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Interview Questions Everyone Hates

Suffering from pre-interview jitters? Aparna Sundaresan tells you how to tackle the most unsettling questions with ease.

The ‘agni pareeksha’ of growing up and becoming independent is the job interview. You might say the job interview is the employer’s way of deriving amusement from asking grotesque questions, but the truth is that like anything else in life, you must prove you are worthy of what you want, including that elusive dream job.
The trick to acing this test and emerging relatively unscathed is being prepared. Starting with the least vicious, here are the ten most likely and most loathed, seat squirming interview questions with a little tip on how to answer each.

10. Random trivia/mathematical question
Example: “If a president’s term is five years and if India has had presidents continuously since 1950, how many presidents have we had till date?”
Don’t say: “I’m sorry, but how is this related to the job?” Or a seemingly smart answer like “Enough to empty our treasury”. You are being tested on your response to a stressful situation.
Do say: “Let me get back to you on that after I’ve worked it out a bit.” Show them that you can handle stress well enough. Pull up a sheet of paper and a pen and try to figure it out. Even if your answer is incorrect, you will have demonstrated your ability to keep your cool under pressure. At the end of the interviews ask for the right answer.

9. Who is your role model and why?
Don’t say: “I don’t have one. I observe and learn from everyone around me.” Witty?
Maybe. Clever? No. Too vague, too evasive.
Do say: A person and how they inspire you. They could be your parents, a friend or even a fictitious character from a book or film. If you can back your answer up with sufficient reasons, it’s good enough. The interviewer is trying to gauge the values and principles you hold dear through a personality.

8. Why do you want to work here?
Don’t say: Anything negative about your previous job or colleagues, which has convinced you to change jobs. Or as a first-timer, “I have no choice”.
Do say: What you like about the company. ALWAYS research the organisation, its objectives and its opportunities beforehand. Tell them that their goals or nature of work or anything else they do is in line with your goals, work ethic, aspirations, etc.

7. How long will you stay with us?
Don’t say: “As long as I am needed here.” That makes you sound dispensable and replaceable as well as like someone with commitment issues.
Do say: “As long as both the company and I feel that our goals and achievements are being met. I must continue to feel challenged to help my career grow.” It’s no secret that all employers look for long-term commitment and this is how you assure them of that without giving them an actual figure.

6. Convince me to hire you.
Don’t say: “I am a good worker. I have so-and-so skills.” Chances are that everyone invited to interview has the same set of skills.
Do say: The achievements in your previous jobs. This is your chance to boast a little. Tell them what you have done and what more you are capable of. They know you have the skills, but do you know how to use them? What is it about you they will not find in anybody else?

You might say the job interview is the employer’s way of deriving amusement from asking grotesque questions, but the truth is that like anything else in life, you must prove you are worthy of what you want, including that elusive dream job.

5. What are your weaknesses?
Don’t say: “I lose my temper quickly, but if you think about it, it is really a strength,” or any other weakness you can disguise as a strength.
Do say: Your weaknesses. Admit them. Nobody is perfect. But also add that you are working on them. And don’t go overboard. Two or three should be enough.

4. Tell me about a time you failed.
Don’t say: “There was this school exam I didn’t pass, but apart from that I have been pretty successful.”
Do say: A professional endeavour that went pear-shaped and how you managed it. Again, you have to be willing to admit defeat. This is a trait employers believe shows good character.

3. Which is your favourite book/movie?
Don’t say: “Errr….” This is an unanticipated question that may cause you to fumble. Also, “I don’t really have favourites. I like everything” is an escapist answer.
Do say: One that you really like. And why. You are being tested on your decision-making skills, so make a decision!

2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Don’t say: Grand visions like a tenbedroom mansion or a Nobel Prize. We all have opulent dreams, but let us be practical.
Do say: A senior position you want to grow into from the job you are trying for. Show them you believe in evolving.

1. Tell me about yourself.
Don’t say: “I am a fun-loving person who is also hard-working and ambitious…” They don’t want your dating profile.
Do say: In brief, an overview of your early years, education, work history and recent career experience. This is almost always the first question and is always open-ended, so give them a wide-ranging answer. It may seem like a retelling of your CV but it is the only appropriate response.
Bonus nasty question: What is your dream job?
Don’t say: Anything about a job.
Do say: Something about the job environment. Most dream jobs exist in a happy workplace, so talk about the professional environment you would like to be in.

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