This post won’t to tell you the “right” answer to every tough interview question. (Sigh. Ok, now keep reading.) I’ve had an insider perspective on this issue, and wanted to share some insights that may help you prepare.
The toughest questions I’ve had in interviews include “What is your biggest weakness?”, “How do you know you’ll be successful at this job?”, “Are you sure this is what you want to do for the next 40 years?” and the list goes on. These questions are tough because they require some sincere introspection, a lot of uncertainty, and then strategy as you want to be honest in your answer without necessarily disclosing too much. (see this Do’s and Don’ts list). I used to agonize over how to answer these questions, but now that I’ve been on the interviewing side, let me share some insight about why these questions keep appearing in interviews.
PROCESS. These questions aren’t about the substance of your answer so much as they are about the process of your answer. As the interviewer, I’m listening to hear how you grapple with uncertainty, variables, and gut instinct. I’m taking notes on your logic, analytical reasoning, and methodology. I’m hearing whether you’re self-aware, reflective, and seeking improvement. (See my favorite quote on confidence). Are you humble? teachable? willing to own up to your mistakes and learn from them? The tough questions show me how you tick, and clue me in on whether you’re somebody who would fit in with our firm culture.
My advice–(because I can’t write a blog post without giving some free advice)–Prepare. (Duh, preparation matters!) be honest, be genuine, be thoughtful, and try not to stress over the tough questions. Keep in mind that your interviewer will be listening to your thought process as much as the substance.