We invited our alum, Ms Sharon Leung, BBA(MGTO), who is a seasoned human resources professional to shed light on the most difficult questions that fresh grads encounter during an interview. Sharon, who is also a Certified Career Service Provider (CCS) helps individuals to better understand his/her strengths and explore career development and transition options.
Top 4 Most Difficult Interview Questions- Insights from Seasoned HR Professional alum, Sharon Leung BBA (MGTO)
1. Tell me what you know about this industry? What are the latest trends of this industry?
Do the following preparation before the interview.
i. Do your research
Nowadays, quite a lot of information can be found online. Do your research on Google, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc to grab the ideas about the industry and the potential employers. Here are some areas that you may be interested in.
· Who are the leaders in the industry? What are their strengths and how do they become the leaders?
· Any new players in the market? How do these new players differentiate themselves with the existing players?
· Anyone leaving the market? Why?
ii. Ask the people in the industry
It’s always a good idea to talk to the people in the industry. Ask them what are happening in the industry and how they see the development of the industry.
iii. Know your potential employer and its competitors
By visiting the company websites of the potential employer and its competitors, you can have a better idea about the industry.
· What are the company mission/vision/values?
· What are their development plans as well as the trends in the industry?
· What are happening locally/ globally?
2. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This is an interesting question that you should ask yourself when you plan your career. What are you looking for in short-term/long-term? What do you want to achieve? It’s not just a question for preparing the interview but also a question for you to do your career planning (of course you need to “package” your answer differently for the interview.) Usually interviewers would like to know the following from your answer.
i. Vertical movement
· How much do you know about the career prospect and what are you expecting?
· Do you know the job functions?
· Take advertising agencies as an example, the entry position of account servicing team may be Account Assistant. So, what would be the next and how’s the career ladder?
ii. Horizontal development
Take Marketing as an example, it actually comprises different specialties such as Brand Marketing, Corporate Communication, Internal Communication, Digital Marketing, e-commerce, etc. For some smaller organization, one marketing person would be responsible for all these functions. However, for some bigger organizations, they may have different teams to support different specialized areas.
· What’s your expectation?
· Do you want to become a “generalist” or a “specialist” in the coming 5 years? Why?
iii. Are you too aggressive?
Some fresh graduates would say they want to become a manager in 5 years. Although it is not “impossible” for all job functions, it is quite impossible for some of the job functions as accumulation of work experience is a key factor to determine whether you can be a manager. Go to some job boards (e.g. LinkedIn and JobsDB) to see the requirement of a manager and ask yourself the following questions.
· Do you foresee you can meet the manager requirement in 5 years? If yes, why are you so confident?
· If not, what are the areas that you may need to equip yourself in coming 5 years in order to move upward to be a manager?
iv. Other tips
Instead of giving a specific “title” that you want to obtain in 5 years, you may consider to talk about some other possible achievement such as to obtain certain professional qualifications.
· Example: CFA for finance position
It’s also a question asking you indirectly the reason you are applying for the job.
· Can this job fit in your career plan in the coming 5 years?
· Are you expecting something that this job won’t be able to provide you?
3. What are your weakness?
Nobody is perfect. It’s normal that we have our own weaknesses. If you aren't aware of your weaknesses (or areas that need improvement), you can never improve yourself.
Some candidates are afraid that they will lose the job opportunity if they admit they have any weaknesses. So, they will say they can’t think of any weakness at the moment or they would give some “boring” answer – “
I’m a perfectionist that I want to get things done perfectly.” “ Sometimes I may be too focus on my job and would leave the office late.” Try to say something which is more down to earth and you would be able to improve.
Example: if you are an introvert (and I assume you are not applying for a position that requires a lot of people interaction), you may be very nervous in doing public speaking or presentation. Probably you can honestly talk about it. However, don’t just mention your weakness and then stop there. Tell the interviewer what you do in order to cope with the “weakness”. For example, you would be more confident in doing the presentation if you have some rehearsals. That’s why you would spend time on doing the rehearsals and that’s your “solution”.
4. What negative feedback have you received in the past?
Similar to the “weakness” question, we have to admit that sometimes we would make mistakes and we do have something not doing very good. The interviewers actually want to know how you would respond after you receive negative feedback. Would you “ignore” it? Would it be too painful for you to face the negative comment and you would escape? If you agree with the negative feedback, what did you do in order to improve yourself?
Example: I worked in a fashion retail store as a part-time sales. When I first joined the company, I’m not familiar with the store operation and I couldn’t remember the location of the garment in the storeroom. Therefore, when the customer asked me to get a new garment, I took a long time to find. At that time, the store supervisor told me that I took a long time in finding the garment and it makes the customer unhappy. Therefore, after my shift, I asked my supervisor if I could stay in the store room longer so that I could thoroughly walk through the store room and make my notes on the garment location. I also asked my senior if they have any advice for me on memorizing all these easier. So, after a few days, I found I could remember the location of all the garments and my supervisor was also very happy with my improvement.
5. The mindset of recruiter
Remember, usually there is no absolute right/wrong answer. It’s all about whether you are “suitable” for a particular job. The interviewers would like to learn more about you –
i. Your way of thinking
· Are you giving contradicting answers?
· Are you a logical person?
ii. Your career expectation
· Are you too aggressive that the company won’t be able to fulfill your expectation?
· Do you have the potential to grow with the company together?
iii. Your personality
· Are you a good team player/communicator?
· Can you fit in the company culture?