CMU School of Drama

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Three Simple Rules For Answering The Toughest Interview Questions

Fast Company | Business + Innovation: Let’s see if this scenario sounds familiar: You’re in the interview hot seat, but so far, you’re pretty sure you’re nailing it—until the hiring manager throws you a curveball. The dreaded "What’s your biggest weakness?" comes up. Or better yet, "Why are you leaving your current job?" We know you’re thinking of your favorite four-letter word.

17 comments:

Julian Goldman said...

This information is very consistent with past advice I have gotten in terms of these interview questions. It is important to both explain what your weakness it, but also what you are doing to work on it. However, I think one thing that is really important that this article doesn’t mention is that, at least from what I have learned, it is best to have these answers pre-prepared. To be honest, I don’t think the questions are the hardest interview questions. These are pretty standard questions I would expect to get in almost any interview, so I would be ready for the. To me, the hardest interview questions are ones that I wouldn’t see coming. Even if it is an easier question than “what is your greatest weakness” given the same amount of time to consider both, a question I didn’t see coming is always going to be harder than one that I more or less am guaranteed to be asked.

Marisa Rinchiuso said...

This article had a nice reminder that you must always recognize your full self; humility is a wonderful thing. While I think positive thinking is fantastic, I believe it is always good to keep in mind those things that are not your strong suit. However keep that in mind must be done tactfully. It is easy for keeping yourself in check to become a list of "what I'm bad at". Rather I think it is better to think of it as "what I can improve in" which is something the writer also agrees with. It's fine and dandy to to horrible at X, Y and Z, but unless you have a plan on how to strengthen those areas there's no reason to acknowledge them. I do understand why those negative interview questions are considered the hardest. It is difficult to genuinely state your faults while trying to spin them as positives, but also not trying to seem like that, but also showing that it does not define you, and by the end of the sentence you're so awkwardly twisted in your words you have been caught in your own spider web of insecurities. I think preparing for interview questions that are the mist difficult can make that web less twisted. It is good to keep your positives and "needs improvements" in mind to be prepared for the hard questions but also just to be a more balanced human.

Lia Jennings said...

I don’t have much experience with interviews but in the few that I have done I feel comfortable with these tough questions but rather I get tongue-tied and loose my train of thought when a question comes out of the blue that is not related to the job itself or what we were just talking about is what makes me nervous. I like to think through things and take the time to make sure I am explaining things well and when I get these random questions I freak out because I shouldn’t take a lot of time to think through it but rather a few seconds and then answer my interviewer. So how I answer those questions with confidence? There is only so much preparation you can do for an interview before you don’t know what they are going to ask and then you have to wing it.
I did get a chance to talk with someone who gives a lot of interviews and she told me that when those random questions come up it is okay to take a little time to think of the answer it shows that you think through what you are going to say before saying it. Maybe the question is, “what animal are you most like?” And so you prep for an answer for that question but then when you get to the interview the question is actually, “what fruit are you most like?” First instinct is to panic and blurt out the first thing you think of but what will help is saying something that is related to your original answer to the animal question. So you would have said wolf because you work well with a group or pack as it were, but then just change it to banana because you like to work with a group or bundle as it were. You didn’t have to think so much about an answer but you took the prep work you did for the interview and used it the best way you could by transferring the reason to a new object.

Aubrey Sirtautas said...

I can see how people would get nervous with these questions. In school, we spend a time talking about interviewing and in certain cases go through mock interviews, and these questions seem standard after a few interviews. I completely agree that it is important to be self-aware though. I think the one problem with preparing these answers, as some have suggested is that you do not reconsider after the first time you craft an interview question. You have to re-evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses and see how those will fit with the culture of the company. The interviewer is not only trying to figure out if you are qualified, but also if you are a good candidate to work with certain teams and under certain conditions. The best candidate will be qualified but also have skills and weaknesses that compliment the members that are already on the team. Being self-aware (and sometimes even having a sense of humor about your past failures) is the first step in figuring out if you will be happy with a company.

Jason Cohen said...

My number one thing while going through the hiring process from any position of the game is honesty. That might seem obvious, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to be. Here’s the thing. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are perfect for a job, but maybe we are not and we are just not being honest with ourselves. To take this back to the article, when you get a tough interview question just be honest with your response. If you need time to process before you answer, take that time! My thought is that once you land the job it is likely that you are going to get some tough questions while you are working. Employers are going to want to see how you respond to these. Giving a stock answer really quickly, in my mind, is almost like dodging the question. However, taking some time to assess the question is more desirable because they can see your process.

