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How To Overcome Negative Interview Obstacles

We all have them, a spot in your work history that isn’t so shiny. Maybe it’s a job you were fired from, or a boss you didn’t get along with, or a gap in employment. These less than ideal situations do not have to break your chances of landing the position! It’s all in how you address them. We’re breaking down common negative interview obstacles that may arise and how you can overcome them.

You Were Fired

“So, why did you leave your last position?” Instead of freezing at this question, arm yourself with confidence beforehand. Keep your answer short, simple, and honest. Explain what happened in the simplest terms, without placing blame on others or providing too many details. And in the end, be sure to finish on a positive note.

Example: When I was initially hired as {job title}, I thought I had a clear understanding of the job requirements. As time went on, I discovered there were some miscommunications and misunderstandings. My supervisor and I agreed that it wasn’t a great fit for either of us. Since then, I’ve focused on defining my professional expectations and improving my communication skills.

You Hopped Around To A Few Different Jobs

This negative interview obstacle can happen for several reasons. Contact positions, improper fit, and better opportunities coming along are all very valid reasons for “job hopping.” Multiple jobs in a short amount of time is something that Hiring Managers notice, and the chances that you’ll be asked about it are high! What they are looking for you to address is their fear that you won’t stick around for this position. So, be sure to cover those short stints quickly and then move on to why you’re looking for a more permanent job (this one!)

Example: While quickly moving from job to job was not ideal, it proved that I was able to adapt to new environments while educating myself along the way. Now I’m looking for a company that I can really call home. I’m interested in a career that provides new challenges every day and a supportive team. That’s why the {job title} position initially caught my eye!

You Didn’t Get Along With Your Boss

Behavioral interview questions are swiftly gaining popularity in the hiring community. There’s a chance that you will be asked a question similar to “Tell us about a time you didn’t get along with a team member or supervisor.” Do not fall into this classic negative interview obstacle trap! Briefly touch on your differences, but concentrate your answer on what you did to overcome them.

Example: My last supervisor and I didn’t always see eye to eye. On {XYZ Project}, we had different opinions on how it should be executed. In the end, we looked at both sides and took the elements that worked from each to form a most effective compromise.

You Have A Gap In Employment

If you took time off for one reason or another, it can feel like a glaring hole in your resume. Don’t fret. Most employers understand that a little time away is not only acceptable but can also be restorative. Mention the reason for the gap, but also include how you grew during that time. You can include professional skills you honed via online classes, volunteer experiences, or even just life lessons that shaped how you view the world. The point that you want to communicate is that you are even better after briefly stepping away.

Example: For the past couple of years, I stepped away from my professional duties to travel. It was always a goal of mine to see the world, and I wanted to dive in while I’m still young. During my time away, I documented my experiences in blog format to share with family and friends. It really allowed me the opportunity to hone my writing and creative skills while also broadening my horizon. I’m now ready to jump back into my career with a whole new perspective on life.

These are just a few of the possible negative interview obstacles you may encounter. A few good general rules to follow are; be honest, keep it simple, and end on a positive note. While, of course, you want to answer questions about the past, your focus should be on the future. (And landing this job specifically!)

Interested in more interview advice? Explore a wealth of interview resources here.

Interview Question: How to Answer Brain Teasers

Originally asked when interviewing for a tech job, brain teaser interview questions are becoming more popular in all industries. What is a brain teaser interview question, you ask? Here are a few common examples:

  • “How many golf balls can you fit into a school bus?”
  • “How many windows are in New York City?”
  • “Why are manhole covers round?”

It’s easy to feel a sudden panic when your interviewer asks you one of these obscure questions. However, don’t worry about having the correct answer. The hiring manager is more concerned with your thought process and how you derived your solution than the actual answer itself. So, if you are looking for a brief walkthrough on how to tackle one of these tricky questions, here are a few steps you can take.

Ask for clarification

Asking clarifying questions helps demonstrate both your curiosity and saves you a great deal of stress. Let’s use the golf balls inside a school bus question as an example. To clarify, you can ask something like, “when you say school bus, do you mean a full-size school bus or one of those shorter busses?” Asking clarification questions such as this buys you a little time to think and helps you refine your answer.

Take your time

Most people will want to rush right into their response, but take your time. Take a few moments to formulate your answer and think it out. After all, the hiring manager wants to see your thought process, not have you take a wild guess. If you brought a notebook and pen (which you should always do), feel free to jot down some notes and write out your thought process. This can help you prepare your answer, especially if math is involved. So, sticking with the example above, you can calculate the school bus’ volume by assuming the length, width, and height of the bus. Then, you can assume the volume of a golf ball and do a little math to determine your solution. Now, you are ready to present your answer!

