Navigating complex job interview questions

4/11/2017

Job interviews are sometimes nerve-wracking. This is inevitable, unfortunately. The stakes are high, and you never know quite how these conversations are going to unfold, which adds uncertainty to the mix. While there are common questions and subjects hiring managers will likely pursue, interviewers have a great deal of control over the direction an interview takes.

There are a few particular lines of questioning that throw applicants off their game. It's never quite certain whether you'll encounter these topics, or what form the exact prompts will take. However, to impress the widest possible sampling of hiring managers, you should prepare to encounter these concepts and deliver responses that go beyond simple answers. The following are some examples of subjects you should be ready to discuss.

Mentioning previous jobs
Discussing why you left a previous job is never easy. There's always some element of regret - if things had worked out, you wouldn't be looking for employment. It could be tempting to give a very simple response, such as "It wasn't the right fit." As U.S. News & World Report recently pointed out, however, this strategy doesn't always work. Hiring managers who receive a single sentence will naturally want to learn more about why you left. It's best to simply lead with a more detailed response to avoid being forced into one.

Giving more than a sentence doesn't mean being exhaustive. A few salient facts will suffice. These shouldn't be too harsh at the expense of your previous employer. The objective here is to simply give enough honest information to satisfy interviewers. If they sense evasion, they may become tougher on you.

Getting introspective
Companies today have come around on the value of soft skills. They are targeting workers who have competency that goes beyond industry subject matter and extends to problem-solving and critical thinking. You should probably be ready to be tested on how you think and act, in addition to what you know. Comfort talking about these elements of yourself and a knowledge of how they serve companies' interests could raise your stock among interviewers.

Glassdoor recently revealed the 20 toughest interview questions encountered by applicants this year, and several sought deeper insight into the candidate. For instance, one company asked job seekers how they cope with bad days. Another asked applicants about their tolerance for repetition. A third asked about childhood experiences. The lesson here is that you should be comfortable having honest, introspective discussions of your personal approach rather than the company.

All-encompassing interviews
When practicing for job interviews, it may be tempting to stay away from areas that are uncomfortable to talk about, and simply hope they don't come up in conversation. However, if you challenge yourself and delve straight into the difficult material, you'll be better prepared for what's to come. When an interviewer wants to know what soft skills and useful traits you possess, or wants to hear about your recent work history, you'll be ready to respond intelligently without leading the discussion into problematic territory.

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