5 Tough Interview Questions & How To Deal With Them

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Written By: Pinky Chng

So you've finally landed an interview after all those applications, congratulations! Now you'll have to prepare for the next phase, and for some, the most nerve-racking one of all - the interview.

You'll never know what the interviewer will ask, but with these tips to ace 5 tough but commonly asked interview questions, you'll be a lot more prepared than your peers.

1. "Tell me about yourself."


Sometimes, the simplest questions are the trickiest. What do you say when you're asked, "tell me about yourself"? Where do you start? Highlight your strengths that are applicable to the job.

You want to spice up your answer as well. 90% of interviewees give really standard answers like their education background. That's good, but include aspects of your personality as well. Show enthusiasm and talk about what you love to do. Relate it back to the job you're applying for.

Example: "My name is Alex and I'm studying hospitality in Republic Polytechnic. I have a keen interest in cooking, and I've been in the kitchen with my grandparents since I was a kid! I don't have any professional experience yet, but I'm hoping to change that by working in your restaurant!"

2. "Why did you quit your last job?"


The interviewer is asking about the gap in your work history, or why you only lasted at your previous job for 3 months.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that the world is smaller than you think. Don't badmouth your previous job or employer, or be negative about your past experiences (even if they were).

The general rule is to position it as moving to a better opportunity, not fleeing from a negative one. Highlight the positive reasons for why you want to apply to this new role. When explaining why you left your previous job, give indication to how your past experience will help you do well in this new role.

When giving a reason for a career gap, try to show that it was intentional and that you had a plan for the next role.

Example: "I have learnt a lot from my previous role in sales and have worked with some very capable sales people. In the past 3 months, I have exceeded my monthly sales targets by at least 25% each month. However, I am starting to feel that I would like more challenges in my role. This new position will give me the opportunity to lead a team and also sell products that I personally endorse."

3. "Tell me about one of your failures."


Failure can be a real trigger word for most of us. It brings back not so pleasant memories where we could have done so much better. But snap out of it! You've got to ace the interview.

Be honest about your failures. But instead of remaining in self-pity mode, talk about what you've learned from the experience and how that has made you a better person since! As Friedrich Nietzsche always says: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger.".

Example: "I accidentally spilt a drink on a customer once, but instead of panicking, I offered to make amends and paid for her dry cleaning. The customer was initially angry, but in the end, she was appeased. I have since made it an effort to always try to turn mistakes into positive outcomes."

4. "There are many others interviewing for this job, why should we hire you?"


When an interviewer asks you this question, they're really trying to get a sense of your level of confidence. There are two main strategies to take. The skills route and the attitude route.

You could talk more about a certain skill that may set you apart from your competitors. Or perhaps you have had some work experience that would give you an edge.

Don't fret if you don't necessarily have a distinguishing skill because skills can be learnt. Instead, demonstrate commitment and a strong work ethic. For instance, that never say die demeanor that many employers are looking for. This may actually be your best bet because according to this report, it's in an employer's best interest to hire for attitude over skill.

Example: "I'm great with pets and I've had experience training my own dogs over the years so I'm confident I can handle the animals in the pet store! Besides, as an animal lover, I'm always keen on learning new tricks to handle animals."

5. "How many traffic lights are there in Singapore?" (and other seemingly random questions)


In a similar vein: Why is a tennis ball fuzzy? Fight 10 horse-sized ducks, or 100 duck-sized horses?

Sometimes, there's no correct answer - employers just want to see how you react to a curveball question you didn't see coming as an indication of your ability to think quickly on your feet. It also reveals a bit of your personality to see if you'll be a good fit in the company, too. Ditch your overly-rehearsed answers and let your personality shine through.

And if it helps, there are approximately 2,269 traffic lights in Singapore, as of 2014.

You're on your own for this one! Just relax and be well-rested before the interview so you can think quickly on your feet. Go with your instincts and use your creativity.

Getting your next job

Last but not least, you should maintain a positive body language. After all, 60%-80% of communication is based on body language!

Make sure you keep a straight and open posture - this makes you look alert, engaged and sincere. Don't cross your arms.

With these tips in mind, you're on your way to ace that next interview. Also, remember to prepare yourself well before the interview - do research on the company and anticipate potential questions.

But first, apply to the jobs that you want. Get started on your career by getting a job on FastJobs!  

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