Present the answer to your brain teaser in detail

Now that you have your answer prepared, it’s time to outline your response to your interviewers. You can’t just spew out your solution and call it good. Therefore, you must explain how you developed your answer. Present any presumptions you made when forming your response.

For this scenario, you can say:

“When calculating the school bus volume, I am going to assume that the bus is 22-feet long, 6-feet wide, and 9-feet tall. That makes the volume of the bus 1,188 cubic feet.” Then your next assumption can be the volume of a golf ball and explain how you determined that. A golf ball’s volume is ~2.5 cubic feet (4/3 x pi x 0.85 inches). Finally, you are ready to present your final answer. “Now that we have the volume of a bus and a golf ball, we can calculate how many golfs balls are in a cubic foot (1,728 cubic inches / 2.5 cubic inches), which is ~691 balls. Now all you have to do is multiply 691 balls by the volume of the bus (1,188 cubic feet), and your answer is 820,908 balls.”

This answer may not necessarily be correct, but it’s an excellent example of how to tackle a brain teaser interview question.

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: Why Should We Hire You?

What they want to know

A lot of interviewers trip themselves up over the question, “Why should we hire you?” Your interviewers are essentially asking you, “Why should we hire you over the other candidates? What makes you the best candidate?” Interviewers typically ask this question at the end of a job interview. This question is your final sales pitch. It’s your time to shine and summarize for your audience why you would be a great fit for this position and the company. Use this as an opportunity to address your experience, background, and skills and why they make you an excellent fit.

Bonus points: if you can quantify your answer in any way, that is the icing on the cake. Using numbers to illustrate your success or accomplishments is an excellent way to show your value and stand out above the competition. Also, be sure to tie your answer back into the job description to ensure your interviewers that you are a great fit for this role.

Example answering why should we hire you

“I have a passion for helping others and pride myself on using my customer service and recruiting background to match talented candidates with excellent employers. My interview-to-offer ratio of 86% over the last three years illustrates my consistency and track record for success. Additionally, last year I earned our annual ‘Recruiter of the Year’ award, which demonstrates my expertise in the recruiting world. I think my personal career goals align with your company’s mission of simply putting people to work, and I believe I am a great fit for this Recruiting Manager position.”

Final comments

Answering the question, “Why should we hire you” can be challenging. However. this example works well because it touches on the candidate’s background, their skills, and quantifies their accomplishments. The answer addressed the company’s mission statement and expressed their passion for helping others, which can help show why they are a culture fit. Overall, this example answers the questions well (and with confidence!).

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: Tell Me About A Time You Made A Mistake

What they want to know

Everyone has made a  mistake or two throughout their career. But what sets the best candidates apart is being able to discuss your mistakes and express what you learned from the situation. Employers often ask this question because it’s raw – it makes you self-reflect and even puts you on your toes (if you weren’t already standing on them!). Interviewers want to learn if you are self-aware, can accept feedback or criticism, and care about doing your job better.

The most vital thing is, to be honest. The worst thing you can do is answer this interview question with something on the lines of “I honestly can’t think of a time I have made a mistake at work.” Newsflash! You are human, and it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. And be sure to explain how you overcame the mistake. It will demonstrate your resilience and problem-solving abilities!

Pro tip: Don’t blame other people in your answer. Not accepting any of the responsibility for the mistake you discuss is essentially like answering “what’s your greatest weakness?” with a strength – you don’t want to do that.

Example answering tell me about a time you made a mistake

“One time, I dropped the ball on a deadline. I was in the middle of a big software migration, and my boss asked me if I had time to run a report for him. I was swamped that week and was engrossed in this migration project that I was working on for weeks. Time slipped away from me, and I forgot to run the report, and my boss was irritated and missed her deadline. But I learned from this situation that I need to have better communication with my team and not accept more work if I don’t have the bandwidth to complete it.”

Final comments

This answer is an excellent example for answering this interview question. It addresses the mistake, explains the result, and illustrates the learning moment. The interviewee did not blame anyone else but themselves. Plus, the mistake wasn’t earth-shattering. If you have a terrible mistake in your past, it may be wise to share one that is a little “softer.”

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: What is Your Ideal Work Environment?

