Job winning interview answers
Professional and original answers to over 100 difficult interview questions. Transform how you answer questions in an interview, so you don’t need to get caught out ever again.
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Don’t be caught out again by difficult interview questions
We have provided, details of what the interviewer is looking for with each question, a suggested time-frame so you keep your answer concise and example answers for both Junior and Senior Managers. Beat the competition by using our professional and original answers to interview questions like:
What is the interviewer testing?
This is a horrible question to get in an interview. You are being asked to spill the beans on your worst areas. How are you going to do this without damaging your changes of progressing in the interview?
The interviewer wants to get an idea of the downsides of hiring you. And you want to only put across the positive points.
This question, or a variant, is also fairly common in interviews, so you need a few ways to answer this question without putting both feet into it.
A common way used to answer this question is to talk about the downsides of a current strength and how you manage them. Being impatient, working too hard, caring too much, etc. We think that this is okay if the role is junior and/or the interviewer is not very experienced. See an example below.
“I am very impatient. I want to deliver results quickly and I get frustrated when other team members don’t work at the pace that I do. In the past, this frustration has resulted in upset team members. I am aware of this and when I feel impatient, I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that everyone is not as action orientated as me. I now try to support rather than chase and this works gets results without upsetting people.”
When the role you are applying for is more senior, such as a management level, this type of answer can become detrimental. One reason is more is expected of you and your answers, another is that managers need to be self-aware to manage well. Providing a “standard” answer is not demonstrating self-awareness.
So how might we answer this as a manager?
If the role being applied for is a junior manager, you could talk about an area of experience that is not strong yet, but you are working on improving it. This can’t be one of the key areas of the role!
e.g. Salespeople / marketers could talk about their financial knowledge and experience being less than they want, and the steps they are taking to get basic knowledge. Or Finance could talk about sales or marketing.
You are not expected to be good at everything. You are expected to know what you are good at and okay at. If you have an area that you are really not good at, we suggest choosing another area.
Choose an area that was a weaker area and talk about the steps you have taken to get okay at this area. Also include how you ensure the skills of a team member are strong in the area you are okay at, so as a team you cover all the skills and experience needed.
Most middle to senior managers should recognise this situation. Provided you demonstrate awareness and progression to get your weaker area to okay, your answer should become a positive differentiator to other candidates using “standard” answers.
Plus using this approach, you are answering the question directly, honestly and genuinely.
We suggest having 2-3 different “weaknesses” to discuss. We have seen interviewers accept the first answer and then ask for a second
Approximate time frame to answer
I remember when I first got into sales that I didn’t like or know much about the financial implications of what I was selling outside my targets and commission. As I climbed the ranks within sales, I have made a conscious effort to understand a P&L and Balance Sheet, going out of my way to spend time with members of the finance team. It was a weak area that I am now okay at.
I am all over my sales numbers and my team’s numbers and view numbers as a critical part of managing the sales process. I still ensure that I have a good and friendly finance person to lean on for the difficult financial analysis though I am comfortable with the information contained in most P&L reports. This has really helped my sales team management too.
(More examples within the Interview Question Bank)
What is the interviewer testing?
This is a common question for any managerial position. This question is often asked for non-management roles, particularly if the interviewer is looking for a person with potential to grow into a management role.
Think about how you approach management and how you support your team. How can you craft your answer to this question to best show the potential employer how you will get the best out of any team you manage.
Also consider that the interviewer is looking to find out clues about
- How you might treat your team members
- How will you support and develop your team members
- How you communicate with your team
- If you are a team player
- What focus you put on getting the job done
- How approachable are you
- How you deal with problems and change
You do not need to include all the points above
A good quote relating to management is:
“Okay managers play checkers; great managers play chess”
Great managers recognise the skills and experience of individual members of staff and use their talents to get the best result for the team and the company.
Good managers flex their style to the situation and the person that they are dealing with.
Approximate time frame to answer
My management style depends on the situation and the person or team that I am dealing with. I flex my style to ensure that I, with my team, am able to deliver the project or the results that are expected.
I am a big believer in supporting and developing my team. I do this through informal training sessions and weekly one-to-ones. This is good for the individuals, the team and the company as individuals become better and the team delivers more. Being supportive also fosters a good team culture, and when clear direction is set, I have found we, as a team, can deliver great results.
I have also managed teams through a crisis, where a much more direct leadership style was needed. I set clear expectations and deal effectively with poor performers.
A good example that demonstrates all the above points – I was asked to turnaround a finance team that had allowed a mid-sized business with turnover of £20m to run out of money despite being profitable. I had to make a number of changes to personnel, change systems and train the team. We also implemented a new ERP system. The results included the cash balance increasing from near zero to over £3m within 12 months, and the business becoming much more forward focused, allowing 20% per annum growth to resume.
What the interviewer is testing:
This question is a problem-solving question that is designed to put you on the spot. The interviewer wants to see how you deal with the unexpected question.
The key to this question is to take it step by step to demonstrate how you solve this problem. The HOW is a lot more important that getting to a specific number.
You will need to make assumptions. Do take time to think before jumping in.
Expect that the interviewer will give you a pen and sheet of paper (or use yours) to show your workings. Talk through each step. An “correct” answer is not needed but sensible answers are better than unlikely answers.
In interviews for more senior positions, expect a few unusual questions that you have not seen before
Suggested time frame to answer:
up to 5 minutes
Limousines are pretty big inside compared to a car. I will assume 3 times as big.
I am just visualising our car. I will assume that inside the space is roughly 2m x 3m x 1m. This gives 6m3 of volume within the car.
Next, I am going to work out the number of tennis balls that you could get within a cubic metre. I am assuming that 20 balls will fit in line along a meter.
The number in a cubic metre would be 20 x 20 x 20, which is 8,000. I think that tennis balls are a little larger than this, but they would also fit into the gaps better than squares, so I am going to assume 5,000 balls per cubic metre.
The limousine would have 3 x 6m3 inside it. This then makes 5,000 x 18 balls which is 90,000 balls in total
Don’t refuse to answer (which we have seen) or just say a number. Neither help the interviewer find out about your problem-solving skills.
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