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The Most Challenging Interview Questions and Answers You Should Give

The Most Challenging Interview Questions and Answers You Should Give

As Product Manager for Lifehack I’m often required to interview people. However, let me be honest with you – I don’t really like interviews. Having said that, there’s a part of interviews that I’ve actually grown to enjoy…

It’s the part that most candidates probably hate. Namely, the interview questions that move beyond the common and go into the realm of challenging or ridiculously tricky.

Some candidates answer these questions with cliched replies, others with weird replies, and still others rise to the occasion and answer with creative, intelligent and witty responses.

It’s the challenging questions that can set you apart from the competition

One thing I’ve learned after conducting numerous interviews, is that the challenging questions rapidly separate the weak from the strong candidates.

To give you an example of this, I remember asking two candidates the following question: “Can you describe yourself in three words?”

The first candidate looked horrified, before stumbling the words: “Confident… skilled… experienced.” Not the worst answer, but not the best either! Here’s what the second candidate did. She listened to my question, paused for a second, and then simply said: “Yes I can!”

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Given that we were hiring for a creative role, it’s no wonder that I much preferred the second candidate’s response. It was delivered with flair, and was an inventive (even funny) reply to a deliberately awkward question. The first candidate offered nothing more than a cliched, dull response.

What the responses immediately told me, was that the first candidate probably struggles under pressure – while the second candidate would be likely to thrive under pressure.

Clearly, a strategic, mature and imaginative reply quickly sets a strong candidate apart from a weak one.

Don’t answer with the information that the interviewer expects

The essence of answering difficult questions is never answer with the information that the interviewer expects, but instead, provide an answer that includes information you’d like them to know. It’s a subtle difference, but will keep you in control of the interview. (And will show your most favorable characteristics to the interviewer.)

In other words, you’ll be proactive instead of reactive.

To be a skilful interviewee, you’ll need to know how to easily and quickly switch the focus of an interview, so that your positive side is always on show. As you’ll see in a moment, there are several techniques that you can use to achieve this.

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It would be impossible to cover all the challenging questions that you may be asked. However, by looking at a selection of difficult questions, you’ll be able to spot the necessary tips and tricks for answering almost anything you’re likely to be asked.

“You don’t appear to have sufficient experience?”

When people talk about experience, they often mean ‘years’ of experience.

For example, a person with 10 years of experience at a company did the same things over and over again, while another person with 3 years experience at a company tackled hundreds of issues and even managed to save the company. Who is the more experienced candidate?

The nugget of wisdom to remember here, is that if you get questioned over your lack of ‘years’ of experience, you need to define exactly what your experiences have been. Be sure to highlight what you have done, and talk about the many challenges you’ve overcome.

By doing this, you’ll convince the interviewer that even though you only have 3 years of experience, that you’ve learned more than someone who’s had 5, 7 or even 10 years of experience.

“What’s your salary expectation?”

You should always be prepared for this question, and if given a range to choose from, make sure that you pick a salary that is higher than the median. This will demonstrate your confidence in yourself – and your ability to do the role you’re interviewing for. If no range is given, but the interviewer insists that you state it, choose instead to give a concrete number, not a range. This will persuade the interviewer that you know exactly what you want – and that you’re serious about the role.

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Forget about worrying whether the amount you’ve stated will be too high. If they really want to hire you, they will ask further details about the package you expect. And please don’t panic, as it’s unlikely that your proposal will scare a prospective employer. (Of course, ensure that you’ve done your research and know what the going market rate for the role is.)

If they really can’t match your salary expectations, then this is where some negotiating skills around a benefits package will come in handy. For instance, they may offer to pay for your internet connection at home, your travel costs – or even provide you with a company car. If you’re able to have a serious conversation with the employer about this, you’ll instantly demonstrate that you’re a professional person who’s open and willing to consider different factors.

“Why are you leaving your current company?”

You’re probably aware that it’s not good practice to criticize your previous company. However, I recall interviewing a candidate who cleverly talked about the reasons she wanted to quit her current company, but managed to highlight the achievements that she’d made during her time with them. It’s like walking a tightrope hundreds of meters above a canyon. One slip, and you’ll find yourself plummeting to the ground. One slip in your interview, and you’ll find your chances of getting the job plummeting too!

The candidate above impressed me. Her shrewd use of language persuaded me she was not bitter about her previous company – but instead, she was simply ready for a new opportunity. This is the type of candidate whom most employers are looking for.

