Imagine walking into your interview and being fired a question like: “how many squares did you count on the floor between your chair and this desk?”. A question like this can stump the smartest of candidates, but does such a question qualify for a tough interview question? Surprising as it might sound, it doesn’t!
A cheeky question it certainly is, but a tough interview question is different. A quirky question of this kind requires presence of mind. You could perhaps get away with something like “I didn’t count any”; but a tough interview question requires you to not only be smart; it is also a test of your personality and your profile.
In this blog, I will list out the 10 most commonly asked questions, or top 10 interview questions which candidates struggle to answer due to various reasons, and will explain how to prepare for those questions. The aim is to help you with the skills and proficiency needed to excel at interviews.
In this blog, I will be covering these topics:
- Purpose of Tough Interview Questions: Why Are They Important?
- Top 10 likely interview questions with tips on how to answer them:
4 Types of Interview Questions & Answers:
- Personality or Behavioral-Based Questions
- Skills and Past Experience based Questions
- Situation-Based Questions
- Firm Knowledge based Questions
1. Purpose of Tough Interview Questions: Why Are They Important?
I will begin this blog on the top 10 interview questions and answers by describing the nature and purpose of tough interviews and how being smart is crucial to helping you get the job. The purpose of this section is to help you get an understanding of how to move beyond top 10 basic interview questions and prepare for tough interview questions. In the process, this blog will also provide an answer to a question I get asked frequently: What are common job interview mistakes?
The purpose of asking tough questions is to let interviewers also test your suitability to the position you are being interviewed for. So now, let us get quickly into understanding the purpose of tough interview questions. As we saw in the introductory part of this blog, a tough interview question, in addition to assessing your outlook towards many things, such as your job, and in fact, towards life itself, is aimed at testing your:
- Sense of responsibility
- Smartness, and such other qualities.
In the ensuing sections, I will list down my selection of top 10 possible interview questions.
Top 10 likely interview questions with tips on how to answer them
For the convenience of those who need answers to the top 10 interview questions, I will categorize this section under the following four broad heads, and will list out examples of relevant questions under each of these. Frequently, candidates keep coming to me with a basic question: What are some good job interview tips? This is how this section is going to be structured for their benefit:
4 Types of Interview Questions & Answers:
1. Personality or Behavioral-Based Questions
Top behavioral interview questions are aimed at testing the kind of personality you have and how this has influenced your behavior in particular situations. These are asked to assess whether certain behaviors are suited to help the organization achieve its objectives.
A. Introduce yourself
Purpose of asking: A question like this is seemingly very simple, but by asking you to introduce yourself, interviewers seek to explore the fit between your profile and the organization’s objectives.
How to answer: This is an open-ended question to which you can give any number of answers ranging from your qualifications to your hobbies. But the point to note here is, organizations don’t want to hear where you come from or how many siblings you have; it is about how your candidature can be a fit for the position you are applying for. Tailor your answer to help the interviewer to connect the two. Ex: “My experience as Sales Manager with xyz company can be of tremendous value in helping your business achieve its prospects in the Asia Pacific markets…”
What to avoid saying: Anything that brings the personal aspects of your life. These are of no value to the interviewer.
B. Can you support an achievement of yours with documentation?
Purpose of asking: This is one the quintessential behavioral questions. Organizations look for actual proof of how a candidate has behaved in a tight situation or has achieved something that was out of the ordinary. This is a vital means to help them understand how such a behavior could help them zero in on the right candidate.
How to answer: Make a list of situations in which you demonstrated a skill or ability in the past. It should show them that this achievement is relevant to what the organization expects from you.
What to avoid saying: Anything that is not related to the opening you are applying for.
C. What are your strengths?
Purpose of asking: Obviously, it is very important for organizations to understand the strengths their employees, their strongest resources, have. The kind of answer you give will throw pointers to core aspects of your personality.
How to answer: List 2-3 vital ones, and don’t go about telling a lot about yourself. These should be relevant to the organization’s business or culture. For example: “My strength is in closing deals. As I see, a few big-ticket items from some of your clients need closure. I can help you leverage this strength to win these contracts…” would be highly relevant to the specific situation the organization is in.
What to avoid saying: Non-specific ones. Words like punctuality, teamwork, hard work…these can be good qualities, but everyone is expected to have these.
D. What are your weaknesses?
Purpose of asking: Everyone knows that it is human to err. We are all human, and we are all imperfect. But how many of us are open to facing a question about our weaknesses? Hiring managers want to see not only how transparent you are about your weakness, but to also ascertain whether your weakness could turn out to be the organization’s Achilles Heel.
How to answer: We all love to talk about ourselves, but how open are we at talking about our minuses? Mention weaknesses honestly and say you are trying to overcome them.
What to avoid saying: Anything that guises your strengths, such as “too disciplined”, “too meticulous”, etc.
2. Skills and Past Experience based Questions
This section is mainly about assessing your skills and the way you put them to use in your previous work experience, to arrive at how these can help the present company.
A. Why do you want this job?
Purpose of asking: This appears the simplest of questions, but trust me, this is one of the toughest interview questions to answer. Hiring managers want to find out not just your suitability to the current job opening, but also your seriousness and interest in taking it up.
