In the Hot Seat: How to Answer Tough Interview Questions

Posted by Doug White on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 06:10 AM

tough_interview_questionsJob interviews can be challenging, nerve-wracking experiences. Preparation is the key. Here's advice on tackling five tricky interview questions.

The Creative Group recently asked more than 400 advertising and marketing executives this question: What is the toughest or trickiest interview question you ask to weed out poor candidates? 

Many of the queries could trip up even the most capable and confident creatives. For example, one respondent asks jobs seekers to name the top three challenges his company will face in the next year. Another interviewer makes this request: "Tell me about one of your projects that failed and what you learned from it."

And then there's the hiring manager who throws this curveball: "What is the most significant thing you've done since breakfast?" (Let's hope you're a morning person!)

Following are five more tough interview questions that advertising and marketing executives ask, along with tips on how to answer effectively.

"Why do you want to work here?"

How to answer: This question underscores why it's so important to enter the interview armed with in-depth knowledge about the employer. Thoroughly review the company's website, marketing materials and social media accounts to get a firm understanding of its mission, history, reputation and workplace culture. Be resourceful and tap your professional network for insights, too. The more information you uncover, the better equipped you will be to make a case for why you're a good fit for the job and organization.

"Can you describe a frustrating workplace situation you faced and how you solved it?"

How to answer: Devote more time to discussing the solution you devised than the problem you encountered. Regardless of how nightmarish a boss, coworker or client may have been, maintain a diplomatic demeanor. Coming across as bitter, contemptuous or petty will only raise red flags. Share an anecdote that positions you as a positive-minded problem solver who finds creative ways to deal with challenging projects and people.

"Why are you leaving your current position?"

How to answer: Again, be tactful and think strategically. The interviewer is likely trying to figure out if you truly want the position. Simply mention that you're looking for a new challenge and reiterate what appeals to you about the role you're seeking rather than speaking negatively about the one you have. In short, make it clear you're chasing a great job, not running away from a bad one.

"What is your biggest weakness?"

How to answer: Many interviewees try to transform a positive trait into a negative one. "I'm a perfectionist" or "I care too much about work" are two classic examples. The problem is that these canned answers are disingenuous and employers see right through them. A savvier approach is to mention an actual trouble spot, but immediately follow up with details about the steps you've taken – or are taking – to overcome the weakness.

If you've battled nervousness in client pitch meetings, for example, you might mention that you took a public-speaking course to improve your communication skills. This kind of relatable answer shows self-awareness, sincerity and a commitment to professional development.

"Please give me a 60-second sales pitch about yourself."

How to answer: This is a more challenging version of the common "Tell me a little bit about yourself" icebreaker. The employer is trying to gauge your ability to package information and sell yourself (and your ideas) succinctly. After all, that's what you'll need to do on the job. Develop a sound bite that details your most relevant skills and accomplishments. Being able to offer a compelling career bio at the drop of a hat will also come in handy at networking events.

Hiring managers: What tricky interview questions would you add to the list? Share them in a comment below.

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Topics: Interviewing, Job Search