Vanessa Ramon said...

These question have always been the kinda where you really had to practice what your response would be. If you are too honest you could reveal something that would not appeal to your interviewer but if you aren't honest enough, you can come off as vain or dishonest. I like how this article not only explains a good way to approach answering these questions but it also explains why they ask the answers in the first place and what information about you they are trying to get from asking these questions. I think it's nice how the article brings up the point about how you shouldn't talk bad about your past coworkers or employers when you are talking about your weakness or why you left your previous job. I feel like this is a point that not many people warn against but is a common mistake many people do. Overall, this article is a great reminder of how to handle these inevitable questions and provides some great information on why these questions are asked in the first place.

Kat Landry said...

I definitely agree that this is the toughest form of interview question. I have been on both sides of this situation now, and I can say confidently that it is uncomfortable to BE the interviewee, and to WATCH the interviewee come up with his answer. This is a tough question to receive because when you're in an interview, you're doing your best to shine a light on your strengths and show your interviewer what you are capable of. When "the question" comes, you have to totally shift gears and make sure you give a very real, self-aware answer. That's why I try to be as natural and as conversational as possible when sitting for an interview. The less pressure you put on yourself to look like the perfect candidate, the easier it will be to answer that question truthfully. And seriously, answer it truthfully! Because I've seen this question from the other side as well. My manager over the summer had me sit in on a few supervisor interviews, and he asked the question: "What do you look like at 2am, after a 12-hour shift?" This question always went one of two ways: either the interviewee didn't want to let their guard down and answer honestly, resulting in a CLEARLY fabricated answer like, "Probably very tired, but I think my positive nature would allow me to do even BETTER at my job at that point," or we would get a very honest person, who would answer: "Well, to be honest, I get a little short-tempered when I'm under stress for that long. I think I would have to be careful not to be impatient and snap at people that late into the night." Guess which candidate got hired. It is important to show that you care enough about the company or the event or the show to honestly clue them into your personality, so that they can make the right selection based on their needs.

Annie Scheuermann said...

I agree with what the author of the article was explaining, however I don't think it was any knew information. I do like reading the articles about interviewing tips. By now I've heard a lot of advice and had a few interviews, but I still am terrified of interviewing. This article talks about answer one kind of question, and I think that the negative questions are very telling, but I think that people, myself included, have a generic answer they prepared. Not to say that its a bad thing to have an answer ready but thinking back to when I answered the weakness question in an interview, I gave an answer that was true, but I myself felt like I had rehearsed it. This year I want to improve my interviewing and networking skills, but I have yet to find an article that I respond well to their tips. Perhaps tho this is one of those very personal things that the best way to get better is to just do it more.

Lucy Scherrer said...

This pretty much confirms all the advice I've received about job interviews in the past, namely that you should focus on yourself and never use other people as an excuse for your growth or lack thereof. I've always been told that when asked the "flaw" question, you should also focus on what you are doing to improve on that flaw, what improvements you've seen already, and how much further you have to grow. I believe this tells the employee much more than either trashing yourself or pretending not to have any flaws would ever do. The reason they ask this question is to see how self-aware you are, and if you are consistently trying to improve yourself instead of pretending your flaws don't exist or realizing them but not doing anything about it. An employee who is always striving to better themselves will be a more flexible worker, and more easily able to work around the different personality and strengths of his or her coworkers. Someone who can't do this will be less likely to support team members and more likely to either drag them down or refuse to see their shortcomings.

Benjamin King said...

From the interviews I’ve been in, I would say about three out of four will ask a so-called “negative” question. I would however argue that not all interviewers go in with the intention of revealing your interpersonal skills and self-awareness. From the few people I have talked to about this, they just want to see what your initial reaction was; that to them was more important than the actual answer. Moving on from that though, the article does provide some sound advice for these types of questions and in general, most interview questions. I think more than just a handful of people would tell you to be truthful in your interview. I think one of the ways you can reveal the most about yourself is how you talk about others, which the article addresses. If you are constantly willing to through others under the bus, then companies will think that you will be ready to throw their employees under the bus. Overall, I think it was a good article with proven advice, however I wish it would have detailed some more examples to prove their tactics are effective.

Sophie Chen said...