A further example for you to think about…Let’s say you currently work in a call centre, and you like your job, but you’re not comfortable with the amount of sales pressure you need to apply to callers. The latter is a genuine reason to want to seek a position at a new company. However, in an interview situation, you don’t want to dwell on the negatives. Instead, you could say something like this: “I’ve enjoyed working at my present company, and have learned lots of things, however, I’m now ready to expand my skills and experience.”

“What you did before doesn’t fit our role very much?”

This may be true, as you might be applying for a role in a different field – or one that has a different scope or target customers, etc. However, instead of focusing on these superficial factors, you must decisively lead the interviewer to focus on the fundamental and common skill sets that your previous job and the new role share. For instance, a job in accounting would be complimentary to a job in business analytics. They both deal with numbers, and require a keen eye for accuracy.

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So, to answer this particular challenging question, explain how what you’ve learned before can actually be applied to the new position. If you can do this well, you’ll even be able to convince the interviewer that your previous experience can help you outperform those who are already working in the field. You can do this by emphasizing how the ‘difference’ can help you bring in new insights and ideas into their company. By doing this, you’ve taken a perceived weakness – and turned it into a legitimate strength.

Imagine for a moment that you currently work as a school teacher, but you’re now keen to change careers and to find work as a writer. In an interview situation, you could highlight how at school you used clear, concise and engaging stories to impart knowledge and wisdom to your students. These are the same skills that you could bring to writing news stories.

“Are you having other interviews, if yes, what are they?”

Always remember, the gist of answering questions isn’t to answer what the person who asks want to know- but what you want them to know.

For sure, you can answer their questions frankly, but be certain to switch the focus when needed. This might be to highlight what you’re looking for in a company. For example, “I’m looking for a company which is passionate about growth, and values open communication…” Statements like this will help persuade the interviewer that you’re a good fit for the role and the company.

As for whether to say you’re having other interviews… My recommendation is to say yes. You don’t need to state what they are, but be admitting that you have other interviews, will give you the aura of someone in demand.

My final piece of advice is: Don’t shy away from challenging interview questions. They are your opportunity to shine, and to show that you are head and shoulders above other candidates.

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 16, 2020

10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. Many good habits to have will enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting ready for work. 

Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without thinking twice. Your unconscious daily habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

  • Habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed.
  • Good habits to have to be more successful, like eating healthy, exercising, and reading books.
  • Habits that are harmful, like procrastinating, smoking, or overeating.

Good habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

While much of the emphasis falls on bad habits to break, it’s just as important to focus on good habits to have and cultivate in your daily routine.

Here, we’ll talk about 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to place yourself in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

2. Be Grateful for What You Have

It’s not uncommon to waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

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Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Try writing a list of things you’re grateful for each day in a gratitude journal, or make it a habit to say one thing you’re grateful for when you sit down to dinner with your family.

3. Smile

Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

Now, here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile, or what’s called a Duchenne smile, is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional, and mental peace of mind.[1]

Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. However, once you adjust yourself by putting on a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

4. Start Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[2]

If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to “break your fast” with healthy foods every morning.

This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

5. Exercise Daily

One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles on a daily basis. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift tons of weights. You only need to engage in activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body, trying to squeeze in at least 15 minutes every day.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[3] He said:

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“I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.”

He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

6. Manage Your Time

Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way toward impacting your achievement.

Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life[4].

Good habits to have: Time management tips

    So how do you manage your time effectively?

    Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events:

    “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

    And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme layout:[5]

    • Monday – Management
    • Tuesday – Product
    • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
    • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
    • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
    • Saturdays – Taking off
    • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

    No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

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    7. Set Daily Goals With Intentions

    Everyone has goals, whether they relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

    Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on, but when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

    Here’s the main truth: Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

    “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

    8. Seek Inspiration

    It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

    A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning (after meditation), watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

    Establish what Anthony Robbins called the “hour of power.” Determine how many minutes you spend, but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

    Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, puts it this way[7]:

    “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivate me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. Becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

    9. Save Steadily, Invest With All Prudence

    I can’t exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

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    However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your funds and be wise with them. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself up for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

    If you’re looking for a simple way to save money, check out the following video:

    10. Budget and Track Your Spending

    Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said:

    “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

    It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

    Budgeting is a good habit to have, and it can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future instead.

    The Bottom Line

    Endeavor to start developing good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you will achieve your goals.

    More About Cultivating Good Habits

    Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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