Prepping for a job interview means knowing how to handle curveball questions about your past jobs, boss and projects. Impressing an interviewer means not just having great career stories to tell, but also thinking two steps ahead to the kind of questions hiring managers like to ask.
So here’s a peek behind the curtain: We talked with recruiters and human resources experts about the go-to interview questions they ask when they want to know how a candidate really thinks. Take notes, job seekers!
1. “If I went to one of your former managers, what would they say is their favorite part of working with you, and what would they say is challenging about working with you?”
Daniel Space is a human resources consultant with business partners in strategic staffing. For roles that are manager level and above, he likes to ask this question to see if the candidate’s leadership style is aligned with the company’s.
“That shows me, one, their ability to self-reflect, to self-analyze, to take accountability for growth,” he said, “as well as to find that middle ground in being confident in who you are or being overly braggadocious. I find that it really allows the candidate to open up about what’s a potentially challenging trait they have or something that they discovered that is a developmental flaw that they wanted to work on.“
When answering this question, take ownership of where you fall short in your performance, and what you are working on about yourself. Space said every once in a while, he sees candidates who blame a company and boss for their developmental challenges, and that raises his suspicions.
“It just shows that very one-sided approach of ‘I was perfect and nobody else was wrong,’” he said.
2. “Tell me about a time you failed.”
Tejal Wagadia, a senior talent acquisition specialist at MST Solutions, said asking about a time someone made a mistake, failed or had a conflict with a co-worker is her go-to question for getting a revealing answer.
“We all have failures, we all have conflicts, we all make mistakes,” she said, noting that what she is looking for in the answer is whether a candidate is being honest and if they learned from the situation.
Don’t claim to be perfect. Wagadia said not remembering the last time you made a mistake is a red flag for her.
“That tells me they either don’t know that they have made a mistake ― they are oblivious or cannot introspect ― or they know, and are intentionally lying to make themselves look good. Which tells me they could potentially lie in the future about something else,” she said.
To show self-awareness, Wagadia recommends picking a job-related story about a career mistake through which you can show that you learned from the experience and have moved forward from it.
“It’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it,” she said.