5 Interview Questions That Can Trip You Up

Jan 10, 2013
6 Min Read

You may be nervous when you have a job interview, worried about what the hiring manager may ask you.

Good. You should be.

It’s not that hiring managers are all evil ogres who stay up at night plotting ways to trip you up. But they do know their job is to find the best possible job candidate, and they’re going to pull out all the stops when it comes to asking questions to find out your true worth.

So let’s look at some common interview questions that you need to be prepared to answer:

  1. “What is your greatest weakness?” Don’t try and say, “I’m too hard on myself,” or some such drivel. That’s only going to make the interviewer internally roll his eyes and try and drill deeper. Try giving something specific enough to satisfy the interviewer, while immediately spinning it into a positive. Try something like: “I often want to do everything myself to ensure it’s done right. But I’ve learned that if I work with other team members, they can bring something new to the table and I learn from that experience.” Always try to focus on how you’re addressing a weakness to improve your performance.
  2. “What’s something you didn’t like about your last boss?” The interviewer doesn’t really care if you liked your last boss or not. What she’s trying to determine is whether you’re going to badmouth a manager. Don’t fall into that trap. Answer with something like: “She had a lot of knowledge about the industry and I learned a lot from her.” Then shut up.
  3. “What are two things your co-workers would say they dislike about you?” This is a tricky one, as you can become defensive and make your relationship with colleagues seem unprofessional. Just say, “I’m not aware of any criticisms about me specifically, but it may be that my unwillingness to compromise on quality can be irritating to some people.”
  4. “Can you talk about policies with your last employer that you didn’t agree with?” Again, this is a ploy to see if you’ll badmouth a manager or a company. The feeling is that if you’re willing to talk trash about a company, you might again. In this day and age of social media comments ruining business reputations, interviewers will want to probe whether you might take complaints public.
  5. “Can you describe a situation where you failed?” This is when you want to bring up the time you failed to make the high school debate team, not the time you lost a big client because you overslept for a meeting. Always make sure you follow up your “failure” with an explanation of how you used it to improve or grow. And don’t try and claim you have never failed, or the interviewer will think you’re a liar, delusional – or both.


Once the questions are over, you may give an internal sigh of relief and think you’re home free.


Big mistake.


That’s because interviewers know that when you’re just casually chit-chatting, they may learn the most about you. The casual conversation that takes place after formal questions often reveals, for example, that you casually use a lot of profanities, you can’t find reliable child care or you think environmental causes are stupid.


Or, you may reveal that you’re trying to save up enough money to one day open a bait-and-tackle shop in Key West. You may believe you’re just sharing a dream, but the interviewer sees it as a lack of commitment to a job on your part, and may not consider you for a position.


While there’s nothing wrong with cussing sometimes or dreaming about living on the beach, they aren’t the details you want top of mind for an interviewer. Remember, it’s often the last impression that is lasting, and you want it to be one of you as a committed, talent, focused professional.


What are some other precautions job seekers should take during interviews?


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