Survey: The three most dreaded job interview questions (and how to answer them)

Job interviews can be daunting. There is a lot riding on them. Your day to day life and your livelihood can be greatly impacted based on the results of one meeting. So you’re understandably nervous.

That’s actually part of the point. One of the things employers want to learn about possible new hires is how well they can deal with pressure, and how they communicate in potentially stressful situations. So be cool. It’s just part of the game.

A recent survey by the recruitment firm TotalJobs revealed the questions that candidates fear being asked the most. They polled roughly 6,000 people who were looking for work about what they dreaded being asked in job interviews, and they narrowed the results down to the top three.

The three most feared job interview questions:

Why should I hire you?

This really puts you on the spot. It sounds like a challenge. It can be hard to think of a great answer if you’re feeling pressured, so plan for it in advance. If, with time to consider, you still can’t think of a good reason why the company should hire you, then you’re probably not right for the job.

Just don’t say “because I need the job” or “because you have a role that needs filling.”

Being asked why they should hire you might sound like a challenge, but it is actually a gift. It gives you an easy opportunity to give your elevator pitch. Have three or four sentences in mind that sum up your greatest accomplishments and credentials that make you stand out as a great candidate for the role.

Demonstrate how hiring you would make the team, the department, or the company more successful.

“You should hire me because I am passionate about joining this team, my ten years of experience in the industry show that I am a key contributor in roles such as this, and I am anxious to help the team reach and exceed new targets.” Obviously, insert some specifics relevant to your career and the job.

Tell me about yourself

If someone walked up to you at a party and broke the ice with such a vague question as ‘tell me about yourself…’ you probably wouldn’t know what to say. It’s kind of a weird thing to ask someone. However, it is a job interview standard.

When you are asked to talk about yourself by a potential employer, you have the benefit of context. You know they don’t want to hear about your musical tastes or favourite pets. They want to hear about your career path and ambitions.

Again, make it relevant to the role. Talk about how your credentials and career progression will make you a great fit for this job, and how being hired for it is in line with your goals for the future. (Thus proving that working hard and succeeding on the job would be in your best interest as well as the company’s.)

What is your biggest weakness?

Everybody hates this question. You want to impress an employer in a job interview, so naturally, the last things you want to start discussing are your shortcomings. That’s the point of it. Employers know that you aren’t going to reveal that you always miss deadlines, can’t show up on time for anything, or steal lunches.

They want to see if you are self-aware enough to recognize that there are areas where you are strong and others where you can use some improvement. So, don’t say you have no weaknesses. That comes across as arrogant or dishonest. Everybody has weaknesses.

Talk about an area – one that is not crucial to the job – where you have struggled. Then tell them what you have learned from this and how you have worked to overcome it. The result being that you are self-aware enough to recognize areas for improvement, willing to learn, and interested in personal growth. These are all qualities employers look for.

We’ve covered this mine-field question in more detail. See: How to answer the ‘greatest weakness’ question like a boss.

Those are the three most dreaded job interview questions according to a recent survey of job seekers. The best way to take the fear factor out of all three is to do your homework. Prepare in advance. Show up to your interview prepared to talk about yourself – in the context of why you would be a good fit for the job. And, since you know it might come up, be ready to discuss your weaknesses as well as your strengths along with how you’re working to improve on them.

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