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  • Writer's pictureAdeleine Whitten

The worst interview questions (and the best answers to them)

No matter how many mock interviews we attend or how much preparation we do in advance, there’s nothing we can do about the types of questions we’re asked in a job interview. Maybe they’re new to HR, or they don’t remember what it’s like being on the other end of it. Or even worse the big boss thinks he’s so clever by thinking up questions to stump the other party.

Whatever the reason may be, I go into every interview preparing for the worst. Because even the best companies with the best positions are bound to ask at least one question from the dreaded list. And a good answer to that question is bound to set you apart from anyone else they talk to.

So without further ado, here are my top five worst interview questions and the best answers to respond with.

What is your biggest weakness?

The dreaded weakness question. We all know the trick about using something good and framing it as a weakness (“I’m a perfectionist”, anyone?), but it seems the interviewers are onto us with that one. Instead, choose a weakness that you had a few years ago, or maybe early on at your current position. And instead of framing it as a good thing, talk about what you’ve done to improve on that weakness. This shows self-awareness, flexibility, and growth all important traits for any position.

Q. What is your biggest weakness?

A. When I first started at my current position, I found myself getting overwhelmed when I had too many things going on at once. I definitely didn’t want that to get in the way of my work, so I took the initiative to figure out a new organization strategy. Now I have a really good system for keeping track of my different projects, making to-do lists, and managing all of my deadlines. I currently manage 4-5 projects at a time without any issues.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Dude. Are you serious? Do you even know where you want to be in five years? I doubt it.

But, of course, we can’t actually answer like that. Sigh. So what’s the best course of action here? And don’t tell them you see yourself at the company you’re interviewing with. Laaaaame. Instead, keep it general. I like to talk about the type of work I’d like to be doing, or how I want my job to make me feel. I try to highlight my passions and my love for the work I do. It’s also not a bad idea to tie that to the general job description of the position you’re interviewing for, without getting too cocky.

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A. I see myself working in marketing for a company I love. Marketing has been a passion of mine since I began studying it in college, and I know that having the opportunity to do that daily will make me excited to wake up in the morning and do what I love. I focused a lot on email marketing while in school, so I’ve always envisioned myself getting to take those skills to a company where I can make a difference.

Insert your major/passion/specialty there, and boom.

If you were a , what type of would you be?

Oh, how I despise this question. And the worst part is that there are infinite variations of what they could be asking you to identify as, so it’s impossible to prepare an exact answer in advance. So how do you come up with a perfect answer on the fly like that? Well, I always go into an interview having 3 or so qualities that I like about myself picked out (these are also great to have locked and loaded when they ask for your strengths). For example, I want to highlight that I’m reliable, flexible, and willing to learn. And then when they ask me what type of _____ I am, I just choose something that fits (or that I can make fit) those characteristics.

Q. What type of car would you be?

A. Honda - they rarely break down or have any major issues (reliable), they’re good for anyone in any type of living or family situation (flexible), and they’re constantly evaluating new amenities and safety features to add to the next models (willing to learn).

Q. What type of cheese snack would you be?

A. Cheez-Its - you can find them at every store (reliable), they come in a ton of different flavors (flexible), and they’re always coming out with new ones based on requests (willing to learn).

Q. What type of animal would you be?

A. Dog - they’re always there for you (reliable), there are a ton of different breeds and personalities to choose from (flexible), and they’re always learning new tricks (willing to learn).

Don’t get too creative with this. Try to pick very general things, so you can match them to whatever object they may come up with. Because, hint: they don’t actually care about what kind of plant you are. They care about the characteristics you use to describe it.

Why are you leaving your current position?

This may seem obvious, but this is not an open invitation to badmouth your company or boss. Always frame the answer to this question in a positive light. I like to start with some nice words about my current job (even if it feels impossible to come up with anything). Tell them that you’ve learned all you can in your current position. Say you’ve always wanted to work for a company that did XYZ, but you were waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Mention that you discovered a newfound passion for a specific thing that you’d like to focus more on in your next position. Keep it light and positive.

Q. Why are you leaving your current position?

A. I’ve had the most amazing experience at my current company, and I’ve learned so much over the past three years. However, social media marketing is only a small part of my current role, and I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a position where I can utilize those skills full-time. I’ve also always seen myself joining a non-profit, so when I saw this position open up, I knew it was an opportunity I had to go for.

An answer like this addresses the question without raising any red flags for your interviewer. You don’t want them thinking you’re a disgruntled employee, and you also don’t want them to think you’re only interviewing for this job so you can leave your current one ASAP. Emphasize growth and how this new position specifically fits into your next steps.

Why should we choose you for this position?

One of the worst questions, and also one that’s very commonly asked at the end of an interview. While this question is awful in itself, it’s actually a great opportunity to highlight anything on your resume that’s out of the ordinary. If you had a job that isn’t directly in your field or a skill that isn’t very common in your industry, use that to your advantage by differentiating yourself. For example, I work in marketing, but I had a job where I responded to RFPs for two years. Not technically marketing related, but I know nobody else they were interviewing had that on their resume as well.

Q. Why should we choose you for this position?

A. Well, I have the marketing experience needed for this position and I’m sure everyone else you’re interviewing has that as well but I also have proposal writing experience. In that job, I learned how to manage projects, work with large groups of people, communicate with various personalities, proofread my own and others’ work, and I worked extensively in the Microsoft Office suite. Those are all skills that will not only compliment my marketing skills, but also make me an overall better employee and team member.

Take that script and insert your serving or retail job, your volunteer work, or anything else that can help you stand out among all of the people with resumes almost identical to yours. And if this is the last question of the interview, your answer will definitely give them something to remember you by.

While interviews tend to come with a lot of stress and pressure, the most important thing to remember is that your interviewer is human. No matter what they ask you, try to establish a personal connection, and don’t let yourself just be another resume that was dropped on their desk. Tell stories, give examples, and be sincere. And most importantly, use every opportunity possible to put yourself in the best possible light even if the questions make it difficult to do so.

Adeleine Whitten | Professional, kind of

is a marketer by day and writer by night, weekend, and sometimes lunch break. You can often find her with a good book or in the Taco Bell drive-thru.

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