We’ve all been there: we go into the interview feeling confident, very nearly nail it, and then get thrown off by that one question that plagues us for the rest of the day (or week, or forever). No matter how well we’ve prepared our answers to the typical questions and done research into questions that might come up at that particular interview, there’s always that questions we feel we didn’t answer perfectly.
The truth is this: there are a few questions that should not come with canned, pre-prepared answers. Here are three questions you’d be better off answering off the cuff, in an honest and authentic manner. Knowing when to go off the script can really save an interview from feeling forced.
“Tell me about a time you overcame a problem or challenge in the workplace”
If you plan to discuss a challenge you overcame in your professional past, it’s good to have some idea of what you’ll say if this comes up as a follow-up question. But it’s best not to have it too rigidly scripted. What your interviewer wants to know here is how well you handle pressure and whether or not you get daunted by seemingly impossible tasks. Give an answer with a bit of nuance, which shows you’re not afraid of complex situations and detail.
“What is something you feel you should have done differently?”
You should prepare for this question just as much as you’d prepare for the “something you’re really proud of” question. Often it can follow that question immediately. Don’t be too practiced. It can be very effective to appear surprised by the question, and then to give an honest account of a mistake you made that you learned a lot from. Your interviewer is just making sure you can be humble enough to admit your faults—and constructive enough to evolve past them.
“What do you like to do in your spare time?”
The interviewer will know if you’re just trying to say what you think will please them. So don’t listen to that panicked voice in your head that says, “But what if the hiring manager doesn’t like what I like?” It doesn’t matter. If they do they do, and if they don’t, they’re not supposed to. The hiring manager just wants to know that you’re a person they wouldn’t be embarrassed to go to happy hour with. So be honest about your passions—not crazy, of course, but be yourself.
The bottom line is this: be prepared to answer these questions, but don’t be too rehearsed. Allow for a little spontaneity, let your answers be natural, and just be yourself.
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