What they want to know

Hiring managers ask questions like “What is your ideal work environment?” to identify three essential things:

  • Are you a fit for the company’s culture?
  • How long will you stay with the company?
  • Receive a glimpse of your personality

According to Jennifer Sukola, a Muse career coach, hiring managers are looking for, “How long are [you are] going to stick around? That’s the question.” “Employees who mesh well with the company’s environment will be happier and, in turn, stay in the job longer and contribute more.” Ideally, your preferred working environment matches the company you are applying to. However, don’t force a fake answer to give the interviewers what they want to hear. You must be honest in your response because if you think you want the job, it isn’t fair to you or the employer by lying just to secure the job. Remember, you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that you can’t touch on things that match their culture and working environment. Also, most job descriptions do a decent job painting the picture of the working environment you will be in. Make sure you take a quick look at their website and social media channels to gain insight into the company’s working environment. If that environment fits you well, express that in your answer, and explain why it works for you.

Example answering what is your ideal work environment

“My ideal working environment is where I have the opportunity to work collaboratively with a team. I am a people-person and enjoy working with others. I have fun being able to bounce ideas off colleagues and come up with great ideas and new experiments. Additionally, I find it rewarding to come to a solution with my team and create something beneficial for the company. I find that I work best in an environment that is positive, encouraging, and centered around teamwork.”

Final comments

If you are an extrovert and enjoy working as a team, this is a fantastic answer. It clearly answers the question and offers a brief peek of the interviewee’s personality. Just remember to be truthful and answer honestly. If you are lying, you are doing yourself an injustice as you will likely not be happy in this new role if it doesn’t fit with your ideal working environment.

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: Tell Me About A Conflict You Faced at Work

What they want to know

Everyone has faced a challenging situation or conflict in the workplace. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to discuss in a job interview. It can be challenging to pick a conflict to discuss without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. The key here is to make your answer more of a story and less analytical. Your interviewers want to see your human side and get a sense that you are capable of professionally handling conflict in the workplace.

In your answer, focus more on the resolution and less on the conflict. Many interviewees make the mistake of spending too much time talking about the conflict and getting caught up with the story’s negative side. Instead, briefly explain the problematic situation and focus your time on what you did to overcome it. But most importantly, be honest with your answer and don’t pretend to be the “perfect” candidate.

If you can, pick a relevant example relevant to the job or the company’s industry. In other words, choose a conflict or situation related to the job. You can use the STAR method to outline your answer to this question to keep you on track and paint a clear picture of your conflict resolution skills.

Example answering tell me about a conflict you faced at work

“My coworker was on vacation for the week, and our Chief Operating Officer called me and asked if her presentation for a new product idea was completed. She was very stressed as she needed it by the following morning. I was not working on the presentation and didn’t have the most recent copy. I called up my coworker on their cell phone and had her email the PowerPoint to me.

Our COO and I had a brief call and went over the presentation with her to see what was missing. I was able to figure out what was left to add and completed the presentation before the end of the day. Our COO was very pleased with the presentation and called me after her meeting and send it went very well! Now, my coworker and I share all of our working documents on the cloud so we can easily access each other’s files if something like that ever happens again.”

Final comments

This is an excellent example of explaining a conflict you faced in the workplace and how you resolved it. The answer highlights the conflict itself but focuses on the steps the interviewee took to overcome it and come to a resolution. Additionally, it clearly uses the STAR method to lay out the problem, making it easy for the hiring manager to follow. It also demonstrates that the interviewee can thrive under pressure and work alongside senior leadership.

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: What’s Your Greatest Achievement?

What they want to know

This interview question is another tricky one to answer. If you are relatively young in your career, you may struggle to identify your greatest achievement. And if you’re an established professional, you may have a slew of accomplishments to choose from. However, the best thing you can do is share an achievement that you’re proud of that also demonstrates the value you bring to the table.

If you share an achievement that ties back to the job you are applying for, you’ll get some bonus points. Your interviewers want to see a glimpse of your work ethic and your professional values.

Pro tip:

Use the STAR (Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results) method to formulate your answer to this interview question. The STAR method essentially helps you build a story of a problem, your role in addressing that problem, the actions you took to fix the problem, and the results of your hard work. This is a helpful method to keep your answer on track and present your achievement clearly to your interviewers.

Example answering what’s your greatest achievement

“In my current role, our engineering team was responsible for building a new prototype for a medical device we were designing. One of the engineers tasked at 3D printing the device accepted another job offer, and nobody else on the team had 3D printing experience. I have some experience with 3D printing and offered to prepare the device to be printed. I worked with our team to troubleshoot a few issues that came up during the initial process; however, I was able to finish the device’s printing process two weeks ahead of schedule. The device is now on the market, and our company has sold thousands of units that help medical professionals save lives.”

