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How to Be Ready for Awkward Interview Questions

They’re going to happen. They’re going to be painfully uncomfortable, but you’ve got to be ready for them.

Photo Courtesy of Raw Pixel

Let's dive in starting with the worst one.

1. “What are some of your weaknesses?”

Don’t be cocky and say that you don’t have any or that none come to mind. Choose something that can be perceived as a weakness, but when you explain it, end it on a positive note.

There’s no perfect answer, but I often fall back and say that I’m an introvert, but that I’m always working hard to be friendly and open with my colleagues and with clients. Whether you’ve got clients, customers, end-users, or some other group, this strategy can work.

2. “Could you describe a situation where you made a mistake at work? How did you handle it?”

We all make mistakes; we know it and prospective employers know it too.

However, this is something that you might not be thinking about before a job interview. You’re probably thinking of all the things you do well at your current job and how you plan to highlight them to this new prospective employers.

Yet just in case this question comes up, be ready with a story about a time where you made a mistake but resolved it efficiently and calmly.

For example, when I was asked this question once, I flash-backed to a time where I worked in a college registrar’s office and made a mistake with billing codes. I told the interviewer that I make it a point to always double-check my work, so I realized the mistake, told the student that I needed to verify one quick thing with my supervisor and went to the associate registrar to help me correct the problem. It was honest and it showcased positive traits that new prospective employers will value.

3. “Why are you leaving your current job?”

It’s important not to say anything negative about your current employer. The working conditions might be dreadful, your coworkers might be unfriendly, or your supervisor might be a literal bat flying out of Dante’s ninth circle of hell, but the interview is not the time to be honest about that.

Come up with an answer that is polite, plausible, and truthful. If you’re relocating, mention that. If you’re looking to do something more closely related to your degree, say that.

If you’re interviewing for a job that is the same position as your current job, say that something about this new employer, like their mission or their location, attracted you to the position.

The key thing is to supply a good, positive reason for wanting this new job and being serious about your desire to change without saying anything negative about your previous employer. 

4. Weird questions. Weird questions that don’t make any sense.

Sometimes, you’ll just be hit with an entirely left-field question that you have no idea how to respond. For example, for that registrar’s office job I mentioned, they asked me, “what is your concept of a registrar’s office?”

This threw me since I still don’t think it really matters what my concept of it is, the office isn’t going to fundamentally change when they hire one more part-time employee. I’d learn the job’s duties and perform to the best of my ability, it’s that simple.

That isn’t a very good answer though. Instead, I said it was a place where staff members courteously help students with any and all registration issues that might crop up as they pursue their education. It was admittedly a slightly fluffy answer, but the panel of interviewers was happy with it.

5. Be ready to think on your feet.

The moral of this one is to be ready for anything and to think on your feet. This is essentially an extension and application of problem-solving skills, which you’ll use all throughout your career.

You might be asked something strange or just have a question thrown at you that is worded oddly.

Don’t pause for too long; give your answer thought if you need to, you don’t want to blurt anything out carelessly, but also don’t allow an awkward silence to set in.

You can read sample interview questions online like the ones I’ve provided here before your interview. It helps. If you’re starting to feel stressed and could use a chuckle, you can also read the top weird interview questions.

However, you should know when you go in that there might be some very different questions coming your way along with these common ones.

If you enjoyed this piece and you're getting ready for that big interview, I have another article on five interview blunders to avoid.

Good luck knocking your interviewer's socks off!