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Interview advice: 5 tricky questions and how to ace them

So, you’ve landed a job interview. Congrats! That’s half the battle. Now comes the important part: preparation. Choosing an impressive outfit and picking the perfect introductory greeting will be easy. Trying to anticipate which questions you’ll be asked and how you should respond to them — that’s where things can get tricky. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

If you’re like us, you probably prepare for interviews by focusing on what you assume will be the most relevant questions, like “Why do you think you’re an ideal candidate for this position?” or “Why do you want to work for our company?” If you’re lucky, your interviewer will stick to meaty questions like these. Chances are, however, you’ll have to answer a couple of potentially tricky queries that might feel like traps. Below, we’ve listed five such questions that hiring managers often pose to interviewees, as well as foolproof methods for responding.

1) What’s your greatest weakness?

This question may very well be the arch nemesis of all job seekers. After hyping yourself up to talk about your positive attributes, it can be hard to switch gears in the middle of an interview and candidly talk about what blemishes your otherwise spotless personality. Don’t worry, though! You can admit to having a flaw without throwing yourself under the bus. The trick to answering this question is being able to talk about a shortcoming in an empowering manner.

Three women at job interview

First, be sure to choose a weakness that, in the grand scheme of things, is harmless. For example, having a fear of public speaking. That’s a reasonable “weakness” and one that nearly everyone can relate to. But don’t just announce your weakness and leave it at that—take this opportunity to impress the interviewer by telling them about the steps you took to overcome your weakness and what your experience has been as a result. You could mention having taken a course on public speaking, that you worked up the courage to give a speech or presentation in front of a crowd, and that while you may have been nervous the entire time, you were able to confront the difficulty head-on and feel more empowered to try again. This is a textbook example of turning a weakness into a strength!

2) Why should we consider you over other candidates?

Here’s what’s tricky about this question. The moment you hear “other candidates,” you can’t help but imagine how you compare to everyone else who is applying for the job. That’s daunting. There could be five other qualified applicants, or there could be fifty. It’s anyone’s guess. But before you become riddled with anxiety, stop for just a second. This question has nothing to do with other people and everything to do with you.

Young woman dressed to impress for an interivew

If you want to answer this question smoothly, have four to five bullet points prepared stating why you’re an ideal match for the position and then proceed as follows: “I’m sure there are plenty of other qualified applicants, but I can’t speak to their skills and qualifications. I can, however, tell you why I think you should hire me and what I’ll bring to this organisation.” Serve that up as your response and you’ll have knocked out two birds with one stone. Not only will you highlight the fact that you’re confident, but also that you’re humble. Two very admirable qualities in any employee.

3)Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work.

No one likes admitting to their mistakes. It’s awkward. Especially when your ego is on the line, or you have to apologise for inconveniencing someone else. Luckily, neither of those factors come into play when talking about past errors in a job interview — provided you’ve thought out your response ahead of time.

Approach this question the same way you would “What’s your greatest weakness?” Think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate your self-awareness and problem solving skills. Again, choose an innocuous mistake. You probably don’t want to mention the time you overpaid an invoice because you accidentally added one too many zeros to the end of the bank transfer. They key is to choose an honest oversight and then indicate what you did to resolve it, as well as what you learned from it.

Two young professionals chatting during an interview

Here’s the response to this question that one of our staffers always had ready in his back pocket when looking for work: “At my previous employer, I was in charge of editing the writing our interns did, and making sure it adhered to the company’s style guidelines. In the middle of an important project, I overlooked a few crucial details, as I hadn’t consulted the company style guide in quite some time. I made my supervisor aware of the error, and went one step further by suggesting that the content team have regular meetings, in which we would do sample editorial exercises to ensure that we were all adhering to the style guide. This prevented any similar blunders from happening again.”

4) Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker and how you resolved it.

You might think the right way to answer this question would be to say: “I rarely have conflicts. I pride myself in being very agreeable and friendly.” But nobody would buy that, and you shouldn’t try to sell it. Working places are hotbeds for conflict. With high levels of stress and so many varying personalities, how could they not be? What sets experienced professionals apart from the inexperienced, though, is how one navigates the inherent stress of the office. When this question is presented to you in an interview, you want to highlight that you are the former and not the latter.

Shaking hands at an interview


One easy way to prepare for this question is by remembering the STAR method. STAR is an acronym that stands for situation/task, action, and result. It’s a response method that can be used to reply to a number of “behavioral-based interview questions”, but for this particular one, apply it as follows.

  • Situation/Task: What was the conflict? How did it come about?
    • Example: Right before Christmas last year, my colleagues and I were working together on a project that had a tight deadline. I mismanaged my time, which put unnecessary added stress on one of my coworkers. He lost his temper and angrily accused me of being unprofessional and unhelpful.
  • Approach: What steps did you take to diffuse the contact and resolve it?
    • Example: I was surprised by my coworker’s reaction, but I immediately apologised to diffuse his anger. I then told him that I understood why he was upset with my performance and how it affected him. Furthermore, I promised to help him finish his share of the project and that I would take definitive measures to better manage my time.
  • Result: What happened in the end? Was the conflict resolved? What was your working relationship with your coworker like thereafter?
    • Example: My coworker appreciated my apology and thanked me for seeing things from his perspective. We were able to finish the project in question and thereafter I kept true to my word and educated myself about time management skills. Since then, I’ve been much better about completing tasks punctually. This has proven to be beneficial not only for myself, but also for those I work closely with.

5) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Unless you have a crystal ball that allows you to peer into the future, you’ll never be able to answer this question with one hundred percent accuracy. And, to be honest, no reasonable employer would expect you to have a detailed road map for the next five years of your life. In this instance, it’s okay to be a bit vague in your response. There’s a way to do it with finesse, though.

Candid discussion during an interview

Emphasise that you want to develop your career over the next few years with a company that support your ambitions, encourages you to take on responsibility, and allows you to gradually face new challenges. Your response can be as simple as that. What’s important to your prospective employer is that you won’t jump ship for another opportunity in six months. Few things are as frustrating to a company after they’ve devoted time and resources to hiring and training a new employee.

There you have it! Sure-fire methods to answer questions you’re bound to face in the interview process. Having clever responses prepared and ready to go will equip you with more confidence going into your interview and make the overall process less stressful. What’s the next step? Finding your dream job by clicking the button below!

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