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Job Interviews and Preparing for Challenging Questions

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice

Preparing for a phone, online or in-person interview is crucial as you’re seeking employment. During an interview, it is easy for your interviewers to determine how much time you’ve taken in preparation.

Over the past 20 years, I have sat on both sides of the desk. On some occasions, I was the job candidate. I’ve also been the hiring manager conducting the interview, so I have considerable experience in judging job candidates.

Related link: How Remote Work Has Changed Today’s Recruiting Industry

Interview Preparation through Prior Research Is Vital

Ideally, you should be prepared to show a deep understanding of a company and its background. During interviews, it is not uncommon for hiring managers to ask you to share what you know about an organization and why you feel it is a good fit.

From my experience, I have found it helpful to do in-depth research, which involves more work than just reviewing the job ad. For example, I’ll typically spend a couple of hours reading everything available on the company website and then reading customers’ online reviews of the company and its products. It is also a good idea to review the company’s social media platforms to learn everything possible about the organization.

This in-depth research is helpful. It shows a hiring manager that you are interested not only in the job, but also the company.

The Most Common and Challenging Questions Asked on Job Interviews

There are common and challenging questions that are typically asked during job interviews. For instance, a hiring manager may ask you a scenario-based question related to the job description. The hiring manager’s intent is to see your decision-making and problem-solving skills.

For management positions, you may be asked questions that deal with real-world scenarios. For example, you may be asked how to deal with the challenge of a difficult subordinate and ask how you would resolve the challenge.

Different industry fields have different challenges. Ideally, applicants preparing for job interviews should consider what industry-related questions a hiring manager may ask them.

Related link: How College Graduates Can Develop Work Skills and Experience

Answering the Biggest ‘Strengths and Weaknesses’ Interview Questions

Another common question used in job interviews is “What is your biggest strength?” or “What is your biggest weakness?” For these questions, I write down my responses and memorize them before I go to an interview.

For the “biggest strength” question, be sure to provide an answer that reflects your strengths in association with the job’s requirements. Ideally, provide some examples of how your strength has been used in past jobs because it provides more credibility to your answer.

Conversely, the “biggest weakness” question can be more challenging to answer. But having a written response memorized prior to the interview can reduce the stress of answering this difficult question.

As a job candidate, I have always focused on a weakness that appeared earlier in my career and I showed how I was able to overcome that weakness over time.

For example, I once stated in an interview that my biggest weakness was “not using the resources available to me to solve a problem. However, I learned over time the importance of utilizing mentors, colleagues, and even supervisors to help me locate information or solve a problem promptly, instead of spending too much time attempting to resolve the problem on my own.”

Another strategy for answering this interview question is to identify a weakness completely unrelated to the job and identifying how you’re working to strengthen it. That shows your motivation and determination. However, be sure to avoid answers that show you procrastinate, are disorganized, have trouble dealing with coworkers or have a work ethic problem.

Facing the ‘Why Should I Hire You?’ Interview Question

Another common question hiring managers ask is, “Why should I hire you over the other applicants?” For this interview question, be sure to think about your answer in advance.

In answering this question, be sure to come across as competent but not overconfident and competitive but not to the point of putting down other people. Display a genuine desire to support the company’s mission and vision by showing that you’ve learned about that mission and vision prior to the interview.

In-depth preparation for commonly asked interview questions can be helpful as you’re seeking employment. If you’re asked a question to which you do not know the answer, be honest and explain that you will research the answer and will follow up promptly after the interview.

For our current University students and alumni, Career Services is a good resource that should be explored. For example, they offer mock interviews and resume review services.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate criminal justice professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice and military service. He also has over 10 years of experience in business. His expertise includes leadership training, human trafficking consulting, maritime security and narcotics trafficking trends. Jarrod recently conducted in-country research in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in human and narcotics trafficking. Jarrod can be reached through his website at www.Sadulski.com for more information.

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