Final comments

This is an excellent example of answering what’s your greatest achievement. It followed the STAR method to paint a concise picture of the problem, the interviewee’s role, and the resolution. If this answer were for an engineering position that required 3D printing experience, this would be a perfect choice.

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

What they want to know

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is another painful interview question to answer. It is difficult to explain where you see your career in the next half-a-decade to a stranger. Hiring managers ask this question to develop a better understanding of whether you fit into their long-term plan. If you say you want to be doing something completely different from the role you are applying for within five years; you probably won’t make the cut. The best way to answer this question is to provide a general idea of what you want to accomplish, the types of roles you see yourself in, and the skills you hope to lockdown.

You don’t have to have the perfect picture painted when answering this question; your interviewers just want to know if you are thinking of your future and if it aligns with the company’s goals. In other words, they want to know if you can see yourself with the company in that time frame. Employers like longevity!

Example answering where do you see yourself in five years

“In the next five years, I want to become an industry expert in digital marketing. I want to develop into a resource for my team and help educate newer marketing professionals on innovative concepts and tools. Also, I would like to improve my video editing skills to help produce engaging marketing videos for social media platforms. In the next few years, I would like to work up to earning a leadership role to help a company, like [insert company name], achieve their marketing and brand awareness goals.”

Final comments

This example checks all the boxes for successfully answering this question. It shows the candidate’s ambition, the drive to learn more about their industry, states a skillset they want to improve, and demonstrates their career drive. A hiring manager would be happy with this answer because it shows that the candidate is passionate about their industry and eager to learn more. It also expresses their desire to grow within the company. Where do you see yourself in five years is a tricky question to answer. However, if your answer shows your ambition to learn, grow, and longevity, you will be in good shape!

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

What they want to know

This is probably one of the most challenging interview questions to answer. It is difficult to pinpoint weaknesses and talk about them with complete strangers. And that’s exactly why interviewers ask this question. Hiring managers and HR professionals want to know if you are self-aware of your flaws and see what steps you are taking to better yourself. Start with a fault and then discuss the steps you are taking to overcome it. The best thing you can do is remain positive and honest with your answer.

Pro tip: do not try and disguise a strength as a weakness. Using a weakness such as “I am a perfectionist” is not going to cut it. Everyone has weaknesses, and you should not be afraid to hide them. Your prospective employer wants to see your humility and the steps you take to improve yourself as a professional.

Example answering what’s your greatest weakness

“One skill set that I am currently working hard to improve is my efficiency with HTML and CSS. I took a class in college and developed a basic understanding of coding. However, in my current position, it is helpful to be able to make basic coding updates to our company website, and I have been challenging myself to become more knowledgeable in this area. I am enrolled in an online course, and I am already learning new ways to apply this information in my current role.”

Final comments

Discussing your greatest weakness can be overwhelming. This is an excellent example because a weakness was identified, and the interviewee laid out the steps they are taking to improve in that area. They discussed that they are already working on overcoming this weakness and seeing the results of their hard work. Plus, their answer was positive, which is precisely how any interviewee should frame a response to this question!

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!

Interview Question: Why Are You Looking for A New Job?

What they want to know

So, why are you looking for a new job? There are a multitude of reasons why you could be searching for a new position. Whatever answer you provide, it must be thoughtful to illustrate your intentions and demonstrate your interest in the position. Your response must be carefully crafted and positive. In other words, if you want to succeed in this interview, your answer must steer clear of the negative aspects of your previous or current job.

For example, if you are searching for a new job because you are unhappy, you don’t get along well with your boss or are looking for a pay raise, these are not topics you want to bring up in your answer. Instead, focus on the job you are interviewing for and express your excitement for this new opportunity!

And when answering this question, the most vital detail is honesty. If you are dishonest with your answer, the truth will eventually surface, and your interviewers will not be happy.

Example answering why are you looking for a new job

“I am looking for an opportunity to utilizing my web development skills to create and maintain webpages. In my current position, I don’t have the chance to work on any web development as we outsource all of our web design and maintenance to a local developer. I recently completed an online course, and I really enjoyed learning how to build webpages from the ground-up. With this Digital Marketing position at [insert company name], I will have the opportunity to use this skill set and make webpages that help promote the company brand and services you provide.”

Final comments

In this example, the answer was positive, expressed interest in the position at hand, and demonstrated your excitement for the role. It also illustrates that you are a good fit for the position. “Why are you looking for a new job” is a common interview question that will undoubtedly be brought up in your interview. Overall, this a concise and effective answer to this sometimes difficult question.

Need help answering more common interview questions?

Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!