In a long and varied career, I have spent a few decades in coaching, sales, sales management, IT, and running my own businesses.
How to Answer Weird and Uncomfortable Interview Questions
We’ve all been in job interviews where we dread those awkward questions (I know I have). I have also been at the other side of the desk asking those awkward interview questions and getting some well-thought-out answers and, unfortunately, some not-so-well-thought-out answers.
In this article, I will go over some of those really awkward questions you sometimes get asked when you’re being interviewed for a new job, which we all dread. Of course, you cannot be ready for everything, but fear not, awkward interview questions often fall into certain categories, and we’ll go through a few common ones here. The following examples may not be phrased to you precisely as they are here, but these are generally the questions you might be asked in an interview.
1. ‘What Are Your Weaknesses?’
This is a classic question that is often asked in interviews (or a similar variation of it). It is often included in the question: 'What are your strengths and weaknesses?'
Your strengths? You usually have a good idea what those are, but the 'weakness' part of the question is the issue. Most people have no problem answering what their strengths are, but they sometimes have a problem in defining what their weaknesses are and also feel uncomfortable about revealing them.
So it can be a dreaded question. The best thing to do with this question when they say: 'What are your weaknesses?' is to stay away from personal qualities and just concentrate on the professional things that you do in life.
Also, try and re-frame your answer in a way that is positive. So, even though you admit you have a (work-related) weakness (for example, communication skills), you could say, 'I'm aware that communication can sometimes be my weakness, but I am always seeking to improve my communication with my teammates and be a more effective communicator.
To help me with this, I've recently been on a course for enhanced communication skills' or something like that. So, in effect, you are saying, 'Yes, I've got a weakness, I'm aware of it but I'm doing something about it'.
2. ‘What Are Three Positive Things Your Manager Might Say About You?’
You need to be ready for this question because it’s a great opportunity to promote your best qualities without seeming boastful. Your homework in preparing to answer this question is to recall any positive quotes that your manager has said about you or ones you can pull up from your old appraisals.
So, in any performance review or appraisal where your boss was complimentary, make sure that you highlight that in your pre-interview notes, and then you can repeat it back as part of the answer. Make sure you keep your answer succinct and positive.
3. ‘Why Should We Hire You?’
Again, this is a sometimes difficult question. You need to summarize your experience within your answer. So you might say something along these lines ‘In the last five years, I have gained experience in X industry and have a proven record of saving the company money (or making sales for the company, or completing projects or anything positive), that you, may have already touched upon in the interview or you can reinforce now.
4. ‘Why You Do You Want Leave Your Current Job?’
This is a very difficult question. Sometimes.
The first thing to say about this question is, whatever you do, don't 'badmouth' your previous or current employer, as this will just make you look like you have 'sour grapes' or a 'bad attitude', and it doesn't look good in an interview. So whatever you do, don't say anything negative about your current or previous employer, even if your boss was, indeed, the boss from hell.
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If you're unemployed, you need to state your reason for leave for leaving your last position in a positive context.
So you might say, 'Well, I survived two rounds of redundancies, and the third round of redundancies was a 30 percent reduction in the workforce, and unfortunately, that included me.'
If you are currently employed, then rather than focusing on why you're leaving, focus on what you want from your next job. You could say something like 'I've made the decision to look for a company that is ambitious and is more in line with my own values.' Whatever you say, keep it positive and future-focused.
5. ‘What Are Your Goals?’
In the answer to this, try and focus on short to medium-term goals rather than boxing yourself into a long-term future goal, and as always, keep it professional and work-orientated. So don’t say, ‘I want to be a black belt in karate and the next two years’ (or something like that). Just try and keep it away from the personal and more in the professional areas of your life.
One of your immediate goals might be to find a job in a forward-thinking company. So, that answer tells them that you’re interested in them because they are a forward-thinking company.
If they do ask about your long-term goals, you can say something like, ‘I want to align my long-term goals with the goals of the company I work for and to grow into a position of responsibility within that company’ (or something similar). So focus on the company that you’re interviewing with and how you can fit into their future, so matching your goals with their goals.
6. ‘Why Do You Want to Work Here?’
Another question is, ‘Why do you want to work here?’, ‘Why do you want to work with us?’ or ‘Why do you want to work at this company?’
In this question, they’re interested in finding out whether you’re just ticking off boxes and going from company to company to try and get a job because you dislike the one you’re in or if you are truly interested in their company. So you need to make sure that your answer implies that you have researched their company and you believe that you have similar values.
In other words, the direction of travel for you, the way you want your future to pan out, appears to be in line with their values (which you can often find on the company website).
7. ‘What Can You Offer Us?’
Another question you might get asked is: ‘What can we offer us?’ or ‘What can you offer us that the other candidates cannot?’
Here they basically saying you are in competition with other people, that there are other people coming for interviews here, so what is going to make you stand out? The best way to do this is to summarize your skills and experience and your positive traits in a very concise answer. So don’t waffle on.
Have this one rehearsed. Summarize the skills that they’re looking for and that you have. Just say I have experience in A, B, C and D, and my traits and working ethic are X, Y and Z, and put it all into one concise answer, using just a few short sentences.
8. "What Salary Are You Seeking?"
The last of our awkward questions is: ‘What salary are you seeking?’ or similar.
In advance of getting asked this question, you need to try and get a feel for what this type of role will pay in the marketplace, or in your local area. You can do this by researching, either online or if you know any people in a similar role (friends, acquaintances or online), then maybe you can reach out and ask them ‘roughly’ what they think this role might be worth.
Obviously, it’s much easier if the company you are interviewing with has already given an indication of what the role will pay. If they haven’t then you need to think about what you would consider too low for you to take this role.
You know what the role involves; you’ve been interviewed for it. So what would you want to get paid for it?
What do you think would be fair pay for it, and if they offered you less than that amount, you need to consider that you actually might not want to do the job for less than that.
Keep that in mind because the best answer to this probably is to just roll it back at them and say, ‘What type of salary range would you pay for a role such as this?’ Throw the question back at them, and they might answer; they might even give a straightforward response.
If they don’t, you can always say, ‘When the time comes, I’m sure we can agree on a reasonable amount between us’ or something like that, because if you really don’t know and it is difficult to put a number on it, and you don’t want to sell yourself short.
Rehearse Your Answers in Advance
With all these answers that you give to these awkward questions, rehearse them in well advance of the interview.
Keep your answers relatively short. There might be follow-up questions, but keep the initial answers short and to the point; you don't need to add lots and lots of extra information. When you give these answers, if they need extra information, they'll probably ask for it, but in the first instance, keep answers relatively short and concise.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Jerry Cornelius