How To Respond To Tough Interview Questions

Not sure what to say when someone asks what your biggest weakness is, or how many hours you’re prepared to work? We have you covered.

Interview picture from Shutterstock

Our sibling publication Business Insider has rounded up 30 sample answers to difficult questions from career coach Vicky Oliver’s book 301 Smart Answers To Tough Interview Questions. In turn, we’ve picked out five that are likely to be encountered in IT pro scenarios, and noted Oliver’s answers with some additional comments.

Q: What is your biggest weakness that’s really a weakness, and not a secret strength?

Oliver’s answer: I am extremely impatient. I expect my employees to prove themselves on the very first assignment. If they fail, my tendency is to stop delegating to them and start doing everything myself. To compensate for my own weakness, however, I have started to really prep my people on exactly what will be expected of them.

Our thoughts: In a tech context, explaining that you’ll be documenting processes would undoubtedly be helpful.

Q: What if you work here for five years and don’t get promoted? Many of our employees don’t. Won’t you find it frustrating?

Oliver’s answer: I consider myself ambitious, but I’m also practical. As long as I am continuing to learn and grow within my position, I’ll be a happy camper. Different companies promote people at different rates, and I’m pretty confident that working for you will keep me motivated and mentally stimulated for several years to come.

Our thoughts: Pointing out that technology constantly changes and there’s a need to stay on top of current developments might also be helpful.

Q: Why did you take so much time off from work, and why do you wish to get a job now?

Oliver’s answer: When I first had the twins, my husband was working 24/7, and I really needed to be there to raise the kids. But during that time, I really missed working. Fortunately, I kept my hand in the business during those years by consulting for several of my ex-clients.

Our thoughts: If you can point to any open source projects or other activity from your time off, even better.

Q: Would you rather get permission from your boss before undertaking a brand-new project, or be given enough rope to “hang yourself”?

Oliver’s answer: During my first week on the job, I would ask my boss how she would prefer me to handle projects. If she indicated that she wanted a take-charge person under her, I would take the ropes. If she told me she wanted me to run ideas by her first, I would comply. I think the real challenge is being able to adapt to your work environment, and I’m flexible.

Our thoughts: A solid answer, though being given outright and singular responsibility for a whole project is relatively rare in complex IT environments.

Q: How many hours a week do you usually work, and why?

Oliver’s answer: A: I work pretty long hours most of the time. With the extra time, I try to find ways to “add value” to each assignment, both my own and the firm’s.

Our thoughts: In tech, it’s also worth emphasising that you’re happy to strike a balance: putting in extra hours during rollout periods, then scaling back so you don’t burn out when the pressure isn’t as intense.

Ever encountered any of these questions in real life? How did you cope? Share your strategies in the comments.

30 Smart Answers To Tough Interview Questions [Business Insider]

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