The Dreaded Questions: How to answer three of the most difficult interview questions

Interviews are scary business. There’s no two ways about it. Sitting one on one with a total stranger while they fire questions at you, all the while worrying manically about how you’re coming across and whether you’re heading for another crushing rejection. It’s no one’s idea of fun. The process itself is daunting enough, but there are certain questions that can reduce even the most confident of candidates to a floundering, stuttering mess. Preparation, however, is the secret to avoiding these potential stumbling blocks. The better prepared you are, the easier the interview will be. And as a bit of help with that preparation, here’s some tips for negotiating the questions we all dread the most.

What’s your biggest weakness?

This is perhaps the most dreaded of all the dreaded questions. It’s a minefield really. You can’t answer it too honestly – they’re unlikely to hire you if you say, “Well, I struggle getting out of bed in the morning and I like a drink.” But on the other hand, employers see straight through the old turn-it-into-a-positive chestnut, so don’t tell them that you’re too much of a perfectionist or that you demand too much of yourself and others. The best way to answer it is to acknowledge a genuine weakness but show that you are working on it or have made efforts to overcome it. For instance, you could say, “I used to be quite disorganised, but I now plan my time carefully to avoid missing deadlines.”

the office

What motivates you?

Another tricky one, this. It’s not really something most of us would think about regularly, and it’s difficult to answer without straying into cliché territory. The best thing to do is to draw on your personal experience, your hobbies and passions, and your previous achievements, and think about what motivated you in those instances. Then apply that in a way that relates to the job for which you’re applying. For instance, you could say that you’re motivated by seeing visible results, or by the sense of achievement that comes with hitting targets. As a general rule, it’s best not to say money, but it could be a good answer when you’re interviewing for a job where financial incentives are directly related to your performance.

Have you ever disagreed with your boss? How did you deal with it?

Again, this question presents something of a balancing act. You want to show that you’re someone who respects authority, but also that you’re not afraid to express your opinions, especially when you think it’s in the interest of the company. Clearly, leaning too much on either side would be an error. They don’t want someone who’s going to cause constant confrontation in the office, but they’re also likely to be put off someone who blindly does everything they’re told without using their initiative. Again, drawing on your personal experiences is the key here, but make sure you choose your examples wisely; if you had a full-blown fall-out with your previous manager, that’s unlikely to endear them to you, so think of a time when you acted diplomatically and used your communication skills to manage a conflict of opinions.

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