SkillUp’s Guide to Tackling The Toughest Interview Questions

Sep 4, 2021

First impressions really are everything and this holds true when you are going through the interview process. You want to make sure you make a good impression but sometimes questions come up that can be confusing or throw you a curveball. From answering where you see yourself in five years to speaking through salary, SkillUp has got you covered! 

1- How do you ask if a position has growth potential or not?.

It is important to know if the role you are entering will have growth potential. A great way to navigate this question is positioning this question as follows: “What does growth look like at this organization?” as well as asking “How long do most people stay in one role?
“.. This will give you a sense of whether or not this is an organization where people move around or stay in one spot

This will make the interviewer stop to think about what kind of growth previous people have seen in that same role, or what someone could see in this role in terms of upward mobility. 

If it is a newer role, it will make them frame what possible growth can look like.  

An interviewer understands making the decision to accept an offer is not one sided and they will provide you honest feedback about what growth could look like. 

2- How do you see yourself in 5 years?

When interviewers ask this, they want to see how this role may fit into your long term plans. If you feel in 5 years you want to move up within the company, tell them that you see yourself comfortable and familiar with your current role and growing professionally with the organization.

So, for example, you might say, “Well I’m really excited by this position at ABC Software Company because in five years, I’d like to be seen as a subject matter expert in the IT Software sector, and I know that’s something that I’ll have an opportunity to do here. I’m also really excited to take on more managerial responsibilities as I grow in this organization as well as spearhead some projects. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing managers, and so developing into a great manager myself is something I’m looking forward to.”

3- How can you contribute to our company’s growth?

Interviewers want to see what kind of impact you can make as well as how you generate results. This can be related to team dynamics, project management skills, adhering to deadlines, and other numerous factors that will impact the organization. A great way to respond to this is to frame what your strengths are and how that helps serve the bigger picture of the organization. 

For example, Beth worked at a software company in three different roles over a 4 year span. She started in the sales department, moved over to Marketing, and then found herself enjoying HR so she most recently worked in HR. As part of her HR function, she was responsible for recruiting. Because of her experience in sales and marketing, when she screened applilcants for those roles in particular, she was able to identify the most qualified candidates. This sped up the hiring process as well as showed the value she brought into her HR function from the experience she had in sales and marketing. 

4- How do you answer “why are you looking to leave your current position?” (especially if the reason for leaving is negative?)

Interviewers usually ask this question to see what your longevity and long term goals are with joining an organization. Interviewers also understand that life happens and not every job will be the best fit for everyone. A good way to answer this question is as follows:

“I am grateful for the opportunities my organization has given me but right now my professional goals have shifted and I am looking for something more aligned with my goals and I am excited to dive into a new opportunity that will allow me to reach my potential.”

Note: Never (EVER!) bad mouth your previous employer. It is important to always maintain a level of professionalism. Your prospective employer could view it as a red flag for how you could possibly handle conflict. 

5- How would you handle conflict in a team?

Interviewers are looking for folks to say they are direct communicators and that they can handle their problems on their own. Generally, you want to say something like “well first I would step back from the situation and reflect. I’d try to look at the situation from my peers side. Then I would reach out to them directly and try to fix the issue. Conflict is natural and honestly healthy. I just approach the situation from a calm place rooted in communication. If the situation escalates, I might meet with my manager to brainstorm solutions. I always start by trying to work with the person directly.”

6- Tell me about a time when you took initiative at work.

Interviewers want to see if you are a self-starter and are not afraid to take initiative and lead. A good response to this would be an example of a project or task you were excited about and led or took over so you could grow. 

“At my job at the XYZ resort, I was a bartender in the restaurant. Our restaurant was hidden in the back of the resort, so I asked if I could help make custom signage at the front desk as well as happy hour tickets that we gave guests when they signed in. We would print their name on the ticket so they would feel welcome and it would motivate them to come to the restaurant and use their coupon. This began to increase traffic and guests loved the customized coupons. I got to use my graphic design skills too.”

7- How do you handle criticism?

Interviewers want to see that you are open to growth.

Possible response for interviewer: “I believe criticism and feedback can actually help you do better in a role. The times in my career I have received both or one, have actually really helped me improve. I do not take it personally and I assess what I can do better and what I feel I am doing strongly.

One time in particular, I received feedback from my manager in regards to the amount of work I was balancing. She was impressed with how many projects I was taking on but she coached me through prioritizing and how to set realistic expectations with colleagues to be able to accurately finalize each project and not have to rush. This in term helped me become a better employee.”

8- How should you phrase your response when they ask what your strengths/weaknesses are?

The interviewer wants to see how you assess your personal strengths and weaknesses and if you are self aware of yourself. Think of something you are very strong at in every job. You will start to see a theme when you think about what you have excelled at. Now think of what you can improve on, or what can be a pitfall. Honestly answer this question, and end it with framing how you are working on it. 

“My strengths are XYZ. My weakness is that when I make an error, even a minor one, I spend too much time fixating on the fact that I made an error. It does not slow me down but it will linger in my mind. I am working on it by instead trying to figure out what I can do better next time.” 

9 – How do I negotiate salary? 

Do not be shy to ask! It  rarely hurts to ask. In most cases, the power is now in your hands. The hiring org has made a decision and the last thing they want to do is do it all again. You want to always do a little research but you should always ask for what you see as fair. Most organizations are going to try and get the best deal and they know folks just want the job. Just ask!

The best way to negotiate salary is to first do your research for the pay range for the role and incorporate your experience. If you have 5 years of experience and the role is asking for 3, you can feel comfortable negotiating in the middle range of a pay scale. 

If you do not know how much the role pays, address it in the second interview. You can clearly ask what the range is for the role and not feel guilty about it. You are making a decision as well to consider this company as an employer so they should not have an issue disclosing this. 

If you are rounding out the interview process and you approach the salary conversation and are given a verbal or tentative amount, you can counter offer as follows:

“I am so excited to receive this opportunity. Based on my skills and experience, I would like to counter this offer by requesting this amount (insert salary). This is based on my experience in XYZ, my skills in XYZ and the experience I bring.” 

Tags: career

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