knock your past employers. Instead, offer a response that shows you want new opportunities and explain why and how this role and company is a better fit than previous positions. The interviewer may be probing to find a weakness so suggest that you are hungry for more responsibility, didn’t feel stretched enough or that you’ve gone as far as you can go in your current position.
- Do you have any questions for us? Don’t say, ‘No’! Reinforce your interest in the job by asking the interviewer what they like about the company and the company culture. Ask questions about the department you would be working in, the team you’d work with, ask about new projects or products, the company’s initiatives, new strategies etc.
Mostly, interviewers ask challenging questions in order to coax out of candidates aspects of their personalities that may be relevant to the job, how they perceive themselves, their communication skills and their potential value to the company, so planning well should mean you won’t be stumped by tricky questions.