In interviews, some questions are strategically placed to either make or break a job candidate.
Brainteaser questions are meant to see if you can think on your feet. Situational questions are supposed to reveal your problem-solving abilities.
To adequately provide answers, you need to understand why the questions are asked, says Richard N. Bolles in his book “What Colour Is Your Parachute? 2014 Edition: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.”
“Throughout the interview, keep in mind that employers don’t really care about your past. They only ask about it in order to try to predict your future (behaviour) with them if they decide to hire you,” he writes.
“Before you answer the question the employer asks, you should pause to think, ‘What fear about the future caused them to ask this question about my past?'”
In his book, Bolles provides explanations behind why the common questions below are asked:
“Tell me about yourself.”
Why the question is asked: The employer is afraid there is something wrong with you and is hoping you will blurt it out.
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
Why the question is asked: The employer is afraid that you are looking for a job different than the position they are trying to fill. For example, the company may be looking for an assistant and they can tell from your answer whether you’ll be OK doing admin work or if you actually aspire to be an office supervisor.
“Why did you leave your last job?” or “How did you get along with your former boss and co-workers?”
Why the question is asked: The employer is afraid you don’t get along well with people, especially bosses, and is just waiting for you to “bad-mouth” your previous boss or coworkers as proof of that.
“How is your health?” or “How much were you absent from work during your last job?”
Why the question is asked: The employer is afraid you’ll be absent from work a lot if they hire you. Fortunately for you, this is not a question they can legally ask you.
“Can you explain why you’ve been out of work so long?” or “Can you tell me why there are gaps in your work history?”
Why the question is asked: The employer is afraid you’re the kind of person who quits a job the minute he/she doesn’t like something about it.
“Wouldn’t this job represent a step down for you?” or “I think this job would be way beneath your talents and experience” or “Don’t you think you would be underemployed of you took this job?”
Why the question is asked: The employer is afraid you could command a bigger salary somewhere else and will leave him/her as soon as something better turns up.
“What is your greatest weakness?”
Why the question is asked: The employer is afraid you have some character flaw and hopes you will now rashly blurt it out.
PRO TIP: Whenever these questions are asked, you should always try to provide answers that bring evidence to your skills. Whatever you do, never bad mouth your previous employer(s) as this will raise red flags that’ll likely take the focus away from your skill sets.
Have you ever blown it with an interview question? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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