How to Answer Tricky Interview Questions: Part II

Published: Mar 30, 2023

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Welcome back to our guide to tricky interview questions and what you can do conquer them. Yes friends, those interviewers are a shrewd bunch, but we’ve got what it takes to succeed. Check out part one if you haven't already. Now that you’re all caught up, we can get back to business, so without further ado, here is part two of our list of tricky interview questions.

“How do you define success for yourself?”

Success isn’t easily defined, as it’s largely subjective and can mean many different things to different people. Nevertheless, an interviewer will ask this question so they can get a read on a candidate’s priorities and motivations. This question makes the list because an appropriate answer rests on a very fine line. In other words, you want to be careful about seeming over-ambitious or driven by money.

The best kinds of answers are ones that directly relate to the job you’re interviewing for. With some research you should have a good understanding of the company’s offerings and goals, so try something along the lines of “I get the most fulfillment out of my career when I’m able to apply my expertise in [your field] to contribute to a company’s success.” Of course, you’ll want to tweak this to be specific to the job you’re applying for, so take your time with it.

“Do you have any career regrets?”

When an interviewer asks this question, they’re covertly trying to scan a candidate for any proverbial skeletons in the closet—lucky for us, we’re always one step ahead. Here, you want to be brief because if you linger on this question for too long, it might seem like you’re hiding something. In addition to this, do not use the word “regret” in your response, as it can come off as negative.

Being familiar with your work experience is the key to answering this question appropriately, so always consult your resume before you go on your interview. The best way to answer this question is to make a reference to a lesson that you learned. Let’s say you started out working in retail, then later decided to go to college so you could work in the financial services industry. In this scenario, you could say something like “I feel fulfilled in what I do, and I only wish I decided to make the leap sooner.” This will demonstrate a passion for what you do, which can go a long way during an interview.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

This one is extremely common, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tricky. With this question the interviewer is trying to detect any negative traits in an applicant that might help narrow down the pool of candidates. Resist the urge to provide cliché examples of weaknesses such as “working too hard,” as the interviewer will see through them right away.

Instead, talk about strengths that are directly applicable to the job you’re interviewing for. If you’re applying to be a project manager, you could say something along the lines of “I’m very organized and I’m great at recognizing other people’s strengths.” When it comes to weaknesses, you want to reassure the interviewer that you’ve taken the initiative to work on them. Your response might look something like this: “Early on I wasn’t so familiar with the Adobe Suite, but since then I’ve taken online courses to expand my working knowledge of most of the programs.”

“Why were you laid off?”

This one can be particularly disorienting, which is precisely why it’s so common. Here, the interviewer is trying to see how you deal with challenges and react to pressure, so it’s important to keep your cool. The key here is to demonstrate confidence, and this is easily done through good posture and a slow, deliberate speaking voice. If this question catches you off guard, take your time and formulate your answer, rather than trying to answer quickly.

As always, we want to avoid saying anything negative about a former employer, so the best way to answer this question is to attribute your layoff to a business matter. For example, you could explain that your former employer was going through a rough economic period, which led to a round of layoffs. This will show the interviewer that despite this challenge, you remain confident and level-headed, and that you’re cognizant of the various issues a company might face.

There’s no sugar coating it—job interviews can be tough. More often than not, the hardest part is keeping your composure and learning to recognize the intentions behind the interviewer’s questions. Remember, you can always run through some practice interviews with a friend or family member so that you get used to talking about your work experience and resume. As with most things, practice makes close to perfect, so the more you go on job interviews, the better you’ll be at handling yourself.