How to answer: List 3-4 concrete reasons as to why you want to take up this job and why you are the best suited candidate for this job. These reasons should be drawn from your qualification as well as your experience. Unless you are passionate about the prospect the new job offers, neither you nor the prospective employer will seem to tick together.
What to avoid saying: Expressions like “pay”, “company reputation”, or “the annual vacation”. These are big put offs for any interviewing manager.
B. Why do you want to work for this organization?
Purpose of asking: This question is to test your willingness to choose the new job. Bear a fact in mind: This question is not the same as why you want the job.
How to answer: This should answer how much you know the organization’s culture, mission, brand, and how you can enhance all these with your skills and experience. The most vital aspect is to show how to align these with your interests and attitude.
What to avoid saying: Same points as the previous point, plus also, remember not to say things like “because my friend works here”.
3. Situation-Based Questions
Situation-based questions are those that require you to think and answer according to the situation, and are seldom those that are related to questions for which the answer is already apparent, such as qualification. Here are my top situational interview questions:
A. Why should we hire you?
Purpose of asking: Although apparently simple, this situational interview question is worth being included among the top 10 interview questions. This question tests the candidate’s ability to show what she can bring to the table.
How to answer: State how your skills, education and experience can fit into the company’s goals, mission, business and other objectives. Here too, be specific, like how these qualities can be of value to the organization in realizing its aims.
B. What is your reputation in your present company?
What to avoid saying: I have come across candidates who answered “because I’m smart”. Who would want an answer like this, even if the company is in the show business? Never, ever gloat.
Purpose of asking: Simple-to see how you fare among your colleagues and bosses in terms of perception. This gives them a good insight of the candidate’s standing, which is reflective of how good a team person she is.
How to answer: Again, there is no substitute for honesty. Some people may not be on good terms with you. Mention this, and explain how you have tried to patch up with them on occasions.
What to avoid saying: Only positives! This will give them the impression that you are blowing your own trumpet.
C. Why did you leave your last job?
Purpose of asking: This question is asked to assess what the candidate is looking for in the current organization, and whether she can get along with colleagues or not.
How to answer: There could be many reasons for which employees leave organizations. Make sure you put these reasons across convincingly and don’t sound as someone who cannot stick with any organization because of attitudinal problems. This will send the wrong signals about your suitability and durability with this organization.
What to avoid saying: Blaming others for your decision.
D. Can I contact your current employer?
Purpose of asking: Simple: to test the candidate’s credibility
How to answer: With total poise and confidence. Never flinch when answering this question. However, make sure your chances of getting selected are very bright, because allowing the prospective company to make enquiries about you with your present company and then not giving you the job will let the cat out of the bag!
What to avoid saying: Replying with a question like “why do you want to do it?”. This will show that you are trying to hide something. Instead, be discreet about how they can do it without harming your prospects with either company.
4. Firm Knowledge based Questions
This section lists likely questions that organizations will ask relating to how much you know about the company you want to work with.
A. How much do you know about our company?
Purpose of asking: Clearly, asking this gives them a good idea of how interested the candidate is in the new company.
How to answer: The candidate must have carried out thorough research about the company history, its products or services, brands, where the brands are ranked in the market, etc., and should explain how she can augment the market position
What to avoid saying: Vague answers like “I know a lot”, or even the opposite of it, such as “not much”. Make sure you don’t mention any of the negatives about the company. If you have heard about or read any of these, clarify, but separately with the hiring manager, in a tactful manner.
B. How much do you expect?
Purpose of asking: This is to determine whether the candidate is affordable or has expectations that are too high for what the company is willing to pay.
How to answer: State a sum that is neither too unreasonable nor too low for your skills. It should be realistic and comparable to the pay range in the industry you are in.
What to avoid saying: Generalities like “anything”.
So, there we are, with my top 10 Toughest Interview Questions [How To Handle Them Successfully! But wait, if you counted the number of questions, it is actually 12! Doesn’t matter. Take it as a 10+2 offer! On top of that, I would like to add a bonus tip, which consists of 3 questions you should ask the employer in an interview.
All this while, we only examined the questions put TO the candidate, but there is another equally important part: the questions put BY the candidate!
Why is this important? Because when a candidate asks questions, it tests her perceptiveness, interest, and willingness to take up the position. So, what are the kinds of questions you should be asking, as a candidate?
What skills does the ideal candidate for this position have?Asking this question will show just how well suited you think you are for this position. It also creates an impression in the interviewer that you are taking this interview and your prospects with this company really seriously.
What does one like the most about working for this company?
This question signals to the interviewer that you are motivated about taking up this job. Here too, the reasons for which you should like the most about working for this company should be features such as flexible working hours, which allows you to cultivate a healthy work life balance, but not perks like the Friday evening parties, the weekend outings, or any such things. This shows a hollow candidate.
What differentiates good employees from great ones in this company?
This should be asked to find out what the company expects from you. If the answer is something like the employee stretching themselves to grow in their jobs by say, acquiring extra qualifications or doing long working hours, it should let you decide whether you are ready for undertaking these.
As you come to the final section of this blog, we feel tempted to ask if you reading this has helped you overcome some of your fears about facing an interview. Do you think you are now better equipped and more confident in facing your next job interview?
Is there something you feel should have been listed here, but has got left out? Please let us know. Your feedback is very valuable for us!