I think this article definitely gives valid advice. I remember reading articles discussing the same topic in the past, but the advice they gave for "what's your greatest weakness" is to say something that actually isn't actually a real weakness of yours, such as "I'm too much of a perfectionist" or "I work too hard". I'm glad that I didn't follow the advice from those articles because no one would want to hire someone who is too proud to recognize his/her own shortcomings. I think this question also goes beyond the interview process and is very relatable to the environment we are currently in (CMU in general, not just drama). We are surrounded by people our own age who is studying the same things as we are, so it can be hard for us to be willing to discuss or even show our weaknesses. This article reminds the readers that we should focus on self growth, not just because that's what employers care about but also because that's what allows us to be better at what we do.

Samantha Brown said...

This article has a lot of useful information in it. Interviews for me at least are never my favorite part of applying for a job. Those negative questions are always tricky because you want to answer truthfully, but you do not want to make yourself look bad by saying everything you are not good at. It is important to find the right balance and then turn that negative trait into a way of improving yourself in the future and how it was a learning experience. If you show that you do have flaws but that you are aware of them and are working to improve them, you will be a better candidate for the job. Employers are looking for people who want to learn and grow and realize what they need to grow in. For the question about working with difficult people you need to make sure you are not trashing the other person too much. It is important to make yourself look better than them, but without destroying their reputation.

Drew Himmelrich said...

Interviewing is hard, you can prepare answers to questions that you know you will be asked, but there are always some questions you don’t know are coming or can’t prepare for. While asking what your biggest weekness is may be a hard question, it is one you should be expecting. There are two really bad ways to handle that, the first is to immediately spit back a list of all of your terrible qualities, the other bad way to handle it is say “hmm” and then after 5 minutes of silence simply say “I can’t think of anything.” You obviously are trying to sell yourself but going into detail about everything that is wrong with you probably won’t get you the job. Essentially telling your interviewee that you have no flaws points to some dishonesty or lack of self awareness. An appropriate way to answer that question is think about it for a second or two, then give a really honest answer about a weakness and how you are trying to fix it.

Madeleine Wester said...

I think the advice given in this article is helpful. During interviews it can feel easy to exaggerate or lie, and I think the author does a nice job of stressing the importance of telling the truth. It is especially important for companies or businesses to understand if a person is a truthful worker or a less trustworthy worker. This article is also helpful because it pinpoints exactly what an interviewer would like to see in an interviewee. It's important to know how to sell yourself in an authentic and engaging way, and this article conveys that well.

Cosette Craig said...

I have interviewed many a time for jobs, internships and (lots of) colleges over the years. The one thing I picked up in this process is that interviewers like honesty. This article points out the reasons why. They want to see you think on your feet, show improvement, and always be there with an honest and straightforward opinion. I also think spontaneity is a useful interview tip to build upon this list. Coming overly prepared and polished can actually hurt you sometimes. We've all heard about that cliche answer to "What's your biggest weakness?": "I'm too much of a perfectionist". That's rehearsed and probably a little bit of a lie. I like that they wrote a disclaimer about bashing yourself and offering no explanation though. If you have a weakness that you can recognize and admit in an interview you are at least aware of it and probably trying to improve it, so talk about it. In the end, an interview is all about showing off your true personality, so show it.

Ben McCormack said...

Articles like this one help to remind me that everyone makes mistakes and mishaps are just part of the natural progression of life. Taking these missteps in stride and not allowing them to have a deep impact is necessary in maintaining professionalism and a slight degree of emotional distance from your work (read: not taking work too seriously). It is important to note that this attitude can also taken to an extreme (as is the case with many things) and thus causing one to be so distant and calm that is may come across as blasé or unaffected. This article emphasizes the need to be balanced and truthful while admitting that things go wrong from time to time. In essence it's not how bad the problem was, it's how you reacted to and handled the problem that will truly show potential employers how you manage dilemmas and react in stressful situations.

Daniel Silverman said...

Interviewing can be difficult and having strategies to cope with questions you don’t want to answer or questions that can be difficult to answer is a great idea. The ideas set forth in this article make a lot of sense. Although, I think a lot of it is common sense. Talking about weaknesses can be difficult and uncomfortable. By admitting to it and talking about how you are or plan on improving, employers can see a lot about an employee. I’ve been asked about difficult people a lot. My standard answer to that question is to listen to what people are saying and to stay calm. I think I could turn this around by talking about how to improve communication skills and working with others. I also try to be as honest as I can with my answers. I know that one of my struggles in life is early mornings. I hate them. But, by admitting this to potential employers telling them how I deal with it, I can turn that into a positive.

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